Military Advantage

VA Advice on Choosing the Right School

By Keith Wilson, Director VA Education Services

The following is a portion of a recent blog post by Keith Wilson, Director of Department of Veterans Affairs Education Service. In his original post Mr. Wilson suggests six questions a student should have answered before selecting a school. I have included the first three questions here.  I suggest visiting the VAntage Point blog to read his entire post.

Below are some questions to think about when you begin to consider schools.

Question 1: Would my professional field respect a degree from the university or college I’m considering?

The life lessons learned while going to college are valuable, but what’s the point of a degree if it doesn’t lead to employment?  Employers have a good idea about which colleges and universities have good standing in their professional field and which don’t.  Therefore, choosing the right school for your particular discipline is crucial.

One thing employers look for is the kind of accreditations the school holds.  The goal of accreditation is to ensure that the education provided by institutions of higher learning meets acceptable levels of quality.  The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs you can check out.

Another way to determine the respectability of a degree is to check the national ranking of the school and the program you’re considering.  US News and World Report, one of the leading college and program ranking sources, can help you decide which schools make the grade.

Question 2: How well does the school support Veterans?  Does it have a special support program for Veterans?

Many schools claim they are “Military Friendly” or “Veteran Friendly.”  Look beyond the flashy advertising.  Under no circumstances should you ever feel pressured, forced, misled or otherwise coerced into attending a school.  If you feel you are, we want to know about it.  You can tell us your concerns by contacting your State Approving Agency (SAA).  SAAs are state employees who represent VA in these matters and you can find their contact info here.

The American Council on Education (ACE) has developed recommendations for schools to better serve Veterans.  Ask your prospective schools about these points:

Transfer of credits from other schools or for military training.  Your school should recognize your past coursework and transfer prior credit.

  • Support from the surrounding community.  Look for access to mental health and medical support, as well as support from the community in general, and involvement with service organizations or mentoring programs.
  • A strong Veteran voice.  An administration that listens to and involves Veterans in Veteran programs will serve you better.
  • Veteran-specific points of contact.  Individuals who specifically assist Veterans can cut through red tape and bureaucracy.
  • A strong web presence.  An area of the school’s website just for Veterans allows you to stay better informed regarding the issues important to you.
  • Expanded housing options:  Student Veterans may prefer to live with peers and shouldn’t be placed in dorms with students significantly younger than them.
Question 3: Will I get credit for my military training?

Policies concerning credit for military experience vary by school.  Some colleges will award credit for military training courses but not for military occupational specialties.  Ask your school if they follow the ACE guide to understanding how military training equals credit.

Read Mr. Wilson’s entire post at VAntage Point.

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