Many veterans, like myself, choose to go back to school after they retire form the military. While transitioning to student life might be difficult at first, the reward of completing your degree is worth it. Going back to school has given me the opportunity to pursue my dream—a career in cybersecurity—and my experience as a student has helped me develop the skills that I will need to be successful, both academically and professionally.
When I joined the military, I was hoping that I would be placed in a cybersecurity operations role, or at least within the IT field. I had always been interested in computers, and it seemed like the perfect fit for me. Instead, I was placed in a meteorology role—not my first choice. Although I was somewhat disappointed, I decided that someday I would work in cybersecurity.
I spent four years in the Air Force, and even lived in Germany for two years. When I got out of the military, I earned my associate’s degree in information technology, and soon began searching for options to continue my education. After learning about Herzing from a friend, I enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program for information technology.
Going to school wasn’t easy. I was an online student, and I wasn’t used to taking online classes and balancing my schoolwork with my other responsibilities. But, I’m a quick learner, and I soon realized that there were a few steps that I could take to make the most of my college experience.
If you’re a veteran thinking about continuing your education, these tips will help you be successful both inside and outside the classroom:
Make time for your studies. Veterans are used to guidance. We are used to people telling us what to do, so learning how to be focused and self-disciplined can be difficult at first. As a student, you have to learn to manage your own schedule and deadlines. It’s easy to procrastinate on your assignments, but that habit will not help you get ahead in your classes. Instead, reserve certain hours of the day, or your weekends, to study and do homework. I know that it’s sometimes hard to find the time, especially with work and other obligations, but make your schoolwork a priority.
Set a goal that keeps you motivated. School can be tough at times, but it’s important not to give up. When I joined the military, I thought, “What’s four years of my life compared to the rest of my life?” That thought process helped me stay motivated, even when I didn’t always enjoy the things that I was doing. I kept my long-term career goals in mind so that there was always something else I was striving toward. You can apply the same mentality to your school work. Stay focused and know that you will have a lot more options in the real world if you stick with it and obtain your degree.
Don’t be afraid to ask for extra help. Adjusting to civilian life might be difficult, but you can always talk to a friend, professor or representative at a school if you are having a hard time. My professors were always very accommodating and would even stay late to help me when I was struggling with course material. I currently work as a mentor for other IT students and I am always willing to help other students get on the right track and get in touch with their professors if they need additional support.
Get involved on campus. In the military, you learn about the bond and relationships that you have with your brothers and sisters. Some veterans might be inclined to stay isolated from other students, or only interact with other veterans. Instead, I encourage other veterans to be more open and to reach out to their classmates and peers. Make good friends at school that have the same aspirations and goals as you; this way, you can help each other out so you can get to the finish line.
Although there was a big learning curve when I chose to go to school after leaving the military, I am very glad that I did it. I will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, and I am very excited to see what the future holds for me. If you’re transitioning from military life to student life, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not alone. Work hard, stay focused, and don’t be afraid to ask for extra help if you need it.