As your service in the military reaches its conclusion, you might be wondering what your next steps should be. For many active-duty service members and veterans, the next logical step is to enroll in a college degree program. However, transitioning from military service to academia may seem like a daunting task.
The reality is that military service has already prepared you for the challenges of college in several ways. From building your own sense of discipline and perseverance to qualifying you for financial assistance, your military experience can go a long way in helping you succeed in school. Whether you end up in a technical/vocational program, a “traditional” four-year university, or an online degree program, you have already proven that you have what it takes to conquer challenges and achieve goals.
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Seven Ways the Military Has Helped Prepare You for College
There are many ways in which your military experience has likely prepared you for college, but we will focus on some of the most critical.
You Have Earned Tuition Assistance
Serving in the military entitles you to tuition assistance, which can help to offset the costs of attending college after your tour of duty is complete. All six branches of the United States Military offer tuition assistance, though specific programs can vary from one branch to the next. Some examples of tuition assistance programs to explore include:
The amounts covered by these programs can vary, but some programs will cover up to 100% percent of tuition expenses for service members and veterans. With these benefits already waiting for you, now is a great time to take advantage of them and enroll in a qualifying degree program.
You May Have Acquired New Skills
Depending on your roles and duties while serving in the military, there is a solid chance that you have also picked up some new skills that may help you succeed in a college setting. For example, you may have worked with innovative technologies that will give you an advantage in a computer science class—or you may have picked up written communication skills that could help you thrive in a required composition course.
You Know the Importance of Being Adaptable
During your time in the military, you may have also learned the importance of being versatile and adaptable in your everyday life. More than likely, you were thrown your fair share of curveballs and challenges while serving in the military. These obstacles required you to adapt to achieve your goals—and this adaptability will go a long way in a college setting. Being versatile and able to think on your feet will allow you to juggle the ever-changing demands of academia more confidently, and you will have your military service to thank for that valuable life skill.
You Value Teamwork
Perhaps one of the most essential skills you acquired during your time in the military is being able to work effectively in a team setting. From basic training onward, you quickly learned to rely on members of your unit and work together toward a shared goal.
Your experience in college will also be dependent on your ability to work as a team. In many of your classes, you will find that you have at least one large group project to tackle during the semester. Even if you do not have group projects, it is common to be involved in group discussions and other collaborative activities. Your previous experience can be helpful here, allowing you to effectively work with your group members, delegate tasks, and even overcome disagreements to reach your shared goals.
You Have Learned Leadership Skills
No matter what branch of the military in which you served or what type of role you took on, you likely acquired some strong leadership skills during your military service. The foundation for these leadership skills is established in basic training and built upon throughout a person’s military career.
These leadership skills can serve you well in your academic career as well. Students with strong leadership skills may work better in group settings, having more confidence in delegating tasks and focusing group members on the project at hand. These same skills can be built upon in the classroom and translated into a future career path.
You Have Learned the Importance of Perseverance
Military life can be challenging. There may have been times when you questioned your ability to serve. However, you pressed on, even in your darkest hours. This perseverance will serve you well not just in your schooling but in all future life challenges.
It takes a great deal of perseverance and dedication to complete a degree program. Years of schooling, studying, test-taking, and sacrifice go into earning a degree—and you may feel that same desire to throw in the towel along the way. Drawing upon your perseverance and strength gained through your military service, you can stick with your studies and complete your degree program, no matter how hard things may get.
You Have Acquired Time Management Skills
In military basic training and beyond, you have no choice but to learn time management skills. In fact, many aspects of military service require you to carefully manage your time and prioritize tasks to accomplish everything expected of you.
These same time management skills will serve you well in college. This will become especially evident as you juggle classes with different course loads and demands. Some days, you may have multiple assignment deadlines and exams to tackle—so being able to prioritize your work and study time will pay off in a significant way.
What to Look for in a Military-Friendly College
Now that you are feeling a little more confident in your transition from military service to academia, it is time to find the right school. Whether you are looking to attend classes on-campus or prefer an online program, choosing a military-friendly college is a must. A school with plenty of experience supporting military and veteran students will have the resources and program options to help you succeed.
Not sure where to begin? There are a few things to consider when seeking a military-friendly school.
Flexible Learning Options
Typically, the most military-friendly schools are those that offer a wide range of flexible learning options for active-duty service members, reserves, guards, and veterans alike. These programs are designed with the understanding that it is not always possible for military students to attend class in-person or to even take an online exam at a specific time. Instead, these programs are designed with flexibility in mind, offering online classes with no set log in times. Programs with several start dates throughout the year (as opposed to just one or two) are also ideal for military students who may be transitioning to civilian life and starting their degrees at less conventional times.
Dedicated Resources for Service Members and Veterans
Ideally, the school that you choose will also offer dedicated resources for military service members and veterans. This may include on-campus programs for veterans and military members to receive specialized training or career placement, as well as a veteran resource center (or similar office) that gives veterans an opportunity to meet with other students who share a military background. Some schools may even offer dedicated tutoring, career counseling, and academic advising services to military students and veterans.
Ultimately, a military-friendly school will recognize that attending college as a service member or veteran comes with unique challenges—and these schools will have resources set up to support these students as much as possible.
Available Tuition Assistance
Even if your military education benefits will cover a decent portion of your tuition expenses, there is a good chance you will have other costs to worry about, such as:
- Books and supplies
- Room and board
- Transportation costs
- Program fees
These costs can quickly add up, but the right military-friendly college will have additional financial assistance programs set up to fill in the gaps.
Potential College Credit for Relevant Experience
During your time in the military, you likely acquired a number of skills and participated in formal educational programs that can transfer to your college experience. In some cases, these skills may even be enough to earn you some college credit. A military-friendly college will have initiatives in place to help service members and veterans apply their service experience to college classes—resulting in academic credits that can help you move forward in your degree program. These earned credits can cut down on the amount of time it takes you to complete your program while saving you some money in the process.
Tips for Applying to College After the Military
Feeling more confident about the idea of going to college after the military? Once you have chosen a military-friendly school that offers the degree program you want, all that is left to do is submit your application and enroll. Before you apply to college, though, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
First, get your application materials in order. While each school may vary in the exact documents required to apply, you can expect to need materials such as a copy of previous transcripts, military documentation (to use financial benefits), application fees, and letters of recommendation. Having everything you need ready to go will make completing and submitting your application more straightforward and less stressful.
Do Not Delay Applying for Benefits
Keep in mind that there are often deadlines for applying for certain military benefits, so it is important to do your research and make sure you submit all application materials with plenty of time to spare. Otherwise, you may have to wait until the next application window to use your benefits.
Consult With an Admissions Advisor
Before you have even applied, it is a good idea to schedule a meeting with one of your school’s advisors to see where you stand. This can be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the school and ask any questions you may have. During this meeting, you can also discuss the possibility of applying transfer credits or receiving academic credit for your previous military experience.
Ready to Get Started?
At Post University, we are proud to offer our specifically for military students; this program, which has been featured on NBC Connecticut, supports students on their path to achieving an academic degree after military service. Whether you are interested in a degree to advance your military career or to transition into the civilian workforce, the Post Eagle Program is here to support you every step of the way.
Post University is proud to be ranked a top military-friendly school, with our Post Eagle Program including a flexible online learning environment with dedicated support. Likewise, our team is ready to help military service members and veterans use their military education benefits and take advantage of other financial aid opportunities.
Explore degree and certificate programs offered at Post University or request more information to kickstart your next big adventure.