Veterans bring many strengths to the classroom, but transitioning from soldier to student also comes with some challenges.

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Returning to the rigors of college after taking time off from school can be difficult for anyone, and transitioning from soldier to student comes with additional challenges. Loss of identity, lack of confidence, and joining a student population where military structure is no longer the norm are three common issues.

Washington state’s 34 community and technical colleges offer veterans a variety of flexible, affordable options for continuing education and job training. Many of these two-year colleges have a veterans program that provides academic and non-academic services.

“The drastic difference between military culture and civilian/campus culture can be difficult and even provoke fear,” says Missy Anderson, program coordinator, Veterans Programs, at Shoreline Community College. “Enrolling in a school with a veterans program that promotes awareness and understanding of these differences can help to ease the transition to campus life.”

Empowering vets

Shoreline established a campus-wide training initiative for faculty and staff that focuses on awareness and understanding of the veteran experience, and on the many strengths veterans bring to the campus and the classroom. “Taking the time to talk with veterans, to understand military culture and the challenges they face when returning home, creates a safe and collaborative learning environment to support their success,” Anderson says.

Four ways to make returning to school easier for veterans

  1. Take advantage of veteran-specific advising. Schools with a veterans program should have on-staff advisers who can help you to plan your academic year, as well as assess your GI Bill education benefits.
  1. Seek out other vets. “The greatest challenge I faced was feeling isolated,” says Chelsea Prufer, who served in the U.S. Navy and recently earned an associate’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Shoreline. “Having a welcoming, dedicated space on campus, the Veterans Resource Center, with a group of veterans I was able to share experiences with, made the transition easier.”
  1. Check out your career options. Some Veterans Programs offer specialized training aimed at transitioning service members into high-demand careers. Shoreline Community College has a one-on-one corporate mentoring program to give you a step up in your chosen career.
  1. Go at your own pace. “The military has an almost foolproof training system that results in a high success rate,” Prufer says. “The sharp learning curve that may be presented to veterans in the classroom can seed anxiety within veterans and set the tone for classes ahead of them.” Flexible class schedules and online learning can enable balancing school with work and family responsibilities.

To learn more or to apply to Shoreline Community College, please visit