You’ve served in the Armed Forces and you’re ready for the next chapter of your life. For many veterans, the next stop after separating from military service is college. And why not? You earned your GI Bill, you might as well take advantage of this military benefit.
But attending your first-choice university may not be as simple as you think. The college application form may be lengthily and require the dreaded personal essay. This essay is an essential component of applying for colleges and can’t be overlooked or rushed through.
When you’re a veteran writing a college application essay you may be asking yourself
“should I talk about my military experience?”
For many veterans, you went to boot camp right after graduating from high school, so your past experiences are solely your military experiences.
Your deployments, specialized training and overseas assignments have shaped you as an individual and will influence your experience as a veteran turned college student. Here are 5 tips for writing your college application essay when you’re a veteran.
Talk Positively About Your Military Experiences
Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes in the military can easily list their complaints, but what about the positive experiences? As a service member you were taught leadership skills, problem-solving techniques and focused discipline. In your college application essay, you may want to write about the projects that you were in charge of, the troops that you led and the maturity that you have gained through these experiences.
College admission board members are looking for college students who are mature leaders for their campuses. That’s a positive asset for veterans looking to attend college, so write about this advantage in your essay.
Discuss Your Personal Challenges
Everyone, and I mean everyone, has overcome a personal challenge. What was your personal challenge and how did you work through it?
As a veteran, you’ve done more and seen more in your 6 years in the Army than most people will in a lifetime. Your exposure to stressful circumstances and learning to work through them are all personal challenges that you can discuss in your college application essay.
Maybe you’re still working through a personal challenge. That’s OK too. Write about how attending this university and earning a specific degree will help you overcome your challenge.
Channel Your Personality
Don’t be afraid to be you in your college application essay. The college admission board members want to get a sense of you and your personality through this essay. It’s hard to shine in 300 words or less, so that’s why you need to focus on your unique personality strengths.
If you aren’t sure if your essay is highlighting your personality, let your spouse read it. He or she knows you better than anyone else. They can tell you if your essay is showing your polished personality or if it’s too generic.
Forget the Military Alphabet Soup
Once you start talking in military lingo, it’s hard to break the habit. But you need to remove any military jargon and acronyms from your college application essay. If you write TBS, FOB or OCONUS in your essay, the university staff member reading your essay will most likely be confused. Search your essay for military-speak and try to translate as much of it as possible into civilian talk.
Not sure if you removed all the military jargon? Ask a friend, who isn’t in the military, to read your essay. The military alphabet soup will jump out at him or her immediately.
Don’t Write or Revision Alone
Your college application essay is a vital component of your application. You shouldn’t write it the night before your application’s deadline and submit it without someone else reading it. Everyone makes typos. Spellcheck won’t catch every mistake, so ask for help.
Writing a college application essay isn’t easy for anyone. Even English majors struggle with finding the right words to express themselves and their aspirations.
The struggle is normal, but there are many resources to help veterans as they transition from active duty to college student. Take advantage of these resources and use them to help you write your best college application essay.