Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Best schools for military members: 5 things servicemen and women should look for

Going back to school or finding a college that is the right fit can be a daunting task for any student, but military students have a unique set of requirements they need met. They’re asking questions such as, can I transfer my military experience for college credits? Can I keep up my coursework if I get re-deployed? How can I make the most of the GI Bill benefits available to me?

Peirce College is proud to be a military-friendly school and our Admissions Office is well-equipped to respond to these questions from service members. This June we welcomed Denise Kerr, who joined our ranks as an Enrollment Representative specializing in military recruitment.

Denise comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she processed Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, so she is the ideal person to help walk active-duty or retired service members through the enrollment process and beyond. Her experience gives her an in-depth understanding of what veterans are looking for when they return to earn their degrees. She knows the ins and outs of the paperwork, the logistics, the benefits, and the common questions and fears of service members.

What it really comes down to is finding a college that understands the situation that military members are in and has the programs, resources, and knowledgeable people who can support military students throughout the process.

I sat down with Denise to get her advice for military members or veterans who are looking to complete their degree. Read on for some of the important things servicemen and women need to consider when identifying a college that can best meet their needs.

  1. Know how to take advantage of the benefits available to you. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an extensive benefits package that offers great opportunities to military personnel, as well as their spouses and dependents, that eliminates some of the financial pressures associated with going back to school. This is an evolving bill, so be sure to find a college that has experienced staff that understands the constant changes and can transfer that knowledge to their students.
  2. Research schools that are military friendly. What makes a school military friendly? Look for indicators such as a military department or dedicated admissions specialist who can work with you and guide you through the application process. Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) have proven commitment to certain criteria that benefit military students. And of course, make sure any college you consider is an accredited institution.
  3. Get credit where credit is due. Don’t let what you’ve earned go to waste! Military benefits do expire, so take advantage of it while you can. Be sure to check out whether or not a school accepts military benefits and make sure that the college provides credit for military experience and will help you transition into student life.
  4. Find flexible and relevant degree programs. Military members are usually going back to school for a specific reason, and they need programs that fit their career goals or cater to existing skills -- for example, information technology. Many military students also choose schools with an online option, since it allows the flexibility to continue their education from any location while on active duty. Denise has found in her experience working with military members that if the school isn’t online, it’s off the list.
  5. Financial support can make it a reality. After making sure a college understands your military benefits, look for programs that offer additional grants, scholarships, and tuition assistance for both service members and their spouses and dependents. For example, Peirce offers a National Guard Scholarship, a Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MYCAA) Program, and 25 percent off tuition through the Protect & Serve Grant.
The bottom line -- use your resources! Denise’s door is always open (you can find her in the Admissions Department) and she encourages any military students, current or prospective, to e-mail or call her any time at 215.670.9388. There’s no such thing as a bad or stupid question. Peirce’s Admissions Department is there to help every step of the way.

Peirce is also hosting two upcoming open houses (August 11 at 5:30 p.m. and August 13 at 10:30 a.m.) so we encourage you to join us for either of those sessions if you have questions!