"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” — General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Few adjustments to civilian life can be more challenging for a veteran than entering the workforce. For many, this could be their fist time being employed as an adult. According to a Rasmussen report, “only 34% of military personnel believe private companies view military experience as a professional asset. 40% of veterans say most private companies do not view military experience as professional assets.”

This is unfortunate because so much of military service, whether it is with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Reserves is about adapting to new challenges, goal oriented results, and teamwork.

For many veterans, applying to college and earning a degree can definitely improve their chances of starting a rewarding career.  As a positive side effect, having the structure and responsibilities of obtaining a higher education can help ease the veteran’s transition to a civilian lifestyle.

How College Helps Veterans Transition into Civilian Life

veterans-civilians

“Some of our students are coming from desert fatigues to a college desk in as little as 30 days,” said Tom Murphy, director of the Human Resiliency Institute. “They were in a fixed environment, where their hair was cut, their clothes were standard, where rules and policies were set for them. But now they are in civilian society and in college, which is a highly fluid environment. We want to help them navigate school life and beyond with as much success as possible.”

College is a great way for veterans to connect with other veterans making the transition into civilian life. Many colleges offer specialized support groups for ex military attending school.  Through a veterans affairs office, a veteran applying to college can find a network of support among other veteran students. Support they might not get by jumping into a minimum wage job.

  • The Warrior-Scholar Project: This is an academic workshop held at universities across the country geared toward helping veterans rediscover the academic skills necessary to succeed in college.
  • Service to School: This program connects veterans who are currently attending college with a veteran seeking higher education. The student veteran acts as a mentor, guiding the applicant through the college admissions process.

Better Jobs and Pay for Veterans Who Attend College

Earning a college degree can improve job opportunities for any veteran starting his or her career. The Economic Policy Institute of Washington cites studies that prove employees with a college degree make a higher living than those with only a high school education or GED equivalent. Specifically, those with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $31 an hour, compared to workers with high school degree who earned only around $17 an hour on average.

For any veteran coming home and looking for employment opportunities that can support family should definitely consider getting a college degree as a means to get ahead.

Many veterans joined the armed services at a very young age — straight out of high school in some cases. At that age, it’s hard for anyone to know what exactly they want to do with the rest of their life. However, a veteran has an advantage over a student who enters college straight out of high school. A veteran has had time to mature, face unparalleled challenges, and experience the world in a way few people have. A college education is a great pathway for a veteran to shape their unique experiences into a professional asset.

Attending college allows a veteran to train in a field of their choice. Whether it is technology, medicine, science, history, literature or the arts, a veteran who attends college can achieve a degree in something they love. Consequently, the veteran has the opportunity to enjoy a fulfilling career in a field that they are passionate about.

How the Post 9/11 GI Bill Can Help You Achieve Your Career Goals

If you qualify, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays for your tuition and fees, money for housing, living expenses, and your books and supplies.

Generally speaking, you qualify for this tuition and housing program if you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty. Also, you qualify if you are honorably discharged or were discharged with a service-connected disability (after 30 days).

Benefits include:

  • Full in-state tuition up to the maximum national average.
  • Allowance for housing. This benefit is based on the cost of living where your school is located.
  • Up to 36 months of education benefits payable for 15 years after your active duty. Some exemptions do apply.
  • You may qualify the Yellow Ribbon Program to cover higher private-school and out-of-state tuition and fees.
  • If you choose, you can transfer all 36 months (or a portion) of your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child.

GI Bill Benefits: Alternative Job Training and Education

Whether you are applying your GI Bill benefits to college classes or an on-the-job training program, it’s completely up to you.

College is not the only option for veterans who qualify for GI Bill benefits.

There are many other paths to take when furthering your education and becoming an attractive recruit for employment. The Post 9/11 GI Bill offers a wide selection of alternative job training and educational programs for veterans who qualify.

If you like, you can use your GI Bill benefits for any of the following programs:

  • Correspondence Training: Correspondence training is coursework completed by mail. This could be a good choice if you need to be at home, but want to further your education after your service. VA education benefits can help pay for correspondence training. You can get reimbursed for the cost of your correspondence training classes at an in-state school.
  • Co-op Training: The co-op training program lets you get full-time work experience in between the periods you are not attending school full time. You get help paying for some of your expenses for books, tuition, as well as housing. Your benefits pay the actual costs for public in-state tuition and fees while attending a public university or college. The reimbursement is less if you attend a private or foreign institute of higher learning. Some housing and book costs are covered, too.
  • Entrepreneurship Training: If you have an independent streak, you might want to start a small business. The Post 9/11 GI Bill offers entrepreneurship training through the Small Business Administration.
  • Flight Training: Your VA education benefits can help pay for flight training, if you want to become a commercial pilot. You can get benefits for flight training if you already have a private pilot’s license, or have a second-class medical certificate valid for second-class privileges. If you have a first-class medical certificate you can pursue the Airline Transport Pilot certificate.
  • Independent and Distance Learning: Any qualified veteran may use the GI Bill for independent and/or distance learning online. If you’re using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits while taking only distance-learning courses, you can receive a housing allowance based on 50% of the national average.
  • Vocational and/or Technical Degree Programs: As the population grows, so does the demand for highly trained vocational professionals like HVAC technicians, long haul truck drivers, or Emergency Medical Technicians. The amount you get depends on which GI Bill program you use and what school you go to. You are paid at the end of each month for the hours you’ve spent training. Depending on the location of your vocational training school, you may be entitled to a monthly housing allowance.
  • License and Certification: You can get reimbursed for the cost of any test you take to become a licensed or certified mechanic, medical technician, attorney, therapist, website developer, computer network engineer, or other professional. Take as many tests as you like, for as many jobs as you like. There’s no limit to the number of tests you can take, or the number of times you take the same test. Even if you don’t score high enough to get your license or certification, you can get Reims used for that test.
  • On-the-job Training and Assistance: You can get help paying for books, supplies, and housing while you’re learning a trade or skill through on-the-job training or apprenticeships. Up to $83 a month is available to any veteran for books and supplies while getting on-the-job training.
  • Tutorial Assistance: If you are concerned about tackling subjects like algebra and chemistry after being away from school for a long time, don’t worry. You can get help through the GI benefits paying for a tutor. Your instructor must write a letter on your behalf to receive this benefit.

