Financial Aid Guide for Military and Veterans

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According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the federal effort to facilitate higher education for veterans has been successful. A recent study found that 79% of veterans who enrolled in higher education programs in 2016 were beneficiaries from the post-9/11 GI Bill. These results show that servicemembers are returning to school and capitalizing on these benefits at higher rates than they have in decades.

If you served in the military and want to earn your degree, it's likely that you qualify for several governmental or institutional educational awards. The following lists detail the educational assistance programs available to veterans, servicemembers, their spouses, and their dependents.

Please note that most application deadlines listed are for 2017. Each award and program listed is offered annually. If this year's deadline has passed, check the sponsoring website for information on the next application cycle.

The VA administers benefits available under the GI Bill to help veterans get the education and training they need to be competitive in today's job market. The program directs veterans to a variety of education and training opportunities, and also provides funds for tuition, fees, and housing. The system can be complicated, so it's important to understand everything you're entitled to before you try to claim any benefits. The first thing you need to know is that there are two main versions of the GI Bill:

MONTGOMERY GI BILL

Congress enacted the original GI Bill, aka the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, to help veterans of World War II. In 1984, legislators revamped the program and rebranded it as the Montgomery GI Bill. The bill features two subdivisions — one for active-duty servicemembers (MGIB-AD), the other for selected reservists (MGIB-SR).

MGIB-AD is available to active-duty servicemembers and honorably discharged veterans who served at least 2 years, entered service after June 30, 1985, and paid the $1,200 enrollment fee. Those with remaining entitlement under the original GI Bill and those who separated from the military for certain reasons may also be eligible for benefits under the program. MGIB-SR is available to reservists who have a 6-year obligation in the Selected Reserve signed after June 30,1985. These programs provide beneficiaries with a set amount of funds each month to cover the costs of tuition, housing, books, and other fees associated with higher education.

As an eligible veteran, you have up to 10 years from the last day of your active-duty service (or 14 years from the date of your first 6-year obligation with the Selected Reserves) to take advantage of 36 months of benefits. Unlike the Post-9/11 program, Montgomery provides a single monthly benefit payment made directly to you. That payment amount varies, depending on the type of training or education you choose and the length of your service.

POST-9/11 GI BILL

The Post-9/11 GI Bill expands educational benefits for active-duty servicemembers and honorably discharged veterans who served at least 90 days (consecutive or aggregate) after Sept. 10, 2001 (30 days if discharged for a service-connected disability). The Post-9/11 GI Bill expands educational benefits for active-duty servicemembers and honorably discharged veterans who served at least 90 days (consecutive or aggregate) after Sept. 10, 2001 (30 days if discharged for a service-connected disability). Beneficiaries receive up to 36 months of education benefits. Honorably discharged veterans have up to 15 years from their last day of active-duty service to participate.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays up to 100% of your tuition and fees, depending on your length of service and whether you attend public or private school. To receive the full benefit, you must have served at least 3 years; but even those who only have 90 days of service can cover as much as 40% of their tuition costs. An annual stipend of up to $1,000 for books and supplies may be available, as may be housing assistance that depends on your school's location.

WHAT'S COVERED UNDER THE GI BILL

The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill generally cover the same types of education and training programs, including:

  • Associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees
  • Online, distance learning, and on-campus programs
  • Business, technical, and vocational courses
  • Non-degree and on-the-job training and apprenticeships
  • Correspondence courses
  • Licensing costs
  • Certificate programs
  • Work-study programs

Each GI Bill program may have some exceptions or limitations on benefits. For example, those completing a degree or training through online or distance learning programs under the Post-9/11 Bill receive only half of the standard housing allowance. Additionally, the Post-9/11 Bill places an annual cap on tuition and fees coverage for those attending private or foreign colleges and universities, and pays only resident tuition and costs for those attending public institutions. However, the Post-9/11 Bill also features the Yellow Ribbon Program, where participating colleges and universities agree to make extra funds available to cover tuition and associated fees for eligible veterans and transferee dependents of active-duty servicemembers (active-duty servicemembers and their spouses are not eligible).

Expenses Covered Under the Montgomery GI Bill

Under the Montgomery program, the VA doesn't pay your school directly; rather, the VA gives you a monthly payment for tuition, housing, books, and other fees. The amount you receive each month varies, depending on how long you have served and what type of school you choose.

As an example, as of October 1, 2016, a veteran with at least 3 years of service who enrolls in college full time receives $1,857 each month, while a veteran completing an on-the-job training course receives $1,393 for 6 months (followed by smaller monthly payments). Likewise, a 2-year veteran enrolled in college receives a monthly stipend of $1,509. Visit the VA's website for a full list of rates.

Unique to the Montgomery GI Bill is the $600 Buy-Up Program. If, while on active duty, you increase your one-time $1,200 contribution by $600, then you can receive up to $5,400 in additional benefits.

Expenses Covered Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Under the Post-9/11 program, the VA provides payment toward your tuition and fees directly to your educational institution while sending funds for housing, books, and other supplies directly to you.

  • Up to $1,000 per year for books and supplies
  • Your housing allowance varies by the cost of living near your school, and is based on the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for a E-5 with dependents. You can estimate your housing allowance by using the military's BAH Calculator.
  • Students enrolled in fully online programs receive half the national BAH average.
  • Veterans from highly rural areas who relocate or travel by air to attend an educational institution may qualify for a one-time payment of $500.

The VA covers 100% of in-state tuition and fees for full-time enrollment at a public university if, after 9/11, you served at least 36 months or were discharged after 30 days due to a service-based disability. If you served less than that, the VA still covers a portion of your tuition and fees based on an eligibility percentage (see chart below).

Post 9/11 Eligibility Percentage for Active-Duty Veterans

TIME SERVED PERCENTAGE OF MAXIMUM BENEFIT PAYABLE
At least 36 months 100%
At least 30 days on active duty and discharged because of service-related disability 100%
At least 30 months, but less than 36 90%
At least 24 months, but less than 30 80%
At least 18 months, but less than 24 70%
At least 12 months, but less than 18 60%
At least 6 months, but less than 12 50%
At least 90 days, but less than 6 months 40%

The VA caps payments toward tuition and fees for private and foreign schools. Currently, the annual maximum for tuition benefits at such institutions is $21,971. The Yellow Ribbon Program can help you make up the gap for more costly schools.

