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5 Things Military Parents Should Know Before Sending Kids to College

 

military dependent

Image by “Picture Youth” from Flickr Creative Commons.

Being a service member or spouse of a service member with growing children is extremely difficult, particularly when it comes to preparing your kids for college. Military parents face the challenge of nurturing their children’s intellectual growth and preparing them for higher education while coping with deployments and frequent relocation. Fortunately, there are ways military parents can successfully prepare their children for college. Here are five things military parents should know as they assist their kids in making this transition.

Military Dependents Are Eligible for College Funding

With all of the challenges that come with being in a military family, eliminating tuition costs from your list of concerns will be tremendously helpful. There are many options available for military dependents seeking college funding. For example, military dependents may receive college tuition assistance through the Survivors & Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) program. This benefit goes beyond providing tuition assistance by offering financial support for on-the-job training, certification programs and apprenticeships. This benefit is available for military dependents of veterans who have died or have been rated as permanently and totally disabled as a result of a service-connected disability.

Those who are not eligible for DEA may still get help for their college tuition costs through the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer program. Veterans who are eligible for benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill may choose to transfer part or all of their educational benefits to their children.

How to Spot a Military-Friendly College

While there are many benefits available to assist your child with tuition costs, not all colleges participate in these programs. Look for institutions that support programs such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill and understand the unique needs of military dependents on campus. A military-friendly institution is also one that will offer flexibility with regard to college classes by providing opportunities for evening and online courses. For many military dependents, frequent relocation does not end after high school graduation. Many children of service members wish to remain in close proximity to their parents while they transition into college life. Finding a school with a solid online program is a great way to support this decision. Many colleges also offer tuition discounts for military dependents, simply for having a parent who is a veteran or service member. These are the kinds of colleges that will not only support your child financially, but will also have a basic understanding of the unique transitional needs that exist for military dependents.

The Value of School Guidance Counselors

Being in a military family often means that life gets hectic, and getting the help of a school guidance counselor for your child’s academic needs can be extremely helpful. When kids in military families transfer to various schools, it can be difficult to keep track of all of the courses that are still needed in order to graduate. Guidance counselors have the inside scoop on important factors such as credit transfers, and can help identify college prep courses that will give your child a jump start. Counselors can also help identify any mental health concerns your child might have. Research indicates that military dependents may be at an increased risk for certain mental disorders, and intervening early is the best way to meet your child’s mental and cognitive needs.

The Impact of Military Life on Academics

New and valuable research continues to explore the influence military life has on children of service members. The results of these studies show that some children actually gain useful qualities such as resilience and open-mindedness as a result of living in a military family.  Skills such as these are undoubtedly useful in the college setting and will be beneficial to your child through school and beyond.

Other research, however, indicates that the stresses of deployment and relocation can inhibit your child’s cognitive and academic abilities. For example, a study by the Rand Corporation reveals that frequent moves can sometimes lead to social and academic disengagement. By being aware of the risks your children face in these areas, you can better prepare them for academic success in college.

Saving for College Early

Even with the college benefits available to military dependents, you may find that your child has additional tuition costs. The best way to prepare for these expenses is to start saving early. Consider setting up a monthly automatic transfer into a college fund. Another great way to save is to put any unexpected sources of income into a college account. Transferring money from tax refunds or bonuses is a helpful way to save without experiencing a financial burden. Encourage your child to participate in this process by contributing money from an allowance or part-time job.

Sending a child to college is difficult for all parents, but military families can face additional obstacles. Consider these five tips as you work to make your child’s transition from home to college a smooth and successful endeavor.

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