Student Veterans, Military, and Dependents
Many veterans pursue higher education following or during their military service. WVU is currently home to nearly 1,000 student veterans pursuing undergraduate and advanced degrees in a variety of fields.
At the Carruth Center, we hope to assist military students in enhancing their college experience. We have experienced staff members who specialize in providing mental health services to student veterans and dependents. To speak with one of our providers, please call 304-293-4431 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below you will find information about common experiences for student veterans and suggestions for success in college. You can also learn about available resources on campus and in the community that may help you reach your personal and academic goals.
Military to Civilian Transition
Military personnel experience unique challenges during the transition from military to civilian life. Among these challenges is navigating new identities in a new environment (e.g., soldier to civilian, combat zone to classroom, camaraderie to solitude). For many veterans, this transition takes considerable time and is associated with a variety of mental health concerns. You or someone you know may be struggling with:
- Traumatic stress reactions (distressing memories, nightmares, or flashbacks)
- Moral injury (guilt, shame, or anger at oneself)
- Avoidance of people, things, or places associated with military experiences
- Role or identity conflict (developing a primary role or identity other than a service member)
- Depression (low mood and energy, loss of interest in activities, feeling worthless or hopeless, suicidal thoughts)
- Anxiety (hypervigilance, worry, panic)
- Anger (frequent irritability, feelings of rage, increased agitation)
- Substance use (often used to cope with difficulty)
- Disrupted sleep patterns (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much)
- Emotional distance from others (feeling detached, cold, or not wanting to connect)
If you experience these or other issues, you are not alone. Nearly 1 in 3 veterans experiences psychological distress following their military service.
Just like transition to civilian life, adjustment to college can be a challenge in many ways. Adjustment is your experience during a major life change or developmental transition. The adjustment to college can be difficult for all students. Many people experience stress related to changes in their environment, relationships, responsibilities, academic workload, and personal identities. Student veterans may face these stresses and others related to their military service, such as:
Academic stress and career concerns
You may question how your knowledge, skills, and experiences gained in the military will translate in the classroom or workforce.
Establishing a sense of safety in your environment
It is important to feel safe in your surroundings. You may select certain seats in the classroom where you feel more comfortable, such as in the back of the classroom or near an exit.
Recovering from physical injury
Perhaps you have experienced a physical injury that may impact your transition, such as a traumatic brain injury or musculoskeletal injury. These types of injuries may require special accommodations and many students are unsure how to access them.
Personal growth and self-exploration
Who you are as a college student may feel quite different from who you were as a service member. Negotiating this change is not always easy. While you may grow in meaningful ways while in college, other important parts of you may feel left behind.
Social and emotional concerns
You may have difficulty relating to and connecting with your peers. Common concerns among traditional students may seldom be significant to student veterans, such as attending parties or joining student organizations. You may have vastly different life experiences that make it difficult to connect with peers in meaningful ways.
You may also experience Imposter Syndrome or feel as though you don’t fit in with others in the university setting. It may be frustrating to interact with people who have no military background or understanding of service members’ experiences. You may feel alone and isolated without the psychological safety net of your platoon. With limited social support you may find yourself feeling disconnected, alienated or withdrawn.
Difficulty balancing school and other responsibilities
You may find that you have additional personal or professional responsibilities that your peers do not. It may be stressful to balance these activities while also being a college student.
Difficulty relating to professors
You may feel that your life experiences are quite different from what you are being taught in the classroom. For example, you and your professors may not share the same political views, and engaging in conversation on sensitive topics may be challenging.
If you are an active member of the Reserves or National Guard, or on active duty, you may face challenges receiving accommodations for required absences for military orders.
Navigating structural and procedural differences between college and the military
You may find limited structure in your daily schedule on campus compared to the military. A lack of structure may contribute to feelings of boredom or ambivalence.
Finding meaning or purpose
Having served in the military, you may find that your experience in college is less rewarding, exciting, or fulfilling. You may question whether pursuing your degree is worth the time and effort, and doubt whether college is the place for you.
These are only a few examples of the challenges student veterans may face while attending college. There are many others, and everyone’s experience is unique to them. Becoming aware of your experiences may help you to identify moments of success and areas of difficulty. It can also help you identify when extra support may be necessary.
Remember! Struggling is not a sign of weakness or failure. In fact, it is a sign of strength to reach out to support systems or address concerns.
Tips for a Successful College Experience
There are many ways you can help yourself reach your goals:
- Connect with other students to develop friendships and a support network. You may learn from and support others with similar experiences.
- Take a comprehensive approach to your well-being. Consider what you do (or don’t do) to take care of yourself in these areas of your life: social, occupational, physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Aim for balance in your life so that difficulty in one area can be supported by success in another.
- Reestablish or find meaning and purpose in your educational experience. Identify your values and passions and remind yourself of these when things get difficult.
- Prepare a response for when others ask you about your time in the military. Some people know very little about the military. Maybe they have never met a service member before. Their questions may be insensitive or inappropriate, but planning how you can respond may help you feel more comfortable when or if this happens.
- Use your strengths. You come to campus with a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experiences that can enrich your personal relationships and professional success. Find ways to implement what you know and do well into your daily activities. Also, avail yourself to new ideas or ways of doing things. This will help you to feel balanced and well-rounded.
- Be honest with yourself about your limitations. Nobody does college perfectly. Inevitably there are mishaps and missteps. Acknowledge when you are struggling and encourage yourself to seek support.
Take advantage of resources that can enhance your experience. See below for a list of resources on campus and in the local/regional community.
WVU Veteran, Military, and Family Support Headquarters
The Veteran, Military, and Family Support Headquarters is a gathering space and support center for student military service members and veterans. The center offers a variety of programs and services related to academic and personal success. There are study and lounge areas supplied with video games, coffee, and snacks.
The center is located in the Mountainlair (Room 214) and operates Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
For more information, visit their website: https://wvuveterans.wvu.edu/ or call 304-293-8825.
Designated as a military friendly institution, WVU Online offers four undergraduate and 30+ graduate degree programs. Additionally, over 600 courses are available online, which gives individuals the opportunity to earn a degree when they can’t come to campus. WVU currently serves more than 1,000 veterans, military personnel and/or their dependents that are furthering their education.
Collegiate Recovery Program
The Collegiate Recovery Program provides support for students in recovery from substance use disorders, eating disorders, and other behavioral health conditions.
MindFit Academic and Cognitive Enhancement
MindFit is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program that facilitates academic & cognitive improvements for WVU students. MindFit offers cutting edge tools for students to strengthen their academic skills, content knowledge, memory, attention span, and cognitive function.
The LGBTQ Center serves as a resource center and gathering space for members of the LGBTQ community and allies at WVU.
Office of Student Success
Office of Accessibility Services
- Exploring career options
- Choosing a major
- Building your resume
- Writing a cover letter
- Preparing for an interview
- Evaluating a job offer
Hershel "Woody" Williams VA Medical Center 1540 Spring Valley Dr.
Huntington, WV 25704