Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Adjustment to Academic Life Among Student Veterans (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

318P (see Poster Gallery) Adjustment to Academic Life Among Student Veterans

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Fary Maldonado, Honolulu Veteran Center Specialist/PhD Student, University of Hawaii Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Jing Guo, PhD, Associate Professor, PhD Program Chair, Department Chair, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Background and Purpose. Previous research has suggested a potential link between veterans’ experiences and the process of post-traumatic growth (PTG), which can improve the individuals’ chances of successful rehabilitation. Higher Education provides a unique setting for veterans to transition to civilian life and possibly experience post-traumatic growth, in the areas of gaining personal strength, appreciation of life, and gaining new experiences. The goal of the present study was to establish the connection between academic excellence, adjustment to academic life, and extracurricular activities in a sample of student veterans. A hypothesis in the study suggested that participation in extracurricular activities would increase adjustment to academic life in student veterans and promote their adaptation to academic life.

Methods. A sample of 164 student veterans aged 27 to 77 from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa was surveyed. The participants were asked to complete a series of questionnaires to gather information on the extracurricular activities attended, veteran status, adjustment to academic life, and academic performance. Descriptive statistics were calculated to analyze the gathered data and ascertain the respondents' traits. The dependent variables were adjustment to academic life and academic excellence; the key independent variable was engagement in extracurricular activities.

Results. The descriptive statistics tests revealed that 68% of the sample was 28-52 years old; 63% were men. 170 respondents were military veterans, out of which 164 individuals were enrolled in a higher education institution, and 99 participants engaged in extracurricular activities. The mean range for adjusting to academic life answers was 3.98, suggesting that most respondents adapted to academic life well. The regression model produced statistically significant results on the correlation between academic excellence and adjustment to academic life. In addition, it was established that student veterans with higher levels of engagement in extracurricular activities were more likely to report academic adjustment. Finally, findings from analyzing open-ended qualitative questions show that 24 respondents reported encountering significant challenges in adjusting to academic life. The main challenges came from relating to others, mostly due to the generational gap and military background. For instance, a respondent stated: “I struggle to relate to the younger generation. I am literally twice the age of most of my peers...”

Conclusions and Implications. The results of this study highlight the importance of extracurricular activities as a potential way to assist student veterans’ adjustment to academic life in student veterans' welfare and identify the challenges that student veterans have encountered. The results revealed that extracurricular activities attendance is likely to promote adjustment in student veterans. It has also been noted that student veterans can experience considerable issues when adapting to college life, as most student veterans are older than their peers and have a distinct military background. Future research should add more variables to the model, such as the type of military experience and PTSD symptoms.