Do You Want To learn How To Use Your GI Bill For College? We Got You Covered!

That fateful form… DD-214 leads to a life of freedom and confusion.  After having everything in one place for so long, the daunting task of contacting so many people and filling out so many forms can be overwhelming.  That is why we have comprised an easy step-by-step guide to teach you how to use your GI Bill for College.  This is your field manual.

Step 1: Do I Want to Go to College?

If the answer is no, then based on service requirements you may be able to transfer your GI Bill to your dependents (spouse, children, etc.)  If you decide college is the right step for you then you owe yourself a pat on the back.  Coming out of the military can be stressful and I commend you for picking up this manual and deciding to move forward.

Step 2: Where Do I Go?

This is a tough question.  With so many schools and such a price variation among them, navigating several schools can be difficult, but don’t worry!  The first thing to keep in mind is the payout cap for the post 9/11.  As of August 31, 2013 Chapter 33 will pay all tuition and fees to any state university, or up to $19,198.31 per academic year for a private university (This amount is recalculated each year to adjust to cost of living, similar to basic pay in the service).  There are a few exceptions to this amount in the states of Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Another thing to think about is the veterans population on campus.  Maybe you want to just blend in with the rest of the student population; but for those of you who wish to get a little extra help and maybe make some friends with common backgrounds a school with a good veterans community is a big factor.  Ask if there is a faculty member dedicated strictly to veterans.  Ask if there is a student veterans organization, and if so is that organization part of SVA?

When researching  “how to use your GI Bill For college” you will first need to ask if you want to go to a large school or a small school?  This is a crucial question.  Student population can be a big part of your experience on campus.

Another Great way to lern how to use your GI Bill for College is through the VA

Step 3: Contacting the VA

There are a few ways you can do this.  The easiest is to call 1-888-GI BILL-1 and ask that they mail an application to you.  You then fill it out and mail it back.  If you are more technologically proficient then you can log on to your VONAPP account and apply there.  VONAPP is your one stop shop for all your veterans benefits.

Once the VA has received your application they will get back to you with the amount of benefits you are allotted.  It is important to note that if for example you are entitled to 80% benefits, it is 80% of the full or cap tuition for the full 36 months; not full tuition for 80% of the time.  Also note that the percentage of GI Bill benefits is independent and completely separate from your disability percentage, if you have one. You can file an appeal if you feel the VA has given you an unfair or incorrect percentage.  The appeals process is outlined on the document with your percentage allotment.

Step 4: Applying to School

Find your school’s application (usually on-line) and fill it out.  While schools may not explicitly ask if you are a veteran, it is not a bad idea to self-report that information.  A good place for that may be in the essay portion if it is relevant to the question.  Schools want vets on campus.

Step 5: What if I Don’t Get Accepted?

Maybe you failed your first PT test at boot camp, maybe you got lost during a field exercise, maybe you needed assistance in a terrible situation. Did you give up? No!  Keep trying. If you had your heart set on that particular school, apply again as a transfer next semester.

Step 6: How Do I Prepare?

Stay in touch with your school; they will notify you when you need to go in for advising, orientation, and class selection.  Get yourself a notebook and a few pens; find the book requirements for the classes you will be taking.  (Your GI Bill benefits include a $1000 a year book stipend)  Always be ready.  Your GI Bill benefits also include a living stipend equal to the E-5 BAH with dependents for your area, take that into account when deciding whether you will be working during school.

Step 7: Visiting the Financial Aid Office

Do this during your orientation visit, you will need to complete this paperwork before your first day of classes.  Some colleges have a veteran’s officer in the financial aid office.  If that is the case ask to meet with her or him.  If they do not, almost all schools still require a form to be filled out just for vets.  It is usually a short form that asks which type of benefits you wish to use (in this case, Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill). You will also need to list the classes you wish to take for the upcoming semester.  Don’t worry, if your classes change you can go back at any time and change the form.  For some states, where tuition is waived for vets, this same form will act as your tuition waiver. From there the school will bill the VA directly and you do not have to do anything!  The VA will pay tuition and fees to the school, BAH, and a book stipend to you.

Step 8: Your First Day

Your first day may be a stressful one, but just like any other mission get in and do what you have to do.  Acclimating to a college setting can be a difficult task, but it is well worth the battle, and in the end you will find yourself to be a stronger, better person.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, people from your last unit, or even fellow vets, or your instructor on campus.  I recommend you arrive early and get yourself situated before class starts.  Having time to get your head in the game is crucial.  Remember these people you are with now are not soldiers.  You may see things that are different: long hair on men, sub-culture clothing, etc.  A lot of these people are going to be young as well, just out of high school.  Remember to be polite and respectful, even if you are confused or shocked.

 Step 9: Get Involved!

When I was discharged with a 60 percent disability rating I thought my days of helping people were over.  At 22 years old, with the prospects of being a police officer or a firefighter over, I felt like I received a life sentence.  Then I became involved with the student veteran’s organization.  Suddenly I realize I can do as much, if not more, good then I ever have before.  College is a cauldron of opportunities. Find your area of interest and participate!

Step 10: Enjoy the Ride and Congratulate Yourself

College can be an amazing experience.  It is a fantastic way to assimilate yourself back into the civilian world, and you will learn a lot along the ride.  You don’t have to stand duty or answer to your superior.  Enjoy school and get as much from it as you can.

You have successfully become a college student.  Congratulations on your drive, ambition, and unwillingness to quit.  Give yourself a pat on the back.  Remember if you ever need help there are resources available both through the VA and your college.

Related Articles;

If you are looking for post 911 GI Bill Benefits, click the link!

We also wrote a great article about the Montgomery Bill.

The Difference Between the Post 9-11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill