As an instructor for a graduate online program, I often work with students who are a poor fit for the program and the university. These students don’t do well– not because they aren’t good students, not because they have nothing to offer, and not because they aren’t dedicated. They don’t do well for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their work ethic or smarts and everything to do with how they chose the school. They didn’t know what the program entailed, they don’t agree with the school’s philosophy, or perhaps they underestimated how much time school will take. There is a different reason for each struggling student.
When you’re looking for a school, the last thing you want to do is choose the wrong fit for you and your circumstances. Granted, that can be a pretty tough thing since military life constantly changes, often with little notice. Still, with a little bit of soul-searching, it’s possible to make sure that you’re looking for a school that meets your needs. Here’s how to do that:
Consider Your Budget
Many military families don’t understand the benefits that they’re entitled to… or even what they signed up for in the first place. Make sure that you completely understand your benefits and how they will pay out over the duration of your schooling. Once you have that down, figure out how those benefits will figure into your budget and your family’s dynamics.
Inventory Your Responsibilities
This step is so important, especially if you have a family. More than once, I’ve had students leave the program because they hadn’t anticipated how much juggling it takes to balance academics and a family or work. Is it reasonable to assume you’ll be able to finish your undergrad in four years? Will you need to take time off– perhaps for a PCS or deployment? Will you only be able to go to classes at night?
Often, I receive distraught emails from students apologizing for their grades and telling me that they aren’t online learners– they’d rather attend classes in person. They ask me if I can help them, but the sad truth is that there’s little I can do at that point other than offer support. The moral of the story? Know who you are and how you learn. Know what your career trajectory is. Take those things into consideration as you look for the perfect school and program fit.
Look for Supports
With the influx of veterans using their 9/11 GI bill in the last 12 years, many schools have added more resources and support specifically for veterans and their families. Usually this will take the form of a veterans affairs department or a veterans’ liaison. You’ll also want to look for other organizations that will provide community and help, especially if you’ll be attending class in person. And of course, this advice isn’t just relegated to military organizations and structures. Is it important that there’s a free tutoring center on campus? Do you want to participate in a particular religious group? Do you need available daycare on campus? Know what support you need to be successful and seek it out before you apply.
And speaking of choosing a university… Over the next 6 months, Military One Click will feature Colorado Technical University, a post-secondary institution that provides career-oriented education at the Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate levels. CTU offers more than 100 educational programs virtually or in-person at their campuses at Colorado Springs and Denver (Aurora). CTU prides itself in offering flexible programs and being a military-friendly university for active duty, veterans, and military spouses.
Will CTU be on your list as you begin your college search? Stay tuned as we go in depth and explore what makes Colorado Technical University a great choice for mobile military families.
See CTU’s Guide to Women Going Back to School.*CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Financial aid is available for those who qualify. Jo is the author of Jo, My Gosh! a blog about her journey as a newlywed military wife. When she’s not working from home, she’s writing, reading, trying new recipes, watching sports or cross stitching. Catch her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook and say hi!