Don’t be misled by free coffee and donuts, my friend. There is much more you should evaluate when checking out a school, and one of the first areas of investigation should be how well it supports its veteran student body.
Why should I care about what makes a school Military Friendly®?
Here’s the truth: Schools want a veteran population for lots of reasons, but one of those reasons is about the bottom line. GI Bill, VocRehab, our benefits have not only opened up massive education opportunities for us, but a whole source of potential students for colleges.
Having vets attend school with them is good for business. So make sure they deserve your business.
So what should you evaluate when considering school? What are the earmarks that show dedication to the veterans of their student body? This goes beyond attracting veteran students; this speaks to what they do with those students once they are in attendance.
Here’s my list of what makes a school Military Friendly®.
1. Dedicated office or individual who serves as a liaison for veterans.
These individuals should be knowledgeable concerning veteran educational benefits, how they can be used, and limitations. They should be able to answer and help with in-depth planning or scheduling; for example, how many classes will qualify to the VA as full time at their school? I suggest getting in contact with the school’s veteran representative and asking these types of questions. If they can’t answer or can’t explain their process of working with the VA, that may indicate a knowledge gap that can negatively impact veterans in the student population.
2. Obtaining VA payment for registered classes is smooth and seamless.
They should have processes in place that prevent disruption if the VA’s payment is delayed. This should not require massive amounts of paperwork from you each semester.
3. They offer support services for veteran-specific needs.
This might be in the form of general outreach for adult students to counseling options for those who struggle with PTSD. Check out any veterans clubs on campus. How active are they? Is the staff involved?
4. They care.
Now this should apply to all their students across the board. Staff and instructors should be actively open to assist in overcoming any challenges so you can focus on your education.
5. They have the Military Friendly® designation.
Victory Media, which publishes G.I. Jobs, puts together a vetted list of schools and employers that have demonstrated best practices in accommodating military and veteran students and helping them succeed. The list focuses on “companies, schools, government entities and nonprofits (that) provide the support and programs they (veterans) need to be successful.”
Do a search and examine each school individually. You will find statistics on how well the school performs against the Military Friendly® standard. If a Military Friendly® culture is most important to you, the list provides you with an assessment of that aspect of the school, among others such as admissions and financial aid.
Take some time and talk with veterans in the student body. Contacting a veterans club is a great place to start. See what fellow vets think about the school. Have your own list of what makes a school Military Friendly® and take a critical look at each institution against your own standards.
Remember, you have the right to make your school perform well for you, so you can be at the top of your game.