Planning for College as a Military Dependent

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  • College is a big step for anyone and, as a military dependent, it will throw you into the first community that’s all about you. You’ve been part of a support system for so long that it might be strange to realize that it’s your turn to take the spotlight.

    There’s even more good news, too. When you start looking for financial options for college, your military connection will provide countless opportunities. Colleges often provide special financial options for military dependents, and you’ve earned the right to utilize these funding opportunities.

    What Happens First?

    Just like your parents picking the next duty station, choosing your college involves a lot of careful planning.

    • Where do you want to go to school?
    • Do you want to move away from your family or stay close to home?
    • What sort of career are you interested in?
    • Should you attend a four-year institution or a trade school?

    Research future careers options by reading over the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This government site provides information on what you can expect from different careers, what sort of educational background you’ll need, expected job growth/decline and even the current income trends.

    Military-Friendly Resources

    The military provides many of its own opportunities to help you wade through college waters. If you’re a high school student prepping for college, you’ll also have a guidance counselor and peers on hand to help you find and understand the appropriate information.

    Research all financial outlets – military and nonmilitary – but focus on your edge as a military dependent. There are many options for dependents, such as:

    • A way for spouses and children to use their sponsor’s GI Bill
    • Department of Defense grants and scholarship opportunities
    • Military Child Education Coalition
    • Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance

    Military spouses have almost as many opportunities as military teens. With the rise of online colleges, many programs allow for the flexibility to travel with your spouse, which might be something that a high school student would be interested in, too.

    Military-Friendly Colleges

    As a military dependent, odds are pretty good that your parents aren’t made of money, so in-state tuition should be looking pretty good. Just make sure that you opt for a college that takes your military background into consideration.

    Look for colleges that:

    • Understand it’s impossible for the traveling military family to be in a state long enough to qualify for reduced tuition
    • Know that unique transcripts – i.e. broad spectrum of schools – have provided you with the flexibility to handle the college transition with ease
    • Have military tuition discounts
    • Offer online classes – just in case you want to keep traveling with your parents

    Many military-friendly colleges offer benefits unique to their school, so make sure to ask the admissions program how their college will work with you.

    Make an outline to ensure that you understand what you’re looking for in a college. Utilize the Internet, the VA and other military resources to ensure that you’re making the most informed decision on your education.

    It’s your time to choose your next adventure, so be sure to pick the school that works best for you.

    Adrienne Erin is a freelance designer and avid blogger who spent four years working in a college career development office. When she’s not glued to her computer screen, you might find her drinking tea or taking a spontaneous roadtrip. To see more of her work, follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her blog, Design Roast.

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