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The Perks of Joining the Military After High School

by Carly Gerber

Are you stressing out because you don’t know how you are going to pay for a college education? Joining the military is one way to help you pay for college and build your resume.

After high school, Richard Coughlin decided to join the U.S. Coast Guard because they would pay for his college education and provide many benefits such as health care. Coughlin was enlisted from September 2006 until September 2012 but he chose to extend his service for two years and thinks of his time in the military as a very positive experience. Coughlin spent most of his service in Hawaii, where he trained and took classes that were transferred to his current university. According to Coughlin, military members who complete their service feel lost and confused because they weren’t proactive about their next step; however, the Veterans Affairs office at one university was extremely helpful at transferring college credit hours and guiding Coughlin through the process of attending a university, which is why he chose to attend the school he will one day call his alma mater.

Also, since Coughlin was enlisted with the Coast Guard, he was able to get a job as a dolphin trainer as soon as his service was completed. Normally, a dolphin trainer needs either a bachelor’s degree or a certificate but the process was quicker for Coughlin because he had experience from the Coast Guard. The G.I. Bill requires the military to pay for veterans’ college tuition, books, and room and board, but Coughlin has money from dolphin training that can be used towards personal expenses.

Though he initially joined the Coast Guard to help pay for college, Coughlin believes that his service has helped him land a job and taught him respect and independence he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Have you considered joining the military before attending college?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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by Scholarships.com Staff

On August 1, the new GI Bill will kick in, bringing with it increased education benefits for people who have served in the military since 2001. At least in theory.

The new GI Bill covers an undergraduate student's full tuition and fees at any four-year state college anywhere in the country, which is a more generous benefit than the veteran aid students received under the old GI Bill. Eligible students will also receive an additional monthly housing stipend and, thanks to the recently approved HEA Technical Corrections legislation, these benefits won't be counted as income for purposes of determining federal student financial aid eligibility.

The GI Bill also includes a new program that gives veterans benefits at private colleges and allows schools to match federal VA benefits for their students. More than 1,100 private colleges signed up to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which should allow veterans to attend a larger number of institutes of higher education at little cost.

However, the formula for determining benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program has been mired in controversy since its announcement, and as the deadline for the GI Bill to go into effect nears, many people are looking at the wide disparity in Yellow Ribbon benefits nationwide and scratching their heads.

Veterans attending private colleges can receive up to the full amount of tuition and fees at the most expensive public college in the state from the government, with their institution agreeing to assist with additional tuition costs at Yellow Ribbon schools. But the amount the federal government will cover varies widely from state to state, with government benefits ranging from just over $2,000 to just under $40,000, depending on how the department of Veterans Affairs calculated the maximum in-state tuition in each state.

These differences have caused some private schools to limit their Yellow Ribbon participation, meaning many veterans may still be on the hook for most of their college costs if they choose to attend private colleges. The wide variation in benefits also can cause confusion and uncertainty for veterans considering attending private universities but unsure of the financial aid they'll be eligible to receive.


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by Emily

The new Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect on August 1, bringing expanded educational benefits for students who have served in the military since 2001. These benefits are supposed to be available to students for the fall semester, but a mounting backlog of applications has the Department of Veterans Affairs saying recipients should expect processing delays of up to 8 weeks.

This means that many veterans attending college may not receive their first payments from the VA until potentially October or even November, despite classes starting in August and September. So not only will their tuition and fees go unpaid, but they also will have to find other sources of funding for housing, books, and living expenses, which many veterans expected to rely on VA stipends to pay. While most colleges are working with their veteran students to arrange stopgap financial aid, the delayed payments still represent a huge problem for students going back to school after military service.

The application process for VA benefits under the GI Bill is somewhat complex and involves multiple steps between a student's initial decision to enroll in college and his or her ultimate receipt of a check from the VA. Students, schools, and the VA all need to complete paperwork to set up benefits, and May 7 was the earliest students could begin applying. In addition, current VA employees and new hires needed to be trained to process applications under the new program, so processing is taking longer than normal.

Add in the popularity of the expanded GI Bill benefits, the recession bringing students back to college in droves (with fewer financial resources available to them), and colleges across the country dealing with massive budget crises and increased demand for emergency aid, and you get the potential for disaster. More students are applying for benefits, the VA is less able to process these applications in a timely manner, and schools have more students in difficult situations to assist. All parties have fewer resources at their disposal to deal with the situation, making it still more challenging.

