Higher Education For Military Veterans And Their Families

There are many ways to fund higher education for military members. Learn more about attending college after the service, for you and your family members.

Updated April 12, 2023

Higher Education For Military Veterans And Their Families

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College Resources, Expert Advice for Active-Duty, Veteran & Military Families

Veterans often bring unparalleled work ethic and exceptional integrity to the workplace, which makes them excellent employees. Those completing their military service often consider attending college as a logical next step—more than 1 million veterans and their family members enroll in college each year. Nearly two-thirds of all veterans take night or online classes, and the same amount received veterans' education benefits. Service members interested in higher education for themselves or their family members can use this guide to find helpful information about college degree paths, ideas for overcoming challenges student-veterans face, and details on how to use military benefits to pay for school.

Attending College After Military Service

Many veterans make the decision to attend college after completing their service. It can be a financially smart choice too, since service members have incentives to help them fund college or complete career training. But transitioning to the classroom can be challenging. We've provided a collection of college resources that include expert advice and real-world answers to the college concerns that student-veterans frequently have below.

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How to Choose the Right College as a Veteran

Enrolling in the right school is a crucial decision for both veteran and non-veteran students. There are thousands of colleges to choose from, many of whom tout themselves as “military-friendly” colleges or universities, but don't actually have a former service member's best interests in mind.

Attending College While Serving

Though veterans represent the biggest number of students with military service records, it is also possible to attend college while serving. Both active-duty and reserve military members and their families can access college resources to get a jump start on earning a degree before completing their service:

Supporting Student-Veteran Success

Some veterans may find it difficult to adjust to the pace of civilian life. Feelings of isolation on campus are common, and many veterans leave school before finishing their degree. In response, more colleges and universities are taking steps to better recognize and support their veteran students as they earn their college education.

Example Resources at Colleges

Colleges like Ohio State University are recognizing the need for Veteran-specific housing, organizing dorm floors, entire residence halls or transitioning fraternity- and sorority-style housing exclusively for students with military backgrounds. Designated activities for veterans can help create lifelong connections, like at the University of Maryland's Adventure Program for Veterans, where students-veterans take breaks from studying to enjoy outdoor activities together. Learn everything there is to know about your college from another veteran who has gone before you—programs like the V.E.T. Student Liaisons at Missouri State University are being established to provide student-veterans guidance directly from other student-veterans. From low-key study areas, free snacks and coffee to tv and video game stations, veterans' lounges and recreation areas such as those at the University of Illinois provide veterans a designated place to connect, socialize and relax outside the classroom.

Choosing a Career after Military Service

One of the great benefits of military service is that it provides excellent preparation for service members when they take civilian jobs. While the skills learned through years of military service are valuable tools to have in the toolbox, many veterans still wonder exactly where they fit in after their military service ends.

Career Choices for Veterans

Veterans are often stereotyped and pigeonholed into certain careers and industries. While military equipment mechanics might segue into roles in automotive tech and combat medics may take jobs as nurses, jobs that are a natural fit and extension of duties performed during active service aren't always the ones veterans want to pursue a degree for and work in long-term. Find some advice on choosing a career below:

Skills learned in the military

Skills learned in any branch of service that can directly translate – and provide great value — to veterans in the workforce include:

Companies large and small seek employees that possess these skills – and many organizations prefer to hire veterans due to their motivation, discipline and diversity. Student veterans shouldn't let themselves be shoehorned into career paths based on past military service. It's important to dream big and pursue the careers that match those expectations, goals and desires.

Military Benefits and Paying for School

There are many different ways veterans can pay for a college education. One of the most common paths is using GI Bill® education benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, nearly 950,000 veterans received veterans' education benefits in fiscal year 2017.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA). More information about educational benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.Here are some helpful resources and advice to help navigate the mass of information on veteran benefits for education:

Military-specific scholarships

There are also many different military-specific scholarships available to help veterans fund higher education. Here are just a few of those available to veterans.

Military-Specific Scholarships
Scholarship Amount Deadline Description

Army ROTC scholarships

Full tuition and optional stipends Varies The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps offers scholarships for high-school students and students already enrolled in college. Scholarships are awarded based on merit rather than financial need.

American Legion Children of Warriors National Presidents' Scholarship

$5,000 March 1 of each calendar year This scholarship is awarded to descendants of military members and can be used at four-year accredited colleges and universities.

Pat Tillman Scholar Program

Approximately $10,000 February of each calendar year This scholarship honoring Pat Tillman is open to veteran and active-duty military members in all branches of service, including the Coast Guard, as well as their spouses. Service members must pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree fulltime at an accredited U.S. college or university.

Troops to Teachers

Up to $10,000 Varies This program is open to all current and former service members who wish to become teachers in a K-12 setting. Since the program was created in 1993 more than 20,000 veterans have used the program to transition to careers in education.

Wings Over America

$3,000 March 1 of each calendar year Open to children and spouses of all U.S. Navy personnel. Awards are based on merit, community service and extra-curricular activities.

Veterans also should check with any prospective colleges to see if they have military-specific institutional scholarships. There are also many state-specific military scholarships available as well.

College Benefits for Military Spouses and Dependents

Military education benefits—and even many military scholarships–can be used by a veteran's family members. This is a great way for the children and spouses who serve their own roles in military families to attend college. However, there are rules and regulations for military benefit transfers when it comes to earning a college degree—learn more details below.

Additional Resources for Student Veterans & Military Members

Service members and their families should never struggle to find information about their educational benefits or their options for higher education for military members. Use the resources below to gain additional insight and information on college veteran benefits and success.

The ACE has compiled many different resources for student veterans, including a transfer guide and transcript center of transferable military training and experiences. Veterans who have been away from education for a while may find it helpful to get their feet wet at a community college before enrolling at a four-year university. Education, relocation and employment resources for military spouses. Information on the My Career Advancement Account scholarship program. A list of potential veteran scholarships from the U.S. Department of Education. SVA provides resources to help student veterans succeed in college. A wealth of resources, tips and expert advice.

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