News Center

Surviving going back to (a new) school after a PCS

‎08-18-2014 11:18 AM

PTR[3]_ingrid-bruns.jpg.pngThis fall, my daughter Madison will spend her senior year of high school in a different city and state than where she spent her junior year. She will have a new campus to figure out, new teachers to learn from, and new friends to make in a hurry. She’s not complaining about it – in fact, it’s "ops normal" for her as an Air Force brat. This will be her third high school in as many years, and her seventh school overall.


Madison’s high school experience may be a little extreme even for the military, but all active-duty families deal with the challenges of new schools when they go through a permanent change of station. First, there’s the disruption of uprooting the kids from their routine and packing them off to an unfamiliar place. Then there’s the often difficult task of trying to keep them focused on their academics amid the chaos of the move.


There’s also a logistics component of enrolling in a new school – getting registered,  selecting classes, filling out health forms, getting required immunizations, arranging transcripts, making sure credits are transferred, meeting with teachers and more.


As trying as they are, school transitions don’t have to frustrate parents or hurt their children in the classroom. Parents can be their student’s best advocates if equipped with the right information and resources.


A good place to start is by knowing the basics of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.This is an agreement among nearly all of the U.S. states (see Figure 1) to equalize the treatment of military children transferring between schools. It creates a consistent policy for class placement, special education services, graduation requirements and other issues for all school districts in the participating states. Contact the School Liaison Officer at your installation to learn more about how the compact can help you with your PCS transition.


Figure 1: Nearly all U.S. states take part in the education compact for military children*

Education Compact Map.PNG

*Effective in Oregon Jan. 1, 2015, New Hampshire adopted the compact on Aug. 4, 2014. New York adopted the compact Aug. 18, 2014


The Military Child Education Coalition is another good source of information and support. MCEC offers parent-to-parent programs so you can learn from those who have been in your shoes, as well as student-to-student programs to help your children get through the rough spots of their transition. It also has a number of publications available and can make referrals for installation services and resources.


SchoolQuest is an important initiative of MCEC. Its rich website offers a wide range of valuable information, most notably a searchable database for comparing and selecting schools near military installations. SchoolQuest also provides help for students transitioning to college, including access to resources to pick the right college and to pursue military in-state tuition and waivers.


The Military Teens Toolkit from the National Military Family Association and Military Youth on the Move offer solid advice and strategies to help you and your children with the PCS transition. If the move is taking a toll on their schoolwork, a free professional tutor from can help get them back on track.


Taking care of the new school situation can be one of the most stressful aspects to a PCS. A relatively seamless transition can be achieved with a little planning and by reaching out to the many resources -- including those from USAA -- available to you.




by JonBoy1964
‎08-28-2014 11:39 AM

Good luck to Madison and all other young persons who find themselves changing schools more often than most.  I may be speaking from a biased position (I had attended no less than 13 different schools by the time I graduated high school), but I believe Madison, if she can keep a positive attitude, can end up being all the better for the changes.  After graduating high school, I joined the USMC for 4 years, and then attended UW-Wisconsin from which I earned a Bachelor of Science degree.  But this isn't about me.  It is about Madison and the young persons like her.  As she goes through life I expect her to be able to much more effectively handle change and that is an attribute many employers seek in their hires.  She will be able to deal much more effectively in both her professional roles and personal roles too.  By all means, support them in the mean-time, but I in no way feel the changes of schools is a liability--I consider it an asset.

Community Managers

Briana Hartzell

Briana Hartzell

Briana knows all about moving. This Navy spouse has helped her husband relocate to four different naval air stations in the last three years. A former USAA employee, Briana writes at Being Briana, a blog focused on the joys military life can bring.

View Briana's Profile
Wendy Poling

Wendy Poling

Wendy is a social media strategist and founder of, featuring a popular military spouse blog and the hit podcast Navy Wife Radio and now Military Life Radio. She is the wife of a submariner who has also served in Afghanistan.

View Wendy's Profile
Charles Pratt

Charles "Chazz" Pratt

Charles "Chazz" Pratt III is a former U.S. Army Captain who made the Military-to-Civilian career transition in 1994. In his book, The Fort Living Room Transition Course, he shares valuable tips & tricks to help you succeed. Since his transition from the military, he's worked for several Fortune 500 companies, including Pfizer, Genentech, and St. Jude Medical, among others.

View Chazz's Profile
Joseph Montanaro

Joseph "J.J." Montanaro

Joseph "J.J." Montanaro is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner.

View Joseph "J.J." Montanaro's Profile
Close Pop-up