August 18, 2017, by Dixie Somers – When you serve in the military, you’re not just serving your country, you’re also serving as a great role model for your children and your peers. Returning to the states after being deployed and being discharged from service creates new challenges. As you transition back into the normal routine as a veteran and no longer an active duty service member, you have to decide what you’re going to do outside of the military.
One of the most popular options for veterans, when they’re transitioning, is to go back to school. Since most new recruits are fresh out of high school, it only makes sense for veterans who’ve served over the last 4, 6, or 8 years to pursue education or training after service so that they’re prepared to enter a competitive workforce. If you’re going to go back to college, here are 5 things to keep in mind:
1. It’s Hard to Figure Out Where to Start
When you’re coming home, there’s a huge gaping hole in your future. This is why so many veterans who are transitioning find it so difficult to put their lives back together after being told what to do and where to report for years. There’s no guidance on what your next phase will be and how you navigate through the system. Unfortunately, there’s currently no government department or special community that you can lean on to help point you in the right direction.
You’ll have to find out where to start, where to go to school, what you should study, and what career will suit you best all on your own. This is a huge reason why the road to pursuing a degree at a school like College America is so challenging. It’s crucial that you go to a campus with a Veteran Affairs Services Department so that you can effectively find the help you need to start.
2. You Can Get Credits for Prior Learning
If you’ve already attended school before enlisting or you had the chance to take courses while you were still an active service member, don’t forget to transfer those credits to whichever school you attend. Getting credit for completing previous college courses from a different institution can be challenging after military service.
To keep as many credits as possible, you should enroll in a degree program that’s similar to the program you were in prior. This means that there will be similar credit requirements and the credits from the accredited institution will likely be accepted. It also helps when you choose a veteran-friendly company that values your service and will count your credits.
3. You Can Turn Your Military Experience into Credits
The American Council of Education, also known as ACE, works with the Department of Defense to evaluate a veteran’s military transcript and recommend how many college credits you should be awarded for your experience and your military training. While an institution doesn’t have to accept the recommendation, if you attend a veteran-friendly school they will likely listen to the ACE. This means you’ll spend less time completely general education requirements so that you can get to major coursework.
4. Look for Scholarships
Scholarships are free money that is awarded to you for merit or they may be issued to you if you’re a needs-based applicant. There is a long list of scholarships available to veterans each year that help pay for lodging, books, supplies, and tuition. Be sure to see which school-specific options are available and look for national awards that are awarded to those who served.
5. Translating Your Education Benefits
One reason that you joined the military was probably for the education benefits in the future. While the tuition assistance program will pay for some or all of your tuition, your benefits are always changing. It depends on where you live, how long you’ve been in school, how long you served and more. You have to learn about the benefits through the GI Bill and how they change throughout your student career before you apply for any student loans.
As a veteran and an adult college student, you’ll face unique challenges. You may feel like you don’t belong, you may have trouble transitioning from the battlefield to the classroom, and you may have to look harder than you thought for help. Be sure to look for a campus with a veteran’s organization and it could help you face these obstacles head on.
AUTHOR BIO: This article was written by Dixie Somers, a freelance writer who loves to write about business, finance, careers, and education. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters.