You have committed years of your life to the military and are now ready to make the most of GI Bill benefits. The right college could prepare you for a meaningful career that builds on the unique skill set you developed as a member of the military. Your college can also facilitate a successful transition from military to civilian life.
Opportunities abound, but finding the right school can be tricky. There are a lot of factors to consider, such as benefit programs, tuition, scheduling, and special accommodations. We've highlighted these concerns in detail, along with general suggestions for succeeding as a veteran student.
Finding Success in College as a Veteran
Your military background lends you a variety of advantages as you embark on your college career. You certainly have an exceptional work ethic, not to mention an impressive skill set that includes in-demand leadership qualities and technical abilities. However, you need to gain a few extra credentials or address any skill gaps that stand in the way of your dream job.
Along the way, you may find greater confidence, a valuable sense of community, and the drive to pursue new passions as you discover what a fulfilled and meaningful life may look like as a civilian.
Returning to Civilian Life
Chances are that your greatest challenges as a student veteran will have little to do with coursework. Given your extensive training and impressive self-discipline, you should be well-prepared to handle the rigors of academia. Still, there could be a few hiccups as you return to the everyday challenges of civilian life — particularly if you've only recently emerged from military life.
This adjustment is never easy, but college can ease the transition by providing a framework and a powerful sense of community. Surrounded by students who share your background and perspective, you can take confidence in knowing that you are fully capable of succeeding in college and in the many other facets of civilian life. You will gain even more confidence with each course you complete — and there is no substitute for the sense of pride you'll feel upon emerging with your degree.
Career Path Opportunities and Advancement
The opportunities are virtually endless for today's veterans, who are valued for their rich technical understanding
, and their proficiency in in-demand competencies such as collaboration, perseverance, and creativity. If nothing else, veterans get an immediate resume boost: a military background rarely fails to make employers take notice.
Despite this, military acumen alone may not be enough to get you into the specific field or positions you desire - you will still need to develop a targeted skill set and that may require a degree or specific certifications before you can take the next step with your career.
You may already have a clear idea of your career trajectory, but it's also perfectly okay if you are still clarifying these goals. This is a great time to explore your interests. Let your military and academic background guide the way. Ask yourself which previous courses, activities, or responsibilities resonated with you the most? Explore whether you've developed any specific, in-demand skills that you would be interested in further building upon with a college education. Let this personal understanding guide the way to your future.
What to Look for in a College as a Veteran
You're aware of the need for a college education and are eager to supplement your military background with targeted coursework and a relevant degree. Now, it's time to decide where or in what capacity you'll enroll.
Your specific career ambitions will likely lead the charge as you investigate your options, but there is a lot more to assess. When in doubt, military and veteran-oriented colleges or universities are preferable. These unique institutions can ease your transition to civilian life, while also making your academic endeavors more affordable and enjoyable.
The good news? There are plenty of excellent options available for veteran students. Each college or university brings unique advantages to the table. As you begin to research the many colleges that support military students (or, at least, claim to do so), be sure to look for these key signs of military and veteran support:
Yellow Ribbon Program Participant
The GI Bill has brought valuable support to generations of military and veteran students — and its latest iteration (the Post-9/11 GI Bill) provides the support you need to get through college and prepare to enter the civilian workforce.
Unfortunately, while the Post-9/11 GI Bill can be helpful, it is not guaranteed to cover the entirety of tuition and fees at your preferred college. This is where the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program can come into play. More commonly referred to as the Yellow Ribbon Program, this initiative involves an agreement between Veteran Affairs and military-friendly schools: dollar for dollar, the VA will match scholarships provided by participating colleges.
The main goal of this program is to expand access to out-of-state schools or private colleges for veterans, especially among those who left active-duty service several years ago but are just now looking to seek additional education.
