Student Veterans at USC: A Proud Tradition of Support

My calling to advocate for student veterans began over eight years ago as I began my career in higher education. As a student veteran myself, I recognize what makes student veterans so different from their traditional college student counterparts. Aside from their life experience from military service, their unique set of non-traditional student characteristics includes distinct strengths that contribute to their academic success. For many transitioning veterans, repurposing their individual traits from military to student is key in finding academic success. For this reason, student veterans gravitate towards veteran-friendly environments where an institution’s core values and culture promote veteran services that will spawn academic success and a positive student experience. At USC, we understand these characteristics and transitional challenges, which is why we hold a proud tradition of serving our men and our women in uniform, and as an institution, our mission is to serve those who serve. As referenced in the message from Judge Widney Professor Gen. David H. Petraeus, “The University of Southern California is among the most supportive and welcoming universities in America for student veterans.”  

USC’s proud tradition of support began in 1914 while hosting a training school for U.S. Army officers, and since then, our partnership with the military has remained unbroken. USC has also hosted ROTC programs since 1940 with unwavering support and a commitment to producing the next generation of leaders. Among these leaders are highly decorated military and civilian leaders – including four-star generals, astronauts, Medal of Honor recipients, and officials in the highest levels of government service – who chose to attend USC before or after their military service.  

At USC, we aim to support and empower our student veterans by offering opportunities to engage in discussions on various subjects such as current events, employment issues, financial challenges, and family dynamics of service members, transitioning veterans, and military families. These opportunities position our student veterans to achieve academic success and prepare them to impact their communities. Additionally, USC is greatly enriched by our student-veteran population, who bring unique experiences, perspectives, and skills into our classrooms, student body, and community. Their diverse backgrounds, service history, and academic interests help foster the next generation of innovators, leaders, visionaries, and creators.  

To continue to support the transition and success of our veterans, USC continuously creates new programs and resources for our student-veterans, active service members, and ROTC students – including academic, financial, and wellness support. Here is a list of resources to address the needs of this student population.  

Departmental Support  
Since 2014, the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) has worked to support student veterans in all endeavors of campus life, including outreach and admission to graduation and job seeking. The center collaborates between multiple student affairs offices and administrative divisions and helps serve nearly 1,200 veterans who enroll in USC classes each semester. The VRC provides students with a variety of benefits:  

  • Study space with access to computers  
  • Opportunities to socialize with fellow student veterans  
  • Information about on-campus services  
  • Check-ins with a designated veteran certifying officer on campus  
  • Special programs, such as the advisement luncheons, offered at the beginning of the semester  
  • Professional advisement (resumes, cover letters, networking, and interviews) and a job recruitment fair  
  • Other perks like catered luncheons and complimentary tickets for sporting events!  

Clubs & Organizations  
Across campus, USC staff members in various academic and student affairs departments serve as direct contact points for student veterans to address any specific questions or requests they may have as they navigate their educational journey. This includes the Career Center, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL), Student Accessibility Services (OSAS), the Counseling Center, and more. Additionally, each Admission Counselor in the USC Office of Undergraduate Admission can answer general questions about the application and transfer credit processes. Admission Counselors are assigned to applicants based on their most recent post-secondary institution.  

To help student veterans establish relationships and build social and professional networks during their time at USC and after graduation, there are multiple students and alumni associations to join. The USC Veterans Association is a student organization composed of undergraduate and graduate students and keeps members informed of various opportunities and resources. On their active Facebook page, students can find out about upcoming social events and workshops, job openings, and research opportunities and apply for leadership positions within the group. The Marshall Military Veterans Association is a group for student veterans pursuing their MBA at the Marshall School of Business. To provide ongoing support for student veterans in their transition to USC, the USC Student Veterans Support Network mission is to help current and former students, staff, and faculty connect with students. Lastly, the USC Alumni Veterans Network is open to all USC alumni who are veterans and are interested in staying involved with the Trojan Family long after graduation.  

Financial Benefits  
In addition to their G.I. benefits, student veterans have access to the same scholarships and financial aid resources utilized by all USC students. USC’s Office of Financial Aid and the Veterans Certification Office work with military veterans to help them understand their educational benefits and provide assistance with financial aid and other funding. Check out this video that explains this process more in-depth.  

USC is proud to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is open to post-9/11 GI Bill recipients and covers up to one-half of tuition and mandatory fees matched dollar for dollar by the V.A. The Schoen Family Scholarship Program for Veterans was established in 1986 by William J. Schoen, a former U.S. Marine and USC alumnus (’60, MBA’ 63), to provide additional funding for student veterans at USC. This scholarship is available to new and continuing students in the Marshall School of Business and the Viterbi School of Engineering who have served a minimum of three years of continuous, full-time, active duty in the previous ten years.  

Research & Practice  
With the desire to meet the needs of our student veterans on campus, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) is also committed to research, education, and outreach for all veterans and their families. The CIR conducts a wide range of research projects, provides training seminars to behavioral health providers and clinicians, and works with community partners to address the issues that face today’s veterans and military families.  

The University of Southern California has continued commitment and dedication to assisting veterans, service members, and qualified family members. USC is committed to providing the tools to successfully assist student veterans in navigating and integrating into the college environment while creating a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable campus environment for veterans.

With this said, please take the time to review the resources below. Should you have any questions regarding the number of resources available or questions regarding admissions and the application process, please feel free to email me, Eric Mejia, at emejia17@usc.edu 

For further information on USC’s Veteran Resource Center, check the FAQ’s – USC Veterans Resource Center.  

Semper Fidelis and Fight On! 
Written by Eric Mejia, Assistant Director