Veteran Students: Discovering Brotherhood in Civilian Life

Waking up in the morning to put on combat boots and a uniform and knowing how to shoot a gun is hardly a familiar experience for the average college student. But for veteran students who spent years in battle before returning to the classroom, this scenario was at one time their daily reality. Transitioning from carrying weapons to text books is a challenging adjustment for many college students who were previously active military members such as Jeramiah Poff, a U.S. Air Force veteran who provided security for Army combat convoy operations in Iraq and Kuwait in 2005 and 2006.

At age 27, Poff returned to civilian life and enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, an institution which awards credits for DSST exams. After experiencing challenges that are quite normal for veterans transitioning to college life, Poff finally found comfort in what may seem like an unlikely place - the Sigma Chi fraternity at his university. The structure and brotherhood of the fraternity, he found, was similar to his days in the military, and the emotional and mental support it provided made all the difference in his transition. "It made me become a more social person and to understand where civilians are coming from," says Poff of his membership in Sigma Chi.

Adjusting to a new schedule and environment, as Poff quickly learned, is only half the battle for veterans returning to the classroom. Key social adaptations are also necessary, and being unable to relate to peers can even result in failing grades or dropping out of school all together. That’s why Poff’s decision to join a fraternity was a smart one. Other similar support systems found at universities include clubs, pre-professional organizations, and sports teams. Veterans who take advantage of these organized social opportunities may experience a smoother transition, better performance in the classroom, and most importantly, a faster path to graduation.

DSST exams (formerly known as the DANTES exam) provide non-traditional students with the unique opportunity to earn college credits for the knowledge they already have via one-time tests in 38 different subjects - each of which can help veterans take one more step towards earning a degree and entering the workforce.

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