By Timothy Powell,
Advanced Military Education Coordinator, University of Maryland University College
You’ve decided to join the military. Congratulations, thank you for your service and your commitment! You have taken a significant step towards your future. Other than the normal advantages that come with serving in the military, did you know that there is a wealth of post-secondary educational benefits and opportunities as well, many free of charge, that you can use while serving?
There is a popular misconception that members of the military cannot attend school while serving. Remember, the military places a high value on learning and makes it easy to further your education while serving. With tuition assistance, scholarships, financial aid, and the GI Bill, much of a college education can be paid for while serving. Whether you decide to complete your Associates, Bachelors, or even a graduate degree, probably the best thing about going to school while serving is the little to no expense you will face. One thing to point out, however, is that application fees and graduate education tuition may not be fully covered by your tuition assistance benefits. Always check with your education office, school, or education counselor if you have any questions.
Another misconception is that service members do not have time for school. While it is true that you will at times be quite busy, many military members continue to work on their college education while serving, even while deployed. The convenience of online programs is attractive and only requires a computer and internet connection. In all but a few of the most remote areas, internet access is available. Because there can be a lot of downtime when deployed, countless military members use that time to work on completing a degree. Some schools even have advising and teaching personnel located at numerous overseas and downrange locations.
There is another advantage to think about when completing your education while serving: it allows you to return to the civilian world with a degree in hand. Combined with your future years of extensive military experience and training, a degree completed while serving will allow you to step into the civilian workforce without having to worry about the time and expense of completing a college education. That in itself is a very significant step to consider.
In the end, furthering your education while serving your country is not only possible, but it is also greatly encouraged. Think of it this way: Investing in you and your education is the only investment that will always pay you dividends. In essence, by maximizing your time in service by furthering your education, you will be doing yourself a great service that has the potential to pay off in a great many ways, both during and after your military commitment. If you have questions about continuing your education before, during or after entering the service, you can always check with your recruiter, military counselor, education center, or school adviser. They are there to serve you while you serve your country.
For additional information on tuition assistance and veterans benefits, please visit the below links:
Veteran’s benefits - https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/education_programs.asp