Student Veterans’ Career Decision-Making and College Stress: College Environment, Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms, and Sense of Coherence
Given the post 9/11 influx of veteran students in higher education and the importance of early career decision-making for establishment of a post-graduation careers, understanding factors that help and hinder the college success and career decision-making of student veterans is needed. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of veterans in higher education in relation to career decision-making difficulties. Thus, the influence of variables related to campus environment (mentoring and cultural congruity), experiences of post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and college stress, and resilience as evidenced by sense of coherence (SOC) was investigated.
A sample of 239 United States Armed Forces veterans (171 male, 67 female, 1 nonbinary) enrolled in institutions of higher education across the United States was recruited through an online program. In addition to a demographic sheet, participants completed self-report measures assessing cultural congruity, sense of coherence, post-traumatic stress symptoms, mentoring, college stress, and career decision-making difficulties.
Hierarchical multiple regressions revealed that of the two constructs comprising campus environment, only cultural congruity was a significant and negative predictor of college stress. Mentoring was not a significant predictor. Post-traumatic stress symptoms predicted college stress above and beyond the variance predicted by college environment. The greater student veterans’ post-traumatic stress symptoms, the more college stress they reported experiencing. A moderated hierarchical regression revealed that college environment did not moderate the relation between post-traumatic stress symptoms and college stress. College stress was found to be a positive predictor of career decision-making difficulties. Sense of coherence did not moderate the relation between college stress and career decision-making difficulties.
Findings are discussed in the context of Schlossberg’s transition model, which posits that individuals will navigate the transition process based on their perceptions of the transition and their personal assets and liabilities, factors that influence coping ability. Limitations and clinical implications for working with student veterans are presented. The importance of early intervention to enhance cultural congruity and address post-traumatic stress symptoms and career decision-making difficulties among student veterans is discussed.