As an active-duty, reserve, or veteran of the United States military, it is likely that you understand the tremendous value in earning your college degree. Graduating from college opens up extraordinary career opportunities for both members of the military and those people serving in the civilian workforce, but earning your degree is not an easy process.
Perhaps the hardest part of getting your diploma is choosing which school to attend. Remember that not all schools are created equal, and that some are far better than others when it comes to supporting members of the military. Some colleges and universities do a significantly better job than others, especially when it comes to providing high quality education programs for military students.
Military friendly schools do exist, but for the most part, they are few and far between. Military friendly colleges offer some important benefits that are not provided by all schools, such as added support for Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits, participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, availability of tuition discounts and scholarships for military students, and the option to study entirely online.
To make sure that you’re setting yourself up for future success, we recommend creating a list of the top potential schools for you, which you can then use to determine which college will offer you the best value by providing a high quality education at an affordable price.
When trying to determine whether a school is military friendly or not, make sure to consider each of the following factors:
Access to financial aid benefits, like military tuition assistance and tuition rate discounts for military students, can save tens of thousands of dollars on the cost of a college degree, so be sure to make this a very important determining factor when searching for the school you want to attend.
It is extremely important to research what levels of financial aid schools offer before you choose your degree or program. There are many benefits and programs available to active military personnel and veterans, like the aforementioned military tuition assistance, which can come in different forms: scholarships, tuition breaks, waived applications fees, waived materials costs, free books or library access, and a number of other benefits are available at certain schools.
However, you also need to keep in mind that not all schools provide or offer these discounts to military students, so make sure you do your homework before you enroll in any particular program. Create a list of potential schools you’re interested in attending, then be sure to contact at least a few of the schools on your list to ask questions of their admissions advisers before you choose which one will be able to provide you with the best value.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program is one of the best military education benefits programs in existence, so it should be made a prime ranking factor when putting together your list of top schools.
There couldn’t be a better situation than one in which you’re able to earn your college degree without having to spend a single cent of your own money, and the Yellow Ribbon Program was enacted to help you get as close to that goal as possible. Where there is a gap between what your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits cover and the total cost to earning your degree, the Yellow Ribbon Program aims to fill that with extra tuition assistance.
There are quite a few Yellow Ribbon Program participating schools around the country. To find one near you, please visit our list of Yellow Ribbon schools, which you can use to help determine which which schools you want to contact. Depending on your situation, however, the Yellow Ribbon Program may not be necessary, as some schools have their entire tuition amount covered completely by the regular Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.
You will have to contact schools and speak with enrollment advisers to find out which one can offer you the cheapest degree program, since each school has different tuition rates, fees, and benefits.
Access to distance learning and online degree programs is extremely important to many modern students, but especially to members of the military. You might want to make access to online degree programs one of the most important factors in determining who makes your list of the best colleges for military students, especially now that the updates to the Post 9/11 GI Bill have provided BAH pay for online students.
Many military members don’t have the time or resources to attend a traditional in-person school, especially with deployments, re-locations and active duty service getting in the way of being able to show up in a classroom five days a week. Online and distance learning schools provide an effective remedy for this problem, since you can study at home, avoid commuting, and get your degree at your own pace.
Taking classes from anywhere that you have an internet connection and avoiding commuting to a traditional campus location are both excellent perks provided by online programs, but better yet is the fact that you can save tens of thousands of dollars by not having to sacrifice working full-time to attend school. Since you don’t have to be in class during regular working hours, your day job can remain a major priority, allowing you to reduce your reliance on loans and dramatically curb your eventual college debt.
As a member of the military, your spouse may also be eligible for tuition assistance and benefits, depending on your unique situation. The MyCAA Program is an exceptionally beneficial program as it provides tuition assistance to military spouses that are pursuing associate degrees, as well as various other credentials.
Many veteran friendly schools provide support for the MyCAA Program, and as it provides exceptional value, you will want to make sure it’s offered at the schools you are looking to at to your list. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this specific benefit, make sure to ask the admissions advisers whether or not they provide support for it when you contact the veteran friendly universities that look best suited for your particular situation.
When it comes to quality education programs, nothing is more important than having a legitimate academic accreditation. Do not add a single school to your list of military friendly colleges that has not been fully accredited by a respected academic association.
Look for schools with regional accreditation (this is actually better than national accreditation) as this means that it will be easier to transfer credits from them to other colleges or universities that you may end up transferring to. The worst situation you can possibly put yourself in is to attend a non-accredited school who’s credits won’t be accepted by other, legitimate schools.
There are still diploma mill schools out there, so be on the watch for them to make sure that you will not be ashamed of your diploma once you’ve completed a degree program. Be sure to make academic accreditation one of the most important determining factors in deciding who makes your list of the top military friendly universities.
Once you’ve finished assembling your list of the top military friendly schools, the rest is easy. Call admissions advisers at each college or university and let them know your exact situation. Tell them how many credits you already have (if any), tell them what program you’re interested in, explain what benefits you have (and ask if there are any that you aren’t aware of), then find out what the total program cost will be for completion of the degree you want.
Do not sign up with any school until you’ve contacted all of the potential colleges on your list, as all of them offer different opportunities. Determining which school to attend is the most important step to earning a respectable degree that will lead to steady employment, so don’t sacrifice your future by skimping on this step.
Set yourself up for success by completing your research here, and don’t rush through the process of determining which school will be the best fit for you. If you run into any questions or trouble along the way, remember that we are here to help and feel free to sound off in the comments section below.
Good luck out there!