Why Student Veteran Chapters Should Invest In A Vet Center

An ROTC student walks past the Veterans Academic Resource Center on the first day of classes for the fall semester at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., Monday, Aug. 24, 2015.
AP photo via Phelan M. Ebenhack

It’s no secret that the transition from military to student life isn’t always easy. But there are a number of resources and opportunities for student veterans as they head to school. One resource that stands out to me as I worked toward my education was my Student Veterans of America chapter’s vet center.

A vet center is a designated place on campus where student veterans can socialize, study, and connect. As a nontraditional student, my vet center provided me with a network of veterans, a place to hang my hat between classes, a direct line to benefits resources and academic assistance to name just a few.

I’m not the only one who has seen the impact a vet center has in a veterans’ transition, and that is why more and more SVA chapters are working together to improve spaces for veterans on their campuses. Through the Veterans Center Initiative, sponsored by The Home Depot Foundation, 50 schools will receive up to $10,000 to remodel or create a space for their campus’ veterans.

Still not sure why you should visit your college’s vet center? Check out these four opportunities a vet center can offer.

A built-in network.

Military veterans bring many different experiences to the table in educational settings. As nontraditional students, we have a lot to add to classroom discussions and can offer unique perspectives. But sometimes those differences can also be challenging.   

Vet centers can help you overcome those challenges by immediately providing you with a network of veterans. It’s a great feeling to walk into your campus’ vet center and know that people who understand your experiences surround you.

Interacting with other veterans on a daily or weekly basis can help you regain that sense of camaraderie you had with your brothers and sisters in the military, only this time, in a school setting. This built-in network of veterans helped me immensely with my transition and served as one of my major motivations throughout my college years.

Related: What’s next for Student Veterans of America? The national conference offered a glimpse »

Another important aspect is that student veterans in the vet center have a diversity of experience with the college or university, whether due to the spread from freshman to graduate student, the range of majors and courses of study, or knowledge of extracurricular activities and student support on and off campus. The willingness to share information and experience can ensure student veterans the full college experience.

Access to veteran resources and benefits.

One of the best things about having a vet center on campus is that you have easier access to resources, education, and staff that can assist you with veterans or military benefits. Other student veterans in your vet center can offer a wealth of knowledge in terms of when that next G.I. Bill check is coming, local opportunities for veterans and who to talk to about your benefits.

Vet centers also often provide a centralized access point to staff that can help with your benefits. Some schools have a nearby veteran’s advisor specializing in G.I. Bill claims, while other schools have local experts visit the center to assist with anything from VA claims to translating military skills on your resume.

Home away from home.

Like many nontraditional students, veterans often live further from campus and commute more frequently than traditional students. That’s when your vet center comes in handy. If you only have two classes in a day, but they’re four hours apart and you can’t go home in between, it’s nice to know that there’s a warm cup of coffee waiting for you in the vet center.

Even if you live close to campus, your vet center is a great place to relax, unwind, watch television, or even get some homework done before that next class. For many veterans, their vet center becomes their home away from home.

Academic assistance

Vet centers can also be instrumental when it comes to student veterans’ academics. General places to study on campus, like the library, are often very loud, which makes it hard for some people to concentrate, but a vet center offers a quiet, safe place to do work.

Veterans have a wide range of experiences and education levels, which lends to a robust sharing of information at vet centers. It’s likely that your fellow student veterans have recently taken the same classes, or have in-depth knowledge on the topics you’re studying. You may even be in some of the same classes, allowing you to collaboratively work on assignments, compare notes, or study at the vet center. If you’re completing homework in the vet center and need some help — you can simply ask around and someone may have an answer.

For the last two years, the Vet Center Initiative has built and improved veteran spaces on 61 campuses impacting more than 30,000 student veterans. Recognizing the successes of the last two years, The Home Depot Foundation is continuing its commitment this year by offering a total of $400,000 to 50 SVA chapters. To apply for a VCI grant, visit Student Veterans of America’s web site.

While SVA chapters can certainly be successful without a designated space, having access to a vet center can help a veteran make the most of their college experience.

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