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.
Choosing an online college can be a difficult decision, and military personnel – both active members and veterans – face an even greater challenge finding schools uniquely positioned to prepare them for the civilian workforce. The best colleges offer academic programs that let students capitalize on their military background, offer tuition discounts and credit for time served in the military, and have student organizations and other support services specifically targeted to vets. We looked at those factors and others to compile a list of which colleges are the most military-friendly.
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics
College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Make the education process easier by finding like-minded people who can help with problems or provide a social outlet.
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.
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.
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.
Look for schools that have extensive employer or alumni networks and are prepared to place students in a variety of locations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Offers a guide on how to convert military training into college credits, saving time in getting a degree and conserving GI Bill benefits.
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.
An overview from the VA of the current GI Bills, with links to each.
Accredited Schools Online provides a resource-intensive listing of financial, academic, social and medical sources where military families and veterans can seek help.
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.
The agency’s Choosing a School guide gives a good overview on the process of selecting the proper school.
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.
A current list, by state, of colleges and universities that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.