Getting a Degree on Your Time
April 9, 2014 by Mark Dye
The active-duty military life doesn’t lend itself to getting a college degree—at least not in the “traditional” way of taking classes on campus. After all, it’s hard to show up when you’re deployed or stationed overseas.
Thankfully, the Internet has made it much easier to earn almost any college degree, from an associate’s all the way to a master’s.
Pick a course of study
Decide what you want to be when you grow up: Do you plan on staying in the military, or moving on to civilian life in a few years? Do you want a degree to help you earn more money or because it’s something you love (or both!)?
These might seem simple, but they are questions a lot of people fail to ask—they just sign up and start taking basic classes, figuring they’ll decide later. Choosing first ensures you don’t waste your time in classes you don’t need or miss out on ones that are required.
Pick some schools
Unless you already have your heart set on a certain institution, you’ll want to research your options. There are so many different choices out there, however, that it can get overwhelming. So consider your course of study and the school’s strength in that area, how they handle the GI Bill, if they offer other tuition assistance that will pay for all or just part of the tuition, and how much of your military experience will apply toward college credit.
Remember that there is more to a school than just a name, so don’t rule out a smaller college just because you haven’t heard of it. Reading online reviews from alumni and past students can help give you a better idea of what to expect from the school, as well as the type of post-graduation support you might receive.
Different schools have different requirements, with some of your military experience applying toward credit with some colleges, but not others. You might also need to take some sort of test before enrolling, such as the ACT or SAT. Thankfully, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) can help with these requirements by providing support and information. This includes pre-tests and study guides, as well as help scheduling a time to take whatever tests are necessary.
Know the degree you want? Picked a school? Then it’s time to apply! If you’re applying at several different schools, keep in mind that some might have fees and require your service records, so have all of that ready to send.
Another tip: make sure to keep in contact with your Education Services Officer or Navy College Education Specialist. They will have a wealth of information and can assist you through the process.