Veterans who decide to decide to go back to school should consider several important things in their college search. When searching for a college the key is to find the one that will best support your personal and professional goals. When you search for colleges look for institutions that will set you up for success while maximizing the value of your veterans’ education benefits.
Paying For School
The first and most important thing for veterans to consider is how to pay for college. Luckily the vast majority of veterans are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which awards generous benefits. This can cover the entire cost of many institutions. Even with the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit veterans should still apply for outside scholarships or grants. They should also contact college admissions offices to see if the college will offer additional financial aid. Many universities are members of the Yellow Ribbon Program.
They will offer additional financial benefits in addition to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and if their tuition is greater than the maximum benefit they will cover the difference. A current list of participating institutions is available on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Veterans education benefits like the Post 9/11 GI Bill make veterans very popular people in college admission departments. This is usually a good thing, but not all colleges are worth your time attending. Consider the overall quality of the institution, like where its accreditation comes from. Then look at the quality of their programs you are interested in.
Be wary of a college that promises to make going to school quick and painless. If that is their sales pitch, then that will be their reputation. Look for schools that will challenge you. After finding colleges that will challenge you, take an honest look at your skills and decide what your chances of academic success are there. There are many veterans attending college for the first time who can thrive in elite universities and there are many others who are good enough to get in but may not be good enough to succeed.
The next thing to consider as a veteran is what you would like to do with a college degree. Simply earning a degree is not as much of an advantage as you may hope. Look for colleges with strong programs in a field you would like to enter. Colleges also offer alumni networks and employment opportunities during and after your time as a student there.
Finding the Right Fit
The last thing to consider is how you will fit in at a college. As a veteran you will be attending college later in life than some of your peers. You are also more likely to have personal responsibilities like families, full or part time jobs, or commitments to the reserve component. This should also be considered when deciding whether to attend college online or in traditional brick and mortar institutions.
All things being equal it is better to attend college in person because it demands a higher level of engagement from you. Attending in person also makes it easier to use resources like academic advising and student clubs. For some people it will make more sense to attend online because of work or family, and the line between the two is blurrier.
Many large universities have online degree programs or programs that mix the two. When you think of fit it is worth looking at how many veterans are in the student population and what kind of outreach the school does. It is something to consider, but it is less important than academics and should count for less in the decision-making process.
I have personally heard of prospective college students who factored things like cafeterias, gyms, and the tailgating at football games into their decision. These are nice fringe benefits, but may be important to you.
There are many colleges out there and more than one of them can be the right fit. Because of the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit more colleges are financially within reach for veterans. With reduced or no cost tuition available it is important to consider the academic environment colleges can offer. The best option is going to be the one that sets you up for success when complete.
Check Out Some of These Schools for Veterans!
Kansas State University: Kansas State University has formal partnerships with Fort Leavenworth’s U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Riley’s 1st Infantry Division, and the Kansas National Guard. K-State offers academic programs at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley as well as online degrees and certificates.
East Tennessee State University: East Tennessee State University encompasses 11 colleges utilizing 4 campuses, several satellite facilities, and a robust online presence.
Drexel University Online: Drexel University is a comprehensive research university, comprised of 15 colleges and schools, that is ranked in the top 100 national universities by US News and World Report.
Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics: PIA is renowned as one of the premier educators of Aviation Maintenance and Aviation Electronics Technologies in the nation.
Tulsa Welding School: Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, FL, trains students for career options in welding, air conditioning, electrical and refrigeration.
*Schools appearing in this list are paying advertisers