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Choosing a College After the Military

female soldierThe following is a guest post by Scott Huntington.

In order to properly use the GI Bill – or any military benefit – you can’t choose just any college. Don’t pick your college based on its proximity to the beach or even your family. Not all colleges are interested in helping military personnel achieve their career goals; they’re more interested in the guaranteed funds from your GI Bill.

What to Look For

There are traditional questions that every potential student should ask about a college:

  • Is the college or university accredited?
  • What’s the graduation rate?
  • How many recent graduates are delinquent in paying back their student loans? If they can’t pay them back, they must be having a hard time finding a job with their new diploma.

Military personnel need to ask additional questions:

  • Is there a full-time Veterans Affairs employee on campus?
  • Can you get college credit for past military training?
  • Is there a campus veterans program or club?
  • Do you pay your tuition bill before or after VA benefits are paid?
  • How much tuition will your GI Bill actually cover?

It’s important to understand that the GI Bill isn’t a free pass to education, even if it seems like it is. In-state colleges often have lower tuition rates than out-of-state colleges. That means that you’ll end up with much less – if any – debt if you stay in state.

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Also, if you’re concerned about paying for college after the military, check out two-year colleges. Often, if you get a two-year degree at a community college, you can transfer to a four-year university and save quite a bit of money.

Examples of the Three Types of Colleges

Online: University of Maryland University College

UMUC has been ranked as one of the top online, four-year colleges in the country for vets. Technically, you can study online or on campus, but its flexibility with online coursework is a huge benefit if you’re still actually in the military. It has veteran and military advisors, a veterans resource center, and transfer credit based on military experience and education.

Two-Year:  Vista College Military

If you’re looking for a two-year college after the military, Vista College Military fits the bill. It also has military admissions representatives for you to speak with, plus it works with multiple military programs, including the GI Bill, Veterans Retraining Assistance Program and Yellow Ribbon, just to name a few. It even has military-specific scholarships.

In addition to the high number of online, daytime and evening classes offered, it has campuses in New Mexico and Texas.

Four-Year: University of Nebraska Omaha

UNO is ranked as a No. 1 four-year institution for veterans by Military Times. It has support staff available for vets, which includes an Office of Military and Veteran Services. UNO accepts many different military benefits and also offers a wide variety of scholarships and financial support for veterans.

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Equally important, it also makes a huge effort to reach out to veteran students to make sure they’re receiving the support that they need for the duration of the stay.

Review the above colleges and become familiar with what services you expect a college to provide you with. As with any financial transaction, you’re paying a college to provide you with a top-notch education. Make sure you get the best. List your questions, and make sure you’re getting the best deal for your dollar.

Scott Huntington is a writer and blogger. Check out his site, blogspike.com or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.

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