A Veteran's Guide to Going to College by Sarah Bull

Earning a college degree is a great way to enhance your career and discover the fields that ignite and excite you. However, veterans often struggle to get started with their degree, and can burn out before they complete it. Fortunately, there are tools that make the process easier from start to finish. Military Spouse Career Education has created the following guide which you can use to make your college journey as manageable and successful as possible. We hope it helps you achieve the career you’ve been dreaming of:

Choosing a Degree

Picking a degree is a tricky process. Some advice will state you should go into your first class with a major declared. Others will say to give it a few years before you commit to a single path. In reality, it all comes down to you and what you want.

If you’re sure you know what you want to do, it’s fine to declare your major from the get go. This is a good call for people exploring technical fields like computer science, which often have very specific requisites. However, maybe you’d prefer to try some classes out and see what clicks. That’s okay, too! Use your exploratory period to keep track of what classes you enjoy and do well in to get a sense for what majors might be the best fit.

Securing Funding

For many people, college can be prohibitively expensive. However, there are a lot of ways to make earning a degree more affordable, especially for veterans. For starters, you can look into loan and grant programs designated specifically for former service members. Try to prioritize grants over loans, since you won’t need to pay these back later on. Also, federal loans are always better than private loans, which tend to be more predatory and pricier in the long run.

You can also look into lower-cost college options. For example, you can earn a two-year degree at a state school or satellite college of a larger university, where tuition tends to be lower. If you want to turn it into a four-year degree, you’ll have knocked out half your credits at a lower price. There are also jobs that will cover some or all of your tuition costs, and even tuition-free universities you could consider. Explore the options to see what’s best for you.

Find Your Circle

One of the major challenges facing veterans on campus is the feeling of isolation. When you’re enlisted, you’re constantly surrounded by a core group of peers who share nearly every aspect of day-to-day life. The nature of your shared experience fosters close connections almost instantly. The absence of this structure can make college feel incredibly lonely for veterans.

You must make an active effort to overcome this. Start by seeing if there are any veteran groups on campus. This is a great way to find people who understand your unique experience. You can also join clubs and societies specific to your major. Not only will this enhance your education, but it will also help you develop a professional network in your field.

Using Services

One important tool for success that many students - veteran and civilian alike - overlook is university disability services. There are all manner of physical and psychological barriers that might prevent you from thriving in class. With disability services on your side, however, you can overcome them and succeed.

For example, you might have sustained an injury that caused some degree of hearing loss. Even if you’re not interested in getting a hearing aid or listening device, disability services can help you manage better in class. You might be allowed to record lectures, or you may be assigned someone who can (anonymously) take notes on your behalf. The accommodations and tools disability services can provide are often invaluable - take advantage of them.

Going back to school can be a great career move for veterans and can help them secure a steady income as they return to civilian life. Remember to choose a major that sparks your interest and leads to careers you think would suit you. Avoid a finish line mentality, and instead dedicate yourself to learning all you can along the way.


About the Author: Sarah Bull is a single mom of two, an entrepreneur, and a penny pincher. She created her blog, economymom.com, to share what she’s learned about growing a home-based business and making money online all while raising two awesome kids. Through her site, she hopes to inspire readers, especially fellow moms, to take their earning destinies into their own hands using her career and money-making advice.