How To Make Good Choices In Higher Education For Military Affiliated Students

How To Make Good Choices In Higher Education For Military Affiliated StudentsChoosing a college and completing a degree for a military affiliated student in the Active, Reserves, or a Military Veteran can be an incredible challenge. First, a military affiliated student is one that is either an active military member, a member of the Guard or Reserve, a military veteran, or a military spouse. 


Second, it is not difficult to find colleges and universities by the literal hundreds that are falling over themselves to get military affiliated students into their schools. Rather, how do you find the best higher education available as a professional, career focused, older, and full or part time student? The challenge for military affiliated students is to find good, cost effective, and sought after degrees from respectable higher education institutions that will professionally and financially advance their careers and their family happiness.


  1. Good Choices For Military Affiliated Students In Higher Ed Tip #1 – Assess Your Life & Family Stage. Getting a college or advanced degree needs to start with an honest assessment if you have the time, energy, and passion to get a degree when viewed with all of your other work, family, and life commitments. If you have small children, are getting ready to move, or have an elderly parent, now might not be the best time to get a higher education degree. This personal assessment of your readiness to complete a degree is vital to your financial success. Educational debt among people without a completed higher education degree can leave you worse off financially.


  1. Good Choices For Military Affiliated Students In Higher Ed Tip #2 – Find Some Educational Role Models. For a degree to become meaningful, military affiliated students need to have a person or person (s) they can model their educational aspirations around. For example, a military spouse could select Holly Petraeus, a leader within the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau as a role model for a career in government affairs and government policy. Holly Petraeus has a degree from Dickinson College.  Stephanie Barna, the Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) received her undergraduate degree from Washington & Jefferson College. Educational role models in Education, Government, Military, and Business point the way to higher education institutions that can help develop military affiliated students into the leaders and professions that they want to have. 


  1. Good Choices For Military Affiliated Students In Higher Ed Tip #3 – Extensively Plan Your Financial Readiness for Education. Meeting with the college registrar, educational counselors, financial aid counselors, student career office, and academic advisors takes a great deal of time, but all of these meetings are necessary. The goal is to discover a school and a major that has a strong marketplace need, it is something that you are passionately interested in, and your academic career can be completed in as short a time as possible. Financially, you should complete your educational goal with a financial goal of no more than $3000-$4000 in debt a year and no more than $15,000 educational debt for your degree. Educational debt is a killer of post-college success because it hurts your ability to truly find a career that you like and to finance after graduation items such as a house.    


  1. Value in Higher Education Tip #4 – Apply to 3 to 4 Schools That Meet Your Criteria With a Focus On Educational Outcomes. A focus on higher education outcomes that schools actually produce is the only way to cut through the school’s marketing and advertising information to determine what your expected financial outcome will be from your degree.


There are eight critical data elements to focus on to assess how well a school prepares you for an improved professional and financial life.  They are:


Higher Education School Characteristics:

  1. Educational Complaint Count — the number of educational complaints against the school that may signal collapse or accreditation issues.
  2. Retention Rate of BA Students — the percentage of students who continue their education at the college.
  3. Tuition Levels.
  4. Undergraduate Enrollment — Higher is better to the larger size of alumni in related career fields.


Higher Education Outcome Characteristics:

  1. Average Salary Following Graduation.
  2. Average Student Loan Debt.
  3. Graduation Rate of All Students.
  4. Student Loan Repayment Rate All Students.


The goal is to find a collection of physical schools that meet the majority of the criteria above. In short, you want to find the school that costs the lowest amount, graduates their students on time, gets students employed, and then has graduates leave school with a low amount of debt. This is a tall order, but one that numbers of colleges through the United States perform on an annual basis.


  1. Value in Higher Education Tip #5 – Stay The Course & Graduate On Time. College is hard, graduating school is hard, and so are other professional programs. When you make the choice to start and / or finish your degree, make that commitment in blood that no matter what happens, you will finish. Degree completion is the secret to post college success.


Military affiliated higher education students can and do perform at amazingly high levels of performance in college. To be successful, military affiliated students must assess their life stage, find educational role models, plan their financial educational commitment, chose colleges based on education outcomes, and stay on time to graduate. 


Related story:
Six Tips for Finding a Value College to Complete Your College Degree


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About the blogger:

Chad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success. Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.  Chad is an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in over 110 different articles in over 85 separate publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.


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