What Does it Really Mean to be a Military-Friendly College?

An off duty military mom works on her laptop as her child writes in a notebook.
Category: Military Support

Posted on December 17, 2018

Many colleges and universities call themselves “military-friendly” and encourage both active-duty military and veterans to enroll. The question is, though, what does it really mean to be military-friendly?

In some cases, students have enrolled in “military-friendly” schools only to find that its military students are just another group of students. Other schools have added some services to their offerings, but haven’t made the wholesale changes and concerted effort to serve students from the military that would make it truly military-friendly. The bottom line? Simply welcoming students who are using their military benefits isn’t enough. Colleges and universities need to focus on a few key priorities if they want to market themselves as a military-friendly institution. So, what are the signs that a school is really committed to serving the members of the armed services?

The Hallmarks of a Military-Friendly School

  1. Clear Communication. When a service member visits your website or calls for information, how hard is it to find information geared to military personnel? Do they have to pore over your website to find information; or is there a dedicated, easy-to-access section where all of their military-related questions can be answered? Military personnel are accustomed to direct, clear communication. If they cannot easily locate answers about tuition costs or specific degree programs for veterans or active-duty members, that’s not considered military-friendly.
  2. Flexible Learning Options. While many students are veterans, a growing number of active military are enrolling in degree programs while they are still serving. Military-friendly schools will provide flexible learning options that allow military students to learn on their schedules. Even veterans often have to juggle work, family and school responsibilities, so online classes, rolling admissions and course availability are important. It’s also important to allow active-duty service members 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. Strict deadlines and program requirements are not always military-friendly.
  3. Programs Designed Specifically for the Military. Military-friendly schools will have programs and resources designed specifically for military students. Many schools have developed dedicated veteran’s centers that include everything from mental health and academic counseling to social events. Even if that isn’t feasible, the school should at minimum have dedicated counselors and mentors who are familiar with military issues who can help walk students through their educational experience and help them access the support and services that they need. It’s also important to have a dedicated military liaison or service director who can help bridge the transition from the military to school and help with admissions and benefits.
  4. Transfer Credit Options. Military service in and of itself is an educational experience, and military-friendly schools will recognize the education and training that service members have received by accepting transfer credits. The school should have mechanisms in place to fairly evaluate military transcripts and award credit where credit is due, helping the students save time and money.
  5. 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 transitioning from the military find a community of individuals who understand their experiences and feel more connected to the school.
  6. Military Associations. Often, those colleges that provide the best experience for military students are associated with military and educational organizations. Being involved in such organizations demonstrates commitment to these students, ensures the college is up-to-date on best practices and understands their needs.  

These are just some of the signs of military-friendly schools. While most colleges and universities welcome military students, not all create an environment that sets them up for success academically. If you are considering a transition from the military to a degree program, it’s important to evaluate your options based on how well the school can support that transition and smooth the path for you to focus on academics.

To learn more about how Columbia Southern University will fit the bill for you, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Military.  

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