At an academic boot camp for enlisted veterans held at Harvard University last year, John Korn, one of the executive directors of the Harvard Business School, shared some valuable advice to help veterans understand what they need to do to succeed in a four-year undergraduate college environment. The seven habits of highly effective student veterans that he discussed are simply too good not to provide to a broader audience.
Habit 1: Be proud of your service. As we remind veterans at the Warrior-Scholar Project, you are a minority that deserves respect; however, you need to realize that not everyone is going to understand everything you did.
Habit 2: Don’t sell yourself short. You have a lot to offer a prospective college. You are problem-solvers, leaders, doers. When things get hard, persevere. Reach out and ask for help. Use office hours to talk to professors about ideas. Ask questions.
Habit 3: When you walk on campus, maintain a learning mentality. Go there with an open mind and a desire to learn. Reserve judgement. Don't look down on the other students. When you hear something you disagree with, avoid the tendency to think, “that’s just wrong.” If you think instead, “well, that’s different,” you’ll discover new things.
Habit 4: Don’t isolate yourself. As one professor mentioned at the Yale Warrior-Scholar Project, most contemporary academic articles are written by a team of scholars, not one lone author. Learn from that. Don’t try and do it all by yourself. Work with other students. Collaborate with other veterans.
Habit 5: Take care of yourself: mind, body, spirit. Read something beyond your assigned readings each day. Work out with other veterans or other students. Take 15 minutes at the beginning and the end of the day to reflect on what you have done and experienced.
Habit 6: Keep a journal. Write down two things each day. What have you learned? Alternatively, write down one thing you could do better at the end of each week. If you start after you attend a summer Warrior-Scholar Project boot camp, by the next summer you will have identified 52 items to improve on.
Habit 7: Make what you say count. Like the old adage goes, “stand up to be recognized, speak up to be heard, and sit down to be appreciated.” Sometimes the best way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the best listener in the room. There’s that other old saying, “we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk.”