Misconceptions About Military Students

Harmful Civilian Misconceptions About Veterans

written by Veterans Education Project, a partner of CollegeRecon

The military and academia share a lot. They both comprise important parts of American society. They are both in the business of shaping the minds and lives our young into good citizens. And they both have strong subcultures that can seem impenetrable from the outside. Yet relations between these two institutions have not always been harmonious. Fortunately, we are a long way away from those shameful days of university students accusing soldiers of being ‘baby killers’. Nonetheless, student Veterans and Servicemembers still deal with harmful misconceptions from civilian students. 

All Brawn, No Brain

Higher learning is intellectual demanding and military students must sometimes deal with presuppositions that being in the military is all brawn and no brain. Even worse, some think that the military only trains us to take orders, and suppresses independent or critical thought. This can put military students at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining admission to schools as well as having their in-class contributions properly respected. It is also an entirely false understanding of the military.

“53 percent of troops list educational benefits as one of their motivations for serving.” – CNAS

Trusted With Expensive Technology and Equipment

In fact, survival and victory in war require an independent mind. Waiting for orders on the battlefield is a great way to get yourself wounded or worse. A good soldier can be trusted by their commander to find the best way past unforeseen obstacles to reach the objective. The military also trusts young Americans to handle billion dollar technological innovations on the battlefield. Meanwhile, their civilian counterparts must wait for such technologies to first become accessible and then undergo twice as much training before they can do a fraction of their military colleagues did years ago.  

All Veterans Have Mental Health Issues

Student Veterans and Servicemembers are not always trusted with the same level of responsibility outside of the military due to myth that they suffer crippling PTSD and are liable to go postal at any moment. This leads other students to avoid them or treat them in a patronizing manner, both of which disrespect and alienate military students. This also creates further stigma around issues of mental health and can disincentivize military students from seeking help if they should actually need it. Given that the suicide rate is higher for the military than the general population, reinforcing such stigmas does not help. 

The “unstable Veteran” stereotype is not the only one that military students can face during their studies. The depiction of American soldiers as blood-lusting killing machines is still something that those who have served must deal with. This can create a hostile learning environment and handicaps all those involved.  

Not a Homogenous Organization, But A Wide Array of Opinions

Military students can also be made to feel accountable to other students’ criticism of the military or American foreign policy. The military is not a homogeneous organization and you will find a wide array of opinions on the military and America’s actions abroad. Nonetheless, a military student understands that service and duty means you don’t get to choose your battles, but you can be ready to fight them.

“Today, when asked how likely it is they [American youth] will be serving in the military in the next few years, 87% responded ‘definitely not’ or ‘probably not.’ While the American public has faith in the efficacy of our military, they feel little to no personal connection with it.” – DOD Official, Anthony M. Kurta

Fighting these misconceptions is not as easy as pointing them out. There is a growing civil-military divide in our country which means that many non-military students will simply have little to no idea of what the military is like. Some had probably forgotten we were still in Afghanistan until our much publicized retreat last year. Media portrayals of the military and soldiers have also done much to perpetuate negative and harmful stereotypes.

The Military Recruits from the Poorest Communities

Finally, there are often socio-economic divides between those who go straight to university and those who serve before studying, thus furthering the divide between military and civilian worlds.  In fact, the military mostly draws from the middle class.


But it is for all those reasons that it is important to have military students at your institution of learning. They bring different views, experiences, and backgrounds that enrich the classroom and learning experience. 


by Veterans Education Project

For more info, please visit their website.