Many college applicants are heaving sighs of relief. Most schools are beginning to review applications for  students who will begin classes this fall. For those applicants applying to schools with later deadlines, we still have time to help with your application.

The application process is daunting, but thousands make it through every year! Service to School (S2S) is here to help, with college guidance as well as our S2S VetLink Program. I interviewed Luke Sajer and Beth Morgan to find out more about the S2S VetLink Program.

Luke, who just finished applying to schools, is an SPC (Specialist) with the 75th Ranger Regiment. He is transitioning out of the Army and hopes to start college in Fall 2016. Beth Morgan is the Executive Director of Service to School, and provided additional advice for veterans considering applying for college  admission.

Q1: Applying to colleges is often perceived as a daunting task. Mr. Sajer, what was the most difficult part of starting the application process? How did you decide which schools to apply to?

Luke: Getting in the swing of producing formal writing pieces was the most difficult part of starting the application process.  I was shocked at how challenging it was to sit down and write essays that I felt would be competitive. I had to warm up for a month and then throw most of my work out before I could actually get started.

I decided that it was important to clearly define why I am leaving the service to go to college, what my goals are long term, and how my current value system should factor in.  I developed my list of priorities and criteria and started putting schools to the test.  I ended up gravitating towards larger, competitive schools in locations I would be willing to live in.

Q2: Ms. Morgan, how does Service to School help applicants begin the process and choose colleges to apply to?

Beth: Our job is to help the veterans and active duty service members get into the best possible college for them. Many times they come to the table with certain ideas of where they want to apply, and we help give them a sense of how competitive they are right now for those schools, and how to become more competitive for the future.

In addition, S2S Vetlink is a new initiative, just for our undergraduate applicants with specific highly selective schools: Yale University, Smith College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Cornell University, Notre Dame University, Princeton University and Williams College. We are helping them identify applicants who might be competitive and interested in those schools.  They also accept an addendum which showcases their military experience and is included in their application package.  Of course, we are still going to help all of our applicants if they want to pursue an undergraduate institution outside of this group of schools, along with those veterans who already hold undergraduate degrees and are interested in law degrees, business degrees, or other graduate programs.

Q3: Mr. Sajer, what was the most helpful thing S2S did during the application process?

Luke: I applied as a true freshman and found that all the applications were designed for and geared towards seniors in high school.  Unlike those HS seniors, I did not have easy access to my guidance department, teachers, or anyone else who had much experience in navigating the application sites as a true freshman-veteran.  S2S helped me by being my application guide from start to finish.  My ambassador, Mike Anderson, frequently checked in on me and helped me put the finishing touches on my essays.  Beth Morgan helped me see the application process all the way through and was there for me when my HS failed to send my documents to my colleges the first time around.

Q4: Mr. Sajer, what part of the application process was easier than you expected? Harder than you expected?

Luke: School selection was the easiest part for me.  I was looking forward to transitioning into higher education for a while and had already spent a lot of time developing my list.  See Q1 for the hardest part.

Q5: Ms. Morgan, what would you say to a veteran who does not believe he or she would be admitted to a top college or university?

Beth: They need to understand our S2S VetLink partners and other highly selective colleges/universities are interested in having them on their campuses.  If you are a qualified veteran, they are actively seeking and hoping to find you. Veteran applicants may certainly need to do some additional coursework, whether that be community college or another four year school, as they need to have a good academic record, but many of these schools even offer financial aid packages on top of the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits which allow veterans an opportunity to attend, without ending up with significant debt. If someone believes these universities might be a good fit, they should apply. S2S can help guide them. Our goal is to inspire people to reach a little higher than they might have originally expected to achieve.

Q6: Mr. Sajer, is there anything you want veterans to know before they start applying for college?

Luke: I want veterans, especially those who find themselves applying as true freshmen, to make sure they stay on top of their admissions trackers once they’ve sorted out their applications.

I ran into some serious issues where my HS guidance department failed to send my documents due to some internal miscommunications and human error.  If I hadn’t been checking on my statuses and keeping track of the reasonable delivery timelines, I may have had incomplete applications across the board.  Because veteran packets may have contributions from multiple sources, it’s important to confirm the schools have everything they need.

Do you have questions about the admissions process and want to learn more about S2S VetLink? Fill out our contact form.