Each January, approximately one in three Americans resolve to improve themselves or their lives in someway. Us servicemen and women are no exception -- In order to create a future that honors your military service and sacrifice, you must be well-prepared. Here are a few, solid, actionable resolutions to make this year as you think about separation and transition.
- Stop waiting and take the initiative! Do your research, establish timelines, know application deadlines, testing criteria, and required documents. Understand enrollment at potential schools of interest, create a list of schools and talk to their admissions or veteran officers. Bottom line, the answers you are looking for, which hold the key to your future, are a click or a call away. If you have already separated, then start now and get it done.
- You have learned more than you realize. You are more mature than you think, more capable than you know and more valuable to an institution than you could ever imagine. Be confident (not cocky) in what you bring to the table after your military experience and leverage your opportunities for success after separation.
- Take the SAT or ACT. There are many preparatory programs available to you that can help you prepare. A few short months of studying can drastically increase your opportunities at premier institutions across the country. Sure, it’s easy to complain that you should not have to take these tests--you have been out of high school for years now and have real world experience--but, instead of making excuses, study and prepare to do well and open more doors for yourself.
- There are more degree programs that you are well-suited for outside of criminal justice and exercise science. All too often, separating veterans bring these two fields of study up and I find myself asking, “why?” The answer, I’ve found, is this seems to be the norm. It appears to be the most natural transition, and closely relates to what we were just executing in our military occupational specialty. Very few careers, even those in law enforcement, require a degree in criminal justice. My intention is not to downgrade these fields, but instead to highlight the fact that there are hundreds of other options that veterans could enjoy and excel in. Leverage your leadership, decisiveness, and creative and innovative approach to solving problems, and that will far exceed most of your peers on campus. I challenge you to try something new; excel in a field that opens doors and creates opportunities. Consider majors like Computer Science, English, Engineering, Communications, Business Administration, Accounting, and Graphic Design (to name a few).
- Take advantage of different university’s and what they offer. There are many community colleges that offer specific 2-year programs in highly technical fields that can directly translate into employment opportunities post-graduation. There are also numerous institutions with unique programs that combine internship programs, travel opportunities, and a robust network of alumni that you can use as a resource in your decision making process.
- Lastly, back to my first point – if you want to play sports in college then put in the time. It is too easy to say, “I haven’t played sports in years, I can’t do it anymore.” That is bull sh*t. Just like success in all endeavors, it takes focus, dedication, and hard work in order to put yourself in a position to compete again in your sport of choice. Before work, after work and on weekends, find a way to improve the sport-specific strength and conditioning, skills, and mindset to be successful in your sport. Play intramural sports, join local town/city leagues, and workout with like-minded individuals who strive to better themselves.
These are some basic tools/ideas to set yourself up for success as you transition from the military into higher education and collegiate sports. At the end of the day, however, it all comes down to a few simple traits that we all possess, but is dependent on who is willing to put them into action. Take the initiative, put in the time, develop a plan, make no excuses, and steadfastly execute. No one but YOU holds the key to your future.