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VetsGuide
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You’ve Thought About a Career. Now What?

Choosing the right school involves more than just completing the school’s application process. The school you select is important, and is a decision not to be taken lightly. You should ensure the school meets your standards and expectations. You earned your college education and you will want to maximize your hard-earned investment. 

 

 

In the military, you demonstrated the commitment, courage, discipline and desire to succeed. Each of these qualities is highly sought after by colleges and universities.  Leverage that. Don’t settle on an institution that isn’t right for you. Attend the school that can best provide what you need and maximizes your hard-earned investment. 

 

 

There is a lot of information available to assist you. Although it can be time-consuming, take the time to gather all the information you need to make the best choice.

 

The Department of Education’s College Navigator, www.collegenavigator.com, web portal is a great place to start.  You may also access much of the same information at www.vetsguide.com. But before you access College Navigator or vetsguide.com, keep reading.  The information available on these web sites is important, but it’s equally important to understand what the data means, as well as to identify questions you can ask potential schools so you understand what the information means to your specific situation

 

Would my professional field respect a degree from the university or college I’m considering?

 

What’s the point of a degree if it doesn’t lead to employment? Employers have a good idea about which colleges and universities have good standing in their professional field and which don’t. Choosing the right school for your particular discipline is crucial. 

 

One thing employers look for is what kind of accreditations the school holds. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs. Accreditation is a recognized credential for schools and some programs.

 

As stated by the U.S. Department of Education, the goal of accreditation is to ensure that the education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.

 

Another helpful way to discover the respectability of a degree is to check the national ranking of the school and the program you’re considering. Visit the website for US News and World Report, one of the leading college and program ranking sources, and discover which schools make the grade.

 

How well does the school support Veterans?

Does it have a dedicated program?

 

Be careful about “Military/Veteran Friendly” claims and make sure your prospective school is friendly to your needs. There are objective sources to help you determine those needs.

 

The American Council on Education (ACE) has developed a toolkit for how schools can create or enhance policies and programs to better serve Veterans. It has examples of many successful programs that are available to you.

 

Other things to check for:

  • Transfer of credits from other schools or for military training - Your school should recognize your past coursework/training and accept your transferred credit. Be vigilant in understanding whether your coursework will transfer to a new school, for example, when you transfer from an online institution to a public in-state school. Not all credit will be accepted, but finding an institution where this credit is best utilized towards degree requirements will help you make the most of your benefits. Check out the ACE Military Guide to find out what kind of credit you may receive for your military experience.
  • Campus and community service - Look for access to mental health and medical support, disability services, academic accommodations, and available career services.
  • A strong Veteran voice - Find an administration that listens to and involves Veterans in Veteran programs such as a school with a Student Veterans of America organization.
  • Central point of contact - Hands-on, in-person assistance with navigating the educational process makes the academic journey much more manageable. Schools that agree to VA’s Principles of Excellence are obligated to have such a person for Veterans.
  • Veteran specific space - A designated location for student Veterans offers a dependable and supportive environment where trust, support, and camaraderie can be found and fostered in an academic environment.
  • Expanded housing options - Student Veterans sometimes have unique housing preferences and needs - options should be explored.
  • Principles of Excellence participant – Be sure to review VA’s list of schools that agree to participate in the President’s Principles of Excellence Program.

 

Financing Your Education

Given your GI Bill education benefit level and choice of school, you may not need student loans. Depending upon your eligibility tier for GI Bill education benefits, your tuition and fees charges could be completely or mostly covered, depending upon your choice of a school or program. If you do take out any loans, make sure you fully understand capitalized interest and the repayment terms or you may become heavily indebted. Other questions to ask yourself:

  • What is a reasonable amount to pay for my degree?
  • What is my interest rate and when do I have to start paying the loan back?
  • Will I make enough money to repay my student loan debt?

 

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the U.S. Department of Education, there are currently more than 38 million student loan borrowers with over $1.1 trillion in outstanding debt, surpassing credit card debt. If you assume a large amount of student loan debt you may not qualify for home or auto loans and may have to delay saving for retirement, starting a family, or starting a business. The authoritative guide to help you determine how much college will cost and help you through the application process is CFPB’s Paying for College tool.

 

If you must take out loans to help pay for school, consider a Federal Direct Loan from the U.S. Department of Education as repayment terms are generally more flexible and there are greater consumer protections. Check the online tools available through the Department of Education at studentaid.ed.gov and the Department of Education’s Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.

 

Make it count and good luck!

Choosing the right school is the first step in not only readjusting to civilian life, but to succeeding in civilian life. The GI Bill is a great program and you’ve already earned it. Use your benefits wisely, finish school, and become the leader in the civilian world you have already demonstrated you can be in the military.

 

 

Robert M. Worley, II, Director of Education Service, provides executive level oversight in the department for policy, planning and integration of education programs administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration

 


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