Self Help: Acclimating to College Life as a Student Veteran
Transition from Service to Student
Student veterans can face many challenges as they make the transition from service member to college student. These challenges are normal and may include:
- Adjusting to changes at home.
- Adjusting to changes in living conditions, daily schedules, campus life and campus bureaucracy.
- Adjusting to changes in personal identity and social community.
- Feeling out of place or having difficulty relating and connecting to traditional college students who may not have had similar experiences.
- Feeling frustrated by the seeming unimportance of day-to-day problems.
- Boredom towards everyday life.
- Pressure to give time and attention to family and friends while balancing academic priorities.
Combat stress is a normal set of reactions to a difficult experience such as war. When these reactions are not dealt with, it can lead to difficulties adjusting to civilian and college life. Some common reactions to combat stress include:
- Re-experiencing the feelings of terror that occurred when a stressful event took place.
- Avoiding things that might be reminders of the event.
- Shutting down emotionally in order to ward off feelings of pain and fear.
- Hypervigilance, even in safe situations.
- Having a “short fuse” or startling easily.
- Feeling irritable or angry.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Feeling on-edge or on high alert, difficulty relaxing.
- Difficulty concentrating.
Learning more about common reactions to combat stress and how to cope with those reactions can help you to remember that you are not alone, and that your reactions are shared by many others. If you think you might be experiencing combat stress, it’s important to use the resources available to you. Talking to a counselor can often help to ease reactions associated with combat stress and make the transition to college life easier. At the Student Counseling Center, we invite you to contact us for an appointment if this is the case.
What Can Help
Let your friends and family know that you may need time to re-learn how to feel safe and to acclimate to changes that may have occurred while you’ve been away. Communication is important to give others the opportunity to understand what you’ve been through. In addition, taking care of yourself can help make the adjustment process to college life easier.
Other tips for feeling better:
- Plan time for rest and relaxation, prioritizing activities that you find personally enjoyable.
- Practice relaxation activities such as meditation, prayer, yoga, or listening to quiet music.
- Maintain a regular sleep and exercise schedule.
- Be realistic about the number of events and tasks you can accomplish in each day.
- Be cautious about taking a heavy academic course load initially.
- Take notes during a lecture to help you stay focused.
- Keep a class and assignment schedule to help you stay on task.
- Take time to let your loved ones know you care about them.
- Remember that it takes time to re-adjust to civilian life.
On-Campus Resources for UT Dallas Students
Off-Campus Resources for UT Dallas Students
VA North Texas Health Care System: Dallas VA Medical Center
4500 South Lancaster Road
Dallas, TX 75216
Phone: 214-742-8387 Or 214-742-8387
North Texas Vet Center: Readjustment Counseling Service
(4 locations in DFW area)
Veterans Crisis Line
1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1
National Organizations and Useful Links
- National Center for PTSD
- Topics from the Center for Deployment Psychology
- Focus Project (Family Resiliency Training for Military Families)
- Real Warriors
- Returning From the War Zone: A Guide for Military Personnel
- After Deployment
- The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
- Student Veterans of America
- Voices of Student Veterans
- Higher Education Resources for Veterans and Their Families