Advice for Former Military Students

Back to School: Advice for Former Military Students

Frank Grabarz went into the Army after graduating from high school, and after he discharged, he avoided going to college. “When I first separated, I began working in a specialty retail store—I did not believe I would be able to succeed in school,” he explained. “Eventually I became tired of a minimum paying job and wanted to focus on pursuing a career I would love doing.”

For Frank, getting into the student mentality proved difficult. “The hardest part was developing positive study habits, organizing time between schoolwork and family life, and interacting with students who were much younger than me.” Despite this, he connected with the Veteran community at his school. “I work in a Veteran’s Success office at my university and worked in one at a community college,” he stated. “Most Veterans have to interact with someone from a Veterans office when dealing with their VA education benefits. I help students process those benefits and assist them in navigating the university. I am also a member and former board member of the Veterans organization for the school.”

Frank remarked that he wished he knew more about preparing for the professional world during college. “I was under the impression that school was about partaking in extracurricular activities and attending class and doing well,” he said. “It wasn’t until I started my junior year that I met my boss—the Director of University of South Florida (USF)’s Office of Veterans Success—who stressed the importance of getting the most out of school. Examples are utilizing resources to network and set yourself up for success on the outside. He also pushed looking for internships and opportunities that aren’t heavily advertised.”

He has also found that what he originally wanted during community college isn’t what he wanted later in university. “My original goal was to become a sports journalist. I earned my [associate’s] with a focus in journalism/media studies at a local community college and took one semester of digital communications and multimedia journalism at my current university. I realized my heart wasn’t in it, so I changed my major to public health. I finally feel like I am where I need to be.”

Frank’s advice for military students is to be sure that you want to attend college. “Even though I would love to see every Veteran in academia, I understand it is not for everyone. Remember you can use your benefits for a trade school or for certifications in other fields. Also, don’t think you have to pursue a degree in a traditional field like business or criminal justice. Shoot for the stars. You may have felt like you lost your purpose when you left the service. You can find it again through your education. Don’t put yourself in a box that society prepackaged.”

Writer: Sarah Concepcion

Editors: Julia Pack, Annabelle Colton

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

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