Planning Your School Schedule
By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva
When using their Veteran education benefits, one problem many Veterans experience is the result of having unrealistic expectations about their academic workload. When I was employed as a security guard, a fellow Veteran student I worked with showed me his upcoming class schedule. At the time, he worked 40 hours a week on the graveyard shift. My co-worker had signed up for classes at a state university that went from 9am to 4pm, four days a week. I asked him when he planned on sleeping, doing homework, or spending time with his wife and two children. The blank look on his face told me that he had never thought about any of that.
Veteran students need to understand that classes will take more time out of their day than just in-class time. This is especially true for university classes. Depending on their major, most students will need to study, read or write in between classes. Students should allot two to three hours of study time per class per week. I found it much easier to spread this time out, doing 30-45 minutes of homework each day per class, instead of trying to read, write or study for three straight hours the night before one class. Factoring in the time to study is important for any student, but is crucial for non-traditional students.
Non-traditional students are college and university students who didn’t enroll right out of high school. So, all Veteran students are non-traditional students. The Post-9/11 GI Bill was designed to accommodate non-traditional students.
Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, I was able to go to school and drastically reduce my security guard hours while classes were in session, and still pay my bills. A lot of Veterans try to maintain 40+ hour work-weeks while they attend school. I’m reminded of when someone tries to carry more objects than their arms can hold. They believe that if they can carry the entire load once, it will be faster than making multiple trips. But more often than not, they drop their entire load and wind up taking more time to complete the task, or destroying their cargo. Similarly, Veteran students who try to overburden their academic/occupational workload can risk failing classes or getting fired from their job.
For Post-9/11 GI Bill students, I recommend taking four classes per semester, but no more than five. Many classes are only offered one day per week. And many non-traditional students want to be on campus as little as possible. But my preference was for classes that met two or three days per week. Compared to classes that only met one time each week, I felt that the assignments for multiple class meetings were more frequent, but smaller, and the lectures were easier to sit through. I also found it easier to have multiple classes on the same day, with hour or two breaks in between each class. This guaranteed that I would have time set aside to read and study.
My advice to all Veteran students would be to sacrifice their income for the few years it takes to finish their education. Veteran education benefits won’t be available forever. But hourly jobs working the grave shift will always be hiring. Lighten your workload to focus on your education. At the very least, keep your workload in mind when determining your academic schedule. Don’t burden yourself with so much of a load that you drop everything.