From service to school: Yale to partner with Vetlink to strengthen pipeline of veterans to college

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Midshipmen in Yale's Navy ROTC program salute during last year's Veterans Day ceremony. A new partnership between Yale and Service to School will help bring those who have served in the armed forces to study at the university. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Yale University has joined an initiative with Service to School (S2S) to connect high-achieving military veterans with some of the best colleges and universities in the world. Through the program, called VetLink, S2S will identify qualified U.S. military veterans, introduce them to partner colleges, and mentor them through the college search and admissions process.

S2S will help Yale and other partner schools connect with high-achieving veterans, market their programs through non-traditional channels, and evaluate the service accomplishments of each veteran. VetLink will help veterans find the top college that is the best fit for their interests, work through the college application and essay to best showcase their talents, and connect them with mentors as they transition to college.  “Too often, enlisted service members underestimate their skills, competencies, and potential,” said Gus Giacoman, an Army veteran and S2S’s co-founder. “There are many great schools that are looking for qualified service members and VetLink will bridge that gap.”

“Our target group is young veterans who have served since 9/11, especially in zones of armed conflict,” said Reagan Odhner, a veteran and S2S leader who helps enlisted applicants. “They possess incomparable leadership, ethical perspectives, and life management skills that add real value and diversity to an elite learning environment, but they need help translating and showcasing that experience for the civilian world.”

Most of the veteran-scholars working with Vetlink are expected to apply and be admitted to Yale College through the Eli Whitney Students Program. Through this special program, Yale College admits a small number of individuals with high academic potential and offers them the opportunity of flexible study for the completion of the B.A. or B.S. degree. “The Eli Whitney Program promotes Yale College’s mission to educate for citizenship and service by enrolling students who have demonstrated leadership and maturity. Yale College, in turn, expects Whitney students to contribute their unique form of diversity and enrich Yale College through their life experience, sense of purpose, and character,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions.

Zachary McDonald, a 2014 graduate of Yale College and co-director of undergraduate operations for S2S, described his experience as an Eli Whitney student, “It goes without saying that Yale offers a world-class education, but what has been incredible to me has been the strong relationships I have made with Yale undergraduates and graduate students, as well as veterans and civilians.”

“We are excited and honored to join with Vetlink and to increase the opportunities to bring veterans, scholars, and leaders to Yale,” said Jonathan Holloway, dean of Yale College. “Through their service to the country, veterans bring a wealth of experience that will add tremendously to the entire Yale community.”

“In recent years, Yale has made tremendous strides in improving relations with the veteran community,” said Christopher Howell, a 2014 Yale College graduate and executive director of the Warrior-Scholar Project.  “I and the rest of the staff at Warrior-Scholar Project, are excited to work with both Yale and S2S on the Vetlink initiative.” Khalil Tawil, Yale Law School ‘17 and co-founder of S2S said, “Yale’s commitment to student veterans significantly motivated my decision to attend Yale Law School. The Vetlink/Yale partnership exemplifies the creative spirit and dedication to service that defines Yale. I am enormously proud of Yale’s ongoing commitment to strengthening civil military affairs.”

S2S officials said other schools joining the initiative with Yale are Cornell University, the University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Smith and Williams Colleges.

“As Americans, we owe it to our returning service members to make the transition to higher education as smooth as possible,” says Anna Ivey, S2S co-founder and former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School. “The universities that opened their arms to returning GIs after World War II helped educate the Greatest Generation. Our inaugural slate of VetLink colleges is now doing the same for the greatest generation of the new millennium. We are honored to be partnering with them.”

S2S officials said it is the only non-profit in the United States whose mission is to provide free application assistance to veterans to ensure that they get into the best schools possible after their time in the military.

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