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Student panel provides an inside view on transitioning from the military to college

Veteran students on college campuses face different challenges than traditional students, a message delivered in a panel discussion on May 22 as part of the Servicemembers Opportunity College Consortium Workshop held at the Virginia Beach Campus.

A panel of five veteran students sit at a tableThe speakers on the panel were Coby Dillard, a Navy veteran and former Student Government president of the Norfolk Campus who graduated on May 11; Tonya Holland, a Marine Corps veteran who works at TCC’s Center for Military Veterans Education; Michael Leydet, a Marine veteran and TCC graduate who is president of student veterans services at Old Dominion University; Mark Smith, on active duty for the Navy who has attended four colleges; and Josh Glodowski, also active duty Navy and a Troy University graduate.

With the implementation of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, enrollment in college classes and online has increased dramatically, but the transition to school isn’t always smooth, the speakers said. The panel addressed what factors were significant in making their college selection. In addition to accreditation and ease of ability to transfer credits, they cited the friendliness of both an institution’s staff and website as important.

“If I have to click more than five times to find out how much a class is per credit hour, I’m done,” Glodowski said.

Holland said TCC’s articulation agreements with other colleges across the state, which guarantees admission if specific requirements are met, was key in her decision-making. “I could get my degree without having to go through the admission process all over again at a four-year institution,” she said.

The panel also listed a college’s veterans affairs office as a key resource to overcoming obstacles.

“Face-to-face contact is critical,” said Leydet, adding that talking to another veteran helps facilitate the admission process.

When asked to give advice on what else can improve the transition from military life to college, Leydet suggested a lounge where veterans can network and relax. Dillard said pushing the work-study program is essential, and Holland suggested staff in a college veterans office be well versed in military life. Smith noted that tutoring specific to veterans is helpful.

“Patience and understanding,” Glodowski said. “There can never be too much of that.”