OPTIONS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you may be able to transfer education benefits to your spouse or one or more of your children (or a combination of both) if you fit the following criteria:

  • You have at least 6 years of active duty and/or Selected Reserve service and agree to serve an additional 4 years; or
  • You have at least 10 years of active duty and/or Selected Reserve service, cannot serve an additional 4 years due to policy or statute, and agree to serve the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute; and
  • You submit your request for transfer while in the armed forces.

To receive transferred benefits, family members must enroll in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS). Additionally, the spouse or child of a veteran who died or suffered permanent and complete disability while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition may qualify for Dependents Education Assistance (DEA). There are a few unique features to this program:

  • Up to 45 months of education benefits
  • An eligible child must be between 18 and 26 years of age (extended to age 31 in some circumstances).
  • Benefits end for an eligible spouse 10 years (or 20 years, in some cases) from the determination of eligibility or the death of the veteran.

How to Apply for GI Benefits

Step 1

Choose the best benefit for you by answering these questions:

  • Will I have a service-connected disability rating? If so, and it will be greater than 20%, check to see if you are entitled to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR&E) benefits.
  • What level of education and training will I seek? Make sure your program is covered.
  • How will I study? You will receive only half of the standard Post-9/11 housing allowance if you take only online or distance learning courses. However, if you complete at least one course on campus, you will qualify for the full allowance.
  • Where will I go to school? Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the amount of tuition assistance and housing allowance you receive depends on the location of your school. If you attend a school associated with a low cost of living that offers low in-state tuition, you may actually receive more benefits by choosing the monthly payment Montgomery GI Bill. If you're eligible for either version of the bill, do the math and compare your options.
Step 2

Gather all of your paperwork and be prepared with the following information before you start applying:

  • The total length of your active-duty service, used to determine your eligibility percentage (see the table above). Be sure to keep track of the beginning and end dates (and service status) for each service period.
  • Whether you qualify for other VA programs and the amount of those benefits
  • Whether you paid into the Buy-Up Program for the Montgomery GI Bill
  • The following documents:
    • DD214 – the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
    • Post-high school transcripts
    • Kicker Contract (if any)
    Step 3

    Choose your school and program. Remember, your costs and benefits will vary depending on multiple factors: whether you claim benefits under the Montgomery or Post-9/11 GI Bill, where your school is located, your eligibility percentage, and whether you select a public, private, or foreign institution. If you choose a private institution, consider enrolling in the Yellow Ribbon Program to help cover the higher costs.

    Step 4

    Submit an online application or apply by mail within the eligibility period (typically 10 years for the Montgomery GI Bill and 15 for the Post-9/11 GI Bill). The VA's online application system, VONAPP, is user-friendly. If you choose to apply by mail, print out and complete Form 22-1990 and mail it to your regional VA Processing Office.

    MAXIMIZE YOUR GI BENEFITS

    There are several things you can do to ensure you receive the maximum benefit available:

    • Calculate tuition and housing costs and benefits under each plan.
    • Attend your program full-time if possible. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, your monthly payment will vary with your credit load. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you only qualify for a housing allowance if you complete your program on more than a half-time basis.
    • Take at least one on-campus class if you're claiming benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This will allow you to receive the entire standard housing allowance.
    • Check to see if your state has educational programs for veterans, like the Illinois Veterans Grant. Often, you can receive benefits under both a GI Bill and your state program.

    THE YELLOW RIBBON PROGRAM

    The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers up to 100% of the cost of full-time, in-state tuition and fees at a public institution of higher learning. However, if you want to go to a private or foreign college, or attend a school out-of-state, your benefits are limited and not likely to cover the full cost of tuition. To make up this difference, the Post-9/11 Bill includes a provision called the Yellow Ribbon Program.

    Who Qualifies for Yellow Ribbon (And Who Doesn't)

    Active Duty: Active-duty personnel (and their spouses) cannot participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. However, they can still use other educational benefits, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, Tuition Assistance, and the Top Up program.

    Veterans: To qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program, a veteran must: be eligible at the 100% benefit level; have served for at least 36 months after 9/10/01; and have been honorably discharged from active-duty service or served at least 30 continuous days and been discharged with a service-connected disability.

    Dependents of Veterans: As under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, spouses and children may participate if they meet the following criteria: The spouse or child is a dependent who is eligible for a Transfer of Entitlement; and The veteran is qualified to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

    Children of Active-Duty Personnel: Although spouses of active-duty servicemembers cannot use Yellow Ribbon benefits, children may be able to participate if the servicemember is entitled to the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

    What Yellow Ribbon Covers

    TYPES OF PROGRAMS

    A variety of educational programs are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, including:

    • Certificate programs
    • Licensure costs
    • Correspondence courses
    • Non-degree and on-the-job training
    • Apprenticeships
    • Business, technical, and vocational courses
    • Associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees
    • Online, distance learning, and on-campus programs
    • Work-study
    EXPENSES

    Remember that under the Yellow Ribbon Program, you will receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Those benefits include an annual stipend up to $1,000 for supplies and books, in addition to a housing allowance based on the E-5 rate where you attend school. You may also qualify for an additional $500 toward relocation expenses, known as the Rural Benefit.

    TUITION AND BENEFITS

    Tuition under the Yellow Ribbon Program can be fairly complicated. For most veterans attending private school or attending public school as a non-resident, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay the National Maximum, which is $21,971 for 2016-2017.

    Once your benefits reach the National Maximum, the Yellow Ribbon Program can kick in, but not every school participates. To do so, schools must agree to contribute a certain amount each year, matched by the VA. Participating schools also choose how many students they will sponsor each year; it's common to see smaller colleges sponsoring only 20 veterans, while some larger schools place no limit on the number of students who may participate. The VA provides a search tool to help you find Yellow Ribbon schools in your area and discover how much they will contribute.

    How to Apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program

    As a first step, you must apply for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits — either through the VA's online system, VONAPP, or through snail mail by downloading and mailing Form 22-1990 to your regional VA Processing Office.

    After your application for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits (at the 100% level) is approved, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility. You must then submit the certificate to your school, who will then determine if you are approved to participate in its Yellow Ribbon Program.

    Remember, you have 10 years from your last day of active-duty service to use your 36 months of benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

    Maximize Your Yellow Ribbon Benefits

    There are several things you can do to get the most from your benefits:

    • Attend classes on more than a half-time basis, or you will not receive a housing allowance.
    • Attend at least one class on campus. Students who only attend online classes have their monthly housing allowance capped at $806.

