Tips for Successful Completion

As a Service member, you know the value of hard work, and you’ve overcome your share of obstacles. Completing a degree program while also meeting work and family obligations can be challenging, but you already have the skills you need.

The first step for any Service member who wants to earn a degree is to talk to an educational counselor. A counselor has access to information and resources designed specifically to help you met your educational goals.

Once you commit yourself to higher education, take a look at the following tips to help ensure your success.

  • Tips for Choosing a Program

    • Determine your motivation for pursuing a degree. Do you want a degree to advance your military career or to meet later civilian job requirements? It’s best to know your goal before deciding what field to study.
    • Make a list of the reasons why you want to pursue further education. Define solid objectives, such as a specific degree or skills you need to acquire in order to meet your career goals.
    • Do some serious thinking about what you like to do and what you’re good at; don’t pursue a degree in a particular field just because you think it will result in a high-paying job. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’re unlikely to even finish the degree program.
    • Obtain a clear, complete description of the program. Review the requirements to earn a degree and make sure you’re prepared to meet them.
    • Determine how much time you have to devote to your studies. Ensure that the program you choose can be completed in the time you have available.
    • Be sure to consider your current work and family commitments. Choosing a program that allows you to fulfill your obligations will help ensure the support of your co-workers and loved ones.
    • Find out what equipment you’ll need. Does the program require you to have a laptop computer? Will you need to be able to participate in videoconferences? Make sure you have what you need before you enroll.
    • Find out if the program can be completed remotely or if there is an on-campus requirement.

  • Tips for Selecting a School

    • Consider your goal. Is it important to you to have a degree from a big-name school? Or is the degree itself enough to help you meet your career goals?
    • Determine the total cost of your program at the school. Include tuition, books, and all annual fees. Consider how much you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket, and make sure you’re choosing an institution that won’t break the bank.
    • Find out the school’s policy on CLEP and DSST credit. If you have earned college credit via either of these programs, you want to be sure that the institution you choose will accept the credit you already have.
    • If you have previous credit, find out how it’s transferred and whether there’s a fee to do so. Make sure that you are aware of any time limits on previously earned credit or any limits on how much credit can be transferred to the school you’re considering.
    • Find out if the school is a member of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges network. These colleges and universities are committed to maximizing the award of academic credit for military experience while also facilitating the transfer of credits, making it easier for Service members who move frequently to complete a degree.
    • Make sure that the school’s accreditation will meet your needs, and that the credit you earn there will transfer if you move and need to change schools.
    • Consider what student services are provided by the institution. Is there an academic advisor who can help you plan your program? Is online help available? Can you call a toll-free number to get assistance? Do they offer a single source for books? The more support you can get from the school, the more likely you are to be successful.
    • If you think you might want to pursue a postgraduate degree after completing your bachelor’s, be sure to ask the school what percentage of their graduates go on to earn higher degrees.

  • Tips for Completing a Degree

    • Obtain a Joint Services Transcript for an evaluation of all credits you may be awarded for past experience.
    • If you’re pursuing an undergraduate education, identify exams that can help you earn credit toward your degree, such as CLEP and DSSTs.
    • After the evaluation is complete, identify your remaining requirements. The school's list of required courses will allow you to plan alternatives and commit yourself for the long term.
    • Assess your potential for passing exams. Do you have prior experience with tests or strength in certain subject areas? If you need help with test preparation, there are many resources available to you.
    • Draw up a formal written plan. Send a copy of your plan to the institution for approval. Keep records of all your work, discussions, and agreements.
    • Before you embark on a multi-year undertaking, make the school commit itself. Have the institution sign off on your degree plan or create one of its own.
    • Identify independent study courses to replace classes that may be difficult to get.
    • Find study partners in each class. It’s easier to stay on task when you’re working in a group.
    • When a class offers an online discussion group, take advantage of it. Complete participation is very important to your academic success.
    • Study in the same place for each study session. If you’re studying at home, be sure you have a distraction-free area. Take breaks when you need to.
    • Come up with a reasonable study plan, being sure to set aside time in your schedule to work on your course requirements.
    • Check your plan against any course outlines and study guides provided by the school. Ensure they both look realistic when balanced with your work schedule, family, and other obligations.
    • Determine reasonable milestones you want to reach during your educational program. Once you reach a milestone, reward yourself! Stick to your study plan! Students who do so are more likely to succeed.
    • Look over your plan frequently and make an honest assessment of your progress.
    • Share your educational plans with someone you respect, and occasionally discuss your program with that person.
    • Explore all the resources that may be available to you. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from professors, school advisors, education counselors, or on-base instructors.
    • Review feedback from instructors and carefully consider all graded or returned lessons.