Uniformity may be part of our military culture but our goals upon departure from the service are far from uniform; we are individuals.
There a great reasons to go to college but it is not the right choice for all. As a veteran, you have a financial benefit in the G.I. Bill but with this great opportunity comes great challenge. When I work with veterans I use a three step process to help choose an education pathway. These three steps may also help you decide if you should go to college:
Step 1: Identify a Career Goal
Veterans often mistakenly define their future based on their past. In other words, choosing a career based on their military specialty. I was a helicopter pilot in the Navy and when I left the military I felt constant pressure to be a pilot in my civilian career. But being a pilot is a small part of who I am and I had goals of becoming a teacher and an entrepreneur that didn’t fit with society’s view of what I should be. Leaving the military is an opportunity to start a new chapter. You do NOT have to be what you were in the military.
(Check This Out: What You Should Know About Veteran Support Services at College)
I encourage veterans to first define a career goal. The goal defines the education you seek. If you decide you want to be a electrician, for example, vocational school is likely your best option. However, if you decide you want to be a doctor, a bachelors degree is the starting point.
Step 2: Decide If Formal Education Is Your Pathway
This is tough to answer and it is where mentorship is essential. Identify veterans who successfully made the transition to the career you want and then ask about their path. Now spot patterns of education that exist in your group. If you are interested in becoming an electrical engineer and you found that most first obtained an engineering degree. Then you have identified a pathway to achieve your goal. School mentor networks or professional sites are great resources for this crucial step.
Step 3: Does the G.I. Bill Cover the Expense?
The G.I. Bill covers many educational pathways. You can use it for college or various vocational programs (see the full list). Too often, veterans first ask what the G.I. Bill covers and then choose their career. This is reverse logic. It is sort of like randomly picking a restaurant and hoping they serve something you like after you sit down. A more effective approach is to decide what you feel like eating and then picking the restaurant. You’ll end up being far more satisfied! Begin with the end in mind.
The benefit of education is that it is a pathway to your career goal. Education can open up new career opportunity but only if done right. That starts with deciding on your pathway. If college is the pathway, the good news is that you have it covered financially. Your next step is learning how to do it successfully. The more successful you are on your education pathway the more opportunity exists upon graduation.