On Veterans Day, Americans pause to reflect on the service and sacrifices made by our military. While many veterans transition from active duty directly to the workforce, others enter the college classroom. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, veterans account for about 6% of undergraduate students and 7% of graduate students.
GCU asked veteran student Michael Boyle ’20 to share some of his experiences as a Marine Corps veteran and college student. In 2020, the 52-year-old Jackson, N.J., resident earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology (with three minors – physics, theology, and art) and is currently working toward a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.
Q. Michael, as a veteran student, tell us about your educational journey.
Michael: It’s been a long and bumpy ride. In 1993, I was separated from the Marine Corps due to a disability and began taking classes at Brookdale Community College with plans to become a physical therapist. I left in the middle of my first year to care for my growing family, and I was a successful business owner for many years. However, my disability worsened in 2007, bringing me to a crisis of faith. I finally surrendered my life to Jesus.
In 2012, I enrolled at Georgian Court. Because of my disability, I changed majors from physical therapy to physics. I was introduced to TRIO-Student Support Services at this point, and it opened a door of help that was greatly needed. TRIO was always there for me when I needed it for class tutoring or just a quiet place to get my thoughts together.
Unfortunately, my disability got the better of me again and I had to leave school in 2015. I was very upset but knew God had a plan as God always does. While looking to start another business, every door kept closing on me, but it led me back to school again in 2019.
I approached Georgian Court about coming back but found I owed money that I had no means of paying back. Georgian Court zeroed my account, allowing me to return. When I did, for a variety of reasons, I changed my major to psychology, with initial thoughts of working in a school setting.
As I took more psychology courses, and because of my own experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I felt led to help other veterans. My hope is that my PTSD will not get in the way of that.
Q. What advice do you have for veterans interested in attending college?
Michael: Veterans, because of their training, are equipped with the skills to succeed in college. They just need to recon the campus to find the abundance of aid available to them. For me, it was TRIO, and I suggest veterans see if they qualify for the program. It was a great advantage to have the resource available to me.
Q. How have people or organizations at GCU helped you, as a veteran student?
Michael: Everyone here at GCU was always a great encourager. When I left school, I didn’t think I would be coming back. GCU showed me a lot of grace and mercy by allowing me to return and showing me that the values the university ascribes to really matter. I’m so thankful for all God has done to get me to where I am. God has put me in a great school surrounded by wonderful support.
Story contributed by freelance writer Sheila Noonan.