Where Should I Use My GI Bill?

By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva

A fellow Veteran who is a friend of mine asked me how to go about looking for a college where he could use his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. While there are several ways to go about it, I shared with him what I did when I was searching for my bachelors and graduate degree programs.

Both times, I started with an internet search. For my undergraduate search, I simply looked at the schools that were closest to me.  I found two state schools within a reasonable driving distance. I compared the two, and made my decision. I was happy enough with my school. But for my grad school search, I knew more about my benefits and the process.

First and foremost, look at dozens of degree programs at several colleges within reasonable commuting distance, focusing on specific degree programs. A school’s website will show you what classes are required to complete their program. The more programs you research, the better equipped you are to evaluate curriculums, avoiding any that would have you taking unnecessary courses. Some schools and programs may also have admission requirements that you may not meet, such as test scores, a certain G.P.A. or a certain background. Know the requirements before applying. At this point, you should be able to compile a short list of 2-5 schools and/or programs to further investigate.

Veterans should investigate how they are catered to at each school by exploring the Veterans Resources each prospective schools offers. If the school doesn’t say much about programs for Veterans on their website, you need to delve deeper. You should contact the Veterans Resource office by email, phone or in person to establish a point of contact. Your point of contact person should be able to answer the bulk of your questions, or refer you to someone on campus who can. If your questions/concerns aren’t addressed, then that school really isn’t supplying sufficient Veterans resources, and you should reconsider enrolling there.

Here are some questions that Veterans might not know to ask:

Do I have to pay an application fee? Many schools waive application fees for Veterans. Make sure you ask before paying any fees.

Who is my VA certifying official? Make sure you are provided with the name and contact info of the school’s certifying official. This person ensures that your tuition andmonthly allowance for housing (MAH) get paid.

How much will my MAH be? This is a really important question, and may be the deciding factor as to which school you will attend. By using the GI Bill Comparison Tool you can see how much your school’s MAH will be. You can compare your list of schools’ MAH, costs, and Veterans Resources to see how your potential schools match up against each other. You can also see how many other Veterans attend that school.

Who do I contact for…? Every school should have a directory posted for each department, especially admissions, financial aid, records and Veterans Affairs.

After establishing that your shortlist of schools meet the above needs, it boils down to personal taste. If you get warm fuzzies from one school over another, that might be the deciding factor. In the end, education is all about what works best for you. It’s your degree and your benefit. Take the time to make sure that you’re getting what you want out of it.