So, you’re a military spouse and you’ve made the decision to go back to school. Good on you. The only problem? Going to school requires money, time and flexibility, and you’re not sure you have those resources.
It’s quite possible, however, that you do. The modern age offers more options (and assistance) than ever when it comes to getting an education, no matter where your spouse is stationed. Even with rent, a car loan, some credit card debt and maybe only one income, it’s possible.
Get ready to put excuses on hold and take waiting off hold. With our guide, we’ll show you how to pay for college, choose a major, select a program, and determine whether in-person or online schooling is right for you. Before you know it, you could be hitting the books and working toward that dream career.
How to Pay for College
Paying for college is tough, no doubt about that. Even if your spouse brings home a good paycheck, it can be hard to rearrange the budget and find the money for education. But it’s possible. Here are a few tips:
Use Your MyCAA Benefits
The military’s My Career Advanced Accounts offers $4,000 that you can put toward professional licensing, vocational training or associate degrees. Assuming your goals involve one of these educational channels, you can make use of this benefit. Even if you want a 4-year degree, try starting with the 2-year associate first so that you can leverage MyCAA.
GI Bill Benefits
If your spouse has served at least 6 years in the military and is committed to at least 4 more, you may be eligible to have their GI Bill benefits transferred to you, so you can then put them toward college.
Tighten Your Budget
This seems like prosaic advice, but, seriously, it isn’t. If attending school is a priority for you, it’s time to take a hard look at your finances and decide what can go. Remember that college opens up a huge number of doors later in life, at which time you can bring all the luxuries back on board. But for now, if you really want an education, making some tough choices can help.
One of the biggest expenses for many families involves childcare. If you take care of kids full-time, or if you have a full-time job and pay for childcare, it can tighten the purse strings and diminish the amount of time you have to go to school. If possible, try getting some lower-cost childcare from a family member, or taking your child out of expensive daycare a few days a week and watching them yourself so you can spend less time at your day job.
Of course, there’s no point freeing up all that money if you don’t know what you want to do with it, right? It’s time to choose a major.
How to Choose a Major
A major is a subject in which you will specialize while in school, and it determines the types of careers for which you will be eligible later on. You can find many majors offered both on campus and online, creating paths to a variety of career options. In some cases, more schooling or work may be required until you’re set up for your “dream” job, but choosing the right major is the first step.
In order to apply for certain programs, you may need to fulfill prerequisites first, so check a program’s curriculum before making a decision. Once you’ve chosen a major, it will dictate which classes you take, so you should also consider whether or not you are comfortable with and excited about the program requirements.
On Campus, Online or Both?
Good arguments exist for both online and in-person programs. On-campus learning still has a hallowed place in American education, enabling face-to-face relationships with professors and peers, making networking easier and giving you a one-of-a-kind college experience.
Because it’s so convenient, online college is quickly taking the lead when it comes to earning a degree later in life. You can take classes online from the comfort of your own living room, a nearby coffee shop or even your current job on your lunch break. No matter where you’re stationed or how far off the grid you get, as long as you have an internet connection, you can still be learning.
Some students, however, prefer to combine the two channels, getting the best of both worlds. Some institutions offer a blended learning model that allows you to complete much of your coursework on your own, then come to campus for interactive experiences once a week or a few times per year, depending on the model.
How to Select the College Program That’s Right for You
Finding the right college program requires examining many factors, some of which we have already discussed here: your chosen educational model, the cost of the program and the majors it offers. To that list you should add:
- Where the program is located?
- How well-respected it is in the field in which you want to work?
- What types of amenities the program offers?
- How long the degree will take to complete?
- What tests and prerequisites are required for acceptance?
- How much the additional expenses will cost: fees, books, exam costs, etc.?
- Whether it requires certification or licensing before you can practice?
- Whether an internship or fellowship is required?
- How much you can expect to make upon graduation?
- Whether you can get a job with loan forgiveness?
- How much access you will have to professors?
- Whether it offers specific support to military members?
It’s possible this is the perfect time to head back to school. First, find out whether you’re eligible for benefits stemming from your spouse’s military service. And, looks for schools that are full members of the GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program and Military Spouse Friendly. All you have to do is reach out, and you’ll be one step closer to your dreams. Don’t wait.