So far, we've covered ways to gear up for your transition from the military to college, including determining what you want to do when you leave the service to understanding the importance of a school's accreditation. Now, we're going to take you a few steps closer to your goal and examine how your military experience could translate into college credit. As you begin to get a better picture of what your college experience may entail, it's a good time to check expectations — both yours and your future schools. Let's get started.
Step 4: Get the credit you deserve.
Let’s face it: Your branch of service invested a great deal of taxpayer’s money to train and equip you to perform the job you enlisted for. So why not make sure you get a really good return on that investment when you make the decision to go to college? Whether you realize it or not, you've likely earned credit — college credit, that is — for your military training and experience. Requesting your Joint Services Transcript (JST) will give you a good understanding of how your service training and professional education could translate into college credits.
So what exactly is the Joint Services Transcript?
Basically, as the name suggest, it is an “official transcript” or record showing the equivalent college credits you have earned throughout your military training and experience. Your JST will also reflect any college-level courses you have taken where you used military tuition assistance to fund. So in essence, your JST is your military college transcript.
How can you get your JST?
If you are or were a member of the Army, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard, regardless of your status (Active, National Guard, or Reserve), you can request your JST online. If you are or were a member of the Air Force, you can obtain your Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcripts here.
How do you know if your JST accurate?
If this is your first time accessing your JST, refer to this guide on how to read it. Since the JST is created from various data sites, there is a chance your JST is not 100 percent accurate. So what can you do? The JST website has links to get your documents updated and corrected. It's important to ensure that your JST is accurate, because it could cause you to lose college credits that you may be able to transfer into the school and degree program you are seeking to pursue. Based on the school or training course attended, or rank you were promoted to, it could mean losing up to 12 to 15 credit hours in college credit. That's the number of credits normally taken by a full-time student in one college semester!
If as a member of the Air Force you obtain your CCAF, accuracy is less of a worry as that report is generated directly from their Registrar. It's still a good idea to review it closely.
Step 5: Understand your educational benefits.
As a current servicemember or a transitioning veteran, you have a host of educational benefits to help you earn your college degree, so get the most you can from them and use them wisely.
The Department of Defense Military Tuition Assistance program (MTA) was developed to assist servicemembers to pay for college tuition while they are still serving their country. The DoD funds this portion of its budget to provide servicemembers with up to $4,500 per federal fiscal year in tuition assistance. The maximum tuition per course the DoD will authorize is $750 per each college-level course. Each branch of the DoD and the Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, manages their respective MTA program, establishes the rules for eligibility for their servicemembers, and sets the limits of the number of credit hours they will fund.
To help you understand your benefits, the links below will take you to the most current information, depending on your branch.
- Army: GOARMYED
- Navy: NAVY TA
- Marine Corps: Since the Marine Corps technically falls under the Department of the Navy, the Navy College Program also oversees Marine Corps TA
- Air Force: Air Force TA
- Coast Guard: As stated earlier, the Coast Guard is not part of the DoD and therefore their program is not exactly the same. For more information, visit Coast Guard TA
As a Servicemember or Veteran, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the most robust educational benefit programs since its inception in 1944. Since its enactment in 2008, Chapter 33 (Post 9/11 GI Bill), has seen a number of changes. So it is important to stay abreast of the changes and YOUR benefits, so you will know how to best use them. To keep informed of your benefits go to the VA website, GI Bill Benefits.
Step 6: It’s all about EXPECTATIONS!
Attending college is all about setting and meeting expectations. When you are making the decision to attend college, make sure you know and understand all of the expectations and how they will be met.
To get the most out of your college experience, ask yourself:
- What are you expecting from your college experience?
- What are your expectations as to how much time it will take for you to complete your degree?
- What are your expectations as to how much time you will need to commit to your studies
- What are your family’s expectations?
- What are you expecting from your college?
Your college also has expectations of you, their student. To name a few:
- Colleges expect you to manage your time. Your professors will not tell you when, where, or how to study.
- Colleges expect you will buy your text books and read them.
- Colleges expect that you will take your course work seriously and give them priority within your life.
There are some other expectations you should have when you are making the choice of where to attend college. For example, as a military-related student serving our nation, you should expect the college you are attending has a military-leave policy should you have to leave in the middle of a term/semester to attend a military school or to support a deployment; your school should have a policy in place that helps you during this time.
You should also expect that the staff, faculty, and administration of your college understands the unique challenges military-related students face over and above other students and has developed support structures and systems.