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Story Spotlight: Away at War but Looking for Colleges

August 14, 2012

There are some new efforts being made to help military service members and veterans find colleges, thanks to Paul Szoldra, who joined the Marine Corps after September 11th attacks. He served around the world, including being stationed in Afghanistan. However, he faced another challenge when trying to transition back into civilian life. He had no idea how to find a college.

"When I was getting out, I was in Okinawa, Japan," Szoldra explained. "I couldn't really call, and I obviously couldn't call them [colleges]."

However, he continued his search, looking for schools that were inexpensive yet had small student populations, two qualities that he felt marked good quality. Now happily enrolled at the University of Tampa, he is now advising other college bound service members to follow their college dreams and find schools that offer credits for military service, as well as other services, such as a community of veterans and certified advisers who work with the Department of Veterans Affairs. These are critical to a successful student after military service.

In addition, Szoldra helps warn military service members against certain for-profit schools that use aggressive marketing techniques, something that is also firmly against. Since President Obama announced his plan to help weed out schools that target GI Bill students, efforts have been made at to eliminate advertisers who follow these aggressive marketing techniques, which have resulted in their removal. Szoldra has used his own site to help veteran members get a better understanding of how to find colleges and where to look for the colleges that are truly college-friendly.

He recommends Drexel University, a school that offers in-depth advising, employs Vietnam veterans like Gene Clark, who is a veterans benefits counselor, and helps veterans through the common obstacles that they face when going back to school. In addition to university support, there's also a good community of veterans who help others find their footing at the college and make it through the process. Without this help, some veterans simply just don't make it to graduation.

Now more than ever, it's important for veterans to understand that they can find schools with plenty of services and degrees that match their interests as well as issues. Military-friendly colleges are constantly looking for a better way to help, so that only comes with people like Szoldra who can make a name for themselves by reaching out to those who have suffered similar issue and pulled through.

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