Jen Santiago had gone to college before she came to the U.S. “I had almost completed my diploma in nursing, [but] after arriving, I did not receive much credit for any of my education, so I almost had to start from scratch.” However, even after she enlisted in the Navy, Jen knew she wanted to continue her education. “All my education was online while I was active duty,” she explained. “It was fun and challenging at the same time. It suited my personality and way of learning, and it was great to maneuver school around work and long after-hours duty/watches. It certainly required me to stay on top of deadlines and communicate on a regular basis with my online instructors. Most of all, it taught me to push myself and research online.”

After leaving the Navy, Jen attended community college. “I enrolled at San Antonio College because I realized that what I had learned during my graduate classes for my Masters of Business Administration (MBA) was never actually used in any of my positions; other than leadership and management which is subjective to the culture of the organization you serve.” Although Jen’s military skills were useful, they did not help with picking a degree, and she tried something new. “My goal initially was to get a degree which I could use in the civilian sector–any business degree,” she said, “and that is what I did. I eventually learned to compare the educational institutions by their accreditation, their public standing, and costs. If I had to do it again, I would spend more time researching which college/university I want to invest in.”

As a student, Jen continues to maintain ties with the Veteran community at her school. “I keep in touch with the Vet office for any new grants or scholarships which the VA might put out for free education. It is good to stay abreast of newer policies which might also help my family’s education.” While many of her classmates are younger, she still feels supported in her classes. “It is true, there is no age limit for education. I found that we are all in the same boat and realized that some of the limits we think stop us are those we put on ourselves,” she noted.

Jen, however, wishes that she had had more insight into some of the challenges of finding work before she chose her degree path. “What I wish I had known was how difficult it would be to get an entry-level job with an MBA. I did not feel that I was prepared for a mid to senior-level management position in IT if I did not even know the basics; so, I had not planned to allocate at least 2 years investing in myself to get accredited, after the Associates.”

Jen’s advice for any Veteran student is to go to school and take a chance at learning something new. “Learning welding and carpentry were my first choice of study after leaving the military, but due to COVID-19, the in-person classes kept getting canceled. The IT scholarship just presented itself at the right time and I took the chance.”

Writer: Sarah Concepcion

Editors: Alexander Reza, Annabelle Colton

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley