Going to school can be a demanding task. Just to get started can make you second guess your decision and then toss in the unique challenges of military life and a nightmare can be created.
For me this week has been a military challenging week. I have been looking at options to further my career and education to reach my goals. I have always dreamt of working to earn a doctorate degree. I begin my search for a valid program in area we now live in once our PCS orders where in the hand. I studied for months to take the GRE and earned a respectable score. The process began in writing my entry application paper to highlight the research I wanted to pursue, my experiences and what I could offer to the program. This can be difficult given the PCS moves every three years.
Then the phone rang and everything changed.
The detailer called and needs someone to fill a billet in another geographical region and my spouse is the perfect fit for the job.
My heart sank. But as a military spouse, I stepped back and started looking for a different path to fulfill my goal. I had earned my two masters degrees online “Why not a doctorate degree?” I would ask myself. Therefore, the search would begin again, this time with a vengeance! I started with the simple google search “online doctorate programs” in my area of study.
In searching for the right school or program. You have to make sure if fits the specific needs of military life.
Three Questions to Ask that Can Make a Difference:
1. Is the program accredited?
Accreditation is so important when investing in your education. Without the proper accreditations, financial aid is not an option, professional organizations will not recognize the degree which could make it worthless in building your future and reaching your goals.
Ways to verify accreditation of a school/program:
The US Department of Education maintains a database of accredited schools. Search for your school at http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/ to verify they are accredited and eligible for financial aid.
Accreditations can be obtained by regions. For schools that reside in the Southeast region of the United States can be reviewed at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools™ website at http://sacs.org/
Programs can also be accredited by professional organizations such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) programs can be viewed at viewed at http://ncate.org/ListofAccreditedInstitutions/tabid/176/Default.aspx
To make sure your school of choice is eligible for Federal Financial Aid a quick search at https://fafsa.ed.gov/FAFSA/app/schoolSearch?locale=en_EN will return the school code indicating federal aid could be awarded.
2. Is the school military friendly and accepting of the challenges of our unique lifestyle?
When determining if a school is right for you, look for schools that have military resource centers, have earned awards for their support of the military such as “Military Advanced Education Top Colleges & Universities”. I have personally found that schools that have won awards for supporting the military have an understanding of deployments, long absence of a support system, and understanding of military education benefits and financial programs available to not only the service members but their families as well.
3. Can the program be completed 100% online?
When searching for a program verify it can be completed online. I have found several schools that indicate 100% online but only refer to the courses the school offers. For example, I came across one program where you could obtain your degree from the school with online courses but you would have to find a local school to take the “general” education courses and then have the credits transferred. This can prove to the time consuming as well a challenge if you do not take the correct courses. I like the idea of starting at one school and finishing at the same school to ensure the courses taken on the only ones needed for your program of study.
Going to school or returning to school is a BIG decision. Always Reach for Your Goals!!!
Audrey has been a Navy spouse for 19 years and has homeschooled her children for the last 10 years. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, Masters of Education in Instructional Technology and a Master of Arts in Exceptional Students. She holds Professional Teaching Certifications in Elementary Education K-6 and Special Education K-12 in the state of Florida.