Written by: Ryan Kalugan
My name is Ryan Kalugdan and I am an Air Force veteran pursuing my undergraduate degree. On my journey toward higher education, I learned plenty of things that I wish someone had shared with me prior to starting the college application process. Here are four key takeaways that I feel would benefit any veteran with aspirations of furthering their education.
Don’t get discouraged. Rejection means redirection
After being rejected from every college I applied to in 2015, I felt deeply ashamed and angry at myself. I didn’t even go to school the day everyone wore their prospective college gear (first-world problems). To be fair, I was not at all ready for college. I was broke, indecisive, irresponsible, and unprepared. So I did what any other lost teenager would do, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. From there I grew in more ways than I could have imagined. I learned to be independent, broadened my horizons, made lifelong friends, understood the meaning of a long day’s work, made plenty of mistakes, and learned just as many lessons. The point being, life has a way of guiding you in the direction you are supposed to go as opposed to where you think you should go. Just be open to anything.
Don’t hate on Community College
I am not sure if this is still a thing but when I was in high school, there was so much negative energy when it came to community college and I cannot understand why. Literally, anyone, at any age, can enroll at their local community college, take affordable classes and completely change the trajectory of their life. Whether that be through an Associate’s degree, certificate, vocational training, or transferring, there is so much value and opportunity to be unlocked at community college. Thank you so much to Chabot College for the quality education and resources to restart my life. For any prospective students hesitant to go straight to a 4-year, seriously consider your local community college. Embrace it for all it is and represent it proudly.
Don’t be shy, reach out for support
I am not sure if I could have done what I did in the last 5 years without the support of my family and friends. There were times where I was at my lowest low and I just wanted to give in to all the pressure and stress. Thankfully I had a support system to get me through it all. Whether it was struggling to get through tech school, being deployed halfway across the world, or just being a broke student veteran, they were there for me through it all. Quick shoutout to all of you guys. Jocelyn Agbulos, Renato Kalugdan, Albert Agbulos, Anne Marie Bustos, Nicholas Beltran, Katrina Andersen, Kevin Attard, MS, ATC, Kristina Chan. All of you helped me get to where I am today and I am forever in your debt, you have all my gratitude. Also, thank you Service to School, an invaluable resource and absolute must for veterans applying to college. College applications were so novel to me that they made the process feel incredibly daunting. Fortunately, the mentorship I received through S2S helped me compartmentalize all my thoughts and feelings into a coherent essay that accurately represented my experiences in the military. For anyone else who has trouble turning their military experience into a well-written college essay, look into getting yourself an S2S ambassador. Their wisdom, knowledge, and support helped me get to where I wanted to be.
Don’t have a closed mind. Get curious and explore
I think the worst thing college applicants can do is put themselves in a box of what they think they are capable of. We veterans have been through the wringer in terms of being pushed to our limits and going past them. For me, it was navigating taking college courses while being deployed halfway across the world from the actual school. There were plenty of times where I wanted to withdraw but I knew that if I could not get it done here, there would be no chance for me at a 4-year university. I persevered and it made me realize that I could do things that I thought were “too ambitious”. That is just my experience but I know plenty of veterans out there with similar stories when it comes to overcoming adversity, and it would be a disservice to ourselves to put a limit on all the opportunities out there for us. I encourage you to put the time into research and explore what all these different universities have to offer you. A great place to start opening up your horizons will be at the VetLink College Fair coming up this September. From there, you will see just how many amazing universities there are for veterans like you and me. Veterans have so much to offer at these top-ranked universities, we just have to believe it and everything will start falling into place. We all live a singular life, so why not aim for the stars? Worse that could happen is you land on the moon.