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Being in the military is a job like no other, but for many servicemembers, it’s not their last. Veterans and active duty personnel often return to school to prepare for another career, and finding an online college that’s military-friendly can make the transition far easier. These schools have flexible online programs that award course credit for time served in the military, give opportunities to remotely connect with other veterans, and provide benefits offered through the GI Bill. Continue reading to learn which online colleges are the most military-friendly, how to succeed in the digital classroom, and where student veterans and military can find internships.

5 Clear Signs an Online College is Military-Friendly

Military-friendly online colleges and universities can show their dedication to military students through programs that recognize their service experience and offer them concrete benefits in return. Below are five key features veterans and military members should look for when choosing a school.

1 Credit for Military Training

Military Occupation Specialties (MOSs) and other training acquired during military service can be worth credit toward a degree. The American Council of Education (ACE) evaluates military jobs and training, and then suggests the number of credits each course is worth, whether those credits should apply to upper- or lower-division courses, and in which category they should be assigned. The number of credits accepted varies by individual school; in general, those that cater to military students are more generous.

2 Institutionally Accredited

Only students who attend accredited colleges and universities qualify for federal financial aid, so attending an accredited institution is key for veterans who plan to take advantage of financial benefits offered through the GI Bill. Most schools are accredited through one of the nation’s six regional agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation is also important for students who may wish to transfer credits to another college down the line; many institutions will not recognize coursework completed at unaccredited schools.

3 Principles of Excellence Participant

To ensure quality education for veterans, in 2012 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs instituted its Principles of Excellence for schools receiving VA funds. Qualified schools meet the following criteria:

  • Provide a printed personalized form showing the total cost of schooling

  • Offer an educational plan for each student

  • Guard against deceptive and fraudulent practices

  • Have a deployment-hold process in place to accommodate Selective Reservists or other servicemembers who are deployed during the course of their education

  • Provide each military or veteran student with a specific point of contact for academic or financial counseling

  • Ensure new programs are properly accredited before enrolling students

  • Confirm school refund policies are in line with Title IV directives

Students can use the GI Bill® Comparison Tool to check whether specific schools are in accordance with the VA’s Principles of Excellence.

4 VA Approved

The VA must evaluate and approve a school before it is eligible to receive any funding from the agency. The WEAMS search tool allows users to check whether a specific school has been approved; it’s also possible to access a list of the more than 2,000 VA-approved schools, and to filter by state. Users may also select a specific school to find out whether it participates in the agency’s Principles of Excellence, and whether it has Yellow Ribbon status.

5 Veterans Affairs Office with Comprehensive Support Services

Schools that work to accommodate military veterans will have either a campus veterans’ office or a chapter of a veterans’ organization – such as Student Veterans of America (SVA) or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) – where student vets can seek advice, get counseling, or talk with other veterans who have similar experiences. Online students can stay in contact by phone or the internet.

Key Benefits of Online College for Military Personnel

Military students are often nontraditional, coming to the educational scene at an older age and with a different complement of life experiences than typical freshmen. The oft-cited benefits of online learning – such as flexible scheduling and the ability to tailor coursework to individual students – are especially suited to both veterans and active duty servicemembers. Below we take a look at some of the specific ways online learning can dovetail with the lives of military students.

Benefits for Active Duty
Benefits for Veterans
No Geographical Constraints

Active duty personnel frequently have to relocate for different assignments, making attending a brick-and-mortar school problematic. In some cases, credits may not be transferable to a different institution, forcing students to repeat coursework. Online programs circumvent those problems, allowing students to continue their schooling in the same program as long as they have internet access.

Scheduling Flexibility

Online students are not locked into a specific weekly schedule like resident students. Even if a mission takes a student away from coursework for a period of time, it’s usually possible to catch up after returning.

Faster Time to Earning a Degree

Fulfilling military training and deployment commitments along with getting an education can be a hectic and time-consuming process. Attending on-campus locations may lengthen the process of getting a degree as students are forced to put their educations on hold due to scheduling restrictions. With the online option, students can continue their schooling with fewer interruptions.

Time Flexibility

Many veteran students try to manage a job, a family, and an education all at the same time. Online classes give them more options for balancing these commitments, allowing them to do coursework at convenient times, whether it’s after the kids are in bed or a marathon homework session on Saturday afternoon.

Budget-friendly

The absence of a commute saves not only time, but money. Money spent on gas, car maintenance, or bus fare – not to mention the daily coffee from a drive-through – adds up fast. Students trying to cut costs can redirect money saved in travel expenses to cover other bills.

Increases Family Time

For veteran students also trying to manage the responsibilities of being stay-at-home parents, online schooling can be a very attractive option. It allows students more time to spend with their families, and can eliminate pricey day care.

