Preparing for College

Tips for Military Veteran Transferring to Four-Year University

Question: I'm a military veteran currently looking to transfer from a CC to a private university. While I've found an abundance of self-help guides for veterans looking to use their GI Bill, I've found little advice/tips for veterans looking to make themselves more competitive in the admissions process. Are there any good resources for me that you know of? And would you have any specific tips for me? Thanks!

That's a good question. There is college admissions help out there for veterans, but you may have to look hard to find it. So start with this Military Times Edge article:

Pay particular attention to “Too Much Information” on page 3, and not only because those words of wisdom come from yours truly. ;-)

As you put together your application, you do want colleges to know about unique experiences and special skills that you’ve acquired through your military service. Colleges welcome “diversity,” and the atypical path that you took before continuing your schooling could work in your favor as you pursue your transfer options. BUT … on the other hand … as much as college officials publicly tout the pluses of a diverse college community, they can be quietly wary of students who have experienced trauma and whom they fear may bring ongoing problems to campus.

So, as you write your essay(s) and compile a résumé (probably not required but often worth sending), try to emphasize the uncommon experiences and strengths that you will offer your new school but avoid mentioning potential problems, if any. Even skills that that don’t seem at all related to your prospective studies (e.g., firefighting, bus driving, cooking) are definitely worth including. (I always recommend submitting an “Annotated Activities List,” which is a sort of a “résumé on steroids.” Here, instead of merely listing your assorted undertakings and achievements, use a sentence or two to briefly describe those that aren’t self-explanatory. You can also allow a little judicious humor or “personality” to come through in some of your entries.) As needed, use the “Additional Information” section of applications (or a separate letter) to explain extenuating circumstances or to provide details that you feel are important but won’t emerge elsewhere in your application.

Most colleges have at least one staff member who oversees transfer applications. Call the admission office at each of your target colleges and get the name and email address of this individual. Then write a brief note saying that your transfer application is pending and ask if there is any extra information that would be helpful, due to your veteran status. Regardless of the answer you get (which will probably be “No”), it could be helpful to establish this “relationship” with the transfer liaison, in case additional concerns arise.

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, check out the College Confidential discussion forum dedicated to Veterans at . You should find more advice there from others who have been in your shoes (or boots? :roll:), and you can also post specific questions of your own.

(posted 11/26/2012)