GI Bill Users: You’re a Student First

During my time in college, I’ve had some interesting conversations with veterans on campus. Most are friendly, but every once in a (thankfully) rare blue-moon, I come across a vet that has no respect for the professors, dismissing them as having no real experience since they weren’t in the military. It can sometimes feel like this vocal minority is representing veterans to the campus, and putting the rest of us in a negative light.

I’m not saying nor implying that there’s anything wrong with being proud of your service. I’ve met many student vets with backpacks covered in morale patches, who begin every sentence with “when I was in Iraq…” Heck, 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 the sole aspect of someone’s identity, so much so that it pushes out all the positive experiences that going to college can provide. The end goal should always be a degree, but there are valuable benefits 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 – military experience or not. Contacts with professors, research opportunities, and making a name in your field early on in your education are now more important than ever, especially since the value of a degree has diminished. So as a GI-bill user, make sure you’re a student first. Spend the time studying, seek out mentorships 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 in HR. His company prefers 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.

Garrett Ferrara

Garrett is a writer, perpetual student, and seven-year Army veteran. Currently studying Anthropology and Writing & Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida, he's hoping to stretch the G.I. Bill all the way to a PhD. Bilbo Baggins is his favorite literary character; a character that traveled, fought battles, and finally settled into a simple life. He's looking forward to squaring away that last phase.
Garrett Ferrara

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