For many veterans, returning home after a tour of duty leads to the same question: What to do, now?
For some, the perfect choice is to take advantage of the many benefits offered veterans and pursue a college degree.
It can prove difficult. Transitioning from the military to college life is a tremendous challenge. Some common worries voiced by veterans include:
- I’m older than the other incoming freshmen
- I’m too far behind my peer group in terms of formal education
- It’s been too long since I went to school, I have forgotten how to be a good student
Those concerns, while legitimate, should not stop a veteran from pursuing an education. Remember that other veterans might be right there beside you in class. Also remember that people respect the service time given by veterans, and won’t hold it against you if you are older than other students or a bit rusty in your study skills. They will come back faster than you think.
Going back to school is often the right choice for veterans. But when choosing a school, veterans should consider some of the following issues.
Understand Your Benefits
Veterans get a host of benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill®. It can help pay for tuition costs, books and living expenses. These can apply to military veterans or those serving in the National Guard reserves. There are many requirements and rules surrounding this program. For example, to be eligible, veterans will need to meet the following criteria:
- Served at least 90 aggregate days on military duty after Sept. 10, 2001
- Been honorably discharged
- Been discharged for a service-connected disability after serving 30 continuous days of service
Benefits include the cost of in-state fees and tuition at public universities. Money also can be used for private or foreign schools, but the amount is capped each year. It’s currently $22,805.24.
Time can be an issue for veterans, who often have both personal and professional commitments. This is particularly true for those who stay active in the reserves. In those cases, it’s worth considering classes that offer degree programs 100% online, or at least some portion of the classes online.
Online classes, such as those offered at Touro University Worldwide, offer a great deal of flexibility in scheduling classes and coursework around busy schedules. It also saves the time and cost of commuting to a campus for traditional classes. That can prove important for those who face a situation where full-time, on-campus education is just not a realistic option.
An Understanding Staff
Look for schools that have a staff who have worked with those transitioning from the military to civilian life and a college education. Schools offering a special section of its website focused on military education is a good sign. The VA also offers information on choosing the right school.
If a school does not offer any type of services for veterans, that can be a warning sign to move on in your search.
Building a Network
It’s important to attend a school where you can build a network of work associates that lasts throughout your career. Part of that is choosing a school that consistently graduates students who go on to solid jobs in their chosen career fields.
It’s also important to use all the resources a school offers while pursuing your degree. Even in an online environment, you can hold discussions with professors, have access to materials and the ability to collaborate with other students.
Keeping these issues in mind can direct veterans to the best school that fits their needs. With the service they have provided their country, it’s important that colleges offer veterans the opportunity to maximum their potential and become productive members of the civilian work force.
*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.