UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the first person in her family to go to college in the United States, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Geena Kaur didn’t want to overwhelm her friends and colleagues with questions about college. Instead, she partly leaned on the military support system at Penn State World Campus to help her successfully navigate her educational journey.
“I’m beyond thankful for my adviser, who has helped me tremendously in so many aspects,” said Kaur, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international politics. “The support I received from her and my professors during unexpected military commitments, and even just life, has helped me remain steadfast in my studies rather than become overwhelmed.”
Penn State World Campus military students of all branches have access to a dedicated military support team and military-exclusive services, such as their own undergraduate academic advising team. Many of the advisers have military connections, including as a veteran or military spouse.
Undergraduate adviser Jorge Trevino, who served more than two decades in the Navy, said having advisers with military experience helps students make the transition from the military to college.
“We’re the liaison between the military and collegiate cultures,” he said. “We’re talking their language. Veterans have a special bond with other veterans. If you have one veteran talking to another veteran, they’re going to ask you for your story.”
Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Betty Moreno, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, said having that person who speaks the same language is critical when military commitments create challenging situations.
“We are not like the civilian sector where we can say ‘No’ when ordered to move or execute a mission. We have to answer the call,” she said. “It can be extremely stressful if you don’t have someone who understands the challenges we face in our professional military careers.”
In addition to a dedicated military advising team, Penn State World Campus has military admissions counselors and GI Bill® certifying officials; provides financial aid and assistance, including military grant-in-aid and tuition assistance that may reduce undergraduate tuition costs; and offers disability services for students who may need accommodations. Service members, veterans, and their spouses and dependents are also eligible for an application fee waiver for associate and bachelor’s degrees.
Kaur said having those support services and people who understand her background and experiences make it easier for her to be successful.
“There are moments when I am absolutely immersed in a course and school work, but abruptly have military commitments and can no longer allot the time necessary to continue as planned,” she said. “To have individuals who understand that I am still committed to my education but must temporarily prioritize my career is reassuring.”
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.