After leaving the military, earning a degree is a strategic way to prepare you for your next career move. Of course, any transition this big involves a lot of questions and decisions, so we’ve compiled a few tips that can help along the way.
1. Pick a program and learning style that’s right for you.
Look for a program that matches your interests and strengths while also preparing you to achieve your professional goals. If you're considering multiple programs, reflect on what you liked most about your military career. What civilian careers offer those same aspects? To help you decide, ask schools for details on program curriculum and outcomes.
If you need to balance school with family and work obligations, choose a program where that’s possible—whether that means learning 100% online, taking evening classes on campus, or perhaps mixing both online and campus-based learning. Whatever you do, remember that your military benefits are limited. Make the most of them by choosing a program you’ll stick with.
2. Discuss your military benefits with financial aid representatives.
Once you’ve researched schools and programs, be sure you understand your military education benefits and the availability of any additional military scholarships.
At South University, our financial aid officers will guide you through the financial aid process and exploring your options. When discussing your benefits, ask questions and pay attention to the details, including payment limitations and timing. If a school isn’t experienced in working with military students and veterans or their military benefits, then that school may not be right for you.
3. Ask about transfer and experience credits.
Veterans bring invaluable experience to the classroom and your school should recognize that. Look for a university that will evaluate your Joint Service Transcript or corresponding official service transcript to determine if you can receive college level credit for your prior learning and military training courses. South University also recognizes credit from non-traditional educational sources such as College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) exams. Taking advantage of such opportunities can save you time and money.
4. Create a plan for your success.
You’re used to direction and structure from the military, and now you need to create that structure for yourself. Give yourself deadlines for making progress on course assignments and follow a regular schedule for studying and doing coursework. Success starts with making a plan and sticking to it.
5. Get help when you need it.
In the military, you knew you could count on the people around you. You were part of a team working together with one goal. The same is true in school. Your success is the mission, and, at South University, you’ll be surrounded by people ready to support you, from tutoring to academic advising to helping you navigate library resources in person or online. As you approach graduation, career services can also to help you find and pursue positions that match your goals.
Remember, learning in the classroom, online or in person, will be a different experience than learning in the military. That’s okay. No one expects you to excel at everything or go at it alone. Help is available; all you have to do is ask.
6. Don't neglect your physical and mental health.
Leaving the military is a challenging transition, no matter what you're planning to do next. To minimize your stress levels as a student, always leave room in your daily routine for taking care of yourself! Getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating right will help you stay at the top of your game in and outside of the classroom. We also encourage all veterans to explore the mental health resources available through their local Department of Veteran Affairs.
7. Connect with others who’ve been in your shoes.
Look for and get to know other veterans at your school from the start. The Student Veterans of America is also a great resource. In both instances, you’ll find other veterans who understand your struggles and successes and who may have advice to help with the transition. Whether you attend South University classes online or on campus, know that you’ll have many ways to connect with classmates with shared interests and talk outside the classroom.
8. Get involved with student life.
Student veteran organizations are a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Even if you’re nervous you might not belong, push yourself to join student groups and participate in school activities. Soon, you’ll realize how many people also feel out of their comfort zone. At South University, our diverse student body includes many adult learners, with a variety of life experiences, who are going to college for the first time or returning after many years away. Befriending your college peers can give you a sense of community, and you'll gain more people to check in on you, encourage you, and talk to about your schoolwork or your goals.
To talk with the military admissions specialists at South University, call 1-800-688-0932 or request information online.