Preparing Student Veterans for the (College) Frontlines | Bob Woodruff Foundation

Preparing Student Veterans for the (College) Frontlines

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What is one way to prepare student veterans for academic success? Through a boot camp, of course. Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) offers this model to prepare students for success at U.S. college and university campuses. They also provide college success workshops, graduate school support, and a women veteran’s initiative, including an all-female boot camp. This military-style training and mentorship is familiar to veteran students and keeps them driven.  

Founded with a singular vision to ensure every degree-seeking enlisted veteran and transitioning service member succeeds in their pursuit of higher education, the Warrior-Scholar Project has become transformative for many students. 

Prepare Warriors for the Academic Battlefield 

Ryan Pavel, the chief executive officer at WSP and a Marine Corps veteran, says the programs is something that can help students build confidence in their academic work, set goals and accomplish them. As Pavel describes it, “WSP exists to help enlisted veterans get good grades in college and then find great jobs afterward. That’s it in a nutshell.”  

One model is the academic boot camp, which over 2,000 students have completed. The intensive one and two-week program offers three disciplines: humanities, STEM, and business & entrepreneurship. Students immerse themselves in 75 to 80 hours of work per week, mirroring the relentless commitment expected in military training.

This grueling schedule, Pavel notes, acts as a confidence boost, pushing participants to their limits and preparing them for any challenges that lie ahead. The academic boot camp is eligible for all enlisted service members or veterans without a bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, WSP offers an all-women’s academic bootcamp that follows the same model. 

From Mentored to Mentors 

Throughout the boot camp, warrior-scholars are mentored by other student veterans who have successfully completed boot camps themselves. Mentors lead workshops on being a successful college student as a way for students to work with those who have been in their shoes.  

One example is Jonathan Banasihan, a veteran, joined WSP while attending American University. He wanted motivation for his goal of getting in to grad school. Banasihan completed the boot camp and mentorship program, which helped him complete his bachelor’s degree and get into UCLA Law. Seeing how the program helped him, he mentored other boot camp participants during his summer break. 

Other Academic Support 

The graduate school support program is for those who have completed the academic boot camp and are interested in attending a graduate or professional school. Students are able to attend courses to prepare for the application process or find a school that fits their goals. 

While 75% of student veterans are enrolled in college or university full-time, many are not your average 18–22-year-olds. Most veterans are older. They juggle other responsibilities such as supporting their family or work obligations, making their educational journey exceptionally demanding.  

To meet their needs, WSP offers half and full-day and online workshops modeled after the typical 75 to 80 hours academic boot camp. The workshops offer half-day, full-day, or online formats. These workshops, open to veterans in community colleges and 4-year schools, focus on college transition, enhancing study skills, analytical reading sessions, and even panels with WSP alumni who speak from their own experience.  

Future Initiatives for WSP 

With many success stories coming out of the program and entering fields they’re passionate about, WSP alumni are encouraging a new initiative: career development for students. According to Pavel, WSP plans to establish the Career Path Initiative, which will make professional connections to receive job offers out of college.  

As Pavel states, “We want to be able to build a model that can help [the students] build the bridges to make specific and intentional decisions on their college paths. That way they already have the path in mind where they want to go for their career side.” Warrior-Scholar Project is not merely facilitating academic achievements but empowering a generation of veterans to redefine their futures.