Still, vets who have found their benefits delayed should talk to the financial aid and veteran's affairs contacts at their school if they need additional financial aid to cover their expenses in the short term. While money is scarce, it is still available in most cases.


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by Emily

Student veterans still waiting on their financial aid this fall have finally gotten a bit of relief from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The VA announced Friday that due to delays in processing requests for veterans' education benefits under the new post-9/11 GI Bill, they will be issuing emergency checks of up to $3,000 available to students whose benefits are still pending. These advances will be available through regional VA offices starting October 2, and students will need to bring a photo ID, a class schedule, and a certificate of eligibility to receive them.  The emergency funds will come out of future benefits checks due to the students.

The massive backlog at the VA office first began to make headlines in August and early September when it was revealed that the VA had made it through only a tiny segment of pending benefits requests. The VA has hired additional staff and ramped up processing since then and anticipates dispensing with the backlog entirely by November 1. However, as the weeks wore on, a clamor has been growing among veterans and the press as students went days, then weeks, and now potentially months without receiving payments for tuition and fees or, more importantly, monthly stipends that allow them to pay for living expenses while attending college.

Part of the delay is due to the massive popularity of the new benefits, with requests simply overwhelming the capacities of the VA office, especially since implementing new rules and procedures can also slow down processing. In addition, the procedures themselves make speedy processing difficult. The VA cannot issue benefits checks until schools have confirmed students' enrollment and tuition charges, which in some cases didn't take place until late summer. Between back and forth correspondence with schools and veterans, and the manual labor involved in processing each claim, a backlog built up quickly and veterans wound up having to borrow money or use credit cards to pay for rent, books, and other expenses.

Colleges have been working with veteran students to minimize the impact of delays, accepting late tuition payments without dropping students from their classes, allowing students to charge books to their bursar accounts, and issuing emergency loans where possible. Between schools' efforts and the new emergency aid through the VA, most student veterans should be able to make it through the next month until they--hopefully--begin receiving regular benefits checks.


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by Agnes Jasinski

It seems that student veterans will finally be getting the assistance they need this Veterans Day. A new website from the American Council on Education will improve access to education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill for military veterans who have faced a number of delays in the processing of their financial aid.

The site, which was unveiled earlier this week, will also help the student veterans choose colleges and future careers, with tips and advice on why college is an important investment and preparing for the transition from the military to a college campus.  The site intends to make it easier for student veterans to navigate not only the college and financial aid application process, but to give those students frustrated with backlogs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs a place to go for guidance.  The Post-9/11 GI Bill has faced a number of obstacles since its creation in August. A backlog of applications caused delays as long as eight weeks for some eligible military recipients, with emergency $3,000 checks eventually issued to student veterans whose financial aid packages were pending. The new law—similar to the WWII GI Bill— was created to bring more financial aid to troops who had served since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (Scholarships are also available to the children and families of the victims of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.) The bill will provide up to 36 months of financial assistance, payable for 15 years following the student veterans' releases from active duty. The bill covers maximum in-state tuition and fees at public institutions, including many military-friendly schools, and covers a monthly housing allowance, and an annual $1,000 books and supplies stipend. (Student veterans enrolled in online degree universities will not receive housing allowances.)

Many of the colleges participating in the program have been accepting late payments from the students to make up for the lag in financial aid application processing. Assuming all goes well with the disbursement of funds from the VA, and the department gets a handle on the backlog—the department hired additional staff when the number of applications continued to grow and overwhelmed regional offices—most student veterans should be getting to the point where they will be receiving regular checks to cover the costs of their new lives on college campuses across the country.


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by Emily

As January gets underway, college students across the country are waiting eagerly for that spring financial aid disbursement. While a variety of students will encounter processing delays and unexpected errors this spring, one group may be particularly likely to see problems: student veterans.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which went into effect August 1, offers expanded education benefits to veterans who have served their country since 2001. GI Bill benefits include money for tuition and fees, a stipend that covers living expenses, and the option of transferring education benefits to their family members. However, many veterans who applied for this aid faced a months-long backlog in processing as the Veterans Affairs administration struggled to develop and streamline procedures for handling the new claims.

The delay caused a variety of problems for over 68,000 veterans who applied for the new GI Bill benefits in the fall. Over 26,000 veterans were still waiting for checks at the end of the fall semester, and thousands are still waiting to receive their first check. The VA issued emergency advances of $3,000 in October to veterans still waiting for their first disbursements, but for many that money ran out long before benefits checks arrived.

