Are you a military spouse who’s considering going to college (or going back to college)? If so, you’re on the verge of making a bold choice that will likely affect the trajectory of your career—and your long-term earnings potential. But making the decision as a military spouse brings a separate set of questions and concerns.
- Where can I find military spouse tuition assistance?
- Are there more military spouse education benefits than I realize?
- Are there online colleges for military spouses that cater to my needs?
- Where do I start the military spouse college journey?
If you have questions like these, this guide on how to get started on the military spouse college journey will help.
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Think About Your Overall Career and Personal Goals
Before you start applying, it’s a good idea to have a clear idea of what you want to pursue. Take some time to think about your overall career and personal goals first. What drives and motivates you? What are you passionate about?
Once you have some general concepts in mind, ask the next questions: What careers are available that are connected to those things that drive you and fuel your passion? And what degree programs or majors do people typically pursue to land jobs in those career fields?
Of course, as a military spouse, college decisions carry some additional concerns. Some career paths aren’t conducive to military families due to the high frequency of relocation. If your spouse plans to continue in the military for many years, you might want to take into consideration which jobs are “portable” or can be worked from anywhere.
There are also some federal civilian jobs that are part of a Priority Placement Program with a preference for military spouses. It’s worth taking a look at the sorts of jobs you could be at the top of the list for. You can quickly narrow down a field of study if any of the career paths in that program are attractive to you.
Deciding on a college major is a complex decision, and the perfect major for another military spouse could be a terrible choice for you. Taking some time to consider your own interests and passions at the start will help you avoid making the wrong choice.
And if you do end up in a degree program that clearly isn’t working for you, you can always change majors.
Utilize Resources for Financial Assistance
There are a lot of benefits to being a military family, but exceedingly high pay isn’t usually one of them. Most military families are looking for scholarships or other resources, like military spouse tuition assistance, to help them pay for college.
Thankfully, there are numerous forms of financial assistance available to military families, including several that can help pay for military spouse college degrees. Check into the eligibility requirements of the following programs to see which ones can help you pay for your degree.
MyCAA Scholarships and Tuition Assistance for Military Spouses
The Department of Defense offers the My Career Advancement Account, or MyCAA, as a scholarship that provides military spouses who meet the eligibility requirements with up to $4000 in tuition assistance.
This program is aimed at professional licensing, vocational training, and associate degrees, not conventional four-year programs. Even if you have a bachelor’s degree in mind, consider starting with a transferable two-year program so you can take advantage of this benefit.
GI Bill Benefits
When most people think about the GI Bill, they think of education benefits for an active-duty military member or veteran. But they don’t usually think of the GI Bill as one of the military spouse education benefits, even though it is one. The GI Bill allows its benefits to be transferred to a military spouse in certain situations.
If your spouse has served honorably for at least six years and has committed to another four or more, it is often possible to transfer your spouse’s benefits to your own educational pursuits.
FAFSA and Pell Grants
Make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Doing so will inform you as to whether you qualify for Pell Grants or other federal grants and scholarships. The FAFSA is also the place to start if you need to apply for federal student loans.
Your education is an investment in yourself—and in your future earnings potential. If you’ve exhausted all available military spouse tuition assistance programs, you may choose to use some of your personal savings to fund your education. This is more common than you might think, given the increased future earnings potential that your degree could bring you.
Last, student loans are available to meet any difference between what you can pay and what you owe. Federal loans (and subsidized ones, if you qualify) are the better choice.
Look into Online Degrees
One hurdle to pursuing higher education as a military spouse is that you don’t always know how long you’ll live in a given place. If you were to start a four-year degree program in a residential college, but then your spouse gets transferred away halfway through, what are you going to do?
These days, many degrees can be earned entirely online, which is a huge benefit for many students, including military spouses. You no longer have to be located geographically near the college or university where you earn your degree.
Be aware that some degrees cannot be offered 100% remotely because there are physical training components, such as a practicum for education or nursing students. But even here, it’s becoming more common for colleges to allow you to complete in-person segments closer to home or to travel to the campus for only a week or two.
Choose the Right College for You
Choosing the college that’s right for you is a complex and often personal decision. That said, there are some factors you should consider. Does the college offer any of its own military spouse education benefits? Many do, including Post University.
Here at Post, we offer a special military program, the Post Eagle Program, with discounts on tuition, fees, and books. As a spouse of a veteran or an active-duty service member, you are eligible for the Post Eagle Program.
As you evaluate college programs, make sure to look for similar discounts. But be sure they extend to military spouses and check whether the discounts are as generous as what you’d receive at Post.
There are other factors to consider as well. Consider these questions when choosing the right college for you:
- If it’s a residential program, is it near you, and will you stay in the same location for long enough to complete it?
- Does the program have the level of respect or prestige that you’ll need or want to fulfill your career goals?
- What is the pace of the program, and are there accelerated or flexible schedules available?
Beware of the Application Deadlines
College is becoming more and more flexible, with terms starting more frequently than the traditional fall and spring. Students can study on campus, online, or in a hybrid or blended model, and some degrees can be finished far more quickly than in decades past.
But not everything is flexible. Whatever term or schedule you’re hoping to start, there will be an application deadline—and it might be earlier than you think. Failure to apply by the deadline may result in higher application rush fees, or you may not be accepted for that term at all.
Pick Your Program
All that’s left is to pick your program. Here at Post University, we offer generous military spouse education benefits, and our flexible online and hybrid programs are perfect for military families. Ready to learn more? Contact us today!
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!