The life of military veterans following their combat is marked by a variety of particular features that impose difficulties in the smooth reintegration of this population into the civilian society. This group is continuously exposed to physical pain due to the injuries, often experiences post-traumatic stress disorders that are frequently observed upon service, and encounters other psychological, cultural, and social obstacles.
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All these issues make the civic life of a person with military service experience complicated (Norman et al., 2015). Although veterans are exposed to these issues in various settings, the educational sphere is one of the most affected ones. Since many veteran students seek new careers and need to obtain a degree, they need to make more effort to succeed in managing the difficulties related to their experience and remain actively involved in the educational process (Semer & Harmening, 2015). Mere attendance of the classes and curricular activities is not sufficient to provide the necessary support for veteran students. Therefore, it is vital to initiate a well-structured system of extra-curricular activities aimed at helping these students engage in academic life and thus improve their academic performance.
The prevailing rate of academic challenges among veteran students imposes an urgent need to address this issue on both scholarly and policy-making levels. The current research aims at utilizing a qualitative study design to test if participation in extra-curricular activities within an educational facility has any positive effect on the academic performance of veteran students. The relevance of the study is conditioned by the growing concerns about the civilian life of veterans and the need for valid programs aimed at facilitating the integration of this population into society.
The research is constructed around the assumption that active inclusion in co-curricular practices would enhance the academic success of the students. It is believed that such activities as aerobics lessons, music groups, dancing classes, individual or team sports, and others, when attended regularly, might enrich students’ educational experience and encourage their better involvement.
The issue of veteran students’ educational experiences has occupied an important place within the realm of social work and policy-making. Much research has been conducted to validate the importance of extra-curricular activities as the crucial contributor to veteran’s socialization, professional development, academic performance, and psychological adjustment to civilian life. As Simmons, Creamer, and Yu (2017) identify, co-curricular, and extracurricular practices amplify the scope of students’ expertise in both professional and developmental spheres. By actively engaging in the activities outside classes, veterans obtain sufficient improvement in their psychological state, communicate with students and instructors, and gain new knowledge and skills.
Moreover, extensive practice in various types of extra-curricular performance proves to be beneficial for developing particular competencies and skills. According to Burt et al. (2011), the students who participate in co-curricular activities regularly demonstrate a higher level of leadership skills development.
They are capable of managing complex tasks, are more organized, and more efficient in their performance. Besides, the exposure to a more significant number of diverse people, including creative and talented individuals, with whom veteran students might interact during the extra-curricular practices, enhances their communicative and socialization abilities (Wong & Leung, 2018). Therefore, the encouragement of the students to join diverse interest groups and classes enhances their socialization and ultimately contributes to their integration into civilian society.
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The psychological barriers and mental health issues constitute a substantial part of the problems that impede the quality of life of veterans. Overall, as Leung & Lee (2005) claim in their study, the interest and active engagement in leisure activities such as playing games, doing sports, reading, or playing music, contribute to the quality of life and the sense of personal significance, which are vitally important for veterans. Also, the sense of social support and recognition by others helps veterans to find their place in life, come to peace with the integration challenges, and pursue development within the professional and educational fields.
Wong and Leung (2018) state that extracurricular activities encourage active social inclusion, enhance self-representation in a group and provides a robust platform for building personal and professional connections with others. Since military veterans face challenges in finding their place in society, which functions without strict military standards, it is difficult for them to engage in productive relationships without outside support. Thus, such activities as, for example, team sport, enhances social inclusion and develop the skills necessary to integrate into the civilian world.
The inclusion of the students in the life outside curricular performance sets higher standards for other types of achievements. Adherence to the plan, responsibility before instructors and group-mates, as well as personal progress, motivate and encourage students to retain their results in other spheres of life. Consequently, the educational performance, involvement in the learning process, and the sense of responsibility are stronger in those individuals who attend co-curricular practices (Burt et al., 2011).
Additional activities outside the classroom prove to promote retention and continuous adherence of the veteran students to the curriculum (Tan & Pope, 2007). Ultimately, the student gains an opportunity to improve their abilities to build relationships, create social aptitudes, intellectual skills, creative decision-making, and goal-orientation (Wong & Leung, 2018). All these elements are crucial in academic performance and consequently affect the chances of this population to enter the labor market as competitive participants.
While it is broadly discussed that engagement in extracurricular practices enhances the overall academic achievements, there is a vice-versa effect. Indeed, as claimed by Burt et al. (2011), when attending co-curricular gatherings, students integrate their knowledge in the activities performed during those gatherings. In other words, “students who were involved had enhanced opportunities to put into practice things they have learned in the classroom” (Burt et al., 2011). Therefore, faculty members can integrate both curricular and extra-curricular activities to influence their students and enforce their ethical and personal development.
Despite such a broad discussion of the numerous benefits of extra-curricular practices in the educational and personal spheres of veterans’ life, there are significant barriers to the implementation of such interventions in many institutions. Importantly, there exists a nationwide challenge when it comes to veteran education. Semer and Harmening (2015) emphasize that the majority of higher education institutions in the USA are unprepared to meet the unique needs of veteran students seeking to gain a degree. Faculty members and administration need to implement specific measures to address the challenges relevant to the identified population group to facilitate their academic experience.
Therefore, it is necessary to initiate policy-making strategies capable of improving the level of educational facilities’ readiness to assist veterans in achieving their graduate goals. The current research is aimed at addressing the gap in the practical implementation of the initiatives aimed at meeting the needs of veteran students by investigating the most effective activities and their impact on academic performance.
Burt, B., Carpenter, D., Finelli, C., Harding, T., Sutkus, J., Holsapple, M.,… & Ra, E. (2011). Outcomes of engaging engineering undergraduates in co-curricular experiences. American Society for Engineering Education. Web.
Leung, L., & Lee, P. S. (2005). Multiple determinants of life quality: The roles of Internet activities, use of new media, social support, and leisure activities. Telematics and Informatics, 22(3), 161- 180.
Norman, S. B., Rosen, J., Himmerich, S., Myers, U. S., Davis, B., Browne, K. C., & Piland, N. (2015). Student veteran perceptions of facilitators and barriers to achieving academic goals. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 52(6), 701-712.
Semer, C., & Harmening, D. S. (2015). Exploring significant factors that impact the academic success of student veterans in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, 15(7), 31-43.
Simmons, D. R., Creamer, E. G., & Yu, R. (2017). Involvement in out-of-class activities: A mixed research synthesis examining outcomes with a focus on engineering students. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research, 18(2), 10-16.
Tan, D. L., & Pope, M. L. (2007). Participation in co-curricular activities: Nontraditional student perspectives. College and University, 83(1), 2-9.
Wong, H., & Leung, S. (2018). How do tertiary education students perceive co- curricular activities under the new education system? International Education Studies, 11(2), 83-96.