6 Ways To Make the Most of Your Post-9/11 GI Bill Before You Go to College Part 3
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. If you are ill-prepared for course work at the college level, yet spend some of your GI-Bill tuition on a course you wind up having to withdraw from or, worse yet, end up failing, you can be at risk for abandoning your career dreams. It doesn’t have to be that way, even if the course work is new to you.
For example, you want to go into a health profession or an engineering field post-military, yet it’s been a long time since you’ve taken college algebra or biology or even written a term paper. Perhaps your math skills are rusty; maybe your writing skills need improvement. You can take college preparatory courses or college-level courses now, even while you are still serving on active duty, through online programs like StraighterLine before actually enrolling in college. The advantages of taking college preparatory courses online are many, and online learning goes well with military service. At a place like StraighterLine, where you can take college-level courses for $99/month plus a one-time $49 per course fee, the pressure is off financially.4 Furthermore, you can take classes at your own pace, wherever, and whenever you want – and gain the confidence to transfer the college credits earned online to a school where you plan on ultimately graduating from or earning your professional certification.
5. Know your educational options
To take advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you don’t have to pursue a 4-year college degree if you know you want a technical certificate or would benefit more from on-the-job training. When you begin your post-military education, you want to be on the path most appropriate for where you are now and where you want to be down the road.
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.5
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. Don’t assume. 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, or you can reach the GI Bill customer help line at 1-888-GI-BILL-1.6
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 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. Talk with academic advisors where you received or plan on earning college credits and at the institution where you plan on transferring those credits to. You do not want any surprises that can cost you serious time and money.
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.
Take the time now to prepare an educational strategy. This time spent up front is well spent. It can help you accelerate down the educational path later on – and make the most of each and every dollar of your Post-9/11 GI Benefits.
5 US Department of Veterans Affairs, The Post-9/11 GI Bill, 2/9/2012
6 US Department of Veterans Affairs, The Post-9/11 GI Bill, Contact Us, p1.