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Pursuit of an Academic Degree

a.k.a. "Put your G.I. Bill benefits to maximum use."


Deciding when and how to go about pursuing an academic degree is a significant undertaking.  The ramifications of your decision on future personal, social, and economic outcomes cannot be understated.  We recommend that you use as many resources as possible to help plan out personal goals and occupational desires which will, in turn, help you select the best institution and academic program for your particular circumstance.  Our intent is that this page serve as merely one of those resources.


There are several members of Carroll County Detachment Marine Corps League #896 that have earned an Associate's, Bachelor's, or Master's degree from institutions of varying levels of prestige.  Our first recommendation is that you confer with everyone in your network that has managed to complete the level of education you are currently interested in pursuing.  This will help you sort out some of the challenges you might face both academically and financially and how you might confront such challenges so as to be better prepared once your start.


Recommendation #2


Select the right caliber.


People who are not familiar with academia or the general hiring practices of America's top companies often overlook the fact that there are perceived reputational differences between universities.  In other words, some schools are better than others.  To Marines, this should be intuitive:  even though all Marines offer their Country the services of a basically trained Marine, some Marines are better than others at their particular specialties and are held in higher esteem by their commanders and by the general public.  The same is true for universities.  Try to take into account the general reputation of the universities you are considering and, if possible, the reputation of the particular program/course of study/major.  This can be done by executing general internet seraches on college rankings or program rankings.  U.S. News and World Report rankings are probably the most generally used.  Try to avoid wasting valuable G.I. Bill benefits on a degree from an institution that does not have a good chance at maximizing future payoff/benefit or that does not provide you with good learning.  This judgement call is very difficult for someone who has never attended college, so it is in your best interest to consult with people who are independent and not employed by the university of interest.  Don't let an admissions counselor sell you a product that will underperfom.


Recommendation #3


Select the mode of delivery.


Depending on your circumstances, you will need to decide whether to complete coursework either in person or online.  As exhibited by this U.S. News website, there are several universities with solid reputations that offer Bachelor's (an other) degrees completely online.  If you are young and single, try as much as possible to complete a degree by attending in-person.  This might also potentially provide some additional adventure if you choose to relocate to a school in a part of the country you've never experienced.  However, if your only option is completing a degree via an online platform, select an institution that has higher brand noticibilty and a good academic reputation (i.e. from the aforementioned U.S. News website: University of Florida, Penn State University, University of Illinois at Chicago, St. John's University, Loyola University Chicago, Washington State University, Mairst College, etc.).   


Recommendation #4


Understand the difference between Public University, Research University, Private Universtiy, & Liberal Arts College. 


Educate yourself on these differences by performing some basic research on the internet.  Your selection of public vs. private institution impacts how far your G.I. Bill money will go.  If you are are Post 9/11 100% eligible, your tuition will be covered at a public school, but you might fall short of funds if you choose a private school.  Many private schools participate in the Veterans Administration's Yellow Ribbon Program, which often (but not always) fills the gap not covered by Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits.  It is highly recommended you understand all of the intricacies of how your G.I. Bill benefits work and can be applied so that you can put them to maximum use.  They will arguably go the furthest if used for a degree from a public research university, but if you can find a way to swing a degree from a private research university without paying any tuition, go for it.  Your choice of what type of institution to attend ultimately depends on what type of college experience you want to have.  Many suggest that more personal attention and better learning occurs at liberal arts colleges because of smaller class sizes, but others prefer to take advantage of more robust facilities and athletic & research programs offered at top tier public and private schools.  It all depends on what your priorities and preferences are.



Recommendation #5


Be patient.  Do whatever it takes.


If you are told by an admissions couselor (or someone else) that you might not meet the qualifications for admission into your selected institution, make sure you understand what the selection criteria really are.  If you do fall short (maybe you have never taken the SAT or ACT, GRE, GMAT, or LSAT or received a lower than desired score on any of those listed), we recommend you not cross those schools off your list.  Rather, retake the exams or possibly take a prep course.  Remind yourself that your military experience already puts you well ahead of the vast majority of 18 year old high school graduates that are trying to get in.  Members of this detachment have personally witnessed USMC veterans accepted into Columbia University, Auburn University, University of Notre Dame, University of California - Berkeley, University of Georgia.


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