    Each branch of the armed forces offers tuition assistance (TA) to their active-duty personnel. Depending on the division, servicemembers may use TA to cover some or all of the costs to complete a high school diploma, complete a vocational certificate, or even earn a college degree. Each branch of the armed forces has its own rules, so you'll need to do a little research to determine your potential benefits.

    WHO QUALIFIES FOR TA

    Your eligibility for TA depends on your branch and your service:

    SERVICE TYPE ARMY NAVY AIR FORCE MARINES COAST GUARD
    Active Duty x x x x x
    National Guard Active Duty x   x    
    Reserves x x x x x
    Civilian Workers         x

    Active Duty: Generally, all active-duty servicemembers are entitled to TA. Enlisted personnel must complete their enrolled courses before discharge; commissioned officers who use TA, however, incur an additional 2 years of active-duty service obligation (ADSO).

    Reservists: Only reservists who are active in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard qualify for TA. The Army Reserve (USAR) and Air Force Reserve (USAFR) allow other reservists to participate in the TA program, but their requirements are more complicated.

    CRITERIA ARMY RESERVE AIR FORCE RESERVE
    Actively participating or drilling x x
    Course can be completed before separation (for soldiers and servicemen) x x
    Course leads to a degree higher than current level   x
    Student must declare an educational goal or have a degree plan x x
    Student must have a high school diploma   x
    Commissioned officers must have four years of service remaining after the course ends x x
    Commissioned officers incur an additional four-year service commitment x x

    What TA Covers

    Types of Programs: For a program to qualify, it must be available through an accredited institution. With the exception of those serving in the Navy, TA is typically unavailable for students earning a second degree at their current level. The different branches vary in the types of educational programs eligible for TA.

    EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS ARMY NAVY AIR FORCE MARINES COAST GUARD
    High School or GED x x   x x
    Vocational, Certificate or Non-Degree x x   x x
    Online or Distance Learning x x x x x
    Associate x x x x x
    Bachelor's x x x x x
    Master's or Doctorate x x x x x
    Second Lateral or Lower Degree   x      

    Expenses: Tuition and fees are usually paid up to a pre-set quarter hour, semester hour, and yearly limit (see below); TA for those in the Coast Guard, however, does not cover certain fees.

    EXPENSES ARMY NAVY AIR FORCE MARINES COAST GUARD
    Tuition 100% 100% 75-100% 100% 100%
    Enrollment Fees Yes Yes Yes Yes No
    Special Fees Yes Yes Yes Yes No
    Lab Fees Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    Computer Fees Yes Yes Yes Yes No
    Cap per semester credit hour $250 $250 $250/$188 $250 $250
    Cap per quarter credit hour $166 $166 $166 $166 $166
    Cap per year $4,500 16 semester hours per year $4,500/$3,500 $4,500 $4,500

    Tuition and Benefits: Typically, none of the programs cover relocation expenses, supplies or books. (Though if your books are included in the price of your tuition, TA will probably cover them.)

    Since even tuition and fees are capped, your total expenses may exceed your TA benefit. To help bridge that gap, the Veterans Administration (VA) has created the Top Up program. Essentially, it allows those servicemembers who are eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty or the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to use them to make up the difference.
    Typically, TA will not cover relocation expenses, supplies, or books (unless allowed for in the cost of your tuition).

    Since even tuition and fees are capped, your total expenses may exceed your TA benefit. To help bridge that gap, the VA created the Top Up program. Essentially, Top Up helps servicemembers who are eligible for MGIB-AD or the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits make up the difference.

    HOW TO APPLY FOR TA

    No matter under which branch of the armed services you apply for TA, you will need information about your school, program, and courses in order to complete the application.

    ARMY

    Create an account (or access an existing account) at GoArmyEd and apply online. You will receive an email notification if/when your request is approved.

    NAVY, MARINES, AND, COAST GUARD

    Using WebTA, soldiers can apply directly online. You will be notified by email when your request has been approved. Help with the application can be found at the Navy College Program's website.

    AIR FORCE

    Create an account (or access an existing one) for the Air Force Virtual Education Center (AFVEC) using the Air Force Portal. Complete the online application process. You will receive an email notifying you if/when your request is approved.

    For veterans, many of the most valuable educational benefits available don't come in the form of direct financial assistance. The programs below help servicemembers leverage their expertise by earning college credits for equivalent service accomplishments or military training programs. Many of these programs can be completed during active military enlistment and can substantially shorten the time required to earn a degree.

    ACE

    The American Council on Education's Student Veterans of America program offers transfer credit recommendations and certifies the Joint Services Transcript, which helps to translate professional military experience into academic credit. This decreases the investment of time and money spent earning a degree.

    Career NCO Degrees Program of the College of the American Soldier

    Focused on combat arms non-commissioned officers (NCOs) but available to soldiers in all military occupational specialities (MOS's), this program helps ensure that military training and education programs translate into academic credit while giving career NCOs more options in higher education. These courses are available online or at military installations.

    DANTES

    Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support gives veterans and servicemembers the opportunity to work with an education counselor who provides advice on preparing for college. The organization offers information on resources from the VA, other financial assistance, and alternatives to college credits.

    Enlisted Education Program

    The Enlisted Education Program helps certain servicemembers earn an associate degree during their first term of enlistment. The program is for entry-level soldiers in the following combat arms MOS's in career management fields (CMFs): 11 Infantry, 13 Field Artillery, 14 Air Defense Artillery, and 19 Armor.

    GoArmyEd

    Servicemembers enlisted in any military branch can use GoArmyEd to learn about and request tuition assistance online. Military personnel can use the site to manage education records and seek Army Education Counselor support.

    NAVUB

    The National Association of Veterans Upward Bound is a professional association that works with veterans to create and improve access to education through academic assessments and access to institutions, instruction, and academic support. These projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

    Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges

    Since the 1970s, Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges has partnered with more than a dozen higher education associations and government agencies to improve opportunities for military personnel to participate in higher education programs. The organization features separate network systems for each branch of the military.

    Troops to Teachers

    The Troops to Teachers program helps servicemembers transition from the military to careers in public school education. Participants work in high-need schools.

    Advanced Civil Schooling

    ACS helps selected officers obtain graduate degrees from a variety of civilian universities. Participants complete graduate programs within their branch, functional area, or specialty. Officers must be nominated to this program, and must meet specific educational and testing criteria.

    Participation in educational assistance programs for servicemembers has risen in recent years. This is partly due to the expansion of these programs, and partly due to the increasingly competitive job market veterans find upon return from their tours of service. If you qualify for one or more of these benefits programs, now is a better time than ever to take advantage.

