Back when you first enlisted, you made a promise to yourself to be the best soldier you can be. This promise is almost complete — you’re in the best physical shape of your life, you’re disciplined, and you’re ultra-motivated.
Now, it’s time to fulfill the rest of your promise by completing your higher education. You can even do this while you are enrolled in active duty. The first step is finding the best active duty college program you can.
Can You Be in the Military and Go to College?
Many people are under the impression that you have to wait until your active service ends until you can begin your studies. This is a major misconception.
You can be in the military and go to college at the same time. In fact, soldiers are highly encouraged to start studying while they are still enrolled in the military. Why does it make sense to go to college while in the army?
Consider the following reasons:
It prepares you for civilian life.
All of the hard work that you’ve put into your military service has been building momentum over the past several years. But what is it leading up to?
Completing your education now will give you a direction to proceed in confidently once you leave the military. You will be prepared to jump right back into civilian life. Using your education and military experience, you will be able to pursue an advanced degree, start a business or join the workforce.
Want proof? The hiring of new college graduates is expected to increase by 16 to 20 percent in 2015. Employers are looking to hire recruits who are skilled and educated in their particular profession.
You can earn scholarships.
Don’t let the cost of college deter you from applying. Tuition assistance is available if you decide to receive your education while enrolled in active duty. It will cover up to $250 per credit or $4,500 annually. You can also take advantage of the Montgomery G.I. Bill to cover tuition once you have served in the military for at least two years.
It adds value to your military service.
Your free time is very valuable in the military. Even though you are working hard and training for long hours, the way you use your free time can make or break your overall experience.
Why sit around playing cards or video games, when you could be learning about the latest threats and trends in cybersecurity? Why not use your free time to learn about a career in information technology? Or, perhaps the legal system is of interest to you — you could study to become a paralegal.
Advance further in the military.
Even if you are thinking of sticking with the military after your service ends, a college education can help you advance further. Programs are available that can help you sharpen your skills and hone your abilities. Earn more income, advance in rank, or switch departments entirely and choose a new direction.
Do Many Active Duty Soldiers Enroll in Higher Education Programs?
You won’t be alone in deciding to pursue a higher education program. Many active soldiers choose to pursue training or degree programs while they are still serving. In fact, NASPA Research reported over 325,000 active duty service members are enrolled in postsecondary courses.
Furthermore, as the report explains, active duty service members are thriving in academic settings. Active duty military members are some of the best-prepared students, thanks to their military training. Skills such as listening comprehension, awareness, and observation translate perfectly from the field into the classroom. You can take orders from an officer and work directly with a team of comrades while trying to complete a mission. Likewise, you will have no problem taking orders from instructors and working with classmates in a hands-on learning environment.
How to Find a Program That Works for You
Once you make the decision to enroll in college, it’s important to find the right program. You want to select the best school that matches your exact needs. You also want to be sure your school has the ability to offer you the best experience and most comprehensive training available.
Here are some tips to help you select the best college program for active duty service:
1. Choose a program that offers flexibility.
As an active duty military member, you face unique challenges in your everyday life. Your schedule may at times be hectic and unpredictable. You may have to move quickly and unexpectedly from unit to unit depending on the type of service you are in.
Find a program that will accept your unique schedule and be understanding about your needs. The last thing you want is to have to sacrifice a whole semester’s worth of hard work when Uncle Sam takes priority over a critical class project or final exam.
Look for an institution that caters to those in the military. A military-friendly institution will be more understanding about the rigors of your schedule than one that is not certified military-friendly.
Furthermore, you will be surrounded by other military students who are facing the same challenges. You will feel right at home with your classmates, instead of feeling like you are falling behind or missing deadlines. A more supportive environment can help improve both your experience and outcome.
The ideal military-friendly school will offer classes online, as well as on nights and weekends. This way, you can continue studying even while stationed far away from your school of choice. Online classes are especially important, as they could prevent you from having to delay your education during active duty.
2. Don’t choose a school based on its brand or recognition alone.
You may have your heart set on the Ivy League, but is a major academic institution really a practical solution for your needs? While an Ivy League school offers prestige, it most likely will not offer the flexibility you need to successfully complete your studies.
Avoid choosing a school for its brand name alone. Find a school that has the program you are looking for and can offer you the flexibility to study at your own pace and on your own schedule.
Spend some time thinking about what you truly want to do before you begin applying to schools. Don’t sign up for a program because you think it’s something you should do. It should be something you want to do.
First, outline some basic career goals. Then, think about what you need to do to get there. Once you have a better understanding of the career path you want, it’s time to find a program that will help you achieve it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Many students fall into the trap of going to a four-year college for the sake of going to college, only to discover after enrolling that they could have found a more direct method of obtaining the degree or certification they need. Consider all of your options before making your decision.