How to Transition from Military to Online College Life

The benefits of online learning can far outweigh the challenges, but that’s not to say the road is completely smooth. For many veterans and transitioning servicemembers, online schooling can be a startling contrast to the military environment. New students may suffer from feelings of isolation from the lack of face-to-face interaction, and may struggle with issues related to self-motivation and time management. They may need to learn new habits in order to handle coursework in a timely fashion, or brush up on their technical savvy in order to get the most out of e-learning. Fortunately, these potential problems are neither new nor uncommon, and there are numerous strategies students can use to overcome them. Here we look at a few.

Learning online can feel isolating for former soldiers and other servicemembers who are accustomed to the camaraderie of military life.
Challenge
Join a student support group for military/veteran students, such as Student Veterans of America or the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Many campus veterans’ organizations offer opportunities for in-person meetings, even for online students, and also have online chat rooms or forums for vets to discuss issues and support one another.
Compared to the strictly-regimented, top-down environment of military life, servicemembers may have trouble adjusting to the self-paced nature of online learning.
Challenge
Make a schedule and stick to it. Establish a daily routine with blocks of time allocated to various activities, and then set weekly or monthly goals to help you move forward. Experiment with different scheduling approaches until you find one that works best. For example, you may find that a concentrated two hours of studying every morning is best, or you may find that you prefer to work on a project all day and then take some time off.
Technology changes with lightning speed, and even those who use it daily may find themselves behind on the “next big thing.” Students who are less technically proficient may struggle to keep up.
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While frustrating in the beginning, it’s not insurmountable to learn the protocols for downloading coursework, uploading assignments, accessing video lectures and podcasts, or navigating electronic databases for research. Most online schools offer tech support; other students facing the same issues are also good resources.

Getting Help Paying for Military-Friendly Colleges

Veterans and military members have several potential sources of financial aid, including the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) or the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which offer up to 48 months of education benefits. The Yellow Ribbon feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill can reduce costs for students attending private or foreign schools. It’s important to note that GI benefits may be limited to half for online schools.

Students may also receive scholarships offered through their specific military branch, or take advantage of their branch’s Tuition Assistance (TA) program, which pays a certain amount per credit hour up to a yearly cap. For more information on college funding for veterans and military members, visit our financial aid page.

10-Step College Success Plan for Online Military Students

Benefits offered through the GI Bill are a financial boon for veteran students, but they’re only offered once. To make the most of the college experience, it’s vital to find the right school and then to make a plan for getting the best education. Here’s a look at some key steps to take before and after enrolling in a program:

Planning for College

Select a Career Path
1

Put some thought into the future before using your GI Bill benefits. If you decide to change career paths, some classes may not transfer to a different degree.

Choose a Degree
2

Your chosen career path will narrow your degree choices significantly, but if you’re not sure, talk to an education counselor about which option is best.

Research and Compare Colleges
3

Research schools to find one that offers a quality program in your chosen field. LearnHowtoBecome’s online college search tool can help narrow the search using criteria such as tuition costs, degree offerings, and acceptance rate.

Create a List of Top Schools
4

With a short list of schools in hand, delve deeper into the top candidates. Ask questions of other students or admissions counselors, and use the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool to find those that cater to veterans.

Make Final Preparations and Apply
5

Prepare your applications and apply to several schools. You may be offered a wide variety of financial aid packages, so having multiple options can help you find the best fit both academically and financially.

In College

Apply for GI Bill Benefits
1

Go to eBenefits.com or talk with your school’s VA Certifying Official to apply for GI Bill benefits. VA Certifying Officials may be able to certify you immediately if you supply your DD214.

Get Organized
2

Plan out when you’ll do your coursework, and put it on a weekly planner. Set up a dedicated place – a file cabinet or a folder on your computer – to keep school-related paperwork.

Do the Work
3

Dropping a course may result in wasted GI Bill benefits and could even mean you owe money back to the VA. Decide how many credits you can handle before registering.

Join an Online Club for Veterans
4

Make the education process easier by finding like-minded people who can help with problems or provide a social outlet.

Stay Healthy
5

Between school, family and work, life can get hectic – putting added stress on your body and mind. Make sure you are getting enough sleep at night, eating nutritious food and exercising on a regular basis.

Bonus Step: Think Ahead
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Colleges are gold mines for professional advancement opportunities, so take advantage. Look for internships, research projects or other activities that can jump-start your career.

Finding Military-Friendly Schools With Quality Career Services

By offering workshops, one-on-one counseling, and access to a network of employers, schools with thorough job placement services can help students uncover the perfect opportunity. Here are some helpful things to know when evaluating how schools are serving their veteran students, as well as a look at two colleges that are doing things right.