    Loan Repayment Program

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    Who's Eligible: Eligibility requirements vary depending on the branch of service, but LRPs are available through the Army, Navy and Air Force.
    Award: The Navy and the Army will pay up to $65,000 toward your student loans. If you enlist in the Air Force, you can participate in a loan forgiveness program that will pay off 33.3% of your outstanding student loan after each completed year of active-duty service.
    How to Apply: Check with your recruiter or advisor to find out if you are eligible and how to apply.

    National Call to Service Program

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    Who's Eligible: Servicemembers completing a 3-tiered service requirement are eligible. In addition to entry training, participants should expect to spend a minimum of 3 years in active-duty service.
    Award: Benefits vary. Participants can choose from several incentives, including a $5,000 cash bonus or repayment of a qualifying student loan of $18,000 or less.
    How to Apply: Visit your nearest Veterans Administration office to apply or visit the VA's website to learn more.

    Navy College Fund

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    Who's Eligible: Personnel, ages 17 to 35, who qualify for training in a selected navy rating as a non-prior service enlistee and who entered active duty after Nov. 21, 1989 and agreed to serve at least 3 years are eligible.
    Award: Benefits vary, depending on your date of entry into the Navy and the terms of your enlistment contract. Read more about how the NCF works here.
    How to Apply: Check with your recruiter to learn more about applying for this program. If you're already enlisted, ask your advisor about eligibility and enrollment procedures.

    Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)

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    Who's Eligible: Members of the reserve components called or ordered to active service in response to a war or national emergency are eligible. Check out the REAP pamphlet to review specific eligibility terms. NOTE: Some Reservists who were activated for at least 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001, may be eligible for benefits.
    Award: Benefits vary widely, according to your enrollment status and years of consecutive service. Allowances are issued monthly and may be used only for tuition and fees. Current REAP rates range from $165 to $1,318 for institutional training.
    How to Apply: File a claim for benefits from the VA. Read more about the application process here.

    Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)

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    Who's Eligible: Eligibility varies for ROTC programs, depending on the branch of the military. Enrollees can choose between Army ROTC, Air Force ROTC, and Navy ROTC programs; the Coast Guard has a separate reserve training program.
    Award: Awards vary by branch, and can often cover up to 70-100% of a full-time student's tuition and fees for 4 years. All programs require minimum periods of service after graduation in addition to training commitments during school.
    How to Apply: Contact your recruiter or counselor for information on applying for ROTC programs.

    Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP)

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    Who's Eligible: Individuals who first enlisted between January 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985 and opened contribution accounts before April 1, 1987, voluntarily contributing $25.00 – $2,700 to their pay are eligible. Air Force personnel must have enlisted between Dec. 1, 1980, and Sept. 30, 1981 in one of several specific Air Force Specialties in specific locations.
    Award: Benefits vary, depending on the amount contributed voluntarily.
    How to Apply: Fill out Form 22-1990 and submit to your local Veteran's Administration office.

    Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program

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    Who's Eligible: All veterans and servicemembers are eligible.
    Award: Free vocational rehabilitation job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job-seeking skills coaching.
    How to Apply: Visit the VA's VRE pagesx and download the forms to apply.

    ALL-MILITARY SCHOLARSHIPS

    AmVets National Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Veterans who have exhausted other government education benefits.
    Award: $1,000 annually for a maximum of 4 years; must be used for pursuit of full-time study.
    Deadline: TBA

    Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Current active-duty personnel or veterans of the Armed Forces who are enrolled part-time or full-time in a U.S. college or vocational training program.
    Award: $12,000 for books and tuition.
    Deadline: TBA

    Veterans United Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Veterans and active-duty servicemembers, including members of the National Guard and Reservists who are currently pursuing a post-secondary education (family members of these individuals may also be eligible).
    Award: Up to $20,000.
    Deadline: TBA

    Paralyzed Veterans of America Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Members or relatives of members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America; must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. college.
    Award: Varies.
    Deadline: June 17

    AIR FORCE SCHOLARSHIPS

    Air Force ROTC Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: Eligibility requirements vary by scholarship, but Air Force ROTC participants typical enroll in the program at the time of enlistment.
    Awards: Often include full tuition, lab fees, and $500 for books.
    Deadline: Application due December 1; supplemental materials due January 12

    Captain Jodi Callahan Memorial Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Active-duty Air Force, full-time Air National Guard, or full-time Air Force Reserve (officer or enlisted) pursuing a master's degree in a non-technical field of study.
    Award: $1,000.
    Deadline: TBA

    Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program

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    Who's Eligible: U.S. citizens who have been accepted into graduate-level health professions training programs.
    Award: Full tuition and required fees, including textbooks, small equipment items, and study supplies. There is also a monthly allowance for living expenses
    Deadline: Varies, depending on whether applying for a 2-, 3- or 4-year scholarship.

    Col. Loren J. and Mrs. Lawona R. Spencer Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Military personnel who have been accepted into a master's-level program and have not received this scholarship previously.
    Award: Varies, depending on the type of degree program
    Deadline: TBA

    ARMY SCHOLARSHIPS

    Army ROTC Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: High school ROTC, college-level ROTC students, and enlisted soldiers.
    Award: Varies, but typically full tuition, room and board; books and fees are fully covered in some instances.
    Deadline: Varies by scholarship. Check with your recruiter or advisor to see if and how quickly you can enroll.

    Army Health Professions Scholarship Program

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    Who's Eligible: U.S. residents with an accredited bachelor's degree who have been accepted to an accredited graduate program. These individuals must maintain full-time student status and qualify as commissioned officers in the U.S. Army Reserve.
    Award: Full tuition for a graduate-level health care degree in an accredited medical, dental, veterinary, psychology, or optometry program in the U.S. or Puerto Rico. Students also receive a monthly stipend and allowances for food and housing.
    Deadline: Varies.

