Before applying for the first college that comes to mind, consider your goals to determine what you need from higher education.
While most colleges and universities offer an excellent education, many factors can contribute to your overall experience.
Some universities may be in undesirable locations, not provide the full benefits you could receive as a veteran or might not have the best program for your desired major.
Is this school accredited?
Accreditation is a process where a recognized group (an accreditor) looks at a school’s education program and decides whether it meets an acceptable quality standard. When choosing your school, you’ll want to confirm that it meets this accreditation status. If you attend a school that does not meet that accreditation status, you may be unable to transfer to a different school or obtain the specific courses you need to graduate. Schools that are not accredited are also not eligible to utilize federal funding programs.
What type of institution is this?
You have some options regarding the types of schools you might consider. A college or university might be a public, nonprofit (sometimes called “private”) or for-profit institution. The category can affect what you might be able to study and how much you’ll pay. Your post-9/11 GI Bill benefits make you an appealing candidate — especially to for-profit schools. Still, you’ll want to ensure that the school is more interested in giving you the education you need than the funds they receive from your enrollment. Typically, schools are differentiated by the following:
Public and nonprofit universities:
- Usually accredited
- Not owned by an individual or business
- Offer a variety of majors
- Strive to help students learn
- Not always accredited
- Owned by a person or business
- Often focuses on a few majors or areas of study
- Money driven
Does this school cover my needs for my major?
Start by researching the “top schools” for your major of interest to narrow down a list. Many schools may offer the major you want to pursue, but not all of them will have the same resources, training and opportunities you’ll need to get the best education possible. Look into your area of focus at the schools you’re interested in and see which ones offer the most extensive benefits.
How else does this school compare?
Just because a school offers your desired major or has the best program for your future career doesn’t mean the school is the best fit for you. Some schools produce more graduating students, have higher acceptance rates and better utilize your GI Bill benefits than others. Compare your top schools to see which one can best accommodate all of these needs. Some other things to consider:
- What is the graduation rate at this school?
- Will my GI benefits cover all of the costs?
- Are there opportunities for internships?
Does this school offer the Yellow Ribbon Program?
The Yellow Ribbon Program can help you pay for the higher out-of-state, private, overseas or graduate school tuition and fees that the Post-9 /11 GI Bill doesn’t cover. Depending on your educational and career goals, choosing a school that utilizes the Yellow Ribbon Program may be the best move to save you money and find an institution that understands the needs of veterans. To find a list of schools offering the Yellow Ribbon Program this year, visit va.gov, and search for Yellow Ribbon.
How will this school support you as a veteran?
As a veteran, you have life experiences that not everyone else can relate you. Your college campus is going to be a place where you’ll be spending a large portion of your time. Why not make it a place that meets more than your educational needs? Look into the kinds of veteran programs and supports that your school offers. Do they have a chapter of the Student Veterans of America? Do other veterans attend this school? What kinds of extracurricular activities or clubs do they have? This might not seem like the most critical aspect of choosing a school but having a support system can be extremely helpful regardless of the educational path you decide to take.
Sources: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice, Military Consumer, VA