The TCU Veterans Services Task Force estimates that there are about 300 student veterans on campus, and some of those veterans say the transition to civilian life, especially as a student, can be very difficult.
Junior strategic communication major Cristina Mungilla is an Army National Guard veteran and a single mother of three. She said her responsibilities at home, along with those at school, have made the adjustment to student life very hard for her.
“I’m determined,” Mungilla said. “I’m goal-oriented. I have every intention of doing well in school, but I am struggling, and I’m telling you that I have my doubts about whether or not I can do this.”
Senior sociology and philosophy double major Stesha Colby is a Marine veteran and the president of the TCU Student Veterans Alliance. She said many veterans who come back to school struggle with the lack of a regimented schedule or the discipline they had in the military.
“One of the biggest complaints among my friends and even from the students here is the loss of that structure,” she said. “I know that I personally struggled my first few semesters. I don’t have somebody yelling at me to get up at five o’clock in the morning anymore. So maybe I might sleep in a little bit.”
April Brown, chairwoman of the task force, said it can also be difficult for veterans to feel like part of the TCU community since they are non-traditional students and they generally commute.
“You’re talking about a social transition,” Brown said. “How do I meet people that I connect with and have the same interests that I have when I’m not living on campus? When I may be a little bit older? When I may have some different responsibilities?”
Junior general studies major Jarrod McClendon, an Army veteran, said coming to TCU is a “culture shock” for many veterans.
Junior criminal justice major Derrick Johnson, an Air Force veteran, said the attitude of many college students is different from that of veterans.
“Trying to change back to the civilian world, especially college where you’re surrounded by brand-new high school graduates or some college students who think…‘I’m better than you,’ that can get annoying,” Johnson said.
Brown said the task force tracks the number of veterans on campus who are using benefits they earned during their service.
Some veterans, however, are paying for school with scholarships or with their own money. Those students are not counted unless they come specifically to the task force seeking help.
Brown said the key for student veterans is to get good advice and direction when they first get on campus.
“So it’s critical that when veterans come into the system, especially as a transfer student, that they are able to connect quickly with advisers,” she said.
Mungilla said that when veterans don’t succeed as students, that lack of assistance is the reason why.
“I think it’s because they really lack the support that they need to succeed,” she said.
Some veterans find support and structure in ROTC. Johnson is in Air Force ROTC. McClendon is in Army ROTC. McClendon said that has helped his transition at TCU.
“I honestly don’t see what [other veterans] see because I’m plugged in with these guys,” McClendon said.
Student Veterans Alliance is another way veterans can get connected. Colby said the group’s objective is to help ease the adjustment for veterans and make friends on campus.
“The biggest goal is assisting the veteran in becoming a civilian again,” she said.