Identifying a Veteran-Friendly School: Military Connection

By: Joe Silva

As a Veteran and GI Bill college student, I have come across dozens of “Veteran-friendly” colleges and universities. But looking at what each school offers their military and Veteran students, it can get confusing as to what, exactly, makes a school Veteran-friendly.

Five years ago, it seemed like all a school had to do in order to be considered Veteran-friendly was provide a point of contact for students using their VA education benefits. But in 2015, that is the bare minimum of what any school should provide, and it is most certainly not enough to be considered “Veteran-friendly.” Since many Veterans don’t know what to look for in choosing their school, here are a few tips.

Many schools that serve the needs of Veteran college students will have a resource center, complete with an office or staff member with that distinction in their job title, meaning that they specialize and have been trained to work with GI Bill benefits on their campus.

But having designated staff is also not enough by itself to be make a school Veteran-friendly. Veterans should always browse the school’s website and identify the resources that the school provides for GI Bill Students. If a school has made serving Veterans a priority, they will have information on their site that is easy to access. If the information is hard to find or non-existent, then that school may not be as Veteran-friendly as they claim. This search should provide telling information about that school, primarily if it utilizes voluntary GI Bill student-friendly resources such as the Yellow Ribbon Program, has a Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter, or any other programs administered by its faculty and staff.

Furthermore, it is my opinion that in order for a school to be Veteran-friendly, their education has to mean something. The degree or certification that you earn from a Veteran-friendly school must be recognized when you use it to apply for a job or attempt to further your education. One of the biggest issues that Veteran college students face is being taken advantage of by “predatory schools,” which can be online or brick and mortar. These schools will take your GI Bill money and give you a worthless piece of parchment paper where a career-launching degree should be. Veterans need to be inquisitive about a school’s accreditation. Generally, but not always, a regional accreditation is preferred over a national accreditation. Researching job postings for careers they want can help steer Veterans to the right major or academic program. You can even call a prospective employer, your dream job that you are going to college for, and ask them would a degree in this major from this school hold any weight with their hiring managers. And while you have them on the line, be sure to ask about internships opportunities while you are in school.

Veterans, we have earned our GI Bill education through our military service. Too many of us tend to feel lucky just to have a college accept us, instead of making schools prove to us that they are worth our benefit. You sacrificed so much to earn this benefit, be sure to shop around and locate the school that is best for you, your goals and your future.

Identifying a Veteran-Friendly School: Military Connection