How to Use Your Military Experience When Writing Application Essay


When the army is over and yesterday soldiers get ready for the next chapter in life, college appears the most logical and right step to take. Especially with the GI Bill and its benefits, aimed at helping soldiers and veterans readjust to civilian life. And yet, for all its perks, this program is not a guarantee of your complete post-service education.

Many challenges are still on your way, and one of them is related to writing a college application essay. This paper is a must for every applicant to craft, and admission officers focus on it drastically when deciding whether to accept you or not.

You know this essay should be personal and disclose your individuality, knowledge, and skills. But what about your military experience? Should you talk about it in your college application essay?

Given that it’s your unique set of circumstances and it can become a crucial aspect for your acceptance to college, feel free to write about your military life. Here go some actionable tips on how to mention it best, as well as some thoughts on what details to avoid. And even if you decide to ask a professional writer for help with a college application essay, don’t forget telling them about such an experience of yours so they would include this info to the document.

Be Specific and Clear

Even though your story might seem common to you, it’s not so to admission officers who didn’t experience the same. Personal challenges you overcame, tactics you chose to work through them, and lessons you learned while in the army may be more groundbreaking than most people would experience in a lifetime. So don’t be shy or afraid of telling your story in the application essay.
And even if you are still working through a challenge and try to deal with worries or fears, it’s okay to write about it. Tell the committee about how their college and degree you’ll get there will help to overcome that challenge. But be specific and clear, pore over each phrase you choose while writing, and do your best to avoid military jargon.

The thing is, admission officers will most likely be confused if reading specific acronyms a la OCONUS or TBS in your essay. Remember that far from everyone understands such terms, so they simply won’t get the message you are trying to communicate. When writing, do your best to use words everyone knows.

The good idea would be to ask your friend, unrelated to the military, or a dedicated essay writer at Bid4papers, to read your paper and say if there’s any jargon in it. Revise it accordingly.

Tell About the Challenges You Faced

But make sure to illustrate how you used them and your hard and soft skills to overcome the problems. What did you learn or understand because of the challenges you had to face?

And yet, don’t go too far:

Your application essay is not about deep personal tragedies. While your military experience is a perfect background for self-growth and virile character development, the moaning about abuse, depression, or any other psychological traumas you might struggle in the army is not that great for your essay. And it’s not because they are not important; they just make your story sound negative and turn readers into a bad mood, as they concentrate on those dark subjects rather than your achievements.

Also, such sad stories, even if they helped you become a stronger and goal-oriented person, don’t give any idea to admission officers on why you would be a good candidate for their college. The story about your challenges and lessons you’ve learned thanks to them should answer the question: how it made you decide on applying to this particular educational institution.

As a rule, every college provides applicants with an essay question. Read it carefully, and go back to it once again after you’ve finished writing the essay. Your story and the challenges you describe there should relate to the question admission officers asked.

Tell About Skills You’ve Got in the Army

For the years of your military experience, you’ve got tons of hard and soft skills that will impress a college admission committee by all means. So tell about them in your essay and provide some details on how these skills might help in your future career.

But don’t just list them.

Admission officers have read your application form. They saw the note about your years in the army and the accomplishments you got there. So the list of your skills in the essay will give them nothing but the repetition of the same information.

Turn your skills into a story to leave the committee willing to know more about your personality. They want to understand what makes you different from dozens of other applicants with the same awards and background. Why are you so awesome? As a veteran or a former soldier, what can you bring to the college? How can your knowledge and skills influence its culture and prestige?

If you can’t decide on skills to mention in your application essay, do the following:

Write them down as bullet points in a separate sheet of paper. Evaluate which of them are more valuable, and choose 3-4 skills to concentrate on. Then, outline the story with those skills in mind and start writing a narrative where you’ll specify them the best you can.

Avoid generic descriptions a la “I’m hardworking and passionate about everything I do.” First, most applicants write the same; second, it’s cliches saying nothing about your individuality: all students are hardworking and passionate about the study if they want to succeed; and third, such attributes have no relation to your military background or your personal motivation for entering this college.

Your application essay represents your personality on paper, and it’s your opportunity to impress the college admission committee. So, use your military experience to demonstrate your values for them to understand why you deserve a place in this institution.

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