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Micheal Sanchez

How Being a Student is Different Than Serving

By: Michael Sanchez

Many people will rave about the similarities between college and the military. Every transitioning individual has probably written something about time management, leadership, or performing under stress on their resume. However, the similarities are not the things you want to focus on when transitioning, rather the differences. In my experience, it has been the differences that have taught me the most significant lessons.
Here are the three lessons which I’ve learned from being a student.


When things are tough in the service, you can usually get through a bind by simply grinding your way through. Though it may be challenging to finish a run or a hike while being tired and hungry, it is far from impossible. I had this mindset coming into school, where I thought that the longer I worked, the more productive and successful I would become. However, what I came to understand is that physical fatigue and mental fatigue are incredibly different. After a certain point, my productivity levels dropped drastically, and I would not recover without resting. I discovered that it was ok to take breaks and that pushing a fatigued mind proved much harder than pushing a fatigued body.

Chain of Command

When I was junior in the service, I did everything to avoid being noticed by any higher-ranking individuals. The military is a hierarchy, and troops usually stay in their lane and within their ranks. I had this mentality when I first arrived at Cornell, and it did not serve me well. I didn’t email professors or staff with any questions because I thought it was in bad character to do so. I was still in the mindset of using a chain of command. However, a university is very much a flat organization where we should all be able to communicate freely with one another. Now I email and meet with professors and faculty all the time to discuss class and extracurriculars. It is one of the best ways someone can further their academic and professional careers.


The military does an excellent job of turning individuals into a team. Everybody dresses, looks, and acts the same. At first, I thought I had to fit in and should dress and act how I felt a college student would. This was absolutely not the case and was a ridiculous thought on my part. People value uniqueness and standing out. It’s ok to be different and go against the grain. Think different, act different, and be different! Our differences make us unique, and our uniqueness makes us special.

Don’t be afraid to stand out!

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