I have some interesting run-ins with veterans on campus. Most are harmless, those that still wear a backpack decorated with combat and morale patches or those that start every sentence with “when I was in Afghanistan/Iraq”. But every once in thankfully blue-moon, I come across a vet that has no respect for the professors, dismissing them as having no real experience. Someone who’s only there to get their paper and leave. These aren’t everyone or even most campus-veterans, but sometimes they feel like the vocal minority that represents veterans to the rest of campus.
I’m not saying nor implying that there’s anything wrong with being proud of your service. I still bust out the old Army ballcap occasionally and tell stories from my time in the service when it adds to the conversation. The problem is when being a veteran is now the sole aspect of someone’s identity, so much so that it pushes out everything that going to college can accomplish. The end goal should always be a degree, but there are valuable experiences along the way that can open new doors and pave the road to better opportunities.
The hidden benefit of going to college is access to the professors and experts in your field. While college is the most expensive it’s ever been, the value of a college degree is cheapened, becoming the bare minimum for getting a job. However, contacts with professors, research opportunities, and making a name in your field early on in your education are now more important than ever. As a GI-bill user, make sure you’re a student first. Spend the time studying, seek out mentorship and research opportunities in your degree field, and immerse yourself in the college campus. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect them. I study Cultural Anthropology, a field that is heavily inspired by political ideologies I don’t necessarily agree with. Being respectful has enabled me to talk candidly about my feelings regarding those ideologies without disrespecting the professors themselves, a habit that’s already yielded graduate school recommendations and job opportunities.
It’s not just about good manners or habit; it could have a big impact on whether you land the job you want in the future. A good friend of mine from the Army has been working with the hiring process for the company he works with. They prefer hiring veterans but are still looking for individuals who apply themselves and can add to the company. When reviewing resumes, his exact words were “it’s obvious which veterans got out and continued to apply themselves, and which were banking on playing the vet card at graduation.” Harsh words, but it’s not hard to imagine who gets recommended for an interview.
Don’t be that second guy. The GI-Bill is the most valuable benefit of military service, absorbing the cost of nearly four years of education and paying you a modest living stipend to do so. Use it wisely. Make life-long contacts and master a subject while Uncle Sam takes the financial burden off your shoulders.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.