If you have a parent in the military, you may face a unique set of challenges when you’re thinking about college. It’s stressful to have a parent away, and this strain could affect your ability to focus at school. There is also a vast number of confusing financial aid options to understand!
Despite this confusion, there are steps you can take to make the most of college. Choosing the right college that fits your needs and understands your financial aid options is the first step. Then you can get back to focusing on the college experience and not sweating the dollars and cents.
Choosing a Military-Friendly College
Picking the right college can be intimidating. And having a parent away on active duty comes with its own set of strains that could affect your college experience. Find a college that understands these strains. They’ll provide support services to help you get through the transition, so you can finish your degree and have fun while you do it.
Some colleges are more military-friendly than others. But what does a military-friendly college include? First and foremost, it understands the specific difficulties that come with a military life. It’s a school that will help you navigate the specific financial aid options you have as a child of a military parent. You can take advantage of a wealth of military and educational online resources, or meet with advisors who are on hand to help determine your financial aid eligibility.
A military-friendly college also supports military tuition discount programs and scholarships for children of the military. Try using this school matchmaker from GIjobs.com to see if the schools you’re considering offer military support and accept military scholarships.
Financial Aid Options
If you have a parent in the military, you’ll have several financial aid options to choose from. There are tuition assistance programs, grants, and scholarships designed specifically for you. Check out some of the options:
Post-9/11 GI Bill
Is your parent not using their tuition benefits? Or have they only used some of them? The Post-9/11 GI Bill lets service members transfer their unused benefits to their children. That can mean up to 36 months of tuition assistance!
To get this benefit, you’ll need to enroll in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS). You and your parent will also need to meet some criteria, to receive the benefit. Special transfer requests may also be approved if your parent has special circumstances that prevent them from using their benefits at the current time.
If your parent meets one of the following criteria, they can transfer their credits to you or their spouse:
- They have served at least 6 years in the Armed Forces and agree to serve 4 additional years.
- They have 10 or more years of service and are precluded from committing to four more years. In this case, they must agree to the maximum amount of service allowed by the limiting policy or state.
- They are retirement-eligible and agree to serve four more years.
What about transferring their credits to you specifically? You both must meet the following criteria:
- Your parent has completed 10 years of service.
- You’ve completed a secondary school diploma OR are 18 years or older.
- You are under 26 years old.
Sound like you? Awesome! You are eligible to receive your parent’s tuition benefits!
While it might seem confusing at first, there are plenty of resources online to help. Your school of choice should also be able to help you through the process.
Grants and Scholarships
Financial aid options don’t stop with GI Bill assistance, though. There’s also a range of scholarships open to children of the military from the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense Education Activity has compiled a list of them on its site.
There are also several private scholarships out there. Just because you receive other financial aid doesn’t mean you can’t pursue additional private scholarships. Check out this list of some of the private scholarship opportunities available.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
Thinking about college can be intimidating. There’s so much to think about – picking the right school, choosing a major, and meeting friends. Picking a school that’s military-friendly and understands the stresses of having a military parent can help ease your transition.
It’s also difficult to focus on the rest of your college experience when you’re worrying about how to pay for it. Luckily, there are lots of financial aid opportunities available for children of military parents — take advantage of them!