Service to School (S2S)

The following is a guest post from IAVA’s partner organization, Service 2 School (S2S). S2S is dedicated to helping veterans gain admission to the undergraduate and graduate programs of their choice. At S2S, we follow a peer to peer mentorship model where vets help vets, as no one knows how to do this better than we do. Our services are free and we invite you to learn more and sign up at our website,

Check back monthly for new information and tips for getting into the school of your dreams. This month, Zach McDonald and Sang B. Ra introduce the S2S experience from their perspectives as a peer mentor, and a student applicant.

Service 2 School’s undergrad activity is new to the veteran and higher education world, but we’ve put together an outstanding undergrad team of veterans, who have graduated, or are currently attending, college. As of now, we’re calling ourselves the S2S undergraduate leadership council.

As a former infantry NCO in the 82ndAirborne now entering my senior year at Yale, I jumped at thechance to help Specialist Sang Ra, an infantryman from the Army’s Old Guard, work on his collegeapplications and essays. Sang was S2S’s first undergrad applicant to work with us through almostthe entire application process, so while he was a bit of a guinea pig, he was accepted into ColumbiaUniversity’s School of General Studies, which is both great for him and lets us at S2S know that we’reonto something.

Sang was great to work with from start to finish, and I feel that this allowed him to get the most out ofwhat S2S had to offer him. Such active partnership with S2S undergrad ambassadors is critical to workingwith us, and Sang did this in spades. Sang has put together a guest post describing his experience withS2S; here I’ll turn the floor over to him and his thoughts on working with us and returning to school.

-Zach McDonald is a former 82nd Airborne infantry NCO with service in both Iraq and Afghanistan whois entering his senior year at Yale.

Service to School can help you achieve acceptance into your target school. That being said, they canonly take you as far as you are willing to go. The sooner you contact S2S, the better they can assess yoursituation and advise the proper training towards your ultimate goal. Arguably the most import part ofapplying to schools is the personal statements/responses. Besides your GPA, service and activities, these essays are what schools use to evaluate you. The college application process is not only stressful andarduous but can be financially costly as well. Make sure to budget and save enough money to pay notonly for your application but other fees associated with the application process. Don't loose sight of yourgoal and stick with it.

Under guidance from Service to School, I was able to take the proper training to fulfill my potential asan applicant. Their initial assessment of my GPA and test scores resulted in instructions on how to makemyself a stronger candidate. I am not nor have ever been a strong tester. S2S was able to suggest the beststudy aids to work with to best fit my study habits. Aids such as in class test prep., online test assistanceor texts. Whatever works best for you.

Writing an essay is not something I am skilled at. With the assistance from Service to School, I was ableto accurately and eloquently present myself in my personal statements. Their tireless effort would have been in vain, had I not put in the effort to rewrite my essays with their edits and submit them as quicklyas possible. Depending on writing ability, there can be anywhere from 3-6+ drafts for a single essay. Iusually received an edit within 12 hours of a draft submission and re-drafted and submitted on the dayof receiving the edits. I cannot stress enough, the importance of sending the drafts in a timely manner. Apotential 3 draft- 2 day essay can easily turn into a week long endeavor. Multiply that by the number ofschool applications and the avg. number of essays per application (usually 2) and application deadlineswill be missed. It is vital that essays be rewritten and submitted as soon as possible.

With all the back and forth of essays and edits, it is very easy to mix up the essays and edits. One possiblesolution would be to work on one essay at a time and arrange each draft and edit in chronological orderin a dedicated folder for college essays. Another possible solution is titling each file with [school name,question#, and draft/ edit #] and save to a dedicated essay folder. These small step will ensure that no timebe lost due to resubmission of already edited drafts.

Applying to schools can be a financial burden. Plan accordingly through saving and budgeting. There areschools that waive application fees for veterans, but from my experience, those are the exceptions and notthe rule.
Standardized testing: ~$60 x 3 tests + $7(# of schools - first 4 free)
Application fee: ~$75 avg. x # schools applying to.
Transcript delivery fee: ~$10 x # of schools applying to. x # of school that a transcript must be obtained

-Sang B. Ra, 3rd Infantry Regiment, United States Army.

Veterans, sign up here for assistance with applying and transitioning to school: