5 Features found at the top military-friendly colleges
Every college hopeful has a list of criteria they’re looking for to determine whether a particular school is the right fit. Most students want institutions that are affordable, have the academic programs they’re interested in and meet their lifestyle needs. Military and veteran families have even more factors to keep in mind.
Consider that while the Post-9/11 GI Bill® enables most service members and veterans to receive up to 36 months of education benefits at participating colleges and universities, not all GI Bill®-approved schools offer the same opportunities. It’s clearly important to research your options to find military-friendly colleges. You don’t want to just enroll at the first school that crosses your radar.
To help you weigh your options, we’ve compiled a list of the five most prominent features that every student who’s served in the armed forces should look for in a college.
5 Things the best military-friendly colleges have in common
When it comes to supporting military families’ unique needs, not all colleges measure up. Look into these five features while you search for an institution that can prepare you for a thriving career in the civilian workforce.
1. Academic credit for military experience
Experience in the armed forces doesn’t just equip service members for success in their particular branch of the military. There are a number of transferable skills you acquire during your service. While it makes sense that the work you’ve already done would be applied toward earning a degree, not all schools see it that way.
As you search for the right military-friendly college, look into whether the institutions you’re considering accept military training for academic credits. Attending one that does could significantly cut down the time it takes to earn your degree and move into the next phase of your career.
One factor that helped University of Massachusetts Global achieve Gold-ranking Military Friendly® status, for example, is the school’s policy of accepting up to 46 credits for military experience. UMass Global also awards college credit for passing scores on the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and the DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST).
2. Financial assistance available for military and veteran students
While your GI Bill® benefits could cover a significant portion of your higher education costs, most military and veteran students have some remaining expenses. This is particularly true if you attend a private school or are attending a public school as an out-of-state student. Luckily, some colleges participate in military and veteran education benefits programs that can help. Consider looking for a GI Bill®-approved school that’s affiliated with government programs like the Yellow Ribbon Program.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) GI Education Enhancement program, also known as the Yellow Ribbon Program, is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. Participating colleges and universities agree to make additional funds available for eligible students without further charge to their GI Bill® entitlement. University of Massachusetts Global is proud to be part of this network, offering unlimited involvement and amount of assistance afforded to each qualified student.
It’s also true that, at an institution like UMass Global, active duty military service members and their spouses can complete numerous online programs at Tuition.
Your tuition toward some schools could also be assisted by various scholarships for students with military experience. Keep an eye out for opportunities like the AMVETS National Scholarship Program, the Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship and the AFCEA War Veterans Scholarship.
3. Specialized support for service members and veterans
In addition to the important education benefits you’re seeking, you should verify that a college has an active support system to continually provide the military population with guidance and opportunities for connection. The best schools will have a dedicated office or center for students who have served.
University of Massachusetts Global, for example, has a Veteran Resource Center that provides a dedicated social space for its military community to gather or host networking events. Students also have access to academic advising, tutoring, study skills workshops, mental health counseling and specialized career counseling. There’s even a dedicated support staff that includes many retired military service members.
Some schools even host admissions events or special information sessions for potential military and veteran students. Many colleges also have a customized student orientation and mentoring or onboarding programs specifically for students with military experience.
4. Military spouse and dependent programs
While they’re often overlooked, benefits for family members of those who have served in the armed forces are important. If you have a spouse or dependents, this could be a particularly crucial consideration for you in your college search.
You might, for example, look for a school that participates in the Military Spouse Career Advanced Account (MyCAA) program. It provides financial assistance to military spouses who are pursuing licenses or credentials leading to employment in portable career fields.
You may also find colleges that accept Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance. Within this program, assistance may be available to eligible dependents of permanently disabled or deceased veterans whose injury or death occurred while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition.
The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship is another option. It provides Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits to the children and surviving spouses of service members who died in the line of duty.
5. Proven student success and flexible learning options
Since you’re already taking measures to ensure you’re prepared to succeed in transitioning to the civilian workforce, be sure to select a college that has a positive track record with its students. Look into the graduation rates, student loan default rates and student satisfaction metrics of the institutions you’re considering.
Graduation rates help indicate whether a school effectively nurtures students from start to finish. Student loan default rates typically indicate how well a college prepares its students for success in their careers. And student satisfaction metrics help identify the probability that alumni would recommend their alma mater to friends and family.
Finally, as a military or veteran student, it’s likely you have a number of commitments outside of school. Whether you’ll be maintaining active duty or Reserve status, balancing a full-time job and/or raising kids, flexibility can make a world of difference.
It’s worth looking for a college that offers fully online and self-paced program options. If you’re curious to learn which modality is best suited to meet your needs, you can take our ten-question quiz to find out: “What type of online learner are you?”
Leverage your military experience in college
As you think about putting your hard-earned military education benefits to use, it’s wise to focus on colleges that are adequately prepared to support your unique needs as a military service member, spouse or dependent. The above elements can help you identify which schools should be on your shortlist.
To learn more about one school that has been consistently ranked among the best military-friendly colleges in the nation, visit University of Massachusetts Global’s Military and Veterans Services page.
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