Looking to maximize your education benefits? As a military veteran who served on active duty after 9/11, you’ve earned military veterans education benefits that are intended to take you where you want to be in the next chapter of your career.
The best time to make the most of your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits is prior to starting the clock on benefit use. You have many educational options. It pays to take the time to find an educational path which will best match your post-military aspirations.
Here are 6 ways to maximize your benefits before you enroll in college:
1 - Have a clear vision.
Success in the military required you to know your job, your mission, to work a plan, and work your role in that plan with the utmost of integrity and skill. You will need the same sense of purpose post-military as well.
Take a hard look at your goal requirements, and starting asking yourself these important questions about your degree program preferences:
- Do you need to fulfill a few prerequisite courses before enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program?
- Does starting out at a community college or taking classes online make sense before you enroll full-time?
- Can you get what you need from a two-year program?
- Do you want to stay in your home state or are you open to moving?
Next, take a look a realistic look at your scheduling requirements:
- How important is class flexibility to you?
- Do you plan on working full-time?
Finally, take a look at your transfer requirements:
- Is a move in your future?
- Will your credits transfer?
If your need for flexibility is very important, you should look into online degree programs. Also, if you know that where you start your college path may not be where you finish, pay attention to your credit transfer and degree plan options.
2 - Know your financial resources.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill reimburses your tuition and fees to your college and makes housing and other payments directly to you. Keep in mind, the length of your active duty service affects the amount of benefits you are eligible for. The school in which you are enrolled and taking classes will receive a percentage of tuition assistance, as determined by your length of active duty service.
StraighterLine courses are not eligible for reimbursement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Yet, by taking low-cost online classes prior to enrolling, you can significantly reduce the total cost of your degree - helping you to maximize your financial benefits while enrolled in your degree program, reduce any concerns you may have of running out of money before completing your degree, and avoid student debt.
3 - Know where you are strong.
Most veterans received significant training while active in the military. Fortunately adult learners can earn college credit for life experiences and on-the-job and military training through Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs). There is no reason to spend your hard-earned GI benefits repeating coursework on material you already know. When you step onto your post-secondary path, you want to hit the ground running. Taking self-paced online courses and completing PLAs allow military veterans to do just that.
Another option is to earn college credits for prior learning by passing CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) exams directly through the College Board. However, since you are on your own to prepare for CLEP tests, many experienced adults prefer the rigor that comes with earning credit through self-paced online college courses.
4 - Know where you are weak. Make those weak parts strong.
It’s important to take a look at your past educational background. Be realistic and determine if you have any academic gaps. Filling in these gaps prior to enrolling in a college course you aren’t prepared for can make the difference between extracting the full value out your GI Bill and watching your money go down the drain.
5 - Know your educational options
Education isn’t a one size fits all type of deal. Your education needs to fit you. As such, under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, many different kinds of educational options are eligible for funding including: graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational/technical training, on-the-job training, flight training, correspondence training, licensing and national testing programs, entrepreneurship training, and tutorial assistance. All training programs must be approved for GI Bill benefits to apply.
Your GI Bill doesn’t limit you; don’t limit yourself.
6. Ask the right questions to the right people at the right places.
If you have questions about your GI Bill, ask. A good place to start with is the US Department of Veterans Affairs website where they have comprehensive documentation regarding the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Asking the right questions is also particularly important when it comes to those military veterans who may be continuing their post-military education as transfer students. If you are thinking about transferring existing college credits or are planning on starting at one college and transferring to another later on, make sure you understand and read the transfer policies at both institutions.
Finally, ask yourself what you want out of this next chapter in your life. What are your career goals? What are educational goals? As a military veteran eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, you are in the unique position to be able to have direct financial support to pursue your educational dreams; just be clear about what those dreams are. Once you do, as a military veteran, you can devise your own personal mission and plan of attack to achieve them.
It pays to take the time now to prepare your educational strategy. A smart degree plan now can help you accelerate down the educational path later on – and ensure that you make the most of each and every dollar of your Post-9/11 GI Benefits.