Transitioning from military service is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming process, especially when it comes to applying to a college or university. Unlike most 18-year-olds, veterans entering college after military service have traveled the world, endured hardship, worked in high-stakes situations, and formed an idea of what they want to study, do or be. Armed with these experiences, they are well-prepared for the rigors of higher education and have access to a variety of resources and benefits along the way. Find out how you can apply to college as a veteran with these tips from Veteran Car Donations:
Know Your Benefits
Veterans who have completed at least three years of active federal service since Sept. 11, 2001 are eligible for 100 percent of the 36 months of allowed benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under this law, tuition benefits are equivalent to 100 percent of the most expensive public state school’s in-state undergraduate tuition. Additional tuition benefits may be available under the Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows schools to waive part of any remaining tuition cost, and the Veterans Affairs (VA) to match that tuition waiver.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill also includes a housing allowance equal to the local ZIP code’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate for an E-5 with dependents. There is also a $1,000-per-year stipend for books and materials, and up to $100-per-month allowance for tutoring (with a maximum of $1,200). These benefits are good for 15 years after the service member is honorably discharged or retired from the armed forces.
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is also still an option — and, in various cases, makes more sense for some veterans. While the Post-9/11 GI Bill has more monthly income associated with it, it can only be used at degree-granting institutions of higher learning. Those attending trade schools, participating in apprenticeships or flight training, or who wish to take preparatory courses for national exams are only eligible for benefits through the MGIB. The MGIB also provides up to 36 months of benefits with a monthly payout rate. These benefits are good for 10 years after a service member is discharged or retired.
Curious which benefit is right for you? The VA has a handy GI Bill calculator that can help guide that decision. Just remember to keep a copy of your DD 214 and Certificate of Eligibility handy once you have chosen the benefit that is right for you. Your target college or university will also have a veteran’s office that will help you navigate any benefits paperwork.
Square Away Your Educational Priorities
With only 36 months of GI Bill benefits, it may seem impossible to obtain a degree from a four-year university. With distinct educational priorities and a strategic plan, it is possible to graduate before running out of funds. During out-processing, veterans receive a Joint Services Transcript that lists all of their completed training that is eligible for college credit. Choose a college that accepts this credit, even if it does not directly apply to your chosen degree.
College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests also offer an opportunity to receive general education credit in one of 33 subjects. Some universities even give veterans the option of petitioning for credit through work-related portfolios that demonstrate knowledge they would have gained in the classroom. Be sure to talk to any veterans’ advisors at potential universities about the options they offer.
Finding a Campus Community
Once they leave active duty, most veterans find that they are missing the sense of community the military offers. Fortunately, myriad colleges and universities have clubs and activities aimed at easing the transition to civilian life. On-campus VA offices often employ certified counselors, academic advisors, tutors and benefits advisors to make sure veterans are successful. Seek this staff during campus visits. These individuals will offer insights into life as a veteran at that college or university. They also sponsor activities to let student vets get together and form a sense of campus community.
Veterans bring a unique perspective to the university experience. If they seek the experts, ask for credit for time served, and access the benefits they have earned, they can experience success long after they hang up the uniform.
This article was contributed by guest author Jeremy Silverstein.