Using Your GI Bill? What You Should Look for in a College or University!
Recently I had an interesting request from a respected university that is on several military installations. What would you recommend for a college seeking to improve its veteran outreach? I spent some time before the meeting to relive my experiences and look at current issues and came up with some brainstorm ideas for them! Now I’d like to turn these ideas around for our readers who are considering going back to school, getting a new degree or using their GI Bill to expand job opportunities after their service time!
To be the best prepared student and get the best return on your dollar (a lot of blood, sweat and tears, too) you should check out the school and ask specific questions! Does the curriculum meet your needs? What are your goals? Those are your tasks before you can go to the next step! Does this particular school fit you? Let’s divide that into several areas!
First, the school environment! Does the school seem military friendly? Does the office have any veterans or military spouses working there? How about professors that are veterans? Do they have a veteran’s program administrator who knows the GI Bill inside and out who can help you deal with VA issues? How about a veteran’s council on campus? Many schools have a student organization with sub-organizations for specific groups. Is there one for veterans? Read the school newspaper online or in print! Is there a flavor that appears friendly or does it scream, "stay away military" at you? Is there a veteran columnist at the paper?
How about their social media? The school’s footprint and message can be seen through facebook, their website, twitter, youtube, linkedin, etc! Like and friend and see what the message is that you receive! What do other veterans say about the school? Ask about them at MilitaryAvenue’s Education Center! http://www.militaryavenue.com/EducationAvenue.aspx
Do they recognize holidays that are important to the military community such as Veterans’s Day and Memorial Day? How about Military Appreciation Month? Is there ROTC at the school? If they have an on campus program, it usually indicates that they support the military community and you will have an opportunity to interact with students in the program as well!
In addition, to GI Bill expertise, do they offer military scholarships aimed at our core group of veterans or family members such as spouses! Do they address disabled veteran issues? How about their course credit for prior education during military service? Many schools apply education credit to your program for military experience and professional education courses that will save you money, classroom time and speed you on your way to that degree!
If it is not a state school, do they know about the Yellow Ribbon Program? (There is a cutoff for schools to apply for this program so they will know if they have joined or not). This program saves you money as the schools’ tuition rates are then matched to state sponsored schools which is the highest amount the GI Bill will pay and many private school rates are higher than state schools.
Considering your full benefit program, is there a VA Medical Center nearby? Have you talked to the VA about your benefits? Or attended a transition class on benefits? Location may be an important factor for you but sometimes going back to the hometown college or university is not the best option in the long run!
If still on active duty, start at the education center at your installation. Do you have the possibility of deploying? (Who does not?) Will the school accommodate your schedule and allow you to continue your education upon return or even online if you are able to do that during deployment? How many locations are they at or do you expect a PCS soon? Will they be at the next installation if you know where you are headed next?
Whoa, lots of questions! But all ones you should consider before selecting a school! Have an enjoyable college experience! Remember, you earned that GI Bill the hard way and your school should recognize that service! This is just a start to the rest of your life! Add your own ideas and requirements and get started today!
Photo Credit: Robert Bailey, a veteran’s benefits coordinator for the Biloxi Veterans Hospital, briefs active duty Sailors and retirees on the new Post 9/11 GI Bill at Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport, Miss., July 14, 2009. The new GI Bill will take effect Aug 1, 2009. Service members may be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill if they served at least 90 consecutive days on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Veterans who were honorably discharged and meet the same service criteria also may be eligible. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Terry Spain/Released)
Photographer's Name: MC1 Terry SpainLocation: Gulfport
Date Shot: 7/14/2009Date Posted: 7/23/2009VIRIN: 090714-N-NY458-001