Top 10 Reasons Military Background Makes You a Better Student
As a military veteran, I returned to college to finish my degree using the GI Bill, after a 20 year hiatus. Going back I discovered that a good sense of humor, an open-mind and a lot of patience were the best survival tools the military gave me. I graduated in December of 2013 with a BA in English. I also graduated with knowledge only a non-traditional student could appreciate. Here are my top ten reasons why having a military background helps you become a better student:
- You’re lucky you don’t live on campus: Barracks and dorms are smelly, distracting and fattening. There are smells even science has yet to quantify. A mixture of sweat, dirty laundry, rotting food and farts. If that doesn’t bother you, loud parties, fraternity pranks, and the opera major singing until 3am is a distraction. Plus what’s more fun than a 3am Taco Bell run after “studying” all night? Your nose, your sleep schedule and your waistline are better off not living on campus.
- You have or have had a “real” job: Having either served in the military or worked for a living you value being on time, finishing assignments and doing the work assigned to you. You know that slacking off has consequences, some of which can be life or death. Your consistency gives professors a reason to cut you some slack if you are late, because they know it’s not your norm.
- You understand time management: You’ve had a “real job” or managed a household, you understand how to manage your time wisely. Homework is just something added to your to do list. You don’t wait 30 seconds before the test to read the book, which means better grades.
- You’ve lived through some of the history your professors are teaching: They call it life experience, and some campuses offer scholarships for it. The great thing about experience is you can offer a perspective some students might not otherwise be exposed to- which can often translate into extra credit for class!
- You’ve been there done that, (community service hours): My college required community service hours. As a member of a community, I was already volunteering for organizations. That allowed me to use those hours toward completing my assignments; since I’m already doing it might as well get credit.
- You don’t drink like a 20 year old: I don’t often drink with 20 somethings, but when I do, I’m the most interesting adult in the room. My secret? Tell great stories, buy a round, pace yourself and you’ve just made a lasting impression. Plus not succumbing to peer pressure means I don’t end up throwing up or passed out by the end of the night. That means no magic marker mustache for me, thank you!
- You know how to do domestic chores like laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc: Not only are these vanishing skills, people pay you to do, but they can save you time, money and aggravation. Not having to replace your sweaters because they’ve shrunk means you can pay for text books without taking out a loan.
- You have a realistic major that doesn’t change weekly: If you are a non-traditional student you have career goals in mind when picking your major. You don’t change it weekly and end up paying for a four year degree that takes six years to complete because you considered basket weaving as a viable career option.
- You are paying for your own education: This may not seem like an advantage, but it really is; it means that you understand the value of your education. You don’t waste time or money on classes you don’t need. By placing value on it, you get the most out of it. You don’t skip classes. You ask for help more often. You expect more from your education, which makes you better educated.
- You may feel like an idiot, but nobody notices: 90% of my classmates would ask me before bothering the professor, guess I gave off an aura of authority. I credit my military leadership training for this, because 90% of the time I had no clue, but could make something up that was believable. My father gave me great advice when I joined the Army, “Never let them see you sweat.” I’m pretty sure no one in college saw me sweat. Of course my father also said, “Remember your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.” So as advice goes, it’s all circumstantial.
What I always tell friends returning as non-traditional students to remember is– be patient, don’t take it personally, and remember it’s all give and take. Sometimes we’re taught. Sometimes we teach. In the end, it’s all worth it!