One of the biggest issues facing college bound transitioning servicemembers and veterans is their rusty academic skills. Let's face it, for most transitioning servicemembers it has been at least four years since they last took classes in a civilian academic setting. It is just a fact - basic academic skills, like algebra, geometry, calculus, writing, and even good study habits fade when we don't use them. In many cases, veterans drop out of college because they got in over their heads or selected the wrong school.
Many veterans can now avoid making that mistake by taking full advantage of the several college prep resources available through the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Education. These programs can help members and veterans brush up on their academic skills, prepare for placement exams, assess their skills and aptitudes, and even comparison shop for schools before they ever enroll.
The Online Academic Skills Course One such tool is the DoD's Online Academic Skills Course. This online resource allows service members and their families to access tools that can help build academic skills and prepare for post-graduate placement exams like the LSAT, GRE, and GMAT.
Active duty Service members can access the Online Academic Skills Course through their service portals (AKO, My Navy Portal, AF Portal, Coast Guard Institute). But the cool part is that all service members (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, Air National Guard, and Reserve), regardless of activation status (active, retiree, contractor, or civilian) and their families are eligible for this service.
The Kuder® Career and Transition System The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support website also features a resource by Kuder. The Kuder tool offers a Career and Transition System, specifically designed for the US Military. This system is a comprehensive online resource to help veterans and service members learn skills and work values to build a career plan. This tool can be found online at http://www.dantes.kuder.com/.
Like the DoD, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers several tools and programs to help prepare veterans for college, vocational training and career choices.
CareerScope® CareerScope® is a new tool which is featured on the VA's GI Bill Website. CareerScope measures a student's aptitude and interests through a self-administered online test, identifying potential career paths. The tool is designed to be easy to complete, administer, and score. It's self-administered; and can be completed in 60 minutes or less. The system incorporates physical performance scores including motor coordination and dexterity. It is effective for diverse audiences. Accommodation options include audio delivery, English with Spanish text, and untimed delivery.
The CareerScope is widely used in schools, job training programs, and in rehabilitation agencies and has been validated against widely recognized criteria.
VAforVets The VA for Vets website offers servicemembers and veterans several career planning and counseling tools which include a state-of-the-art Military Skills Translator, Resume Writing, and 24-7 personalized counseling services. Visit VAforVets.va.gov to get started.
Free Educational and Vocational Counseling The VA's Educational and Vocational Counseling program (aka Chapter 36) is an underused program from the VA which provides several services for transitioning service members who meet the following criteria:
- Within six months prior to discharge from active duty.
- Within one year following discharge from active duty.
- Current beneficiaries of educational assistance under Chapters 30, 31, 33, 35, 1606.
- Veterans and qualified dependents who are eligible for and have entitlement to education assistance under Chapters 30, 31, 33, 35, 1606.
Chapter 36 services include counseling to facilitate career decision making for civilian or military occupations, educational and vocational counseling to choose an appropriate civilian occupation and develop a training program, and academic and adjustment counseling to resolve barriers that could impede success in training or employment.
Veterans Upward Bound The Department of Education provides several programs that can help veterans prepare for and select a college. One program in particular stands out, Veterans Upward Bound. VUB is a free U.S. Department of Education program designed to help servicemembers and veterans refresh their academic skills and give them the confidence needed to successfully complete a college degree and start on their path to a new career.
The VUB program services include basic skills development to help veterans successfully complete a high school equivalency program and gain admission to college education programs. The program also offers short-term remedial or refresher classes for high school graduates that have put off pursuing a college education and more.
College Comparison Tools Choosing the right school is as big a key to student success as being academically ready. Although all schools with GI Bill approved degree programs must be regionally or nationally accredited, many don't have the specific programmatic accreditation needed for many career fields, like nursing, health care, etc. This can reandor a college degree virtually useless.
Students who find out they made the wrong choice after enrolling in classes often lose focus and eventually drop out – with student debt and/or depleted GI Bill benefits. There are several programs and resources which are designed to help students make wise college choices. Here are just a few.
The College Navigator The Department of Education's College Navigator allows students to research one or more schools based on the criteria they selected. This site displays programs offered, retention/graduation rates, accreditation, tuition and fee costs and available aid at each institution.
This site also allows users to compare up to four different institutions, including community colleges, four-year colleges and technical schools. Check out the College Navigator website to get started.
The College Affordability and Transparency Center The College Affordability and Transparency Center is another Department of Education program which provides information to students and parent consumers about college costs. It serves as a central point to several tools that allow users to compare college's tuition and fees, net price, and other characteristics. The CATC is maintained by the Office of Postsecondary Education with support and technical assistance from the National Center of Education Statistics.
Visit the CATC site to learn more.
The CATC includes the College Scorecard which is one of the newest tools for helping students select the school that best fits their needs and budget. This planning tool assists users with choosing a school by providing a snapshot of an institution's affordability and value. This tool allows the user to search for a school by name or based on individual preference. The results focus on cost, graduation, student loan debt, and earning potential.
The GI Bill Comparison Tool The DVA also has a new GI Bill® Comparison Tool which allows students to research and compare schools, including key indicators like average student loan debt and graduation rates. This tool can be found on the VA's GI Bill website.
Veterans and servicemembers are encouraged to take advantage of all the resources that have been created to help them prepare for and select the best college and career for their needs.
One Final Thought for Student Vets - Don't go it alone, the help is out there. Be sure to take advantage of it!