Going back to school or starting anything new, can be overwhelming and scary. Here are 3 tips for military spouses to help you get started.
As a military spouse moving around with family and trying to figure out my career path has been a roller coaster ride. Having questions about who to call first? Wondering what your options are or how you’re going to afford to pay for school? Can be frustrating, daunting and can even discourage you from even starting school.
The good news is as a military spouse you have Lots of options and resources that can help you get started, even with choosing what career path to take. I’m almost done with my degree and I’m glad I took that step to finish. Let me share with you what I did first.
I spoke with my spouse. My husband was the one that actually convinced me to go back to school to finish my degree. At this point of my life, I’ve started businesses and working on others. I was doing pretty good for myself and felt like school wouldn’t be able to give the entrepreneur education I was looking for, but after prayer and having long conversations with my husband about going back to school, I took that step.
Tip #1- Choose a career path. Choosing a career can be intimidating. For me, choosing a career path was a life long learning experience that helped me discover my true passion, which is business. If you don’t know what to choose from, contact your local Education Office, on base. They can help you in so many ways, by sitting down with a counselor, you may be able to narrow down your career choices.
One of the resources I’ve found that was very helpful was O*Net online at onetonline.org, Here you can discover different degree options that may fit your personality and career goals. You can even take what’s called an interest profile (or MyNextMove) on the website. This can help you find out what your interests are and how they can relate to the world of work. It will ask you 60 questions (I know it’s a lot but it’s SUPER quick and easy and this is a step closer to the career you might be interested in, give it a try). When I took the test, my biggest score was Social, Enterprising and Artistic. Artistic people like creativity in their work, they like to do work that can be done without following the rules. Social people like teaching, giving advice and being of service to others. Lastly, enterprising is not surprising to me, these people like persuading others, leading and taking risks for profit. After taking this test, it gave me a lot of career options to consider, it even suggested I become a fitness coordinator. I LOVE fitness and can even do it as a business. Taking this test can steer you in the right direction.
Tip #2- Funding your education. Funding was my #1 concern, I felt like I wasn’t in a place to financially fund going back to school. I felt like it was going to be the biggest obstacle and honestly, I didn’t want to tackle it. After talking with the education office, I walked away VERY Hopeful. There are funding opportunities such as TONS of scholarships, grants, and even your spouses VA benefits. (Loans are an option as well, but for me, I didn’t want it but it is an option).
Grants are essentially free money that you do not have to repay. The grant that most people think of is the Pell grant, which I received going back to school. This is a grant that you can apply for at FAFSA.gov (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The best part about receiving a Pell Grant is that once your tuition is paid in full if there are funds leftover, you are able to use those on other college expenses such as books, transportations, class fees or housing.
In some situations, you may not get offered enough to cover all your costs. Don’t let this stop you! There are other funding options such as scholarships. There are many websites such as: Scholarships.com with this website you can create a free profile and based on your profile you will instantly get scholarship results. There is an abundance of resources on the website you can check out. Another website is Niche.com, this website allows students to browse through different categories such as General, career, interest, race, military, major, religion, and state. Lastly, is USA.gov/grants has LOADS of information about grants. They even have grants for those interested in starting a business.
If your active-duty spouse meets certain requirements, they have the option to transfer a portion or all of their post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to you. This is what my husband did for me. Your local education office on base has a list of scholarships for you to review and apply for. One last scholarship for military spouses, in particular, is the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MYCAA). This program assists spouses of active-duty services members with as much as $4,000. I personally signed up for this grant when I completed my associate’s degree. This grant helped me a lot in making that transition from being a SAHM for years, I went back to school and was able to become more confident in myself. I recommend this grant Highly! In order to qualify, you must be pursuing a license, certification or associate degree with an approved school and your spouse must be in the pay grades of E-1 to E-5, W-1-W-2, and O1-O2. Again, your local education office will have more information about this program and signing up.
Tip #3- Choosing your school. Once you know what degree you want to pursue and how you are going to fund it, You may have other questions like how do you know which school is best? How do you apply? Does the school require entry exams? Should you do a strictly online program or one that is in the classroom setting? When I made the choice to go back to school. I whole heartedly wanted to get back into the classroom setting, I wanted to interact with adults, hear different opinions, ask the teacher questions, etc. I wanted to basically get out the house.
I went to Park University because they had a campus in South Carolina where after I got my associates degree I went right to Park. Plus, my husband was a student there as well and I thought it would be fun and even cheaper if 2 people in the same household. Sometimes some schools will give a discount for 2 people of the same household going to the same college. The education office can help you this decision.