    Army Women's Foundation Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: Eligibility requirements vary by scholarship; generally must be a female who has served or is serving in the U.S. Army or a daughter of a current or former servicemember.
    Award: $1,000 toward tuition for community college or certificate programs; $2,500 toward tuition for 4-year college or graduate programs.
    Deadline: TBA

    Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Students in baccalaureate or advanced nursing or nurse anesthesia programs who are serving or have served in any branch of the U.S. military at any rank, and who are not receiving funding from any branch of the military.
    Award: Varies.
    Deadline: TBA

    MARINE SCHOLARSHIPS

    Marine Corps ROTC Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: Individuals who are physically qualified by Marine Corps standards with no criminal record and a qualifying score on a college entrance exam (SAT, AFGT or ACT).
    Award: $1,500 – $10,000 per academic year.
    Deadline: TBA

    Olmsted Scholars Program

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    Who's Eligible: MIlitary officers and their spouses who are seeking to learn foreign languages to advance their military careers. Candidates must be nominated directly by their service branch.
    Award: Reimbursement for expenses in addition to grants.
    Deadline: TBA

    Marines' Memorial Association Tribute Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: Varies by scholarship.
    Award: $2,500-$5,000.
    Deadline: TBA

    NAVY SCHOLARSHIPS

    Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Education Assistance

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    Who's Eligible: Wounded or injured veterans of the U.S. Navy who served in OEF, OIF, Operation New Dawn and those injured in operational mishaps, major training exercises, or deployments who are now pursuing a degree in the teaching profession or medical-related field.
    Award: Varies; to be used for tuition, books, room and board.
    Deadline: TBA

    Navy ROTC Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: Individuals who are physically qualified by Marine Corps standards with no criminal record and a qualifying score on a college entrance exam (SAT, AFGT or ACT).
    Award: Varies, but typically can cover full tuition for 4 years, uniforms, and a $750 semester stipend for textbooks.
    Deadline: January 31

    Samuel Eliot Morison Naval History Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Active-duty commissioned officers of the U.S. Navy who are working to obtain a graduate degree in history.
    Award: $5,000 for research, travel, books and supplies.
    Deadline: TBA

    Navy Seal Foundation Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: Active-duty SEALs, SWCC, and Naval Special Warfare personnel currently serving in NSW Commands.
    Award: Varies, by degree program and the academic and service record of the recipient.
    Deadline: TBA

    College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative Scholarship Program

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    Who's Eligible: Undergraduate students between the ages of 19 and 28 who are sophomores or juniors in a specific college or university with a minimum 2.5 GPA.
    Award: Full coverage of tuition, fees, books and living expenses.
    Deadline: TBA

    ALL-MILITARY FAMILY BENEFITS

    GI Bill Transfer of Benefits

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    Who's Eligible: Servicemember's spouses or dependent children who are enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS); servicemember must be eligible for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the time of transfer.
    Benefit: Servicemember's unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
    How to Apply: Contact your local VA office or apply online.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

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    Who's Eligible: Dependents of military personnel who served and died in Iraq and Afghanistan who qualify for a Pell Grant but are ineligible because of their expected family contribution amount.
    Benefit: Varies, based on the maximum amount for the Federal Pell grant.
    How to Apply: File a FAFSA form.

    Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)

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    Who's Eligible: Spouses of active-duty servicemembers in pay grades E1-E5, W1-W2, and O1-O2, and the spouses of activated Guard and Reserve members in those ranks.
    Benefit: Up to $4,000 for tuition, licensing/credentialing fees, Continuing Education Unit (CEU) classes, high school completion courses, GED tests, and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
    How to apply: Visit https://aiportal.acc.af.mil/mycaa to create an account, then follow the application procedures.

    Survivors & Dependents Assistance Program

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    Who's Eligible: Family members of veterans who died or became permanently disabled during their service.
    Benefit: Up to 45 months of education benefits. Benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.
    How to Apply: Visit your nearest Veterans Administration office or visit the VA's website.

    ALL-MILITARY SCHOLARSHIPS

    Sgt. John David Fry Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Children of active-duty armed services members who died while on active duty.
    Award: 36 months of education benefits
    Deadline: TBA

    Scholarships for Military Children

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    Who's Eligible: Dependent, unmarried children (under 23 years old) of active-duty reserve/guard and retired military members, or survivors of servicemembers who died while on active duty.
    Award: $2,000.
    Deadline: TBA

    Heroes Legacy Scholarships

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    Who's Eligible: Dependent, unmarried children (under 23 years old) of active-duty reserve/guard and retired military members, or survivors of servicemembers who died while on active duty.
    Award: $2,000.
    Deadline: TBA

    Pat Tillman Scholars Program

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    Who's Eligible: Spouses of veterans or active-duty military personnel, in addition to veterans and active-duty servicemembers.
    Award: Varies, including one-time awards and renewable tuition assistance programs.
    Deadline: TBA

    AIR FORCE SCHOLARSHIPS

    General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program

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    Who's Eligible: Children of active-duty Air Force personnel.
    Award: $500-$4,000.
    Deadline: TBA

    Air Force Sergeant's Association Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Dependents of AFSA organization members.
    Award: $500-$3,000.
    Deadline: March 31

    Mike and Gail Donley Spouse Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Spouses of enlisted Air Force, Air National Guard, or Air Force Reserve personnel.
    Award: $2,500.
    Deadline: TBA

    Lt Col Romeo – Josephine Bass Ferretti Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Minor dependents of active-duty or retired Air Force, Air Force Reserve, or Air National Guard enlisted Airmen who are studying a STEM field.
    Award: $5,000
    Deadline: TBA

    Hanscom Spouses Club Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Dependents of active-duty, retired, or deceased Air Force personnel.
    Award: Varies, depending on the degree program and academic history of the recipient.
    Deadline: TBA

    ARMY SCHOLARSHIPS

    Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund

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    Who's Eligible: Dependents of permanently disabled, deceased, or MIA U.S. soldiers under the age of 26.
    Award: Varies, depending on the degree program and academic history of the recipient.
    Deadline: October 16

    MARINES SCHOLARSHIPS

    Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation Awards

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    Who's Eligible: Children of active-duty or reserve Marines, honorably discharged Marines, or Marines killed while serving.
    Award: $1,500; $2,500; $5,000; $7,500; or $10,000 per academic year.
    Deadline: March 1

    Heroes Tribute Scholarship Program for Children of the Fallen

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    Who's Eligible: Children of Marines and veteran Marines killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001; children of Marines attached to a Marine unit killed in combat operations after September 11, 2001; and children of Marines who were killed in training after September 27, 2008.
    Award: $30,000 over 4 years.
    Deadline: March 1

    NAVY SCHOLARSHIPS

    Colonel Hazel Elizabeth Benn Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: unmarried, dependent children of past and present enlisted Navy medical personnel who have served with the Marine Corps.
    Award: $1,000-$2,000.
    Deadline: April 15

    Navy League of the United States Scholarship

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    Who's Eligible: Children and grandchildren of current and former members of the Sea Services and Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
    Award: Varies
    Deadline: TBA

    Wings Over America Scholarship Foundation

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    Who's Eligible: Dependent children and spouses of Navy personnel.
    Award: $3,000.
    Deadline: TBA

