How the Gift of Connection and People Can Impact a Military B.R.A.T’s Unparalleled Experience

Old worn military boots and lot of baby shoes on wooden floor. Military father and family concept.

Going to higher education is a milestone for many across the globe, but connection may be more important for people from a military background.

Acceptance letters bring a new chapter of life with just one click. College or universities are a chance to learn. Many schools have people relocate within the area.

Side view of black mother in military uniform hugging child
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Students often move to be close to school. Students coming from backgrounds in the armed forces also make the move. Physically and culturally, there is change.

After all, the cultural shift at college requires flexibility. For those who are Military B.R.A.T.s, changing or fitting in with cultures is important. Even when there would be a shift or change, base culture was always the same.

San Diego State University’s Kevin Yuusuke Pinchart, MA of Communication, did a study on former Military B.R.A.T.S./college students. Pinchart’s study “‘Military Brats’ to College Grads: Examining Adaptation Process of Military Adult Children in Higher Education” shared stories from similar backgrounds.

Pinchart found community norms on bases always created a source of dependency. Fitting into the culture surrounding a new base might have induced anxiety. No matter what, the super-parent within the base made pockets of comfort.

Kid staring at father in military with pride
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There is no doubt, moving is still hard. When it happens for young children, that’s another challenge. Professor of psychology at Clark University Jeffery Jensen Arnett coined the term “emerging adulthood.” Arnett thinks growing up makes emotional and mental tests rise to the surface. Often, problems come from childhood.

In an article for the Corvias Foundation, former B.R.A.T. turned college student Benedikt Reynolds wrote the transition wasn’t easy for them.

“Traditionally, B.R.A.T.s are infamous for being too good at adjusting from one PCS to another,” Reynolds wrote. “How come my college transition isn’t going as smoothly? If this school was going to be my home for four years, it shouldn’t take two to get settled.”

Pinchart’s study also showed how childhood experiences come up in college.

For one student, named only as Kaylin, it made her depend on herself more: “I didn’t need help with any of my college classes. I don’t think I need help from them in school. The last time I asked for help was in elementary school. I don’t want to burden my parents because they already have so much on their plate.”

Even though there will be challenges, Military B.R.A.T.s can transfer their lifestyle to campus to thrive. Leadership skills and world experience help with success.

Military family. A young male soldier holds his little daughter in his arms
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Based on how hard school is for B.R.A.T.s, getting help may happen no matter what. The process of getting a degree is an ambitious journey. Blending in is stressful but working through adaption helps with personal growth. Besides college applications, leaning on others could be comforting. Finding help can also be a point of creating relationships.

A change in surroundings brings more stress. Civilian life is different, which will add to the need to be adaptable. Connections and relationships are very important for B.R.A.T.S or students who are culturally fluid. However, connecting with people from similar backgrounds can be tough.


Using resources can help the search for finding community and connection. Finding faculty or counselors for advice can help. This helpful guide from Stanford University says “self-support as more important than soldering on.”

Hannah Morris, a college counselor for third culture students recommends reaching out to family or friends in the area. Looking for schools that have international centers or student orientations for culturally diverse students is also an idea.

Female military is located with laptop at home on couch
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For anyone who is going to college, it will be hard at times. However, there is power in the childhood a super-parent can give. It is helpful to be from a background that thrives on structure. Feelings of freedom may come with school, but time is valuable.

Most importantly, a B.R.A.T. can do great in college by embracing people. The value of connection is shared by many, and leaning into that is important for the B.R.A.T.-turned-college student.

No matter where you are, people are always a source of strength. 


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