Military Student Social Connections: Key Population Study

Since the passage of the post-9/11 GI Bill, nearly 1.5 million veterans and their family members have benefited from nearly $50 billion in investment in higher education. With a heightened national focus on veterans, combined with broader calls for accountability in higher education, campuses are working to better understand these students. Yet, higher education still struggle with incomplete and scattered data on these students, their college experience, and their ultimate success. While some research has focused on academic experiences and outcomes of military students, little to no work has focused on the social aspects of military students’ transition to college. To that end, this research study used Mapworks data from over 50 campuses in the United States to explore military student social connections compared to non-military-connected students.

Key Questions about Military Student Social Connections:

  1. Who are our military students?
  2. How do military and non-military students compare on key social topics?

Key Points about Military Student Social Connections:

  • Military students were far less likely to report building strong peer connections with other students on campus than non-military students.
  • While the differences were not as striking, military students were less likely to report high social integration and high satisfaction with on-campus housing connections.
  • There was no difference in distress homesickness based on military status.

Our analysis compared student self-evaluations of Mapworks factors related to key social concepts. Overall, there were several statistically-significant differences between military and non-military students identified by independent sample t-tests.

Military Students Peer Connections

The peer connections factor is a measure of the degree to which students are making positive connections with other students on their campus. It measures the degree to which peers share common interests, the student feels included in activities, and how well they like the individuals they connect with. Overall, non-military students were far more likely to report strong peer connections than their military peers. For example, 35% of military students responded 6 or 7 that they are connecting with people on their campus they share common interests with, compared to 48% for non-military students.

About the Data

The data used in this research note are from the 2016-2017 Mapworks Transition One Survey. The survey was jointly designed by the survey development team at Skyfactor and researchers at Ball State University. The Transition Survey measures the behaviors and expectations of students entering a college or university. Data is typically collected beginning three to four weeks into the fall term via Skyfactor’s online survey system. For this research study, we used a sample of 44,089 undergraduate students from 42 two and four-year institutions in the United States, including 894 military students. The note also used student profile data uploaded by participating institutions.

Dig into the rest of our data by downloading the full research note, and register for our March 2018 Food for Thought webinar Exploring the Military Student Experience: A National Study.