Postcards from Kal: Supporting a Military Veteran in his College Process

Sam Bigelow
Director of College Counseling
Middlesex School

There were so many more tourists in St. Mark’s Square at 9am in the morning than the previous night. And the late June heat, my wife and I knew we were about thirty minutes ahead of Kal who was coming from his brother’s army base by train, about an hour south of Venice, so we sought the shade, found a spot, and waited. I had spoken with Kal plenty of times, emailed with him more, and yet, now that it was time to meet him (as chance would have it, we were both in Venice, Italy, of all places, at the same time), I was really nervous. 

A year prior, my father, who is a retired admissions director and college counselor, and I had signed on as Service2School Ambassadors, volunteer counselors for active military who were transitioning out of the service and hoping to enroll in college. So, thanks to the encouragement of my dad, and after a short vetting process, I was matched with Kal. He wrote me a very formal, gracious note introducing himself and sharing his Service2School profile. We set up a time to talk, he was from Austin, Texas, and I was at my mother-in-law’s in Maine. We got on the phone and the connection was scratchy. It took me no time to figure out that Kahlil was actually calling me from Kuwait, not from Austin, and he has just returned from a mission. He wanted to go to business school, didn’t know what schools beyond his in-state schools he could be competitive for, and more than anything really just needed someone to tell him he was good enough. From my perspective, he had strong testing, a great set of grades from high school and online college courses, and an incredible story to tell from his years as a Navy Medic Corpsman. He was a hero. In his eyes, Kal saw himself as a young immigrant who got in trouble in high school, wasn’t ready for college, and enlisted in the Navy to straighten himself out. One of the biggest issues I would face, I realized, was helping him see just how worthy and deserving he was.