BTU #229 - Student Veterans of America (Jared Lyon)

Out of veterans that are transitioning out of the military today, only 16% already have school done. So you’re not going to be this outlier that you think you might be.
— Jared Lyon

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Why Listen:
Jared (and the SVA) have a wealth of knowledge about veterans in higher education. This interview is chock full of data, insight, and advice for veterans considering pursuing education after their military service. We talk about factors to consider when choosing a school, how importance self-knowledge is in finding a program, how to best maximize the use of one’s GI bill, how to avoid the “imposter syndrome” that prevents veterans from succeeding, not selling yourself short, and more.

About Jared:
Jared Lyon is the President and CEO of Student Veterans of America (SVA). The SVA is a Veteran Success Organization, and works on behalf of student veterans at the local, state, and national level. They represent a coalition of over 1,500 student veteran groups from college campuses across the United States and in four countries. Jared started out in the Navy onboard submarines, and has worked at Northrup Gruman, the Washington Nationals Baseball Club, the IVMF and more.

Our Sponsor: 

  • This episode is sponsored by Secure Components - a certified small business supporting the warfighter since 2008.  Secure Components delivers innovative and cost-effective solutions for high reliability supply chain challenges; arising from diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages, across a wide range of DOD legacy systems and platforms.  Secure Components’ commitment to a transparent supply chain, counterfeit avoidance, and strategic sourcing; translates to increased readiness, reliability, and efficiency for the warfighter.  Please visit their website at or call us at 484-881-3125

  • StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at

Selected Resources: 

Transcript & Time Stamps:


Joining me today from Washington, DC is Jared Lyon. Jared Lyon is the President and CEO of Student Veterans of America (SVA). The SVA is a Veteran Success Organization, and works on behalf of student veterans at the local, state, and national level. They represent a coalition of over 1,500 student veteran groups from college campuses across the United States and in four countries. Jared started out in the Navy onboard submarines, and has worked at Northrup Gruman, the Washington Nationals, the IVMF and more.


How would you describe the Student Veterans of America?

We’re very similar to other student organizations but we all have a common thread. Everyone involved in this organization is either a veteran, spouse of a veteran, or supporter of the military. It’s a group of undergraduate and graduate students that come together with a connection to the military community. We want veterans to live their best lives through the college experience.

We also want to make sure supportive structures are in place to ensure that veterans are able to succeed in higher education.


Do you see any common challenges veterans face in the higher education space?

A lot of veterans tell me that they wish they would have known how many top school tiers are out there that want to support the military community. Many veterans don’t think that they are capable of getting into a Top 100 school. I also hear a lot that veterans don’t know about organizations like the Warrior Scholar Project that prepare veterans for the school setting.

Broadly we have 4200 higher education institutions in the country. So no matter what kind of campus or program you are seeking, there is a good fit out there for you.


How can people figure out what the right school is?

I think a lot of active duty military members have a misconception about the amount of people that go to college. I separated in 2005 and a couple weekends ago, I was with the crew of the USS FLORIDA and I was talking to them and I think a lot of them had the misnomer that not many people use their GI Bill.

What we know about military transitions is that 52% of transitioning military members will end up in a classroom within 7 months of leaving the military. Another 32% of people leaving the military already have their undergraduate degree. So really only 16% of veterans leaving the military don’t have a degree and don’t plan on pursuing one.

So it’s important to note that you won’t be some sort of outlier if you want to pursue education after the military. It’s also important to keep in mind what you want to get out of higher education. Start with the end in mind and work back from there to figure out what institutions will be a good fit.

Also don’t feel weird if you want to do something completely different when you get out of the military. 87% of veterans end up doing work outside the military that has little or nothing to do with what they did inside the military. I was on submarines in the military and now I work in the non-profit field so it’s completely different. So once you identify what you want to do, also think about where you want to be geographically. Many people will stay in the same location as their last duty station or go back to their home location. But the military will pay for your final move so if you want to go to school in a new location, that will be paid for.


Can veterans get help finding answers to these questions from SVA?

We’re trying to work to get a lot of these ideas and concepts backed into the military transition program. We also work with institutions of higher learning to help them understand the veteran population. We strive to make each of our SVA chapters resource rich places veterans can go to find answers to their higher education questions.

If you go to our website and look at our chapter directory, you will find a list of our 1528 different chapters. And you can reach out to any of these chapters to get answers to your questions. The people at these chapters made the transition a couple years ahead of you and you can have a real peer-to-peer conversation with them about your goals and interests. I believe your peers are the best sources of information for you.


What advice do you have for listeners about the Forever GI Bill?

There’s a couple key components to understand. The Forever GI Bill was born through SVA’s chapter leaders throughout the country. Whenever you pass a piece of legislation, you don’t always know exactly how it will turn out. So after the Post 9/11 GI Bill was passed some of our chapter leaders started to notice a couple shortcomings. One was that there was an expiration date. So one element of the Forever GI Bill is that there is no expiration date to use your student benefits. There are a variety of other improvements and enhancements as well.


What advice do you have for veterans that might rule out higher education because they believe that they don’t belong?

That was me and I felt the same way. I enlisted in the Navy in August of 2011 because I saw it as an opportunity to serve my country. But it was also and opportunity to earn a college education. But frankly, I was a little scared of the idea of college because I wasn’t sure if I was ready. I had an imposter syndrome about my ability to do well in school. I was particularly concerned about collegiate level math. There was a fear of the unknown as well. Even after four years of active duty in service in the Navy, I still felt that way about going to college.

So I would tell you that it’s ok to feel that way. But don’t self-select yourself outside of these opportunities. I also think that veterans that feel this way are actually wrong. At SVA, we’ve studied many years of student veterans at undergraduate and graduate levels. Student veterans are among the most successful students. GPA and graduate rates are higher than the average for overall student body. So if you feel that you don’t belong, I would tell you that it’s natural to feel that way but that it’s not true.

Service to School is a great organization that can help prepare you for higher education programs. There’s also SVA chapters across the country. There are nearly a million veterans in college right now. I would tell any veteran that he or she will thrive in higher education. And once you get there, aim high. This is your opportunity to shape the future trajectory of your life so don’t sell yourself short.


How can people get involved with SVA?

There’s a couple key ways - send us an email ( or give us a call 202-223-4710. We can help get you started with whatever you might be looking for. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

I also recommend that you just look up the SVA chapter nearest to you. There are student veterans that are on campuses across the country that want to talk to you and help you with this process.

Veterati is another great resource that will help you connect with veterans in whatever industry you’re interested in.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

As a transitioning service member, you are capable of more than you give yourself credit for. We have a very mission-first mentality. And when you separate it can seem awkward and uncomfortable to be promoting yourself. When you separate from active duty, it’s on duty what’s next. If you seek help and set a plan for yourself, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. There’s a community out there that want to help you get where you want to go.