We all had different experiences in the military, and depending on our MOS, we all learned a different skill or a trade. It might not be obvious right away, but no matter what branch, the military taught each of us how to succeed. My success in school is not because I am book smart (my ASVAB score could prove that); it’s because I apply what I learned in the military to my education.
In this article, I go through four of what I believe to be the most important skills we as veterans have learned. These skills once used to ensure a successful mission or deployment, can now be used to ensure a successful college and educational experience.
Work Ethic: If you don’t think you’re smart enough for college, let alone your dream college, I assure you you’re wrong. Maybe you weren’t that great in high school, and maybe your ASFAB score wasn’t the best, but none of that matters now because you have work ethic. The military required you to work harder than almost any other job, and you devoted countless sleepless nights and gave your all, physically and mentally, to complete a goal. When you take the same work ethic that you had in the military and apply it to school, you can learn any subject you want. In the military, if you had trouble with the PRT, you worked out more. In school, if you have trouble understanding math, you do more math. Studying hard may not have sounded ideal in high school, but now, because of your work ethic, a little extra work to achieve a goal is second nature.
Teamwork: Teamwork is essential for success in school, and who better knows teamwork than a veteran. In the military, nothing gets done alone. Lining up every morning in your fireteams, you learned how to work with the members in your squad to get the mission done. While you may have done well during your service, all of that chest candy was largely because of the help and training from those around you. To see success in school, you will have to work in a team as well. Group projects are inevitable, and many people dread the thought of working with their peers. However, because of your teamwork and leadership experience, you will find great success in group projects and get to know your peers a little better along the way. In addition, your ability to work in a team won’t just be useful on group projects, but with homework and studying as well. You will find it beneficial to team up with other classmates, other veterans, to help one another study, learn, and succeed.
Adaptability: Your ability to adapt is uncanny. Basic Training was unlike anything else you have been through, and when many couldn’t take it, you accepted your new reality and adapted to the new life. On deployments, whether you were in the desert, the jungle, or a ship, you embraced the suck and adapted to the otherwise, unlivable conditions. You got used to the long work hours, the sleepless nights, and the physically demanding tasks. You have adapted quickly to many changes in the military, and you will adapt to school as well. While the thought of going to college and being on campus, for whatever reasons, can feel uncomfortable and maybe overwhelming, it’s nothing you can’t adapt to. Being at school for the first time feels surreal. It’s exciting, yet uncertain. At first, it may be intimidating to walk on campus, but like when you walked out of that C-130 or onto that ship, you will adapt and thrive in this new environment.
Resilience: From the start, resilience is installed in each and every veteran. Even before you get on that bus to head to basic training, they break you down, but when that bus arrives, you stand up and get on. Throughout training, they break you down. They yell at you and punish you, all for folding your clothes incorrectly or marching out of step, but you take your punishment and move on. On deployments, no matter how well you planned or how much you trained, something would always go wrong. But you didn’t quit. You assessed the situation and moved forward. School is no different. School is tough; it’s demanding, and it’s unforgiving. While It’s important to try your hardest and have goals, it’s more important to stay resilient. You may not get an A on every test. You may not get that 4.0. You may even fail a class, but it’s okay because you are resilient. You won’t quit just because something became hard, or the outcome was not desirable. Like that one last pushup to qual, you will push yourself up and finish strong.
The military gave you a unique set of skills, and although school may not be for everyone, with the experience you have, it is for you. When you implement your work ethic, teamwork, adaptability, and resilience, you will be amazed at how capable of college you really are.