Dr. James Bender, DCoE psychologist on August 26, 2010
Doc Bender on top of the Ziggurat of Ur in Southern Iraq, in February 2009.
Dr. James Bender recently returned from Iraq after spending 12 months as the brigade psychologist for the 4-1 CAV out of Ft Hood. He served for four and a half years in the Army. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad and many spots in between. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on mental health issues related to deployment and being in the military.
You probably know that the new Post 9/11 GI Bill was passed in July 2008. This replaces the old Montgomery GI Bill, and the increased benefits make it a lot easier for you to pay for college.
But if you’re still debating or you’ve already made the decision to enroll, it’s critical that you know up front that you still must perform and work hard in order to really take advantage of all the great benefits of this bill. Many service members and vets struggle in college, or worse, end up failing for several reasons. As a soldier, former college student and former professor (before the Army), I have seen all sides of this situation. I also know success is achievable. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you navigate the college experience:
- Show up to every class (you wouldn’t miss PT). Your participation is much more likely to earn you good grades than just being smart. Most people who fail classes simply aren’t attending or completing the assigned work. If you must miss a class, tell your professor, preferably in advance, and ask how you can make up the work or get the missed information.
- You should know your professor AND your professor should know you. Ask questions during or after class if you’re confused. Don’t be shy about going to the professor during office hours. Most professors will care about your grade if you do and less likely care if they see that you don’t.
- Be proactive and seek help if you need it. Don’t expect anyone to come to you if you’re struggling.
- Be familiar with the professor’s grading system and what’s expected of you. Know what it will take to earn an A or B. Further, be aware of when work is due, how many tests will be given, etc. Check the class syllabus often and if the syllabus doesn’t have this information, ask your professor.
- Know the people you sit next to. As a result, you’ll have someone to compare notes with or ask questions to. Also, classes will be more enjoyable if you’re around people you know and like.
- When writing papers, spelling and grammar count and it takes more than your computer’s spellchecker to make sure everything’s OK. Go to your school’s writing lab (usually in the library) and have them proofread your paper before you turn it in.
- Lastly, don’t think a four-year degree from a traditional school is your only option. There are plenty of trade schools whose graduates earn good money at great jobs. Make the choice that’s best for you.
Trade school or college is a major undertaking and you should be able to give it the time and effort needed to succeed. Good luck! I’ll write again soon.
*More on the Post 9/11 GI Bill, check out a recent post.
*Are you a military undergraduate or recent grad? We’d like to hear from you, share tips or discuss your college experience in our comment section below.