I’m sure it’s been one wild ride over the last several years from basic to that homebound C-130. But now that you’ve stashed those Bellevilles in the closet, switching them for your trusty pair of Nikes, perhaps you’ve set your sights on a mission objective of your own: retooling with a few semesters of higher education.
However, I wouldn’t recommend the notion of packing up the Honda and speeding off to a school that’s 2,000 miles away just yet. There’s going to be a good bit of preliminary homework you’ll need to do before you can actually start doing the homework you came for in the first place.
For instance, with all the skills, experience, and training you’ve picked up these last several years … why not get into a college that goes the extra mile for veterans like you?
1. Choose a School That’s Military Friendly
Some schools are better for military veterans than others. With that said, seek out a few schools that have a reputation for being extra helpful to active duty soldiers and veterans. Military friendly schools will make it no secret that they offer additional benefits, flexibility, and special programs for current military personnel or recent veterans.
Another benefit is that you’ll have quite a bit in common with lots of other students, so you won’t feel like you’re the only one on campus who’s glad your book bag isn’t 110 pounds.
2. Ease Back into School Slowly
One mistake often made is jumping into a full credit-load of classes too soon. The reason why this could cause you troubles is simply because enrolling in a new school is a massive change. Even most civilians have issues adapting to the increased workload, the new schedule and the expectations that come with higher education.
If you’re just getting back into the swing of things here at home, then the shift can quickly become overwhelming. It’s not necessarily that the workload and schedule are harder in college … the issue is that it’s different. Radically different. You’ll get into the rhythm sure enough, but it’s alright to take it easy on your first semester or two.
3. Get to Know Your VA
The VA should be able to provide you with tips, tricks, pointers, and access to whatever resources you’ll need to get the college ball rolling. Especially when it comes to figuring out the right programs for you, pinning down a military friendly school, and even receiving benefits, your VA is key.
Also, when you actually set foot on campus for the first time, it would definitely be a good idea to track down the campus VA as well.
4. Line Up Your GI Money and Financial Aid … Because You Earned It
Speaking of benefits, higher education is expensive these days, so don’t forget your GI Bill funding programs. It’s there for a reason: because you earned it. There are quite a few programs, and it’s not always easy to tell which ones you might qualify for, but that’s where your VA comes in.
For what’s left, you may be able to qualify for government financial aid and student loan assistance (FAFSA). This tends to be a stellar option, especially since the interest rates on these programs are routinely lower than that of private student loans.
5. Get Those Applications Out
Once you’ve got your paperwork lined up, you’ve connected with your local VA, you know how you’re going to pay for school, and you’ve tracked down the school(s) that’s right for you, then get those applications out.
Also, don’t forget that after you’ve been accepted and you sit down with the registrar, you might have already earned a whole bunch of DD-214 credits, which could save you a little extra time and money, speeding you forward toward graduation even faster.
Kayla Matthews is a blogger with a passion for career productivity and continual self-improvement. You can follow her on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.Image by condesign