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Resources for Transitioning Back to School
Resources for Transitioning Back to School
Many members of the National Guard and reserve choose to enroll in a higher education or a vocational program while continuing to serve their country. National Guardsmen and reservists share a common bond and unique experiences that often differ from the experiences of other students at their school or university. Some individuals may experience challenges adjusting to student life, relating to their fellow classmates and navigating benefits options. Many of the benefits, resources and services available to active-duty service members are available to National Guardsmen and reservists as well.
Education Benefits for National Guardsmen and Reservists
Members of the National Guard and reserve are eligible for a variety of tuition assistance programs, many of which are available to anyone who served – even if an individual was not deployed or engaged in combat. A few of the available programs you may be eligible for include the:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill – The Post- 9/11 GI Bill provides education and housing benefits to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. Members of the National Guard and reserve may also have remaining benefits from their active GI bill or qualify for additional benefits. To determine your eligibility, complete and submit the Department of Veterans Affairs Application for Education Benefits form online.
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) – REAP provides education assistance to reservists who were called or ordered to active service in support of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in response to other military operations or national emergencies, as declared by the President or Congress. The program provides up to 36 months of benefits to members of the Selected Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve and National Guard who served 90 or more consecutive days on active duty and continue serving in the Ready Reserve after demobilization/deactivation.
- Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) – The Montgomery GI Bill provides nearly $50,000 in tuition assistance. Under this bill, service members who enroll and pay $100 per month for 12 months are entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once they have completed a minimum service obligation.
For more information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill and how to apply for benefits, read the Real Warriors Campaign article “What the Post-9/11 GI Bill Means to You.”
Five Tips to Ease Adjusting to Student Life
For members of the National Guard and reserve, enrolling into higher education or a vocational program while also reintegrating into civilian life can be challenging. The following five tips can help ease the transition to student life.
- Choose a school that’s military friendly. Many schools are starting to provide resources and services geared toward veterans and members of the National Guard and reserve. Look for schools that offer on-campus services such as academic advising, career counseling, tutoring, family services, student veterans associations and special events for veterans. Ask questions when researching schools to determine the services available. For example:
- Is there an orientation or transition program tailored to student veterans and members of the National Guard or reserve?
- Does the school have a resource office or dedicated personnel to assist and support student veterans and members of the National Guard or reserve?
- Does the school offer credits for academic work completed while in the military?
- What is the school’s policy in the event that a student member of the National Guard or reserve gets called to active duty?
- Obtain a military transcript. Academic transfer policies vary from school to school. Military transcripts provide a description of your military training and work history in civilian language and can help school counselors working with service members or veterans.1 Request a military transcript from your branch of service at:
- Joint Services Transcript/American Council on Education (Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy)
- Community College of the Air Force (CCAF)
- Get involved on campus. Many student veterans and members of the National Guard and reserve find that establishing relationships with peers on campus can help with the transition process. Attending on campus activities, such as orientation, is a great way to learn about available resources and become part of the campus community.1
- Consider non-traditional programs. Attending school as a full-time student might not be possible for some members of the National Guard or reserve. Many schools offer alternative schedules through online programs, night classes, weekend classes and distance learning options. Enrolling as a part-time student is another way to gradually transition to student life or accommodate limited schedule availability.
- Make the match. When evaluating prospective schools, it is important to consider factors such as size, location, diversity, career goals, preferred major and family circumstances. Research a variety of programs and choose the school that matches the needs of the National Guard member or reservist.
The Real Warriors Campaign article “Five Resources for Returning to School” provides additional tips and resources for active duty service members, National Guardsmen, reservists and veterans considering enrolling in a higher education degree or certificate program.
Military Deployment and Mobilization Considerations
Members of the National Guard and reserve may be called to duty while enrolled in school. Be sure to talk with the Admissions and Registrar’s offices when applying to schools to get an idea of the institution’s withdrawal and reimbursement policy should you get called up in the middle of a term. The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges provides information for National Guard and reserve members called to active duty while attending school, including sample letters to college administrators, student loan administrators and apprenticeship certifying officials notifying them of the activation.
There are a variety of programs and resources available to members of the National Guard and reserve. Take advantage of these resources to ease the transition to school.
- American Council on Education Military Programs
- Higher Education Resources for Veterans and their Families
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Post-9/11 GI Bill and Other Benefits