Often, Yellow Ribbon offerings span the difference between the funding offered through the GI Bill and the total cost of tuition at the school in question. Under this approach, the remaining tuition is split by the VA and colleges for military veterans. Eligibility extends to anyone with 100% of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Military Support Distinction
Colleges of Distinction has long been a trusted resource for students seeking not only the best program, but also, the right program that accommodates their unique needs. This resource goes beyond typical college rankings to provide insight into key factors such as student engagement and long-term outcomes.
A variety of institutions qualify as Colleges of Distinction and are worth considering, but those with Military Support Recognition are especially worthy of consideration. These esteemed colleges and universities have been deemed significantly supportive of military students.
Military-Friendly School Distinction
The Military Friendly Company can be a valuable resource for determining which colleges are best suited to veteran students. This organization provides insight into not only colleges, but also employers, brands, and even suppliers.
Through its surveys of Military Friendly Schools, this company reveals which institutions meet critical thresholds regarding the graduation, retention, and job placement of student veterans. Multiple levels of designation are available, including Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
If one of your preferred colleges makes the cut, you can feel confident that it provides solid support for military-affiliated students, and that these students see positive outcomes while they're enrolled and after they graduate.
Ability to Transfer Military Credits
Many colleges offer credits for prior learning, but transfer protocol can look a lot different for military-affiliated students than it does for their civilian counterparts. When military credits are involved, this process typically centers around the Joint Services Transcript (JST). This valuable resource provides thorough insight into your military schooling and experience, using civilian language to convey the range of skills and knowledge you have acquired.
As you determine whether previous military courses and experiences will help you fulfill college requirements, verify that your preferred college accepts the JST. This simple step will provide a clear indication as to the role previous military coursework will play in your future college plans. Don't hesitate to chat with admissions advisors to get a better sense of how military-oriented transfers are handled.
Benefits of Choosing a Military-Friendly College
College is not easy for everyone, including veterans and other military-affiliated students, but it's worth all the hard work. You can streamline the process by selecting a military-friendly college that caters to the unique needs of active-duty military members, veterans, and their dependents. Benefits of attending colleges that support military members and veterans include:
Military Tuition Assistance
The Department of Defense Military Tuition Assistance program provides valuable financial assistance for active-duty service members. The current approved rate for this program is $250 per semester credit hour and up to $4,500 per year.
Keep this rate in mind as you select a program, but also be mindful of individual scholarships or other opportunities available through your preferred colleges or universities. Together, these offerings (along with other options such as the Yellow Ribbon Program) can make college education uniquely affordable for military-affiliated students.
Support for Family
The cliche 'it takes a village' applies to the military college experience, in part because so many service members and veterans already juggle work and family life. Add college coursework to the equation
, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed or overworked. Similarly, family members may struggle, as they've already dealt with extended absences or enjoyed limited time with their beloved service members.
Ideally, military and veteran-friendly colleges will extend the same level of support to family members as they do to those who have served. This support can take many forms, but often encompasses college programs that cater to the children or spouses of active-duty service members and veterans.
Sometimes, empathy is most impactful. Veteran and military-affiliated students simply want to feel seen and appreciated. This is easily achieved at military-friendly colleges, where a significant subset of the student population also has a background in the military
— or is at least from a military family and therefore has some basic level of understanding. Instructors and administrators are similarly understanding — and determined to help veteran students achieve their goals.
University That Supports Your Commitment to Service
If you are still committed to serving, you may be curious about how college will fit into your future. What happens if you end up returning to active duty? This will be a lot easier if you are enrolled at a military-friendly college that supports your service and your ongoing commitment to the armed forces.
A supportive college will work with you to ensure that you are able to make progress toward your degree, even as you juggle college requirements with other ongoing commitments. Backed by this constant support, you will feel empowered to complete your degree as you see fit.
Lindenwood Online is Here to Support Veterans!
At Lindenwood University Online, we are committed to supporting military-affiliated students. We offer many exciting opportunities to acquire the far-reaching technical and leadership skills that today's employers value. Paired with a background in the military, your degree could provide a strong starting point as you embark on your next big journey: your dream career.
Our commitment is best evidenced by our special military-oriented tuition rates and other educational benefits. Reach out today to learn more.