There are literally hundreds of great schools that offer military service members and veterans the opportunity to get their degree with little to no out-of-pocket expenses. The challenge is finding the right school.
Start by speaking to a college admissions advisor, and when you do, ask smart questions. This will help you to quickly determine if the school will fit your needs. Your questions should fall into four main categories: cost, accreditation and associations, credit options, and general course information.
The admissions process for graduate school (Master's and Doctoral) can be very rigorous. These graduate school admissions requirements vary greatly, requiring any possible combination of the following:
- Grade Point Average - often 3.0 or better
- Entrance Exams (GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT)
- Professional Experience
- Admissions Essays
- Letters of Recommendation
Be sure to ask the admissions counselor to explain - in detail - exactly which of these will be required. This will help you avoid a last minute rush to get you admissions package submitted on time.
Ask the advisor for an exact breakdown of the per-credit tuition cost, lab fees, administrative fees, and any other special fees. This is especially important if you are planning to use military tuition assistance. Tuition Assistance programs often have limits to the types of fees that are covered. In addition tuition assistance may pay up to 100% of the tuition costs, however in most cases TA is capped at $250 per semester credit hour and $4,500 per year. Most graduate school programs range from $250 to more than $400 a semester hour.
Ask if the school offers scholarships, discounts, fee waivers, or book and tuition vouchers. Many schools offer these special programs to help military and veteran students take advantage of their benefits.
Accreditation and Associations
Ask about the school’s accreditation. A school must be either regionally or nationally accredited to be eligible for the GI Bill and TA. Accreditation also helps to assure you that the degree you earn is valid. Schools that are not accredited are generally referred to as “Diploma Mills.”
Ask if the school is listed in the DANTES distance learning catalogs. These associations show a commitment to serving service members and veterans. If you are planning to use your GI Bill be sure to ask if VA has certified the program for GI Bill eligibility.
General Course Information
Ask the advisor the following general questions about the course and delivery methods:
What degree programs does the school offer? How long are the courses? Are the courses back to back or do students take several at a time? Are courses offered online, in a classroom or both? How are the online courses delivered? How do students interact with the instructor and each other? What are the admissions deadlines? How many credits are required for a degree? Are course grades based on test scores, essays, or both?
With these questions answered you are well on your way to choosing the right graduate school and using your education benefits to earn your degree!
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