Some students have had to put tuition or food and rent on credit cards, while others faced problems stemming from still owing their universities for fall tuition. While schools pledged not to drop veterans with unpaid bills, some have prevented veterans from receiving their transcripts and diplomas or registering for spring semester while waiting for benefits checks to arrive, according to the Associated Press.

As of late December, the VA reported a remaining backlog of only 5,000 claims, but an Army Times story lists the number of pending claims as of January 4 at 48,000, many of which are for spring semester. Given the popularity of the bill and the continued delays, members of Congress have begun exploring ways to simplify the procedures for processing GI Bill benefits claims. In the meantime, the VA has pledged to have all claims received by January 15 processed by February 1, but given the number of pending claims and the speed at which processing moved in the fall, veterans may once again find themselves waiting months to receive their financial aid.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Most of the student veterans who had been affected by numerous backlogs and delayed payments of their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits have finally received those funds, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office. The payments came at a critical time, as not only the students but colleges began to worry whether their military populations would be able to afford tuition at the schools this spring semester.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which went into effect August 1, offers expanded education benefits to veterans who have served their country since 2001. GI Bill benefits include money for tuition and fees, a stipend that covers living expenses, and the option of transferring education benefits to their family members. A problem that has plagued the program since its inception, however, has been has been a months-long backlog of claims to be processed by an understaffed Veterans Affairs office. The delay caused a variety of problems for more than 68,000 veterans who applied for the new GI Bill benefits in the fall; more than 26,000 veterans were still waiting for checks at the end of the fall semester.

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday describes how the Veterans Affairs office was able to catch up - hundreds of new employees were hired, and existing employees were reassigned to focus on the backlogs. All veterans who filed for benefits before Jan. 18 of this year have had those claims processed, according to the agency.

Still, problems remain. According to the Chronicle, the emergency funds issued by the agency while they were trying to get a handle on the problem will need to be repaid. About 68,000 veterans received those advanced payments last fall in the form of $3,000 checks while waiting for their benefits to be processed. The Veterans Affairs office has decided that the money can be paid back either through monthly repayments or through deductions from future benefit payouts. Some veterans also owe the agency because they have dropped courses since, or were mistakenly paid twice by the agency.

There will also be other changes to the present GI Bill. Several bills are moving through Congress that would change who receives benefits, including one that would allow veterans to use the benefits for non-degree programs. And to address any future backlogs, the Veterans Affairs office plans to move the processing of benefits to an automated system by the end of this year. Students worried about how they will be affected by new changes are able to visit a website for veterans that breaks down the process.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you haven't heard already, today may be the day you find out whether you've been accepted to your first-choice college or university, as April 1 is the notification deadline for many of the most selective schools across the country. If the news you've gotten so far hasn't been the best, though, or if you come home to see a slimmer envelope than you'd hoped for, know that you're not alone. Many of the most famous and familiar faces out there were rejected from their top picks. (And no, this isn't an April Fool's joke.)

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal took a look at the company students with rejection letters will be keeping, and the examples they found should make any dejected high school senior feel just a little bit more hopeful. Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate in medicine, was rejected twice from Harvard Medical School, at one time counseled to join the military instead. There's a decent-sized list of famous faces who have been rejected from Harvard. "Today Show" host Meredith Vieira and broadcaster Tom Brokaw were both rejected from the Ivy; Vieira instead met a mentor at Tufts University who got her into journalism. Warren Buffet, currently one of the richest people in the world, now describes his rejection from Harvard as a mere "temporary defeat," according to the Journal. Ted Turned received dual rejection letters from both Harvard and Princeton University, eventually attending Brown University, where he left on his own terms to join his father's billboard company - a company he has since turned into a media empire.

If you didn't get in everywhere you wanted to, don't be too discouraged. It's rare that an incoming freshmen hasn't had to deal with at least one rejection letter. Check out the New York Times' blog for their ongoing feature of students' experiences this admissions season. Those students are not only dealing with good news, but making tough decisions on whether those number-one choices were really the best fit, or only the top picks in their college searches because of their ranks and reputations.

This is also one of the most competitive years in terms of admissions rates, as more students are applying to the most selective schools than in years prior. Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, for example, have seen percentage increases of applicants in the double digits over the previous year. Both of those schools have admission rates hovering around 14 percent, which seem like tough odds. So expand that net when you're choosing a college, because there could be a diamond in the rough out there that you haven't yet considered.


