You might assume that military members are given a free college education in exchange for their service. You might even assume this if you served yourself.
Unfortunately, each military branch’s tuition assistance might only cover tuition and some fees, up to about $750 per class, reported Military.com.
Luckily, grants and scholarships for veterans can help fill the gap, covering the added cost of books, housing, and even other education fees.
4 sources of scholarships for veterans
Just as there are many ways for military families to find scholarships, there are useful resources for military members themselves. If you count yourself in this group, you’re probably familiar with online scholarship-search tools like the engine offered by Military.com.
These are great tools for finding veteran scholarships you might otherwise miss, such as Google’s $10,000 scholarship for veterans majoring in computer science and computer engineering.
But before you go searching for military scholarships, consider these key sources.
1. The government
More than 1 million military members benefited from education assistance programs in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Although these programs aren’t scholarships in name, they function the same way — as gift aid that doesn’t need to be repaid.
Beyond tuition-matching programs that military members can contribute to while on duty, there are four VA programs specific to student veterans seeking aid:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill: Provides 36 months of full-time education benefits, which could be expanded by the proposed “Forever GI Bill.”
- Yellow Ribbon Program: Allows private and out-of-state schools to cover the extra tuition costs of their student veterans.
- Montgomery Bill: Provides up to 36 months of benefits to reservists.
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program: Provides a portion of full-time education benefits to veterans of the National Guard and Selected Reserve.
Student veterans could also qualify for federal student aid that is accessible to all students. The Department of Education (DOE) offers need-based Pell Grants, for example, which require you to fill out the FAFSA.
Beyond the federal government, you could also contact your state’s department of higher education and your state’s office of veteran affairs. Depending on where you live, you might find one resource more helpful than the other. If you live in West Virginia, for example:
- The state’s department of education would lead you to Common Ground, which offers general military resources.
- The state’s department of veterans assistance lists state benefits and programs for student veterans.
If you come up empty searching government websites, try using Military.com’s informative map.
2. Your military branch
Although they’re all under the same umbrella, each of the five military branches might be able to help you finance your education uniquely. If you’re interested in enrolling in ROTC, you could find military scholarships through the Air Force or the Navy, for example.
If you’re already on active duty, check with your branch about scholarships that fit your service experience. The Army, for example, offers up to four years of full tuition and other financial benefits for prospective medical and dental students who qualify as commissioned officers.
For veterans of any armed service, the list of sources might even be longer. Checking in with your branch could lead you to a smaller, more specialized resource like the Army Nurse Corps Association or the Society of Army Physician Assistants.
More likely, you’ll be directed to one of the branch’s own or closely related organizations, like:
- Army Emergency Relief and the Army Scholarship Foundation
- Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
- Navy Seal Foundation
- Air Force Aid Society
- Coast Guard Foundation and the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
Many of these organizations offer veteran scholarships for specific cases. You can better your chances of support by contacting their staff and explaining your situation.
3. Philanthropic organizations supporting the military
There’s no shortage of organizations that are less directly tied to a single branch. The DOE recommends these four charitable forces:
Although these larger organizations can be great sources of scholarships for veterans, don’t discount the opportunities offered by newer, leaner foundations that see fewer applications.
The Pat Tillman Foundation, for example, has named 450 Tillman Scholars since the program’s founding in 2008. These active-duty service members and veterans receive funding for tuition, books, and living expenses.
You can find similar opportunities through online search engines like Fastweb and Scholarships.com. Your military branch might also point you in the direction of smaller private military scholarships.
4. Your school
If you’re already on campus, or at least planning to attend a specific school, your two best resources could be the university’s financial aid office and its student veterans center. Many of these campus departments offer veteran scholarships.
For example, Argosy University drops the cost of each undergraduate course by 20 percent. For another, Georgetown University lists a handful of scholarships for veterans, including the Mujica Graduate Student Veteran Stipend of $2,000 per year.
Even if your school doesn’t offer military scholarships, it can offer direction on where to find them. Your aid office or veterans center should take your specific background into account and help you take the next step.
If you’re a business major aspiring to also earn a master’s degree, for example, they might connect you with the Military MBA’s education network. Or if you’re interested in studying engineering, they might mention the Raytheon Patriot Scholarship via Student Veterans of America.
Start applying for veteran scholarships
Whether you find them through the government or the military, charitable organizations or universities, don’t wait to start applying for scholarships for veterans. They exist to help vets like you.
Also, don’t forget to apply for scholarships that have no connection to the military. Prioritize scholarships that offer the greatest reward and academic or professional support. They’ll likely require a personal essay, but that’s to your advantage. After all, you probably have a unique story to tell.
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