Today’s colleges, universities, community colleges and trade schools are faced with the challenge of attracting and engaging students who are primed for success. Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of Active Duty, National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve service members have benefitted from the Post-9/11 GI Bill in order to earn a degree or certificate, with the numbers increasing dramatically every year. The schools that invest in quantifiable military student resources, training and programs are the ones that will succeed in attracting transitioning military students who thrive not just on campus but in the workplace and their new civilian lives.
Below are practical tips from Jolene Jefferies, VP Training and Development, Military Friendly®, the country’s leading resource in military-to-civilian workforce development, on how admissions professionals can best reach and support this talented and driven pool of potential new students and national leaders.
Top Tips for Engaging Talented Transitioning Military Students
1) Build solid relationships with transitioning military students from the beginning. The most successful Military Friendly® Schools proactively reach out to prospective students to help educate them about their services, resources and reasons for attending school. These institutions also provide dedicated services for veterans, military spouses and their families—and make them available right from the start.
2) Design campaigns that take advantage of a wide range of marketing strategies that reach prospective military students. The key is to find the right students and connect with them in the way that most resonates. Developing a comprehensive, integrated marketing campaign incorporating traditional, digital and social media resources is the way to make that happen.
3) Recognize the importance of military spouses. The more than 1.1 million military spouses are truly the “force behind the force.” Develop policies and programs geared towards military spouses and their families to ensure retention, graduation and employment after school.
4) Establish and document processes that track military students through their college career. Report results regularly, and use them to inform future decisions and improvements. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, too, to inspire a deeper commitment to our nation’s heroes.
5) Create a meaningful experience for military students starting with orientation. Provide well-thought-out programs and events that showcase military/veteran-specific resources and, importantly, how and when to use them. In addition, involve military alumni as mentors right from the beginning, as there is often nothing more valuable than talking to others who have been successful in their transition to school.
6) Participate in a third-party survey to assess how well you support the military community, and benchmark where you rate against other educational institutions. Victory Media’s adjudicated annual Military Friendly® Schools survey is free for schools at https://militaryfriendly.com/start. Results from the survey are delivered in print and online to US military installations and transition classes worldwide, reaching nearly every transitioning service member and their instructors.
7) Train and include employees and faculty. It’s vital to show staff how the skills and job experiences military students have gained through their service can fit into the school’s programs and, eventually, into a satisfying civilian career. Veterans Offices should build partnerships with other departments, faculty and community organizations to design meaningful programs for student veterans and their colleagues.
8) Be creative with developing internal partnerships. Form partnerships with other departments and colleagues beyond the obvious. For example, one Military Friendly® School enlisted the Department of Social Work faculty and students to assess the effectiveness of military transitions at the school and whether or not the institution was meeting the needs of its military student population.
9) Form a Veteran Services Advisory Board or Task Force that meets regularly to bring together college personnel, alumni and students. Use this group to plan together and share updates to collectively make a positive impact on the engagement, retention and career-readiness of military students. Raise awareness for the rest of the campus community about the accomplishments of student veterans and military spouses, and form procedures for identifying students having difficulty with their coursework so they can be assisted.
10) Drive and support community initiatives, and encourage student veterans and military spouses to network within the larger community. Working with local veteran and military service organizations, as well as local installations, will forge a better understanding of the current and emerging issues for military students and their families. This will improve the way the school “connects classrooms to careers” and bridge the gap between classroom learning and positive outcomes for military students, boosting economic opportunity for individuals and the entire community.
For further information or to arrange interviews contact: Susan Matis, Susan.Matis@victorymedia.com or 412-269-1663