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by Agnes Jasinski

While many students marked April 1 as the day they found out whether they were accepted or rejected to their first-choice colleges, many others were given a different response - placement to the waiting list. High school seniors are then faced with a tough decision. Should you take a risk and bank on placement at a school you're wait-listed at, even if you miss notification deadlines at schools you've been admitted to? Or should you cut your losses and inform the schools you've been wait-listed at that you'll be going elsewhere?

The waiting list generally benefits the colleges. The schools' administrators are able to wait until their own first-choice students make decisions on where they intend to attend, moving to those on the waiting list typically by May 1, once students' deadlines to notify the school of their choice have passed. The schools may also use the waiting list to fill gaps in their student population, according to The New York Times, offering eventual admittance to a student with a particular musical or athletic talent that the school had hoped to enroll in their first-choice pool.

Knowing this, it may seem like a risky endeavor to bet on a school choosing you out of the hundreds of other students on waiting lists. Still, many do choose to stay, especially at the most prestigious, private schools. At Yale University, for example, about two-thirds of students remain on the waiting list. (More than 900 were wait-listed at Yale this year.) Of those offered eventual admittance to Yale, a majority do choose to enroll there.

So what should you do? It really depends. Here are a few tips: 

     
  • If you know you won't be attending a school you're wait-listed at, notify them of your intentions right away. There's someone out there who does want that spot, and you may be keeping them from being placed at their top-choice school.
  •  
  • If you know you're sincerely interested in the school you're wait-listed at, let the school know that. Notify them immediately that you intend to wait for their decision, and send admissions staff a personal letter on why you want to go to that school. If they're your top choice, tell them. If you know any alumni from the school, ask them to write a letter on your behalf. This is the stage of the game where admissions officials are looking at every piece of information coming in on an applicant.
  •  
  • Ask for an interview. You wouldn't be wait-listed if you didn't have the academic credentials to attend their school, so the admissions office will now be looking at other factors - extracurricular activities, outside interests, and whether your personality is a good fit for their campus.
  •  
 While waiting lists are more common at private institutions where enrollment numbers are much lower and the unpredictability of students’ decisions about whether to enroll in those private schools is much higher, some schools have used the list as more of a strategy to deal with uncertainties in state budgets or over-enrollment. California's public university system is using waiting lists to deal with a record number of applicants this year and a state budget shortfall that has made it impossible for the school system to accept as many students as it had been admitting in year prior. This is the first time the state universities have used waiting lists, and students have until April 15 to remove their names from the lists or continue waiting until around the first week in June. Any new admittances will be determined by the outcome of the state's 2010-2011 budget negotiations.


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by Agnes Jasinski

While the debate over the effectiveness of standardized test scores continues, one school has decided to do away with the tests as part of their application process. Vermont school Saint Michael's College announced Tuesday that its applicants will no longer need to include their SAT results as part of the school's admissions process. Students will be evaluated on other criteria instead, including their high school academic records, leadership and service work, and extracurricular activities, among other factors.

Students will still be able to choose whether or not to submit both their SAT and ACT scores to the college. Some students are just good test-takers, the college reasons, so impressive scores may add value to an application. But the decision signals a shift, at least at Saint Michael's and other schools with similar requirements, that there are other, more important factors of a student's college application outside of standardized test scores. For example, the school has always paid attention to the kinds of courses students choose to tackle in high school, according to Jacqueline Murphy, the school's director of admissions. Murphy was quoted in the Burlington Free Press as saying the decision "made official something we've always done in practice -- and that is, focus on a holistic review of the student."

The standardized testing system has been criticized for years, most prominently by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. NACAC has gone so far as to say standardized tests should be removed from admissions processes altogether, and that standardized prep services benefited only those who could afford them.

Whether you agree or not, you'll probably be faced with the prospect of taking some kind of standardized test in your college or post-graduate career. Although hundreds of schools across the country have done away with the standardized testing requirement, many more still require students submit their ACT or SAT results. If you're planning on going to law or graduate school, you'll also need to take either the LSAT or the GRE to gain admittance into those programs. It's best then to at least familiarize yourself with the formats of the tests. Best case scenario, you'll also take some time to practice taking the tests and studying up on the main themes you'll be asked to recall on the exams. If you're worried, browse through our tips for taking standardized tests. Being prepared will help you feel more confident come testing day, potentially raising your final score.


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