The First Step: Apply for Your GI Benefits

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As we have shown you, there are many options available to veterans who wish to get a higher education or vocational training after their service.

It is reasonable to take some time before making a commitment.  However, don’t wait too long before applying for your benefits.  There’s no need to rush into something you are unsure about, but many benefits have an expiration date.

For instance, the Post 9/11 GI Bill gives potential students up to fifteen years to use the available funds. On the other hand, the Montgomery Bill has benefits that expire after ten years have elapsed.  Also, keep in mind that the process of applying to college and getting your benefits in place can take up to six months.

The GI Bill Comparison tool is an excellent place to start. This tool will help you understand what specific colleges offer resources tailored for veterans, and how much of the expenses your GI benefits will cover.

Second Step: Applying to College Based on Your Personal Goals

Your goal should be to get as much out of your VA educational benefits as you can in the time you have to use them.

Here, your experiences in the military will serve you well.

You do not need to get distracted by football teams or cool college towns. Know what you want, and chose a college based on your educational and professional goals.

"A particular school might not be a good fit for you if the program you would be enrolled in will take longer to complete than the duration of your GI Bill educational benefits,” says Jessica Roscoe, an academic advisor for veterans at the University of Pittsburgh. She recommends asking yourself, “what time, money, and a degree is worth to you?”

For many veterans applying to college, some college credits are available to transfer to their new school. Did you previously complete college courses during your military service? Maybe you attended some college before joining the armed forces. You should not let those credits go to waste.  Also, specialized training you received while in the military could count toward your degree.

“Provide the university you want to attend an official copy of your military transcript,” says Amy Becher, vice president for enrollment management at Chatham University. “Use your military experience to get a jump start on college transfer credits so that you can put the work you’ve done during your service to work for you in college.”

As part of your research, visit the American Council on Education’s online guide to determine which of your military courses will transfer.

Step Three: Research Scholarships Available to Veterans and Survivors

veteran-scholarship

When you are applying to college, you may want to look into scholarships to help pay for school.

Scholarships are great because they are essentially gifted money that does not need to be repaid.

Every scholarship offers different amounts and has their own requirements. These are just a few that are available to veterans and their families.

The American Patriot Scholarship is for children of uniformed services personnel-officers and enlisted- who died while in active service as a member of the National Guard or Reserve Forces.

The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation is for (1) children of an active duty or reserve U.S. Marine who has received an honorable discharge, or who was killed while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps; (2) Active duty or reserve U.S. Navy Corpsman who is serving, or has served, with a U.S. Marine unit; or (3) Veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman who served with a U.S. Marine unit and has received an honorable discharge, or was killed while serving in the U.S. Navy as a Corpsman attached to a Marine unit.

Air Force Aid Society Merit Scholarship awards a minimum of 10 merit scholarships. These $5,000 scholarships provide substantial support for incoming freshmen students who demonstrate outstanding academic potential.

Fisher House Foundation Scholarships for Military Children will award a total of 700 scholarship grants, each for $2,000, during the 2018 through 2019 school year. There will be at least one recipient selected at every commissary location where qualified applications are received, and additional recipients will be selected based on a prorate basis, so more applicants will be selected from those commissaries with larger numbers of applicants.

Dolphin Scholarship Foundation currently sponsors 118 students, who each receive an annual scholarship of either $2,000 or $3,400.  Each recipient may potentially receive a total of $13,600 for up to eight semesters of undergraduate study.

Thank You for Your Service

As an American hero — as someone who has truly sacrificed for your country and all for which it stands — not only do you deserve these benefits and the doors they can open, you deserve the successful life ahead as a result of your hard work.

No doubt, you will face challenges in college.  You will have to make adjustments, and you will have to get to know people that have no point of reference for the trials and tribulations you have experienced while serving in the armed forces.

However, you have proven yourself to have met far greater challenges.

Jessica Roscoe is an academic advisor for veterans at the University of Pittsburgh. She makes this observation about veterans applying to college: “One of the most common challenges my students admit to facing is learning how to overcome their pride and ask for help.” Roscoe goes on to say, “College will not necessarily be easier than your time in the military. It might be just as challenging, just in a different way. Every institution is going to have resources to help you be successful, but you have to be willing to seek them out and use them.”

Getting a college education is well within your reach. Your military life may be over, but your civilian life is just beginning.

Be encouraged by the fact that veterans typically have a much better success rate in college (compared to non-military students).

The reasons are simple: you have been tested in ways that others cannot imagine. You have a deeper understanding of self-discipline and patience than most people your age.

Combine those qualities with the ability to set a goal and see it though no matter the challenges, and you’ll be walking across that stage in no time.

Good luck, and thank you for your service!

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