    Dolphin Scholarship Foundation

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    Who's Eligible: Unmarried high school and college students under the age of 24 who are children/stepchildren of current or former members of the U.S. Navy or submarine forces.
    Award: $2,000 or $3,400.
    Deadline: TBA

    COAST GUARD

    Coast Guard Foundation Scholarship Resources for Coast Guard Children

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    Who's Eligible: Unmarried, dependent children of enlisted members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
    Award: Varies.
    Deadline: TBA

    Aravind Dileepan - Attorney at Law

    Ara joined the Army in 2006 and commissioned through The United States Army Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. As an engineer officer, Ara led route clearance patrols in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where his units were tasked with neutralizing roadside bombs. Most recently, his unit supports ROTC battalions at university campuses across the western U.S. Ara has a bachelor's degree from Davidson College and a master's degree from Boston College, both of which are in political science. Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, he was able to graduate from Seattle University's School of Law in 2016. Ara practices law in the Seattle area and continues to serve in the Army Reserve.

    Can you tell us about your military background and your path toward attending college?

    I attended a private prep school and knew all along that I was going to attend college. I had long thought about joining the military, but I didn't really know what that meant. I briefly considered the military academies but knew my parents wouldn't approve. It also seemed too difficult to try to obtain a recommendation from a Congressional representative.

    In the end, I never considered enlisting in the military after high school because I was going to college. In college, I didn't do ROTC and I'm not sure why not. Maybe because I didn't know enough about it. But finally, during graduate school, at the height of the Iraq War, with my own future uncertain, and without needing parental approval, I finally decided to join the Army upon graduation.

    What financial aid did you receive for college as a result of your time in the military? What requirements did you have to meet to receive it?

    I didn't get any college benefits for joining the Army. I joined when it was still the Montgomery GI Bill. I had no loans from undergrad, but I did have some from graduate school. There wasn't any student loan forgiveness that I was aware of, but it didn't matter to me. I didn't join for the educational benefits.

    After I got back from my first deployment, I learned about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, but I had no intentions of returning to school, so I thought it was useless for me.

    After my second overseas deployment, I realized I had enough active-duty time that the Post-9/11 GI Bill would cover a lot of further education, if I wanted it. I also didn't think I'd stay in long enough to transfer the benefits to my children. I figured that if I didn't use these benefits, then they would just be left on the table. I didn't want to do that, so I decided to go to law school to use up my GI Bill benefits.

    How did the financial aid you received affect your education? How would things have been different if you hadn't received any financial support?

    The Post-9/11 GI Bill allowed me to go to law school. I would not have enrolled if not for those benefits. The government paid most of my tuition and gave me a living stipend for all the months I was actually attending class.

    I attended a private law school and it cost more than the GI Bill covered, but there was a supplemental Yellow Ribbon Program that covered a portion of the rest. All told, I would be responsible for about $15,000. I figured that was a reasonable amount of debt for a law degree.

    Without the GI Bill, I simply would not have considered going to law school. I already had a graduate degree, so I was confident I could get a good job.

    What personal academic goals did you hold for yourself? Did the support you received from your time spent in service help you accomplish any of these goals?

    I simply wanted to pass. I knew law school would be rigorous, but I was 33 when I started, with a wife, a house, and kids on the way. I didn't live right next to campus, either. I kept my academic life and my home life pretty distinct and that meant my grades suffered, but I was ok with it because I knew that I wouldn't have $100,000 in loans to manage at the end.

    In the Army, I learned to prioritize tasks and goals by value and effort. Sometimes, the value was enough to require vast amounts of effort, but law school didn't fit into that category for me. Law school was like a bonus to me, not something required. Since I knew no one was going to die or get injured and that I wouldn't have to rely on good grades to support my family, I took it somewhat easy in law school.

    How did the financial benefits you received because of your time in active duty shape the outcome of your education?

    I didn't work as hard in law school because I was confident in my ability to get a job without a legal degree. Young students straight out of college had nothing on their resumes except school, and the only way to distinguish themselves was with grades and extracurricular activities.

    Meanwhile, I had a strong resume and knew that my loans after graduation would be small enough that I wouldn't need some high-paying, stressful job.

    What were some important resources you used when pursuing financial aid?

    The financial aid office on campus helped me a lot. I wasn't aware of the Yellow Ribbon Program when I began the process. I also didn't know all the reporting requirements for using the GI Bill. It was great to have people at the school know those ins and outs and manage them for me.

    When in college, who did you go to when you had questions about your benefits? What sort of questions did you have for them?

    The student financial aid office. The biggest question for me was how to manage my schedule to get some benefits throughout the year. The housing stipend is separate from the educational benefits, but it was prorated against whether you were full- or part-time. I took summer classes to get those stipends, and it also helped alleviate some of the academic burden throughout the year.

    What were your top priorities when choosing a college?

    It had to be local. We owned a house and weren't going to move. I wanted to attend the public university because then I'd have had no loans when I graduated, but University of Washington Law is the most competitive of the three law schools in Washington. I didn't get in.

    What resources do you wish you would have had to make your time at college easier?

    I wish the school had provided better resources to older, second-career students. As essentially a commuter student, I didn't feel part of the student body and my military training taught me not to complain about things unless I had some kind of solution or willingness to take on responsibility. So as much as I wished that faculty advisors were more available, or that there was some effort to really embrace students who couldn't get involved in extra-curricular activities, I didn't complain or do anything about it.

    What advice would you give to your past self, right before you started college?

    I'm not sure. I can't imagine that I'd do law school any differently than I did. Perhaps I may have brought up some of my concerns about feeling excluded. But frankly, I wasn't interested in anything like a vets center or programs, I just didn't want to feel like an outsider for being older and for being unable and unwilling to engage in extracurriculars.

    Desheun Hines -Veteran's Academic Advisor at HCC

    My name is DeSheun Hines and I am a U.S. Marine veteran who served from 2004 to 2013 as a 1371-Combat Engineer. During that time, I deployed to Iraq for a total of 13 months. I was medically discharged as a decorated Sgt. of Marines, with a combination of 3 Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and numerous other awards for outstanding leadership and accomplishments.

    After the Marines, I moved on to graduate from Hillsborough Community College (HCC) with my associate of arts degree with high honors. I also completed the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Certificate program with high honors and was awarded the 2015 Business Student of the Year award. I then went on to graduate from the University of Tampa in 2017 with a BS in management, magna cum laude. During my time at University of Tampa, I was also awarded the Outstanding Graduate in Management award.

