Military Spouse’s College Guide to Going Back to School
Going back to college can be the right choice for many military spouses, but there is a lot of information out there, and you can become a little overwhelmed. Here is a military spouse’s guide to going back to school to help you on your way.
You may have had to put your career on hold as a military spouse. You married your service member and found yourself far from home. A few years have passed, and your children are a little older. Now you’re ready to figure out what you want to do.
Military Spouse’s Guide to Going Back To School
Here’s CollegeRecon’s helpful guide to determine if you should go back to school, what to study, and the different ways you can pay for it.
Figure Out If Now Is The Time
You need to ask yourself if now is the time to go to school. Are you about to PCS somewhere new? Will you be going overseas in the near future? Will your service member be deployed sometime soon? There are a lot of factors that can go into your decision.
While a PCS or a deployment shouldn’t stop you from starting school, some factors can influence if now is the right time. If you want to start a nursing program but know you will PCS across the country in a year, you won’t be able to finish the program unless you stay behind. PCSing to Germany? Your options for school can be limited.
If you are interested in going to school and it doesn’t feel like the right time, things can change, and in a few months or even a few years, it might just be the right time to go. Researching what you want to do may still be a smart idea to form a plan for your future.
Figure Out What You Want To Do
You also need to figure out what you want to do. Is there a particular career path you want to follow, or do you want to work on getting a degree and are not sure what type yet? If you start college for the first time, you have time to figure out what you want to do as you work on your general education requirements.
When figuring out what direction to go, think about what has interested you in the past. Can you see yourself as a nurse, a teacher, or working with animals somehow? What school subjects have always interested you? Were you more of a fan of science or writing? Did you struggle in math, or did it come easy to you? Asking yourself these questions can help you figure out what you want to do.
Pick Your Program
Once you know what you want to do, you must determine what program you will pursue to get that degree. For example, to be a nurse, you must decide whether to get your LPN, RN, BSN or even a master’s. There are many different options. You would also need to decide where to go to nursing school and where to get your prerequisites done.
There are certain certificate programs you could complete in a couple of months. Getting your associate’s degree will take about 2 years if you go full-time, and it will take four years to earn your bachelor’s degree if you go full-time.
A master’s degree can be done in about a year, depending on the program. For military spouses, taking on a longer program can be risky because you don’t know how long you will be living in your current location.
Benefits of Going To School Online
Another option for military spouses is to attend school online. There are many benefits to going this route: you can continue school if you move or do school work around your children’s and service members’ schedules. There is much more flexibility in going to school online, but it might not be a good option for every major.
Even if there isn’t a college or university in your area, you might be able to attend classes on your military post. Many schools offer this, and it can make for an easier road to getting your education when you are a military spouse. Check with your local education center to see what they offer there.
How Will You Pay
One of the biggest questions about going back to school is how you will pay for your schooling. As a military spouse, you do have some options:
MYCAA stands for My Career Advancement Account Scholarship, and with this program, you could receive $4,000 towards your education. This might be able to pay for an entire certificate program or get you started with your education.
In order to qualify, you will need to be a spouse of an active duty service member with a rank of E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, O-1 to O-2, have completed high school, and your spouse needs to be on Title 10 orders. National Guard and Reserve spouses in these pay grades are also eligible while their spouse is on active duty. In March of 2023, they started to accept spouses of those who are E-6 and O-3. However, they have limited those spouses to the first $1,250.
MYCAA will pay for your tuition for associate’s degrees (excluding general studies, liberal arts, and interdisciplinary studies without a concentration,) obtaining a license, obtaining a certificate or certification, an approved testing organization that expands employment, or portable career opportunities for military spouses. MYCAA does not pay for bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
Here is more information on MYCAA.
Scholarships for Military Spouses
Did you know there are scholarships just for military spouses? Winning a scholarship is a great way to pay for school. Some may be based on merit or financial need. Others are based on an essay or even the fact that you are a military spouse.
It would be a good idea to research what scholarships you can apply for and start filling out the applications. Be aware of when the application is due and if you missed a deadline. Make sure to keep an eye out for that scholarship the next year.
Here is a list of military spouse scholarships you can apply for:
FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. With FAFSA, you can find money for college with federal grants you don’t have to repay, work-study, and loans. You can apply for free and can do so online. Applying for FAFSA is a good idea, even if you will be using money from other sources.
Here is more information on FAFSA.
Student loans are money for college that you will eventually have to pay back. The good news is that student loans typically have a lower interest rate. You don’t have to start paying them until you finish school.
Federal loans have a grace period of six months after you graduate. This gives you some time to look for a job before you have to start paying.
Through FAFSA, you can qualify for Federal student loans. You can also go with student loans through banks or other private companies. They can be a good idea if you have already filled out your FAFSA but still need additional funds.
Here is information on student loans for military spouses.
Transferring the Post 9/11 GI Bill
If your spouse does not use any or a portion of their Post 9/11 GI Bill, it can be transferred to you. That way, you can use it for your own schooling.
- Transfer your GI Bill to your Spouse and Dependents
- What I Wish I’d Known Before Transferring GI Bill Benefits to a Dependent
You can use the GI Bill on almost anything a veteran can, including:
- College-degree programs
- On-the-job/apprenticeship training
- Licensing and certification reimbursement
- National testing programs
- Flight training
You can use the benefit immediately as a spouse with a transferred GI Bill. You may use the benefit while your spouse is actively serving or after separation.
You are not eligible for the monthly housing allowance, or books and supplies stipend while your service member is serving. However, you are eligible for the monthly housing allowance after your service member has separated. You can use the GI Bill for up to 15 years after your spouse separates from active duty.
Here is more information on transferring a GI Bill.
Making the decision to return to school is smart for many military spouses. If there is something you want to do, don’t be afraid to go for it. This applies even if your spouse is serving on active duty.
While military life can make going to school a little more difficult, it shouldn’t keep you away from doing so. There are many options for getting your degree and furthering your career.
- Should You Go Back to School?
- Strategy for Going to College as a Military Spouse
- Back-to-School Weekends From AAFES and By State
- How To Prepare For Going Back to School As A New Student
- Best Back To School Discounts For Military Families
- Back To School Discounts for Military and Veteran Students
- The Best Dorm Room Shopping Tips For Parents
About the author
Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.