Often, military students require more support from their institutions of higher learning. The unique experience of being a service member places additional stresses on students, and many students require specific resources to balance their military lifestyle and their academic responsibilities. Unfortunately, not every university is well-equipped to deliver what most military students need, which means that military students need to be careful in selecting the school they will attend.
Fortunately, there are a few easy-to-spot indications that a college is right for military students. Here are the signs that all military students should look for as they make their enrollment decisions.
Strong Financial Support
The education benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill are undeniably incredible, but some military students want or need additional financial support from their schools. Military-friendly colleges tend to have additional financial aid programs for active-duty service members or veterans, and these aid programs can be exceedingly generous and relatively easy for service members to take advantage of.
Many military students look for a school’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to match a college’s contributions to reduce tuition and other education expenses for military students. However, participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program can vary from university to university. Some radically restrict the number of military students who can seek aid through the program, while others offer abysmally low amounts of aid to military students.
Military students might need to conduct deeper research to understand the breadth of financial support available to them through different colleges. Truly military-friendly online colleges will make their discounts and waivers clear to help military students understand the benefits of attending their courses.
Active Military Community
Most military students have unique circumstances that make completing coursework more difficult. Some may need to balance their degree program with responsibilities to their families; others may be struggling with physical or mental health concerns after a tour of active duty. In any case, many military students struggle to relate with classmates who lack any military experience and instead seek social support from fellow service members.
Fortunately, many schools work to foster a strong military community for their students. Students might look for the presence of an office devoted to veteran affairs, which indicates that a school wants to make it easier for military students to find their community. Students might also inquire about housing with other military students, clubs and other groups for military students and other extracurricular events that might help military students connect. If the college provides many ways to help military students find one another and develop strong bonds, it is likely military friendly.
Specific Academic Assistance
Most colleges offer a variety of academic assistance programs to students to help them survive and thrive in difficult courses. Tutoring laboratories, writing centers, libraries and other spaces where students can receive additional instruction can help them gain the knowledge and skill they need to earn credentials to bolster their future career.
Because the dropout rate is higher amongst military students than the general student population, military-friendly schools tend to provide active-duty service members and vets with unique academic assistance programs tailored to their needs. This might involve connecting military students with others in their degree programs to form stable study groups, or it might mean creating specific tutoring centers with more highly trained staff sensitive to military students’ needs.
Additionally, military-friendly colleges tend to offer tools to help military students select the best degree program considering their skills, experience and interests. Many military students already benefit from training received during their service; many military-friendly institutions understand how to best apply this training to civilian career fields without committing a student to a specific occupation.
Resources for Post-graduation
A student’s association with their institution of education should not end as soon as they graduate. Colleges should offer alumni various benefits to ensure that they transition comfortably and successfully into their careers. In addition to offering a strong network of military alumni, military-friendly schools should offer valuable post-graduation services to their military grads.
For example, military students can benefit from career placements that allow them to take advantage of the knowledge and skill gained through their degree program and their military experience. Schools might also provide access to career coaches who can help military students build their application portfolios to increase the likelihood of earning interviews and offers.
Military-friendly schools offering additional resources can help military students achieve their dreams in a safe and supportive environment — which is the least that military students deserve after their service and sacrifice.