How to Decide Which College Is Best for Your Studies

college students studying around table

Many service members take advantage of community colleges to begin -- or continue -- their college degree plan, but struggle to find the right fit among their military moves. Not all colleges and universities offer the same support for military-connected students and veterans.

When searching for the right fit, there are many things to consider. Beyond looking for a college that offers your desired degree program, you'll need to look at the ease of transferring credit, credentialing and veteran support.

Do They Offer Credit for Training or Make Transferring Credits Easy?

Colleges and universities often work with the education center on base to translate military training to college credits, usually done through the American Council on Education, or ACE. There are many options for military-connected students to start their degree path wherever they are. If the university already has a transfer process, it will help minimize the interruption. Also, many service members have credits from multiple community colleges. You will want to find a college or university that will give you maximum credit for the courses you have already taken.

What Kind of Accreditation Do They Have?

Military students should look for colleges and universities with institutional or programmatic accreditation through a regional or professional agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Institutional accreditation covers the whole college or university, while programmatic accreditation covers a specific school within the university or a particular program. Most employers look for accreditation when determining the quality of a college, university or program.

When attending an accredited institution, your credits will transfer to most other colleges, colleges and employers will recognize your degree, and you'll get standardized quality services and classes. Unfortunately, some colleges and universities prey on military students, focusing on profits instead of academics, so careful research before deciding is important.

Do They Work Well with Military-Connected Students?

Service members can rarely take the time to pursue a degree full time. Still, with online classes and flexible programs, military-connected students can make college fit into their busy schedules. A program that offers both full- and part-time enrollment options and degree programs for which students can use tuition assistance or their GI Bill is a great place to start looking.

Some institutions have a dedicated team for veterans and military-connected students to aid them in processing their benefits and for support in staff-supervised, peer-run support groups. Some colleges offer self-paced programs and competency-based curricula that allow veteran students to transfer their existing skills and knowledge into college credits. This model can help students move at their own pace and educational abilities, and active-duty service members can fit school in with their operational tempo and environment.

Do They Offer Scholarships for Military-Connected Students?

Many academic institutions offer scholarships to service members, veterans and their family members, depending on what educational benefits they are using, if any. VA-supported students -- those using their GI Bill to pay for school – may find their benefit payments exceed the cost of their education and can save that money for the future. Additional assistance may be available through the Yellow Ribbon Program or outside scholarships.

Keep Up With Your Education Benefits

Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, can help. Subscribe to to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.

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