Going back to school after an extended time away is hard, but doing it after being part of the armed forces can be more difficult to deal with. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go back to school to enrich what you already know and want to learn though, it just means there’s a few extra hurdle you’ll need to jump in order to make it work.
U.S. News recently posted a list of the “10 Tips for Veterans at College.” This list is even better for veterans returning to traditional universities, not necessarily online schools. I’ve made a slight variation to their list of helpful suggestions to guide veterans making the conscience decision to go back and get a degree.
- Apply. Being a first time college student or a transfer student, you must fill out an application. Go to the school’s website to find the requirements and deadlines. Provide transcripts and test scores as needed and your DD-214 for credits you might have earned while in the service. Take a virtual tour of the campus online; these are usually available 24/7 since it’s typically a pre-recorded web cast.
- Find a local rep. Most online schools will have outreach reps to help you transform from military to civilian life in the academic process.
- Get your GI benefits. There is a wide a variety of education benefits offered by the Veterans Administration, including the new Post 9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon Program, Transfer of Benefits, and Veterans Vocational Rehab, to name a few. Additionally, individual states offer varying opportunities to National Guardsmen (some of the benefits come with different levels of eligibility). Whether you are a reservist, in the National Guard, or on active duty, you should check the VA website or discuss your benefits with the school’s Veteran’s Administrator. You can find a wealth of information — as well as the application for benefits — at the GI Bill website.
- Apply for financial aid. All students can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by going to www.fafsa.gov. This aid can be for grants, loans and/or work-study. While you are eligible for GI Benefits, some colleges and universities look to have bills “resolved” or “covered” while waiting for the VA to send the school the tuition and fees if you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
- Connect with other veterans on in social communities. You’re not alone out there. Consider joining fan pages of the schools you’re interested in to interact with other students. Student Veterans of America can assist you in forming a chapter at your school.
Get back into the swing of things in education by taking the next step. Hopefully these tips will help anyone working on this process.
– By J. Mason