    I currently work as a veteran's academic advisor at HCC, where I use my positive mindset and love for my fellow vets to help them during their educational journey. I'm a believer that the only way I'll be successful is if I help those around me achieve success. Knowledge is only powerful when it's put to use. And I plan to use mine to help my fellow veterans successfully transition from war heroes to workforce heroes.

    Can you tell us about your military background and your path toward attending college?

    I enlisted in 2004 as a combat engineer, where I did everything from mine and explosives handling to construction and wire obstacle set/breaching. During my time in the military, I stood out due to my exceptional construction and leadership skills, at least from what I was told. I deployed to Iraq from January 2008 to January 2009 where I lead as the Platoon Sergeant of approximately 20 Marines and sailors. On deployment, I earned my first Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (NAM) for outstanding leadership and mission accomplishment. I was medically discharged in 2013 after earning a total of 3 NAM's, 2 Certificates of Accommodations, and a Meritorious Mast for going above and beyond the call of duty and leadership.

    Upon discharge, I enrolled at Hillsborough Community College to complete my AA degree and then I went to the University of Tampa where I completed my BS in management.

    What financial aid did you receive for college as a result of your time in the military? What requirements did you have to meet to receive it?

    I primarily used my Post 9/11 GI Bill. I applied for financial aid via FASFA and wasn't awarded any Pell Grant funds until about 2016 because I made too much in the military during 2012 and 2013. I had full access to any scholarships I was eligible for though, but I didn't apply for any. Once I was eligible for the Pell Grant, I received the full grant and my GI Bill. When I transferred to UT, I had the Pell Grant, my GI Bill, and was awarded a $4,000 transfer grant for being a transfer student as well as a $1,500 scholarship for being a resident of Florida. All of that, combined with the Yellow Ribbon Program, meant that I didn't have to pay out of pocket for any of my tuition during my entire time in school. I also switched from Post 9/11 GI Bill to VocRehab in my first semester at UT.

    The only requirements I needed to get the Post 9/11 GI Bill is to serve 36 months on active duty or get medically discharged, or medically retired if you served less than 36 months. These requirements may have changed slightly over time.

    How did the financial aid you received affect your education? How would things have been different if you hadn't received any financial support?

    Non-VA financial aid didn't affect my education in regard to completing my goal. The only effect it had was providing extra spending money and minimize my chances of thinking of getting a job. If I didn't receive financial aid, I would have been more likely to take on more work-study hours than I worked to make a little more money. However, I still would have completed my degree.

    What personal academic goals did you hold for yourself? Did the support you received from your time spent in service help you accomplish any of these goals?

    My personal academic goals were not just to get the best grades I could get, but to be the best student leader I could be. I cringe at the notion of “Cs gets degrees”. I believe in doing the best you can at everything you do.

    Yes. The Marines created a culture where failure is not an option. We were taught that when we fail, someone dies. This made me determined to do my best, so that if I failed, I had no regrets because nothing more I could have done to succeed.

    How did the financial benefits you received because of your time in active duty shape the outcome of your education?

    Without my VA benefits, it's highly unlikely that I would have finished with my bachelor's degree this soon and definitely wouldn't have been able to go to the university I wanted. Also, I would have been under a tremendous amount of stress.

    What were some important resources you used when pursuing financial aid?

    I only went onto FASFA.gov. I didn't apply for any scholarships.

    When in college, who did you go to when you had questions about your benefits? What sort of questions did you have for them?

    I went to my school certifying official and VA records specialist for my benefits questions.
    Some of the questions I had for them were how long will it take for me to get my housing allowance, will my benefits cover my entire tuition, if my benefits run out in the middle of the semester will I still receive housing allowance for the remainder of the semester, can I switch to VocRehab, will my VA benefits impact my financial aid, etc.

    What were your top priorities when choosing a college?

    My top priorities were the value of their degree (accreditations, national/state ranking for my program, and graduate to job ratio), class size, how much help they provide vets who are new to education, how beautiful the campus was, perks for being a student, and prestige.

    What resources do you wish you would have had to make your time at college easier?

    A transition assistance program that actually provided me with valuable information about starting college before getting out of the military. More housing allowance and book funds would have been a great help with making college easier.

    What advice would you give to your past self, right before you started college?

    Believe in yourself and you will succeed because you are determined to do your best!

    Carol Gee - Freelance Writer

    Carol Gee, MA, is an author and freelance writer who spent over 21 years in the Air Force. She did a short stint as a mental health counselor and also worked in higher education at the university level for close to 28 years before retiring to write full-time. Carol is the author of four books, and her brand is a series that women have fondly coined "girlfriend" books because of their fun, female-centric essays. Her writing has appeared in such scholastic magazines as Goizueta Magazine (the alumni magazine at Atlanta's Emory Business School), Knowledge@Emory, The Emory Report, and a number of other print and online magazines.

    Can you tell us about your military background and your path toward attending college?

    I always hoped to go to college but didn't know how I would fund it forty years ago. I took all the college prep classes and made good grades all through high school. However, I was living in a small factory town, working a dead-end job, and my life seemed desolate. An advertisement for the Air Force changed everything. When the recruiter told me that I would be eligible for college benefits, my decision to join was made.

    What financial aid did you receive for college as a result of your time in the military? What requirements did you have to meet to receive it?

    I used the military GI Bill. This was earned by simply serving in the Air Force, and earning an honorable discharge.

    How did the financial aid you received affect your education? How would things have been different if you hadn't received any financial support?

    Had I not served, I would not have been able to afford college or it would have probably taken me a long time to finish it, using financial aid and working my way through. My mother suggested that I select a women's college in the small town where we lived, and live at home. However, I would have to find a way to pay for it. Once she thought I was serious by working my way the first two years, she would try to help fund the second half. My argument was if I had to pay my way, I should be able to choose the college of my choice.

    What personal academic goals did you hold for yourself? Did the support you received from your time spent in service help you accomplish any of these goals?

    Since I didn't start college until I was 27 years old and had served for nearly 8 years, I felt that I was way behind my peers. As a result, I felt motivated to get my bachelor's degree as soon as I could. Yes, the Air Force taught me many skills, instilled self-confidence, and taught me to always finish what I started. Because you typically don't know how long you will be assigned stateside, my immediate goal was to try to earn an associate degree. That way, I wouldn't have a problem with transferring credits. So that's what I did. However, I was stationed at my college town for four years and by going year-round, using military courses as electives, I earned my bachelor's in three years. That left one year and a couple months to complete my master's.

