Many veterans heading to school can get college credit for their military training and experience, including leadership development courses. Coupled with classes they may have completed during active duty, this could give some student veterans a big head start on their post-military education. We’ll outline how you can translate your military training into college credits.
Credit transfer policies vary widely by state and institution, so it is critical that service members planning to attend college when they separate start the process early. Transitioners must understand the credit transfer policy at the schools they are considering and should ask the schools to review their transcripts.
Three organizations offer assistance to service members pursuing a degree during and after their service:
- The American Council on Education (ACE) evaluates how much and what kind of credit to award for military training and occupations.
- Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges consortium (SOC) awards credits for military training and academic testing.
- Defense Activities for Non-traditional Education Support (DANTES) manages the work of the SOC and offers several specialty education programs.
“One of the biggest challenges is for the service member to understand credit transfer policies at an institution,” says Michele S. Spires, ACE’s director of military programs and an Air Force spouse. “It’s a whole different language.” Spires is the lead member of an ACE team that evaluates military courses and occupations for a match in civilian higher education.
Take a current service member whose MOS is in the engineering field, Spires says. Given this experience, he may want to add an engineering degree to his resume. Some institutions of higher education will carefully evaluate the Soldier’s specific military training and MOS and find the matching credits in their engineering curriculum. Others may not allow any ACE credit recommendations to count toward an engineering degree. Instead, the institution may sweep them into the general education category.
Thus, while this service member may believe he is eligible for a certain number of engineering credits – turning his military experience into completed courses in his major – some universities may not allow that to happen. See the “ACE Checklist” to make certain the credit transfer process is clear from its earliest stages.
ACE helps veterans and current service members by creating easily accessible web transcripts of their military training . “That transcript also helps the service member articulate their experience in civilian language,” Spires said.
ACE also publishes A Transfer Guide: Understanding Your Military Transcripts and ACE Credit Recommendations .
Spires notes that university officials can counsel and advise service members to determine where their transcript will take them – how to leverage their existing MOS and credits.
It’s uncertain how many veterans fail to take advantage of their ACE credit recommendations. In talks with service members, Spires’ ACE team found that some were able to apply their ACE credits successfully; others could not, but were not seeking a degree that related directly to their MOS; and yet others felt that their university or other higher education institution didn’t do a good job of matching service to college.
In the end, making sure credit is awarded properly will always be up to the individual student. “There still is a need to communicate to veterans and service members the value of their military transcripts,” Spires says.
What’s the best way to make certain you get the educational credits you deserve? The American Council on Education offers this handy checklist:
- Do your research: Make sure the school you choose to attend gives you the maximum credit for nontraditional learning methods.
- Every school is different: Learn how they handle credit transfers before you ask them to handle yours.
- Check your military transcript: early and often online.
- Ask your school to review your official transcripts (including those from other schools) as early as possible.
- Avoid unnecessary classes by consulting with an academic adviser early on. Be sure to have a copy of your transcripts and your DD-214.
- Take charge: follow up with all the academic departments handling your credit transfers.
Save Time and Money
The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) offer standardized tests that allow service members and veterans to receive college credit for what they already know. The tests, which are available in 33 areas such as math, science, English, foreign language and history, can save time and money.
5 Steps to CLEP®
1) Find out if your college accepts CLEP.
Use the CLEP college search and talk to your admissions office, test center or academic advisor.
2) Read descriptions of all 33 exams. Decide and which one to take.
3) Register to take your exam(s). contact a CLEP test center and making an appointment.
4) Start studying.
Get a college textbook and review sample questions.
5) Take your test!
For information on tests administered by DANTES, visit dantes.doded.mil.