Leaving service is always a challenging time. It means readjusting your life and your daily expectations, but those challenges can become opportunities if tackled right. Enlisting, whether it was straight out of high school or even after a few years of college, means more than just serving your country.
It also means that you have a lot of advantages when it comes to getting back into education. Making the transition back into civilian life is always going to be disruptive but you can ease the stress of that change by focusing instead on getting better qualified for your next career steps. Here’s what you need to know about going back to college after you’ve served your time in the military.
Budgeting is a Priority
Even if you’ve managed to find part-time work to boost your income while being a student, you’re still going to find financial management a time-consuming and often stressful activity. Do some research into the Post-9/11 GI Bill and any benefits that you may be entitled to. However, it’s important to remember that this may only cover the cost of your tuition. In some cases, you may also get help with accommodation fees, even if you’re studying online.
Monthly Housing Allowance may not cover all of your rental costs though, so budgeting is going to need to be a priority if you want to avoid eating ramen noodles for the next few years! Think about all of your monthly costs, including food, phone contracts, clothes, and even social activities. Have a clear idea of your monthly income, and if your incomings fall considerably shorter than your outgoings, finding new revenue streams is vital.
Don’t Overestimate Your Ability
You might not be under fire and you certainly won’t have a sergeant screaming at you every five minutes, but education is a whole new level of being busy. You might be used to being the first boots on the ground and having to deal with long shifts that are loaded with tasks, but don’t get overconfident about your ability to cope with mountains of coursework. Many vets make the mistake of being overconfident, and that means that they fail to plan.
That leads to falling behind on deadlines and an inevitable drop in grades. You may have been the best soldier in the ranks, but that doesn’t mean that you will always have high standards of excellence when it comes to getting your degree. The good news is that you will have been trained to be self-reliant, and that’s hugely beneficial when it comes to staying on the right track.
Leaving the service always means a period of acclimatizing to civilian life, and there’s a good chance that you are immediately going to miss the military culture and the camaraderie of soldiers. It’s common to find that ex-service members tend to miss the life a lot more than they expected, so it’s important to be aware of that and to find ways to prevent that sense of loss from letting you move onto the next stage of your life. That’s where making friends comes in.
If you’ve served, there’s a good chance that you will be older than the average student in your class, but don’t let that stop you from building friendships and relationships with them. Isolation is a very real problem for students, and not just for those that have been in the military. Get involved in study groups, look at student clubs and commutes, and become an active participant.
Choose Your Campus
You have a lot of options when it comes to where to study. Some will head across the country to a campus because it appeals, while others will stick closer to home because of family ties or work commitments. Location is a factor worth considering, but it’s also worth remembering that you can also study from anywhere with online learning. Now that online degrees are as respected and as beneficial as traditional degrees, you can work on your MBA or your degree from literally anywhere in the world.
So if the thought of living on campus fills you with dread, then consider options like an online course that will result in you getting your Masters in Business Analytics Canada. Online education programs have the added advantage of allowing you to complete your classes in your own time, so you can schedule your degree around your commitments. Whether you head to the coast, learn in the city, or stay at home, getting a higher level of education has never been easier.
The switch to civilian life can be jarring, but if you have a goal and a plan it will always be easier. Think about what you want your post-military life to be and start planning your future, and your time as a service member could be more valuable than you thought.