Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Guillermo Montes


Student veterans in undergraduate post-secondary education face many challenges. Current research addresses these unique challenges and offers recommendations for further research, as well as strategies for college administrators and faculty seeking to assist student veterans. However, the research does not address the strategies student veterans use to succeed. The purpose of this grounded theory study is to start this conversation. The objective of this study is to present a theory that predicts and explains student veterans’ success, using grounded theory methodology to examine student veteran strategies to succeed in college. Thirteen student veterans from two different colleges participated in the study via semi-structured interviews and theoretical sampling. The data from the interviews and sampling sessions were coded using in-vivo and axial coding techniques until theoretical categories emerged. Study results showed that student veterans succeeded because they were adaptable and empathetic, and could prioritize their efforts based on goal setting, both on and off campus. Successful student veterans put more effort into their life outside of college, and tended to be internally motivated to succeed. Academic excellence and college degrees were secondary motivators, and fell behind broader-based life goals. The theory developed in this study offers guidance for future research on student veteran success. It also provides valuable insight that will allow post-secondary faculty, administration, and staff who work with student veterans in post-secondary education, to replicate this study’s strategies for success. Lastly, it shows that, to student veterans and their supporters, life after the military is about more than college.

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