February 28, 2017, by David McCauley – Many U.S. military service members want to attend college while on active duty. Pursuing higher education is always an admirable goal, yet can be a challenge to balance with military life and responsibilities. Choosing the right school based on your personal needs and situation will give you the best opportunity to succeed. The following are several factors to consider when selecting your school.
What makes a particular college military friendly? Often institutions are ranked by specific programs. For example, Arizona State University is recognized as offering the best Master’s programs in business and engineering for veterans. Ultimately it’s a combination of things.
- Does the school accept your military credits?
- Do they have a Student Veteran Organization?
- Does that particular institution recognize the needs of veterans by employing a Veteran liaison in the admissions office?
- Does the school offer a counseling service available for veterans? (This can include personal, professional, and educational advice and assistance.)
When you’re serving on active duty, it’s highly likely that you’re considered ‘worldwide assignable’. You’ll be called to serve away from home, and potentially in a different country. So when it comes to location you have two options: local colleges and universities or learning at a distance, typically via online education programs.
Both have benefits and drawbacks. Attending a local institution will allow you to directly interact with fellow students and faculty, and some students learn better in such environments. The downside is that if you’re deployed or reassigned to a different location, it may put you in a situation where you cannot transfer those credits to another school. This would need to assessed on a case by case basis, but not every college has articulation agreements and the further away you move the less likely it is.
Online degree programs can be completed from anywhere. You won’t have physical interactions with the campus, but the rigorous coursework is the same and you’re held to the same educational standards. If you are reassigned, you can continue that coursework from wherever you move next.
Do you get credit?
Some colleges will accept your military service as credit via your Joint Services Transcript. If you are hoping to reduce the time it takes to complete your degree, this will be a factor to consider. It’s not uncommon for a service member who has completed basic training, military technical school training, and advanced technical training to have between 20 – 30 credits on their Joint Services Transcript. If every credit were awarded and applicable to the degree you’re pursuing, this could knock off an entire year’s worth of college.
These are all factors to consider as you search for the right school to fit your needs. Ask lots of questions and make sure that your credits will transfer, you’ll be supported, and that the location is right for you. The G.I. Bill offers incredible freedom to learn, so it’s best to make the most of those hard-earned benefits. Only you can decide what makes the most sense for your career in and out of the military.
About the Author: D.M. McCauley is a former U.S. Navy sailor who worked in Intel. After the service, he has dedicated his time to writing and traveling with his significant other.