Service Members: Find the School That's Right for You

Choosing the right college, university or vocational school requires any aspiring higher ed student to weigh a lot of important considerations, and service members selecting postsecondary institutions often must account for factors beyond those of civilian peers. If you're a military service member and looking to begin or continue your education, here are some questions you can use to help find the right school for you.

By Douglas Fehlen

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1. Does the school have the degree option you're looking for? Perhaps most important in selecting an institution is finding an academic program that supports your career goals. Remember that schools often excel in providing studies within select disciplines.

2. What kind of experience are you looking for? Factor into your decision whether you're more likely to succeed in a small college or a large university. Especially if you're interested in living on or near campus, it's important to learn about the atmosphere and activities a school provides.

3. Is the institution accredited? If you are planning to use your G.I. Bill education benefits, an important first step is to check that a school is accredited. This also helps to ensure that the certificate or degree you earn will be recognized by potential employers and transfer institutions.

4. What financial factors must you consider? The difference in price between private schools and public institutions is often significant. Community colleges can also offer a low-cost alternative to some service members. If you're eligible for G.I. Bill benefits, a whole series of regulations can be important in deciding on a school.

5. What is your living situation? If you are a parent, serve on active duty or are affected by other life circumstances, you may need to seek out educational programs that offer a high degree of flexibility. Service members with a lot of non-school responsibilities often enjoy online programs for this reason.

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6. Does a school have a veterans counselor? Virtually all institutions of higher education have academic advisors, but service members often face unique challenges they need feedback on. A veterans counselor can be an important ally during the college years.

7. Are there active veterans groups on campus? Another important source of support for military students: Campus-based veterans groups. Organizations like the Student Veterans of America can provide information on G.I. Bill benefits and other college-related topics.

8. Are military specific scholarships or discounts offered? Many schools actively recruit service members by offering financial aid incentives to students. While this many not be a huge factor in your decision, it might help you decide between a couple of different schools you're evaluating.

9. Will you receive credit for your service? Many schools award college credits for work students have performed in their military duties. By getting college credit for your service you can reduce the the cost and time required to earn a degree. Counselors can offer insight on credits for service.

10. Is the institution considered a 'Military Friendly School'? G.I. Jobs provides an annual guide to military friendly colleges that incorporates many of the factors outlined here. Another thing to remember: Schools that are part of the Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC) actively work to reduce education barriers to service members.

Learn more about the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), a college program preparing future military leaders.

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