Military-Friendly Colleges: How to Pick the Right One
Whether you’re a veteran transitioning to civilian employment or an active-duty military service member, education is an important consideration. As a military service member, you can benefit from going back to school, even if you’ve already finished some college coursework.
Many colleges and universities call themselves “military-friendly” or offer military-focused services. When choosing a university, it’s imperative for military students to attend an institution that not only serves military-affiliated students but also provides support or resources specifically designed for them.
In this article, we’ve laid out three steps to find the right military-friendly college for you.
1. Reflect on Your Career Assessment
When thinking about school options, focusing on your needs and wants is a good place to start. Since education is often a means to an end – with the end in many cases being a new career – completing a career assessment first can be time well spent.
A career assessment can reveal – or confirm – facts about yourself, including your natural strengths and what skills you’ve already built. Having these kinds of things in mind can be helpful when considering education options. Finding a school that fits well with your interests will put you in a position to succeed.
2. Consider Your Degree Program Options
Many students already have a specific degree program in mind, and it makes sense to look for a school with a strong reputation in that academic area. One way to research individual degree programs is the College Scorecard, which publishes data gathered by the Department of Education, including median salaries for graduates of those programs.
Certain academic degrees are common for veterans – such as criminal justice or fire science – but keep an open mind. You may start a degree program seeking to move up the ranks in law enforcement, for example, but after taking a few classes you may realize that your interests and skills are a better fit for a career in homeland security. Digging deeper can uncover opportunities you may not have considered yet.
3. Find the Right Military-Friendly College for You
After you’ve looked inward with your career assessment and outward by researching degree program options, it’s now time to use that information and find a military-friendly school that fits you best.
What does it mean to be a military-friendly school?
When you visit a school’s website or call for information, how difficult is it to find information geared toward military service members? You should be able to easily access answers about resources for veterans or active-duty members and whom you can contact when you have questions.
Flexible Learning Options
Military-friendly schools provide flexible learning options that allow students to learn on their schedules. Even veterans often juggle work, family and school responsibilities, so online classes, rolling admissions and course availability are important. Active-duty service members also benefit from the flexibility to complete programs at their own pace because they may not always be able to focus on school, or if they're serving overseas, they may not always have internet access.
Resources Designed Specifically for Military Students
Many schools have dedicated veteran’s centers that include everything from mental health and academic counseling to social events to resources for spouses. Military-friendly schools also often have dedicated admissions counselors and mentors who can walk students through their educational experience and help them access the support and services that they need.
Transfer Credit Options
Military service in and of itself is an educational experience, and military-friendly schools often recognize the education and training that service members have received by accepting transfer credits. These schools have mechanisms in place to fairly evaluate military transcripts and award credit where credit is due, helping students save time and money.
Financial Aid Support
Paying for school can be challenging for any student, but military students often have unique questions and opportunities compared to the general student population. Does your school offer guidance about military tuition assistance or the Forever GI Bill®? Military-friendly schools have staff with expertise in these topics who are available to assist military students.
Student Veteran Organizations
An active and well-supported veteran’s organization is another sign of a military-friendly school. Whether providing an environment for social interaction or sponsoring educational activities, an active veteran’s organization can help students connect with an understanding community and feel more connected to the school.
At Columbia Southern University, approximately 40% of our students are military-affiliated as either active-duty, veterans, spouses or dependents. Our dedicated military support staff is comprised of current and former military members who understand your unique needs and connect you with our flexible online education options.
If you’re thinking about going back to school, strong career services programs and military student resources may be deciding factors when deciding which school is right for you. More information about our Career Services Department and Veterans Center can be found on our website.