Attending College in the Military

In one of my previous posts, Distance Learning in the Military, I discussed the options available to military service members in regard to their furthering education. This included tips to find an online college, federal grant information, etc.

The ARMY

Many college students are active duty military. (Photo courtesy of flickr)

Military service members sometimes can use their sign-on bonus upon enlistment for college education. Many service members who utilize this option of the bonus do so after basic training. Some are successful, as they may not be directly and immediately deployed into active duty upon graduation from basic training. Some get called into active duty upon their graduation and do not have the time and commitment it takes to complete online college or traditional college.

But there are some great benefits to attending college as a military service member. Some of these include:

  • Tuition options:
    • Free college anyone? While active duty military, service members are allotted college education paid for by the military—tuition assistance (TA). They have the option to choose from local (near their station) schools, online courses, or on-base education through the military. Either way, if the service member is active duty, the tuition will be covered by the military.
    • The GI Bill: Military service members that are not active duty—and even active duty service members—such as Reserves, have the option of a federal grant, namely the G.I. Bill. This grant provides up to 36 months of college education for active duty service members and is available for up to 15 years after the last release from service.
    • Student Financial Aid is available to anyone prospectively attending college; military service members can utilize these same options whether they are active duty or not.
    • Continuing Education:
      • Range of choices: Military service members can benefit from continuing their education by receiving more training in an area they are already familiar with. Or they can choose to follow a different educational path. Not only will they receive many military benefits for attending college, they will ultimately expand their career opportunities with a combined experience of college and military.
      • Employment options are expanded due to the fact that many employers will see a military service record on the member’s resume and due to Veterans’ Preference. This gives precedence over many prospective employees because military personnel are trained to be on time every time, to take responsibility and accountability for their duties, and ultimately are trained to work hard at what they do. This is kudos for employers.

When military service members decide to attend college while they are on active duty, their job may just end up taking precedence under deployment. This is pretty understandable. But most colleges, online and traditional, are prepared for the eventuality that a student who is a military service member will be deployed during their education. If this happens, military service members may have the option to returning to their course work.

While attending college, military service members should keep in mind the following:

  • Be sure to check with the college that you are attending and make sure that there will be no repercussions following a deployment. It would be wise to ensure that you will be able to return to your studies upon completion of the tour.
  • It would be best to attend no more than 2 courses at a time when active duty—even in the Reserves, because there is still the eventuality that you will be deployed into active duty. It may take longer to complete various degree courses, as in maybe 3 to 4 years for an Associate’s degree instead of just 2 years. But the added benefit that a military service member has with military funded tuition and GI Bills can be put to use and tuition will not be an issue.
  • There is the option of continuing education and remaining active within the military. Tuition cost will never come into question, and you are able to take as long as it takes to earn a degree.
  • While on deployment online colleges can be accessed and are more convenient in that respect. They are available 24/7 to attending students, and they are usually through an accredited school that will allow departure and postponement of course work until you return from your duties.

While it is not easy to attend college while in service to the military, it is and can be done. It will take more discipline, more commitment, and ultimately more sacrifice. The plus side of the military is that service members are trained to a fault to endure long hours, commit, and take responsibility and accountability for everything they do. This will be a big help when choosing to attend college while in the military.

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