Being a military spouse can be an extremely challenging role, as it involves moving to new and often unfamiliar places and being away from friends and family. It can seem like avenues for professional and educational advancement that are readily available to civilians are inaccessible to military spouses. However, with the convenience of online education, those opportunities can be open to military spouses, even when frequent relocation is a way of life.
According to the Department of Defense, 85 percent of the 1.2 million military spouses want work or need work. Enrolling in school to obtain a Diploma or update or expand your skill set is more than possible, and it is a great way to open the door to more opportunities.
Even if you desire to further your education, there may be a number of things keeping you from doing so. You may be anticipating your next move to a new location. Or perhaps deployments mean that all of the day-to-day household duties and childcare fall to you. Maybe you have made the decision to set your own career aside so you can be a stay-at-home parent. Carving out time for college courses on top of all of your other responsibilities might seem impossible.
Furthering your education is not impossible, although it might be more difficult to accomplish in a traditional classroom setting. This is where online learning comes in. Online colleges are a great solution for military spouses. There are many different programs available, and chances are you can find one right for you.
You will discover many advantages of online learning, especially for military spouses who need a convenient and flexible way to advance their education and their careers. Online courses balance nicely with the demands of everyday life. Here are six benefits of getting an education online for military spouses.
Online Courses Can Travel With You
Military spouses may have to move as frequently as every 12 to 24 months. The unpredictable change that comes with being married to a service member can interfere with the most carefully laid plans. It might make attending college in a traditional campus setting impossible. If you are stationed overseas, higher education might be cost-prohibitive or completely unavailable.
If you are a military spouse who wants to pursue an online education, all you need to complete a program is a reliable internet connection. You won’t have to worry about an unexpected move throwing off your plans to further your education. You can keep moving forward with your courses during and after a sudden relocation.
Choosing an online education also means you don’t need easy access to a traditional college campus — something that can be particularly challenging for those living on a military base. Your classroom can be anywhere:
- Your local library
- Your home office
- Even your dining room table
In addition, you won’t have to rearrange your personal life to accommodate college courses. A major benefit of online learning is the flexibility. As a military spouse attending school online, you can make the courses work for you, even if you have a full-time job or children to care for.
Unlike traditional college, many online courses don’t occur at a fixed time. Asynchronous online courses allow you to listen to lectures and complete class assignments whenever it works for you. With discussion boards and chat features, students have discussions with their classmates and professors. You can work at your own pace and balance your priorities.
More Education Can Help You Stay Competitive
Constant relocating may cause your career to stall. Perhaps you are never able to stay in the same place long enough to advance in your field. Furthering your education can counteract this by giving you the leverage needed to make the progress you desire, even if you are still required to move at frequent intervals.
There Are a Wide Variety of Programs Available
With online learning, you have a lot of options for finding the right program to fit your needs. Is your family transitioning out of the military in the near future? Or are you looking to find a new position or advance your career in your current location? Think about the end result you want to achieve, and let that inform your decision. You’ll find many different online degrees that are a good fit for military spouses.
With the increasing prevalence of both online colleges and online programs offered by colleges, many different online learning options exist for military members and their families. They differ in what they provide for veterans, service members, and military spouses. It’s worth it to research the various programs to find the one that makes the most sense for your needs — and finances.
You May Qualify for Financial Aid
As a military spouse, you may qualify for financing to pay for your education. Most reputable schools offer financial assistance, including grants and scholarships, for veterans, military personnel, and their spouses. Financial aid can reduce the cost of tuition to an affordable amount or perhaps even allow you to obtain your education for free.
A major advantage of these scholarships is that, because they are dedicated to military members, fewer people apply, meaning less competition for funds. Also, because you do not have to pay back scholarships, they can decrease the out-of-pocket tuition costs to an affordable level.
You should start the process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This is a necessary first step in applying for federal aid and most state and college scholarships. After filling out the FAFSA, research what financial aid options are available to military personnel.
You can find several financial aid programs available to military spouses enrolled in online education, including but not limited to:
- Army Scholarship Foundation
- National Military Family Association Scholarships
- Army Emergency Relief
- Pat Tillman Foundation
You Could Be Eligible for Education Benefits
Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense both offer military spouse benefits for education. In fact, a total of 773,000 veterans and family members of veterans have received educational assistance from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs since the Post-9/11 GI Bill®¹ took effect in 2009. Obtaining an education while trying to keep up with frequent moves and life’s daily demands is hard work. It makes sense to take advantage of the resources available to you in order to make the experience as smooth as possible.
Check out these resources available to military spouses pursuing school online:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill®: Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, active service members have the option to transfer all or part of their GI Bill® benefits to their spouses or children.
- Dependents Education Assistance Program: You may be eligible for DEAP benefits if your spouse died while in service or became permanently disabled from injuries sustained during duty. If you qualify, you may get education benefits for a max of 45 months.
- Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA): This is one program through which military spouses can obtain educational funding. MyCAA provides a maximum of $4,000 for up to two years to those seeking a license, certification, or associate degree in certain fields.
- Marine GySgt John D. Fry Scholarship: This scholarship provides tuition assistance to the surviving spouses or dependents of those who died in the act of serving their country after Sept. 10, 2001. Eligible individuals can receive public school tuition in their state or tuition to a private school, up to a certain amount, as well as assistance for housing, supplies, and books.
With Proper Preparation, You Can Make the Most Out of Online Learning
Though online learning for military spouses is a good choice for many, it can still take some planning on your part to ensure you have the time and tools necessary to reap all of the advantages.
Manage Your Time Wisely
One of the great things about online learning is you can complete work anywhere, any time — but you still have to meet deadlines. Not only that, but you have to meet them in the appropriate time zone.
If you move to a new time zone, don’t forget to consider how the time change affects assignment dues dates. You may have to arrange your schedule to meet deadlines three hours sooner or tune in for a virtual meeting at strange times. Take time to plan out your schedule in advance so you don’t risk missing deadlines.
Plan Ahead for an Upcoming Move
Additionally, if you find out you’re relocating while you are in the middle of a course, start planning ahead as soon as possible. Figure out when all of your deadlines will fall and whether your pending move will interfere with them. Work ahead as much as possible, and make any arrangements necessary to view lectures or make up work later.
Stay in communication with your professors throughout the process. If you make them aware of the circumstances of your living situation, they will likely be willing to work with you to come up with a plan to get all of your work completed. Make sure your professors know how to contact you during your transition.
Perhaps most importantly, check your school’s guidelines. They might require you to notify the school if you are moving out of state or out of the country. If you aren’t sure of the requirements, contact your school’s admissions office to find out what is needed from you.
Seek Out the Best Study Spots
Many military bases offer resources and tools that will make online learning a little easier. If you’ve lived on multiple military bases, chances are they all offered similar useful resources conducive to the needs of military members enrolled in online education. These types of resources are consistent across most military bases, even those in foreign countries.
Here are some of the useful tools, resources, and study spots you can find on most military bases:
- United Services Organization: The USO has been in place on military bases in the U.S. and overseas since WWII. The organization provides entertainment and games, as well as support services, with the goal of sustaining good morale. Your USO can also serve as a prime study space, as it provides students with free access to computers and high-speed internet.
- Base Libraries: You can find libraries on many military bases. Libraries are a great study spot for multiple reasons. In addition to internet access, you will have research materials at your disposal. Also, if you are overseas, a military base library will have materials in English.
- Temporary Lodging: Like a hotel, military lodging generally features amenities like free Wi-Fi in the rooms. This can be an affordable workspace option if you are transitioning to a new location or traveling and need to keep up with online courses while on the road.
¹GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.