The college search and selection process can be a very difficult time for anyone who chooses the path to higher education. However, this process can be increasingly difficult for college-bound military servicemembers.
As a military-connected prospective student, there are unique challenges and requirements that must be addressed and met in order to position oneself for success in a collegiate environment. To date, too many military-connected students are either struggling at their selected schools or graduating with degrees of little value – leading to unsatisfactory career placement.
How do you ensure that your decision of where to enroll in college is the right one? It all starts with asking the right questions and doing your research. Below is a list of questions that you should be asking college administrators before deciding where you will attend. These questions focus on three key areas of the college experience: academics, military-related services, and student-life.
- "Is there a full-time Veteran Counselor/Advisor on campus? What type of assistance do they offer for student-veterans and how do I contact them?" This individual is someone you can go to for academic, personal, or career assistance and advice.
- "Is there a SVA (Student Veterans of America) chapter or any veteran related clubs on your campus?" If so, these organizations are great resources for you and offer an opportunity to connect with other student veterans on campus.
- "Does your campus have a veteran center?" Certain campuses have impressive veteran centers and this shows a school's commitment to student-veterans.
- "Has your school signed the VA Principles of Excellence?" This designation represents the school's commitment and focus on providing their student-veterans with premier services.
- "What is the graduation rate for student-Veterans in four years? Six years? Is there a difference in the graduation rate between student-Veterans who attend campus versus online?" This is very important and always good to know when making your decision.
- "Does your school accept ACE credit for military experience?" This allows you to translate your military experience into college credit, which ensures you will get the most out of your GI Bill.
- "Is your school approved for TA funding and does your school participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program?" These are important from a financial standpoint and could save you thousands of dollars in tuition-related costs.
- "What is your policy for accepting transfer credits from other colleges and their applicability to my intended major?" This is important to know if you are transferring from a two-year or four-year college to a school with no relation to your former institution – transferring credits could save you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.
- "What is the school's process for appealing initial transfer decisions I don't agree with?" Finding the answer to this question gives you the ability to plan for the unexpected and is a great way of gaining an understanding of how the school treats and deals with students.
- "What are the most popular majors among Veterans at this college?" This may seem broad and unimportant, but it can be beneficial to know when deciding your own major and it always helps to have the support of classmates with similar experiences as you.
- If you are an active duty servicemember: "How many active duty military personnel are attending this college via Tuition Assistance benefits?" If you are an active duty servicemember, this information can be helpful in building a network of other servicemembers for support.
- "What is the retention rate for student-Veterans after one to two years?" This data is very important to know because it portrays how past student-Veterans have performed while enrolled at that institution and shows how their military-related services are working.
- "What is the employment rate for student-Veterans upon graduation?" This information is sometimes hard to find, but most schools do provide these statistics if you ask. Knowing the employment rate upon graduation is a key showcase of how well the school prepares its students for career preparation and placement.
- "What is the average starting salary for a graduate with the degree I am looking to pursue at your school?" This is great to know because it shows how well respected the school is to industry employers and provides you some insight into what to expect with your degree selection.
- "Where do most Veterans that attend this college live?" If you are looking to enroll as a traditional student (not taking online courses), it can be helpful to know if other student-Veterans are living on-campus or in a specific area off-campus. This can be important in building a network of supportive individuals with similar experiences while enrolled at your selected college.
These questions should be directed toward a college administrator in the Admissions office, preferably someone who deals with military-connected students' admission, or someone who works in the Veteran Affairs office on campus.
It is up to you to decide what questions are important to you. You can be assured that there is a college out there offering everything you need, you just have to be willing to find it. Investing time and energy in the college search and selection process is an integral step toward embarking down a successful and rewarding career and life journey.
CollegeRecon is a free online platform providing an unbiased and secure environment for current and former military personnel to search through and connect with over 3,000 not-for-profit colleges and universities from across the country. CollegeRecon allows you the ability to search for schools that fit your own unique needs, interests, and qualifications, and introduces you to decision makers in admissions and veteran service offices so that you can forge relationships with individuals on campus prior to making any decisions.