Getting Your Transcripts
More young veterans and GIs have gone back to school since the Post-9/11 GI Bill provided federal funding for their education costs. But what many of them don't know is that they can also turn their military experience into college credit.
The first step toward converting service training into credit is to get your transcripts. If you served in the Army or Navy (including the Marine Corps), you're in luck - these branches of the military maintain a database of your course descriptions and military occupation specialties (MOS) organized by recommendations for course credit.
The recommendations follow the guidelines of the American Council on Education (ACE), which sets standards for earning credit for military experience in its Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services. View the guide online to find out what college credit you can earn for the occupational and course training you received.
The Coast Guard and Air Force don't use ACE recommendations to organize their data, but they still offer transcripts that veterans can request to start the credit transfer process. You can visit your branch's website to find out how to request your transcript.
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Once you've had your transcripts submitted to your school, you'll need to go through an evaluation process to determine what you can actually get credit for. Most schools require students to declare a major or program of study before they'll conduct the evaluation.
Transcripts from the Army and Navy typically already map to standard credit equivalents from ACE, making the evaluation easier. For students from other branches, schools will examine your courses, military experience records and standardized test scores to see what kind of credit you can be awarded.
Colleges and universities also typically have a limit on the number of credits they'll accept, as well as a minimum number of credit hours that you have to complete at the school. For example, one university will allow GIs to transfer up to 90 credits, but students still have to complete at least 30 credit hours at the institution to earn their degrees.
Even with these rules in place, GIs can shorten the time it takes to earn a degree considerably by converting their military experience to college credit. The process won't begin until you've turned in your transcripts, so make that a priority as soon as you enroll.
Veterans and GIs: Still searching for the right college? Check out the 2011 guide to military friendly schools.