Matt Randle - Tucson, AZ

What motivated you to enter/return to college after your military service?

I was trying to make my way professionally, and realized that there was a ceiling for my advancements and pay possibilities if I didn’t have a degree. I was pushed by several of my friends – veterans and non-veterans – who thought I wasn’t living up to my potential.

What did you hope to achieve out of your college experience?

I wanted to enjoy and experience as much of the normal college experience as possible. I wanted to know that my service postponed my time in college, not replaced it.

What do you wish you had done differently throughout your college preparation process?

I wish I had better understood how the benefits worked and what my choices were. I may have gone about things differently and saved them while I was in community college.

What was one of the most difficult aspects of entering college after your military experience?

For me, the most difficult part was the maze of paperwork and bureaucracy involved in admittance, registration and benefit activation/certification. Then, there was the challenge of being so out of place socially on campus; in class, it caused me a lot of stress and anxiety.

How do you balance your work and family life going to college?

Making school a priority is half the battle. Then, you have to use the time-management skills you acquired in the military. You will find that staying ahead of assignments and class work allows you flexibility when family situations arise.

What have the educational benefits of the GI Bill meant to you?

Honestly, they have meant everything. I am able to pursue my degree, which is something I didn’t think possible two years ago. I am living the dream, enjoying the experience and investing in myself. Without these benefits, I am not sure any of it would be possible.

What is the biggest payoff of attending college after military service?

Selfishly, it is the pride and satisfaction I have in my accomplishments. I know I am doing the right thing and making my future brighter. I am also honoring the lives of my brothers and sisters who didn’t make it home by living my life to its fullest potential.

What advice would you give to a service member or veteran who hopes to attend college after completing military service?

  • Take advantage of the services available to you while you are still in the military.
  • Make contact with the student veteran club and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official on your campus ahead of time, so you know what you need to do to make your transition as smooth as possible.
  • Attend an orientation. They seem silly, but are full of information.
  • Commit to college. Don’t treat it as an afterthought.
  • Get involved. Find a club, organization, fraternity or something that interests you on campus. College is as much a social experience as it is an academic one.