Veteran Influx: A Qualitative Study Examining the Transition Experiences of Student Veterans from the Military to College

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Virginia Tech


More than 5,000,000 post-9/11 service members are expected to transition out of the military by 2020 due to a reduction in the size of the U.S. military and presence in Iraq and Afghanistan (American Council on Education, 2014). As these service members separate from the military many will choose to enter some form of postsecondary education. The literature across the past decade has not changed in its recommendations on how to serve student veterans. If campus administrators expect to support veteran students in their transitions, they need empirical research about the transition experiences of veteran students and not rely on best practices that are not supported by empirical evidence.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the transition experiences of Post-9/11 student veterans from a military setting to a college setting. The study used grounded theory methods to systematically review the literature about the transition of student veterans from the military to a college or university and create a conceptual framework for this study, or the Student Veteran College Transition Model (SVCTM). The SVCTM showed what strategies used by college and university administrators during a veteran's transition to college promote positive transition outcomes for student veterans within a number of conditions and contextual factors. This qualitative study used a modified version of Seidman's (2013) phenomenological interviewing and collective-case study. Semi-structured interviews provided data for the study.

Findings of this study confirmed previous research that student veterans experience a challenging transition from the military to college and that military and veteran student offices and veteran student organizations play an important role in the transition for student veterans. The findings also included that the conflict between military, civilian, and academic cultures disrupted student veterans' ability to adapt to their new role as civilian and student. To combat this conflict, student veterans turn to family and other veterans internal and external to the college provide support during the transition from the military as they integrate their military, civilian, and academic identities.



Education, Higher, Veterans, Student Veterans, Transition Experiences