Veterans & Active Service Members Applying to 4-Year Universities as Freshmen: Timeline, Info, and Contacts

For those of you interested in applying to 4-year universities as a freshman (rather than taking the community college → transfer route), we’ve compiled a general timeline of what to consider as you approach the application process.

Note: If you have more than 12 college credits from any institution, you will likely have to apply as a transfer student, but it will depend on each specific university.

Below are a few of our associates who gained admission to 4-year universities as freshmen and are eager to help you out:
Sam Fendler
  • Admitted to Penn State as a freshman
  • Later transferred to Princeton
Hudson Miller
  • Admitted to Harvard as a freshman
Anthony Lenkiewicz
  • Admitted to Dartmouth as a freshman

General Timeline & Considerations:

This is by no means an exhaustive list of actions to take and items to acquire. These are guidelines, and they are exclusively regarding the information necessary to apply as a freshman student to a 4-year university. If you will be applying as a transfer student, see the prospective Transfer Student Timeline.

If you are already past our suggested “deadlines” on this timeline, that is perfectly okay. These are just ideal situations, and we like to stay in the safe side. As always, reach out (especially to the associates listed above) if you have any questions.

  • At all Times

    • If you are still on active duty, you must excel in your military duties (see why, here).

    • • Note: Excel in your military duties. You do not have to be an operator to attract consideration from competitive colleges. If you’re an administrative clerk, that’s great—crush it. If you’re an aircraft mechanic, that’s great—crush it. Be proud of what you do, understand that everyone plays a part in the mission at large, and succeed in your daily duties, regardless of what they may be.

    • Keep a cheat sheet of your military achievements

    • Note: No accomplishment, billet, responsibility, detachment, deployment, or secondary MOS/rate is too small. Keep track of everything.
    • • You will want to refer to certain achievements, billets, responsibilities, accolades, etc. for the completion of your Veteran Addendum, provided by Service 2 School. (Learn more about S2S and other invaluable nonprofit programs on our Free Organizations We Love page.)
    • • When you ask your superior officers for professional letters of recommendation, they will often ask you what you want to be included. Even if they do not, you can send them an email with this “cheat sheet” just to remind and/or show them just how much you were able to accomplish in your military career.

    • Read—and not just audio books. Visually read a book, Kindle, etc.

    • • You will be reading as a student for every single class, and by training yourself to read frequently before you begin this phase of your life, you will be setting yourself up for a more seamless transition from service member to student.
    • • By constantly digesting literature, you will begin to identify grammatical patterns, and it will drastically help you when you begin to write your college admissions essays. You will be editing your own work one day and find that something just doesn’t look right. Often times, you will be right, because you will have identified a deviation from grammatical patterns and styles set by published authors.

    • Research everything about your prospective schools

    • Application deadlines (which do vary per school)
    • • The best colleges for your intended major
    • Application requirements (standardized testing, quantity of letters of recommendation, etc)
    • • The local environment (urban, rural, suburban)
    • Everything.
  • One Year Before Your Application Deadlines

    Note: For freshmen applications, deadlines are typically between November and January. It is okay if you’re seeing this past the one year mark before your application deadlines. This is just an ideal situation. Do your best, and always feel free to contact us with any questions.

    • Contact our Associates (especially those pictured above) to understand their stories and learn from their experiences. They are prior-enlisted student veterans at some of the nation’s top colleges, and they are here for the exact purpose of helping you follow in their footsteps.

    • Join Service to School (S2S)

    • • S2S will provide you a mentor who will help you, one-on-one, with all aspects regarding the application process.
    • • S2S also provides a service called VetLink, which gives you the opportunity to explain, in depth, your military career. S2S then transfers this information to their partner schools. For a more detailed explanation, see the first paragraph titled, “VetLink,” in our page, here.
    • • Article: 63% of S2S Mentees Went on to Enroll at US News Top 50 Colleges

    • Take either the SAT or ACT

    1. Note: For applicants applying in fall 2020, many (if not most) colleges have waived their standardized testing requirements due to COVID-19. Do your own research to verify if your prospective universities have or have not waived these requirements.
    2. • Visit our Standardized Test (SAT & ACT) Insight & Preparation page for our detailed advice.
    3. • SAT & ACT scores are valid for 5 years, so take either of the tests when you’re comfortable. However, do not wait until the last minute, because if you earn a score that is lower than your expectations, you may not have time to retake the exam before your application deadlines.

    • Apply to attend the Warrior Scholar Project (WSP)

    • • WSP is a 1-2 week academic bootcamp hosted during the summer months at some of the nation’s most competitive universities, such as Princeton, Harvard, MIT, and Yale.
    • • Not only will WSP substantially help prepare you for the rigors of higher education, but it will also look phenomenal on college applications. The content of the courses are extremely insightful, and the network is invaluable. Each of our founders attended this program, and we highly recommend that you do the same.
    • • For information on WSP and other programs alike, visit Free Organizations We Love.

    • Find some extracurricular activities (volunteer type clubs, events, and programs) that excite you.

    • • For a more thorough, though non-exhaustive list of our recommendations, visit our Extracurricular Activities page, where we break down some the extracurricular activities in which we involved ourselves.
    • • Colleges are looking to diversify their classrooms with well-rounded candidates. Extracurriculars help identify your passions and provide insight as to who you are as a person—not just as a student.

    • Get a hold of your Joint Service Transcript (JST).

    • Note: your JST will not likely grant you many (if any) credits (especially at very competitive colleges), but colleges will ask for it in the application process as well.
    • • Link to the JST Retrieval. (This will likely be easier if you have CAC accessibility.)
  • One Year – Six Months Before Your Application Deadlines

    • Begin to consider which military superiors you want to ask for letters of recommendation, and ask them early.

    • • We have an entire page dedicated to Letters of Recommendation (LORs), which play a huge role in your application. Do not miss out on that information (linked above).
    • • If you are interested in going straight into a 4-year university as a freshman, you will want to ask your superiors for LORs at least 6 months before your application deadline. It may sound ridiculous, but people are busy, and sitting down to write a clear LOR about just how great you are will take some time. Don’t get flustered if it’s taking a while. Just follow up here and there and set internal deadlines. If your application is due January 1, maybe tell them it’s due November 15th. It isn’t a lie; It’s a due date that you have set for yourself in order to mitigate any last minute application stress.

    • Begin to write your college admissions essays.

    • • For an extensive review on approaching the admissions essay process, see our “Crafting Your Personal Statement” page.
    • • Many colleges have different writing requirements. The essays will vary in both prompts and length.
    • • The earlier you begin this process, the more time you will have to ask your peers and mentors to help review and fine-tune your statements, which is a critical step in a successful application.
    • • Your essays are your chance to stand out and become the memorable applicant that we know you are. Give your utmost respect and effort to this process.
  • Upon the Completion of Your Active Service (If this Applies)

    • Make sure to keep track of your DD 214, as colleges will often times require you to upload that in the application process or beyond. It confirms your discharge as honorable, other-than-honorable, etc.

    • Enjoy your freedom! You’ve earned it, and we are proud to be able to help you along this process. Do not hesitate to reach out to any member of our team.

Now that you’ve decided to apply as a freshman, we recommend you check out: