Getting a degree is only going to make the transition into a civilian career easier. However, there is one big mistake that many GI Bill users are making that is losing them thousands of dollars and they don’t even know it.
The Biggest Mistake GI Bill Users Make…
Using your GI Bill before you find the right school
Seems simple, right? However, finding the ideal school for your needs is far more important than starting your degree program in a hurry.
Arguably the most important homework in your entire educational career will be doing the research to find a school that has the resources that fit your needs. These resources are such things as an SVA Chapter for support, an on-campus Veteran Center, acceptance of ACE credit, or participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
Reaching out to admissions counselors to get these answers before making a decision is critical. Instead of being wooed by the school’s degree programs, you first need to know if the basic support for student veterans is there.
Why the right school is so important
Starting to use your GI Bill benefits at a school that can’t support you and your educational goals as a military affiliated student can lead to lost GI Bill benefits.
How? If you don’t successfully graduate with a degree from an accredited university or college while using your GI Bill, then you have essentially wasted your benefits. The money has been spent. Moving forward, if you’ve used all of your benefits you’ll have to spend your own money to get that degree.
For this reason, you should be very picky on where you choose to use your benefit money. Know the school, know what it can and can’t offer you, and select one that has a support system for veterans.
How to search successfully for veteran friendly schools
CollegeRecon was developed to provide active duty personnel, veterans and their families with a reliable source of non-profit institutions. It allows you to search for schools with specific characteristics and programs that directly assist military affiliated students.
What are some important considerations in selecting a university for veterans and military?
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a defined benefit generally lasting for 36 months. This could mean out of pocket costs towards your degree if you take longer than 36 months. This could be due to transferring schools or changing your education goals.
Your own specific situation will also dictate some of your considerations. Here are a few areas to consider –
- does the school provide distance learning options?
- are online courses/degrees available?
Military and Veteran Support
- does the school have a Student Veterans of America (SVA) Chapter?
- Does the school have an on-campus Veteran Center?
Credit for Military Experience
Does the school provide credit for military experience?
- ACE Credit – Save time and money if the school provides credits for military experience
- Talk to a counselor. CollegeRecon provides contact information for Veteran Counselors at nearly 3,000 campuses nationwide. Search schools and find the contact information you need for each campus listed under the “Locations” section.
Are there out-of-pocket costs for tuition?
Is the school a participating Yellow Ribbon Program participant?
- Private schools that exceed the tuition provided by the GI Bill benefit may incur out-of-pocket costs.
Note: Through the Yellow Ribbon program, participating schools have partnered with the VA to cover all or some of those costs. Check their CollegeRecon profiles to see if they’re participating and contact them through the private messaging tool to find out how much they’ll cover.
- Public school tuition is 100% covered by the GI Bill
- For a list of Yellow Ribbon Program participants
You can also search at CollegeRecon and find Yellow Ribbon information on a by-school basis
Why is important that the school is a not-for-profit institution?
- Transferability of credits – many for-profit schools are nationally accredited, while many traditional schools are regionally accredited. In the case of for-profit schools, this means that should you decide to transfer you may not be able to transfer any or all of the credits you earned to your next institution.
Information is key. Ask others where they enrolled and used their GI Bill. Then go to this resource to fully understand the veteran foundation that exists at that particular institution.
If that school is still looking attractive, then reach out to their admissions personnel through the same resource. (The best part is that you can communicate with admissions counselors without giving out your personal info!)
The more information you have, the better likelihood you have of making a sound decision on what is YOUR ideal school.
Featured Image Courtesy: Cole Keister