5 Tips to Getting Your Degree

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Many veterans find it more difficult to pursue the education when they get out and end up missing out on their education benefits. The truth is, its rare to find an employer that offers as much education support as the military and  it is usually much harder to go to school part time as a civilian.

During the increased wartime optempo, it's difficult to focus on getting your education, but the DoD is serious about helping you get your degree. The military offers mobile testing sites, underway classrooms, the internet, and many other ways for you to pursue your education goals. In fact I know an Airman who has earned three associate's degrees, a bachelor's degree, and an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) - all on active duty.

There isn't any great secret to getting your degree. It just takes some effort. Here are five tips I've learned along the way that will help you reach your education goals:

  1. Visit your education services office. Starting is arguably the hardest part of college. Getting a degree plan, enrolling, and choosing classes are just a few tasks that need to be done. Each branch of the military has education counselors who are there to help you. Visit your local military education service office or Navy College Office, they're ready to help you get started. 
  2. There's strength in numbers. Sign up for classes with a buddy or your spouse. It is much easier to stay motivated and remain focused if you enroll and study with somebody.
  3. Use every tool in the box. Sitting in a classroom for 16 weeks is not the only way to earn college credits. There are several non-traditional ways to earn your degree including distance learning (online classes) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). CLEP and DSST are exams you can take to earn college credits without ever entering a classroom. Both CLEP and DANTES are free for military members (civilians over $85). CLEP and DSST Study guides are usually available at your local military education center, Navy College Office, or at your military installation's library. Applying your military experience credits toward your degree is another way to save time and money. But, it is important to understand how these credits can be used before you begin developing your education game plan. Learn more about how the American Council on Education (ACE) college credits for military experience are applied.
  4.  Stay on target. Military life can be hectic, with so much going on it's often hard to stay focused. Prioritize; don't let less important activities distract you from your goal. Getting your education is important to you future, make sure you keep it in your cross-hairs.
  5. Speed kills. Getting a degree is not a race. Set a pace that works for you. Trying to cram too much into your busy life can kill your resolve. You'll be surprised how quickly you can knock out a degree if you simply take classes at a slow steady pace. Remember, not everyone can take three to four classes each semester, but if you take a class and use CLEP and DSST exams to earn six or more credits a semester you will have your degree in no time.

A college degree combined with the outstanding leadership skills you've learned in the military will make you a marketable asset in the civilian workforce. The military wants you to be educated and gives you all the tools necessary to get your degree. If you joined for the great educational opportunities, then you would be foolish not to get your degree.

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