You’ve made the decision: you’re going to school. That’s exciting—and a little frightening (if we’re being totally honest)! Whether you’ve taken some time off, changed majors, or are starting your degree from scratch, there’s so much to think about, so many pieces of the puzzle to put together.
But you’re ready to earn the education you’ve been dreaming about… and if military spouses are nothing else, we’re tenacious. Here are four things you should keep in mind as you wade into the college search. Ready to dig in?
What does our budget look like?
Everyone’s finances are different (obviously). You need to spend time crunching the numbers. Keep in mind any scholarships or grants you’re eligible for (including the GI Bill, if you’ll be using it) as well as other miscellaneous costs that aren’t just tuition, like books, transportation costs (if you’ll be attending a brick-and-mortar school), fees, and technology you might need. In addition, make sure you don’t overlook costs that are indirectly associated with returning to school—like daycare for your kids (if you’re the primary caregiver) or a loss of income (if you’ll need to stop working).
What do I want to do now… and after the military?
The military life will eventually end—regardless if it’s in two years or twenty. Make sure that you’re making considerations and plans for what you’ll do as a military spouse and afterward. It’s hard to know what you might do in a few years—after all, it might change!—but you want to keep it in the back of your mind as you move forward. Look for programs that offer internships and other opportunities that can help you build your resume as you earn your degree.
How do I learn best?
With the proliferation of online colleges, there are so many options for milspouses available. However, not all opportunities work for everyone. You have to know how you learn best so that you can be the most successful in your program. Would you rather take notes and sit in lectures? Can you be disciplined to teach yourself material? Are you physically able to attend an in-person class? Do you have disabilities that might make certain kinds of classes more difficult for you? Being honest with yourself now can set you up for success rather than struggle.
What’s best for my situation?
As you work through the college application process, make sure that you are a strong advocate for yourself. Ask questions. Talk to admissions representatives and students. Keep dated, precise notes as you move through the process so that if you hit a snag, you can work to correct it. Ask about school policies that might affect you as a military spouse who might have to move halfway through a semester or become the sole caregiver if your spouse suddenly deploys. And while we’re talking about military spouse stuff, it doesn’t hurt to ask the schools about possible scholarships or grants that might be earmarked for military families.
If you earned your degree as a military spouse, what questions and concerns did you have as you looked for the perfect college or university? What do you wish you would have done or thought about now as you look back? Let me know in the comments!