5 keys to pick the 'right' school

September 26, 2018 - 11:43 am

There are many options for where you decide to go to school, and it is important to know the differences between each institution and which may be most beneficial for you. A good place to start is determining what you need from your school. Do you need daytime classes, night classes, online classes, or some combination? Are you interested in a school that has many campus activities? Do you need a specific credential for a specialized career field? Do you need to be in a particular part of the country? Write down your list of 3-4 things that you must have in a school and do not concede on any of those “must haves.”  Here are a few additional things you may want to consider when creating this list:

1.       Understand how the GI Bill works. The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers some or all of your tuition and fees, a book stipend, and a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). Typically, the first two are straightforward and are based on your status as a full-time or part-time student. For the housing allowance, there is a difference between taking online classes and in-person classes. The way the GI Bill is currently structured, your housing allowance will be lower for taking all online courses compared to taking a combination of online and face-to-face or all face-to-face courses.  If your monthly stipend is important to you, choose a school that offers some, or all, of their classes face-to-face.

2.       What type of school is best for me? A lot of time could be spent covering the differences between community colleges and 4-year universities, public vs. private schools, and public vs. non-profit. The key for this question is what type of institution provides you with the best opportunity to succeed. Many students fail to look at community colleges when transitioning out of the military. The truth is community colleges are great and often have more resources for student veterans initially enrolling in college. However, if you decide to attend a community college be sure to speak with a transfer advisor before enrolling. Advisors can help you lay out a plan to transfer to a four-year university once you have completed your associate’s degree. You do not want to spend time taking classes that you will not receive credit for when you transfer.

3.       Does the school award credit for military experience and, if so, how much? You’ve worked your entire military career to build skills in your occupation and in leadership. Do not enroll at a school that will take all of your valuable experience and only award you one credit for physical fitness. Trust us, maximizing your transfer credit will help you save your GI Bill for a graduate program or other future educational opportunities.

4.       Is the school a Yellow Ribbon School? Does that matter? Yellow Ribbon is a supplemental program to the Post-9/11 GI Bill covering the cost of tuition and fees above the in-state rate or above the national cap for private schools. If you are attending at an in-state university, then this may not matter to you. However, if you are attending an out-of-state school or a private school, then the Yellow Ribbon program may be the difference between having your entire education paid for and having to spend thousands out of your own pocket.  Ask an admissions counselor if the school is a Yellow Ribbon School and if you will need it to cover your full cost of attendance.

5.  What is the school doing to support student veterans? Regardless of what type of school you decide to attend, know that you are an asset to that college or university. Schools love to enroll veterans! You bring a maturity that most college students lack, you are goal oriented, and student veterans graduate at a higher-rate than other students!  Schools across the country are competing to attract veterans to their campuses, so make sure your school is doing something to support student veterans. A few “go-to” questions to ask are, “Does your school have a student veteran’s organization? Do they have any other financial aid, scholarship, or grant programs assisting veterans?”  Or, “what is your school doing in terms of career planning and job placement and assistance?” Just getting the answers to a few of these questions will tell you whether that school is investing in student veterans on campus.

University of Maryland University College is a proud partner of Connecting Vets.

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