3 Questions to Ask a College’s Veterans Affairs Office

Can you help locate jobs/internships in my hometown or where I’m stationed?

Look for schools that have extensive employer or alumni networks and are prepared to place students in a variety of locations.

Do you offer online resume services?

If education and experience are the substance, then the resume is the style. It’s sometimes the only chance a candidate has to get noticed, so find a college that has a resume writing service to make sure yours contains the right information and presents it in the best way.

Do you offer career coaching to veterans?

Veterans transitioning into the civilian workplace may have trouble pinpointing exactly what they want to do. Military-friendly schools will have career coaches specially equipped to deal with the issues facing veterans, and can help them choose a career that factors in their military experience.

College Spotlight: Schools With Standout Veteran Career Services

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University of Kansas

Veterans can find comprehensive information on job leads through this school, which lists numerous employers, both public and private, who are actively seeking military veteran employees. The site also includes tips for creating online profiles and writing a resume, and has links to university-based groups that serve vets.

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The Universities at Shady Grove – Maryland

A number of schools within the University of Maryland system offer resources to veterans through the Virtual Resources page. The site offers links to job search engines, resumes services, and internship opportunities, and has a special section for veterans that includes advice for transitioning from military to civilian life, understanding how to best transfer skills, and exploring networking opportunities.

10 Employers With Great Student Military Internships

Veterans bring both experience and adaptability to the workplace. Some companies are especially on the lookout for that combination, and offer internships for student veterans as a way to evaluate them for potential full-time jobs once they finish school. Here are 10 companies that have great internships for veterans.

Private Sector

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Walmart

Walmart offers two types of internships, Leadership and eCommerce, that target veterans and recently transitioned military members. The internships are designed to draw on veterans’ military experience and training, and further develop their talents in a retail setting.

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Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

With two locations, internships for IAWA veterans focus on business opportunities in New York City, and on legislation and political issues in Washington, D.C. Candidates must commit to work at least 20 hours per week, and their schools must award credit for the internship.

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Goldman Sachs

Open to not only U.S. veterans but those from Britain and Europe as well, the company’s Veterans Integration Program aims to help veterans build professional skills and increase their knowledge of the financial industry through two-month internships.

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Oracle

Specifically targeting injured veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, Oracle’s paid programs help vets develop the skills needed to integrate into one of the company’s many fields of work, such as finance, human resources, information technology, and systems consulting.

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Microsoft

Student veterans pursuing a degree in a STEM field are eligible for internships at this computer industry giant. Software development and hardware engineering are just two of the fields open to interns.

Public Sector

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Los Angeles County

The Human Resources Office of LA County offers a number of 12- to 24-month internships exclusively for veterans, in areas ranging from information technology to heavy equipment maintenance.

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Veterans Affairs

The VA offers hundreds of internships nationwide, in numerous career fields. The duration varies from 12-week summer internships to two years for longer programs. Certain programs are focused on specialized populations such as minority students or students with disabilities.

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Department of Defense

The nation’s largest employer of veterans, DOD’s paid internships are one way to continue service to the country while exploring another career in the public realm.

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U.S. Congress

This 10-week paid internship offers a glimpse into the workings of the Congressional Legislative and Budget process. Interns gain the experience necessary to move into full-time roles afterward.

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San Diego International Airport

The Annual Veterans Fellowship Program consists of a 6-month paid internship designed to provide short-term employment and help veterans transition into the workplace. Internships may focus on technical work, skilled crafts, or professional or administrative services.

Online College Resources for Veterans, Active Military and Their Families

For more information on online college options and transitioning from military life, veterans can check out some of the many resources available. We’ve listed just a few here.

American Council of Education

Offers a guide on how to convert military training into college credits, saving time in getting a degree and conserving GI Bill benefits.

Career One-Stop

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this site allows users to search for jobs, as well as offers advice on writing resumes and networking. A special section for veterans focuses on applying military skills in the general workplace.

GI Bill

An overview from the VA of the current GI Bills, with links to each.

Higher Education Resources for Veterans by Accredited Schools Online

Accredited Schools Online provides a resource-intensive listing of financial, academic, social and medical sources where military families and veterans can seek help.

MyCAA

Spouses of lower-graded enlisted, Warrant and Commissioned Officers can get up to $4,000 to pursue a certificate, certification, license or up to a two-year associate’s degree in one of many “portable” career fields.

U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs

The agency’s Choosing a School guide gives a good overview on the process of selecting the proper school.

Veterans Career Transition Program

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University offers this program for post-9/11 veterans and their families to take free classes on transitioning into the civilian education or working world.

Yellow Ribbon Program Information 2016/2017

A current list, by state, of colleges and universities that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.