    How did the financial benefits you received because of your time in active duty shape the outcome of your education?

    It enabled me to complete two degrees without taking on a financial hardship or worrying about accomplishing my goals.

    What were some important resources you used when pursuing financial aid?

    Since I received GI benefits, I did not need any other forms of financial aid.

    When in college, who did you go to when you had questions about your benefits? What sort of questions did you have for them?

    Both my undergraduate and master's degree colleges had a veteran's counselor. So I spoke with them regularly throughout both my programs to ensure that I stayed on track with my coursework and answered any questions I had.

    What were your top priorities when choosing a college?

    Since I attended college campuses on military bases where my active duty spouse and I were stationed, colleges were limited to only one or two. I was Interested in the social services program and selected the college that offered the courses I need to earn my sociology and psychology degrees.

    What resources do you wish you would have had to make your time at college easier?

    With my GI benefits funding my entire degree program, I could focus solely on my education instead of on how I was going to fund my classes, books, etc. Having a veteran's counselor handy to answer questions and help me was also invaluable. I hoped that I was as valuable to the veterans I counseled.

    What advice would you give to your past self, right before you started college?

    Don't worry about being behind your peers. It only puts added pressure on you. However, feeling behind them often motivated me when I felt overwhelmed with coursework. During the completion of both of my degrees, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and stopped feeling like I needed to catch up. My college degrees led to several opportunities, including a short stint as a mental health counselor and a wonderful career in higher education. Incidentally, a year after leaving active duty, I joined the AF Reserves where I earned enough time in the military to retire and earn a military pension.

    In short — serving in the military changed my whole life's trajectory.

    Michael Davis - Missouri State University's Oldham Family Veteran Student Services Office

    Michael Davis is an office support assistant in Missouri State University's Oldham Family Veteran Student Services Office, which helps all military-affiliated students successfully transition to college. He joined the staff there upon graduation from MSU in 2018. Michael earned his master's degree from MSU in May 2018 with a major in administrative studies, and a special emphasis in homeland security and defense. Additionally, he earned his bachelor's degree from MSU in 2016 with a major in psychology and minors in gerontology and sociology. During his studies as an undergraduate student, Michael was inducted into "Phi Eta Sigma" and "Phi Eta Pi" national honor societies. He was also the recipient of the "Emerging Leader Award," as well as the first of two recipients of the "Scholar 2 Scholar Award" at MSU in 2016. Currently, Michael is working on his Ph.D. with a major in organizational leadership.

    Michael is an honorably-discharged veteran of the United States Marine Corps, of which he is a veteran of the Vietnam War. His decorations include: Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Arctic Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Rifle Sharpshooter and Pistol Sharpshooter. Currently, he is a member of Marine Corps League Detachment #993, located in Springfield, Missouri. He has served as Commandant for Detachment #993, as well as Regional Vice Commandant, where he oversaw Marine Corps League detachments located in Joplin, Springfield, Warsaw, St. Roberts and West Plains, all located in southwest Missouri. Additionally, Michael is a member of the Marine Corps League Honor Guard and Memorial Team, of which he has performed more than 270 full-honor military funerals, including flag presentations to the next of kin. Currently, Michael serves as a staff member on the Honor Flight of the Ozarks, which takes all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans for an all-inclusive VIP tour of their respective war memorials in Washington, D.C. Michael has flown on 13 of the 14 Honor Flights.

    Can you tell us about your military background and your path toward attending college?

    My father retired from the U.S. Army in 1968 after 21 years of faithful service to our nation. My path of joining the military was laid out before me at a very early age. As a Vietnam veteran, the draft was still in effect at the time that I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. For me, it was not a question of if I was going to be drafted, it was a matter of when I was going to be drafted. To avoid being drafted, I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps while I still had an opportunity to do so. My path to college did not present itself until later on in life. After my military life, I married, had children, and had to work to support my family. It was not until my children were raised and on their own that I made the time and commitment to pursue a formal education at the university level.

    What financial aid did you receive for college as a result of your time in the military? What requirements did you have to meet to receive it?

    By the time I decided to attend university, my educational benefits from my military service had expired. To pursue higher education, I had to take out student loans. I exhausted all Pell grants and scholarships available to me before actually taking out loans. I had to explore the process of filling out the FAFSA through the Financial Aid Office at the university I was attending.

    How did the financial aid you received affect your education? How would things have been different if you hadn't received any financial support?

    The financial aid I received allowed me to complete three college degrees, including my master's degree. Now, financial aid is making it possible for me to obtain my doctoral degree. Without the financial aid offered to me, my dream of a college education would never have become reality, as I am the first in my family to ever receive a college degree.

    What personal academic goals did you hold for yourself? Did the support you received from your time spent in service help you accomplish any of these goals?

    As a U.S. Marine, I have always strived for excellence. Values and traits instilled within me during my time as a Marine helped tremendously in achieving my goal — values such as honor, integrity, character, dedication, and a commitment to service and discipline. These values allowed me to excel during my university studies.

    How did the financial benefits you received because of your time in active duty shape the outcome of your education?

    As I mentioned above, my educational benefits had expired before I entered the university.

    What were some important resources you used when pursuing financial aid?

    In pursuing financial aid, the most important resources available to me were the financial aid office, financial aid counselors, and the veteran student service center at the university.

    When in college, who did you go to when you had questions about your benefits? What sort of questions did you have for them?

    While at the university, all of my questions were addressed to the veteran student service center and the financial aid office, as both offices work in conjunction with each other. The types of questions I had all centered around what benefits were available to me, how much financial aid I could receive, and who to talk to if a problem or issue presented itself.

    What were your top priorities when choosing a college?

    Starting university for the very first time, my top priority was whether or not there was a veteran's office and lounge located at the university. I knew that I was different from the average university student transitioning from high school. I wanted to be around others just like myself who had gone through and understood the same experiences, trials and tribulations, and issues I had been through. I had to be able to associate with others like me instead of being alienated because I was not only older, but also a veteran.

    What resources do you wish you would have had to make your time at college easier?

    I grew up during the days when computers and cell phones had not been invented yet. When I entered university, I was already at a disadvantage, unlike my younger classmates. I wish I had the same knowledge level of technology that my younger classmates had.

    What advice would you give to your past self, right before you started college?

    The best advice I would give my past self is unless you are prepared to be fully committed to pursuing your education, including being dedicated and disciplined enough to see it through, don't pursue a college degree to begin with.