3 Tips to Prepping for College While You’re in the Military

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Key Takeaways

  • To save money over time, consider whether you'll need advanced degrees or certifications beyond a bachelor's degree
  • Find a college that offers military-friendly accommodations like credit transfers for military training
  • Take advantage of financial aid programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Let’s say you’re currently enlisted in the military, but you’re interested in attending school during military service, or maybe you have a family member who is. You’ll need to understand your options. Here are a few ways to approach the situation, so you can advance both your education and career opportunities after graduation.

Many colleges and universities offer benefits to military members and veterans, such as academic assistance, credit-transfer policy for military training and career resources to help you get ready for civilian life. Find an accredited college or university that has these offerings dedicated to your success as a service member.

Create a Strategy to Meet Your Long-Term Education Goals

Before you start applying to schools, map out a plan to reach your goals for higher education.

Consider whether your desired career path after service will require additional degrees or certifications beyond a bachelor’s. By setting expectations upfront, this will help you save time and money in the long run.

Additionally, seek out advice from others in your family or within the military and veteran community who’ve been through similar experiences and can be a sounding board to answer questions.

Explore Military-Friendly Colleges and Universities

Many colleges and universities offer benefits to military members and veterans, such as academic assistance, credit-transfer policy for military training and career resources to help you get ready for civilian life. Find an accredited college or university that has these offerings dedicated to your success as a service member.

“In today’s environment, there are a variety of learning options for earning a college degree – whether going to classes fully in-person, completely online or a mix of both,” said Brittany Mills, assistant manager of education lending at Navy Federal Credit Union. “This more easily allows students, like active-duty service members, to pursue an education while juggling military obligations.”

Take Advantage of Financial Aid

The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers college tuition, a housing allowance and a stipend for books and supplies for service members. GI Bill benefits are also transferable to family members, such as your spouse or children, if you don’t use any or all of them.

Your next stop for funding should be scholarships, grants and federal loans. This includes money for eligible military members through programs, such as the ROTC. You can apply for federal loans by completing the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA).

“You can only borrow up to a certain amount from the federal government through the federal loan program,” said Mills. “If you reach this limit, then it’s a good time to look into private student loan options from your trusted bank or credit union.”

Private student loans cover the same types of costs, such as tuition, room and board, books and transportation to and from school. While students can apply by themselves, they’re more likely to be approved and possibly secure a lower interest rate with a credit-worthy cosigner.

Further, don’t forget to review the benefits available under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). For example, Navy Federal offers a maximum interest rate of 4% to eligible member accounts through the SCRA.

“Ultimately, you want to first seek financing options that don’t need to be paid back, like the GI Bill or scholarships. Then turn to what’s available through federal student aid, and lastly consider private student loans,” Mills said.

While serving in the military and attending college can be a challenging feat, we can help. Visit our College Resources for tips on saving and budgeting throughout the stages of your education journey.

Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration(NCUA).

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