Let’s face it, if you’re a veteran, you aren’t going to college to find yourself. You’re going to college to get a degree so that you can get a job. Unfortunately, most colleges still hold on to the belief that they are there to provide an experience and an environment in which students can experiment. So how do you get the most out of your post military college time?
1) Choose a degree wisely
This doesn’t mean choosing a degree based on how much you will make at the undergraduate level, because that would mean that regardless of your interests you should earn a Petroleum Engineering degree. What this means is approach your degree wisely. Understand what you are likely to make after getting out of college. Understand the job prospects. Figure out if you need the degree as more than a check-in-the-box.
2) It's internship time
Here’s the reality of life, your military experience provided you with a lot of advantages. Unfortunately depending on the amount of time that you served and what you did while in the military, you will probably need to add to your capabilities or at the very least get another employer besides the military on your resume. Therefore if you’re receiving BAH from your GI Bill, look at doing internships (regardless of how much or little they pay) that are of interest to you and will help you in obtaining a job after college.
3) Save as much of your GI Bill as you can
Depending on where you live, what you want to do after college, and which degree you are pursuing, you might need to go to graduate school. Whether you’re obtaining a certificate or a masters, usually graduate level studies will be more expensive than undergraduate studies per credit hour. Therefore for some student veterans it makes financial sense to take out a loan to pay for a year or two for their undergraduate degree and then use the GI Bill for their graduate degree. Another way to save your GI Bill is to apply for scholarships (they don't have to be just related to your military service).
4) Work, Work, Work
If you have an issue with being an intern or working for free, you need to find a job that will add to your resume. Regardless if the job is part time or full time, having a job that can be meaningful to your resume, is often times the difference from being employed in a career after college or employed in a job to get by. Plus if you are receiving BAH, you can start building up your retirement savings.
5) There’s another GI Bill
Many veterans don’t realize that along with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, there’s another education benefit that the VA offers, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. If you have a disability rating from the VA, you might be able to use this program, which increases your Post 9/11 GI Bill’s 36 months of education benefits to 48 months (along with providing employment programs). However don't wait until your Post 9/11 GI Bill is completely used up. As long as you have one day left on your Post 9/11 GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation will pay you the same BAH as you were receiving under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However if you have zero time left on the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your BAH will be drastically lowered. Here are the rates as of 2012.