3. Assess the job market and find a school that offers employment assistance.
Does the current job market match your ideal profession? You may dream of studying philosophy, for instance, but will this path lead to a job after you are discharged? Unless you plan on following through with a career in academia, you might want to think about correlating your degree program with an in-demand profession.
It could prove more practical to enroll in a degree program for the following industries, all of which are expected to grow in 2015:
Health services: You don’t have to go to medical school to land a rewarding job in the healthcare industry, which is expected to increase total hiring by about 8 percent in 2015.
Degree programs to consider include Medical or Dental Assistant, Veterinary Technology Associate, Medical Lab Technician, and Massage Therapy.
Business: Perhaps you see yourself leading the next big Fortune 500 company. If so, now is a great time to get started in business. The professional, business, and scientific services sectors are expected to increase hiring by about 24 percent in 2015.
Some exciting degree programs to think about if you are interested in learning business include a Business Administration Diploma, a Business Management Associate Degree, or a Business Management Accounting Associates Degree.
Information services: The recent increase in cyberattacks has created an alarming need for IT professionals such as coders and digital security experts. It’s no surprise that information services is expected to experience the highest rate of growth in hiring this year — 51 percent.
Earning an Information Technology Diploma or an Information Technology Associates Degree is a great way to get your foot in the door of this booming industry.
Another factor to consider when assessing a college is its level of career service assistance. This should be a basic service offered by the school.
If you put in the hard work, your school should return the favor and help steer you in the right direction when it’s time to graduate and join the workforce. Look for a school that offers lifetime career services, so you can continue to reap career services benefits long after you advance from the institution.
4. Choose a school that offers accelerated learning programs.
When reviewing different colleges, consider the amount of red tape standing between your initial enrollment and getting the job you want. How many years of education, training, and certification do you need in order to get started in your field?
Look for a school that can put you on the fast track to success. Choose a program that offers accelerated learning with night and weekend classes.
A Medical Insurance Billing and Coding Diploma Program, for instance, can be accomplished online in as little as 40 weeks. Graduates can emerge having learned the necessary skills to enter into an entry level MIBC position. These skills include laboratory experience and administrative training, among others.
Don’t wait for your interest in learning or family situation to change. Enter into a program that can put you on the fast track to starting your career. The best schools combine accelerated learning with the expertise of leading industry instructors who can help facilitate the process.
5. Dedicate yourself to your education — and prepare your loved ones.
Think about what it was like entering basic training. It took dedication and commitment. You set a goal to make it through the program, and you put every ounce of energy into seeing that it was accomplished.
Take this same attitude and apply it to your education. Let your family and friends know that you will be returning to school. Ask your loved ones for their support and understanding throughout this time. If you have a spouse and children, discuss your options and plan ahead so your family understands you might be available less while you are enrolled in your program.
Students who define their education as one of their biggest priorities are able to complete programs faster. They move more quickly towards achieving their goals with fewer setbacks.
6. Select a school with ample resources.
Books can be heavy — the last thing you want is to have to worry about carrying your resources from station to station. Therefore, it’s important to be selective about partnering with a school that offers a robust amount of online resources. Carrying a laptop or tablet from location to location will be much easier than having to haul a backpack full of books.
Look for a school with library access. In addition to your textbooks, you might need to access a library when conducting research. Make sure that your institution comes with access to a wide range of learning resources. This is very important, as your base might not be equipped with the physical materials you need. Even if your base is equipped with a full library, you may be travelling often and will need to access resources on-the-go.
How to Balance Active Duty and College Courses
Completing your education while enrolled in active duty can be a challenge. Many military members — especially ultra-motivated types — will rush full-speed into programs without fully realizing the undertaking.
It’s important to prepare ahead of time. Come up with some solutions for staying balanced and healthy throughout the process:
Be careful about dual-degree programs.
You may be looking to earn multiple degrees at one time in order to make yourself more marketable upon graduation. Before doing this, make sure you take into account your current military work schedule and fully understand the responsibilities of your educational program.
Take care of yourself.
Avoid burnout by eating a fully-balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and remembering to sleep. Chronic sleep loss has been proven to lower students’ academic performance and lead to serious conditions such as depression and suicidal ideation. Take care of your mental and physical health — be careful about burning out when trying to balance your work and academic life.
Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.
Remember that your instructors are there to help you. Go to them for assistance, even if you fully understand your course material. Ask questions about the industry and use them to get a good sense about the field that you will be working in. Likewise, lean on your peers just as you would your fellow comrades. Many student support groups are available for those in need of peer-to-peer assistance.
Vista Military College: One of the Best Online Colleges for Active Military Duty
Vista Military College is an institution that offers a wide range of degree programs, many of which are conveniently held online. With programs beginning every five weeks and accelerated learning programs in hands-on environments, Vista College has the resources to offer an unmatched active duty college experience.
Some examples of the exciting degrees offered by Vista College include criminal justice, HVAC, and business administration, among many others. View a full list of our degree programs and get started on your career path by contacting us today.