Advice for Online Students in the Military

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For many members of the military, deployments have become an all too familiar part of their lives. And as their service marches forward, if they hope to keep advancing, they must continue to set new goals. However many goals of our service members can be hard to achieve if they lack access to education – locally or overseas. Whether they want to compete with military peers for a promotion or to transition to a civilian career, their education can’t pause every time they pack up and ship out. From the perspective of an online university, here are some suggestions on how to make it work for any military student.

Understand Your Military Benefits

As military branches go through a reduction in force, college education plays a more important role in placement, progression, and, at times, retention of personnel. This creates a growing necessity for education. If you hope to continue your education, talk to your Educational Services Officer (ESO) about benefits, including tuition assistance, the Yellow Ribbon program, and the Top-Up program offered by the military. These valuable benefits are helping convince a large number of service members to begin their schooling much earlier than the service member of the past. Additionally, many universities offer military student benefits to active duty, reservists, veterans, and spouses. Thanks to this assistance, service members don’t have to wait until the end of their service to pursue or continue their education online.

Keep Studying While Deployed

No military member should automatically assume that deployment means putting your education on hold. In today’s military, no matter where the deployment, you will find service members pursuing degrees. So before you let orders shape your perspective too much, gather as much information as you can about the environment of the upcoming deployment.

  • Will you have Internet access?
  • Can you carry a laptop?
  • How will service duties impact your study time?
  • What will the study environment be like?

Your Education Service Office is a good place to start finding answers and connecting with others who have been on deployment previously while taking courses. Once you gather this intel, you are in a much better position to decide whether or not you want to continue your education during your upcoming deployment.

Control What You Can

Things like getting your books early and reaching out to your instructor as early as possible (even before the class starts) go a long way in setting yourself up for success. Taking the right steps early sends the message that you take your instructor’s time seriously. Here are three great tips:

  1. Get to know your instructor and their syllabus. Understanding who teaches your courses and what they expect of you will help you succeed. This starts with your instructor and your ability to communicate your ideas, requests, and questions more effectively.
  2. Come with a solution. Challenges will arise, and when they do, come to the conversation with a solution. Be flexible and understand that it will take both sides working together to find a fit.
  3. Get veteran support from your school. Veteran organizations at most institutions are comprised of several factions of the military community: active duty, retired, reservists, veterans, and dependents. This group is a great place to find support and learn about resources available to military affiliated students.

Get Supplies Early

Gather your laptop, books, USB drives, computer software, and whatever supplies you need. Get them early and familiarize yourself with their utilization so you don’t have to teach yourself how they work once in class. Also, since you’ll potentially be overseas, keep in mind that it won’t be easy to order (and receive) new materials by your deadline.

The advice seems so simple, but it makes a massive difference for military students reaching their educational goals. Make sure you do your best in going after your dreams. Education is available for anyone who wants to pursue it.

Written By: James Bond
James Bond is a Student Development and Engagement Specialist at Ashford University.

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