Your military kids have conquered the unthinkable. They’ve successfully navigated six to nine schools changes over the course of their elementary through high school education. They are on the cusp of graduating in within a year or two and parents around the globe are breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Parents of college bound students will quickly find themselves buried in handbooks, websites and glossy pamphlets. Military connected students tend have a unique backstory, are well travelled, diverse and in possession of too many transcripts. We’ve compiled list of resources and parent groups to help navigate the college admission process.
MCEC and Charting Your Course
Military Children’s Education Coalition (MCEC) offers parent workshops and planning guides for college bound students. One of their most popular courses offered are the College and Career Readiness Workshops and Chart Your Course materials.
MCEC offers a year-by-year checklist for students to consider starting as early as middle school. Covering the needs of each grade, Roadmap to Success handouts is a perfect starting place for military families. They also offer materials that are thought provoking and interactive such as:
- Building a portfolio in high school
- Tracking multiple transcripts
- Letters recommendations
- Asking self reflecting questions/narrowing down choices
- Interviewing and essays
- Cleaning up social media accounts
- Virtual visits
- College Resume samples
- Financial Aide
- Basic scholarship information
MCEC offers workshops through their Parent-to-Parent program on College and Career Readiness where these materials are readily available. However, if families can’t find a workshop near them, the Chart Your Course packets are available for purchase on the MCEC website MilitaryChild.org
SAT/ACT Test Prep
Apply for college and taking the SAT or ACT go hand-in-hand. Military-connected students have several programs to help them with test preparations.
eKnowlege Donation Project with Military.com
eknowledge.com/military waives the $350 fee for the course. There is a small one-time student fee of $19.99 to start the donated course. Of course, there are paid upgrades if desired, but not necessary. The program is in their 14th year and touts helping more than 250,000 students in 40 countries.
March2Success is sponsored by the U.S. Army and offers free online prep courses for students. They also offer help prepping for the military entrance exam (ASVAB). The test is free and easy to use. The also offer more test prep for medical entrance exams (MCATS ), Dental admissions exams (DAT) and more. www.March2Success.com
A personal favorite is Tutor.com/military. Sponsored by the Department of Defense, Tutor.com offers free live homework help for ages K-12 and now offers SAT/ACT prep free or discounted. www.tutor.com/military
GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Schools
If the military-connected student will be using the GI Bill, parents will want to familiarize themselves with the Yellow Ribbon Program. According to the Veterans Administration (VA) website, “The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the law that created the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Yellow Ribbon Program is available for Institutions of Higher Learning (degree granting institutions) in the U.S. or at a branch of such institution located outside the U.S. The program allows approved
institutions of higher learning and the VA to partially or fully fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the established thresholds under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.”
Each Yellow Ribbon School has an agreement with the VA as to the number of participants admitted, the programs available and the dollar amount accepted. Bottom line, each Yellow Ribbon School has their own guidelines and it could change year to year. Check out the VA’s website on participating schools and offerings. GI Bill Yellow Ribbon School List 2019-2020
Military Family Online Groups
There is nothing more valuable than experience when seeking advice. That’s why the following online Facebook Groups should be a parent’s first stop when they have those pesky questions about the college process and are not sure whom to ask. These groups are Closed and Private FB Groups. Parents seeking to join will need to answer a few introductory questions before allowed to join.
These Facebook groups are an endless depth of experience and inspiration. With membership combination of 12,000 parents with school-age students, college bound or college kids, there is always an answer to a question. The breath of experience is priceless. Members are parents (active duty, veteran, and retired), teachers and invested adults who have the experience and willingness to help the next person.
Below is sampling of great advice I received after asking for help with a rising junior in high school and navigating college admission process:
Sandy Murphy – “1) FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) opens on 1 October of senior year and college applications and scholarships can be sent in before 1 November of senior year. Early college applications often have the application fee waived. Many scholarships are awarded on a first come basis. Beat the rush!!!
2) High school juniors need to take seriously their choice of classes. Take classes that will prepare you for your college and college major. Your GPA and transcript from your junior year is what you send off to colleges for acceptance and scholarships.
3) Prepare and study for the ACT. Need to take your first ACT exam at least before junior year Christmas break and if you did not score 25 or higher in all areas you need to retake in summer between junior and senior year. Your ACT score taken before your senior year is the initial score on your College applications and scholarships submissions.
4) Join potential scholarship organizations at least two years before high school graduation. Many organizations that provide scholarships require membership for at least one year prior to submitting scholarship.
5) Go on college visits in junior year. By the time senior year begins, have your selection narrowed to 5 or less and focus applications, essays, and scholarships on those 5 colleges.”
Jamie Gonzales – “Keep all graded writing sample papers you have from HS! We moved summer between 10/11 grades. At new school she was never required to write a paper that had the requirements one of the colleges she wanted to apply to wanted. She had written a paper like it at the old school but not knowing she might need a graded writing sample that she wouldn’t do she tossed it in the pre-PCS cleanout.”
Katie McDonald – “If you know you are going to PCS in the middle of high school: take Spanish only because all schools offer it. You will need 2-3 consecutive years of a foreign language to graduate and apply to college, depending on the school. Taking another language, such as German, may put you in a bind if your new school doesn’t offer it. You will be forced to pay for and take an online class to meet the requirement. Not easy!”
Lisa Hansen – “This transition will probably be the most difficult of your mil kid’s life, especially if they choose a college away from military life. While my daughter was used to transitions, she was also used to the military “safety net.” She chose a large university in the Midwest with a negligible military presence nearby and an even tinier population of military affiliated kids. Her transition was rough and having Mom and Dad 500 miles away didn’t help. I’m sure you will get a million pieces of advice about the academic side of things; I just want to emphasize to not neglect the emotional. I wish we had preemptively gotten her in to see a counselor or psychologist to discuss the transition and self care instead of waiting for it to be a crisis once she got to school and was miserable. (The story has a happy ending, she did incredibly well academically and now has a wonderful circle of friends she is looking forward to getting back to next week!)”
Jennifer Southerland – The first applications are due started July 1 prior to your senior year. Also the Common App essay questions do not necessarily change that much year to year. You can be working on your essay during your junior year. Refining it. I also recommend going ahead and taking the writing portion of the SAT or the ACT at least once before applications are due so you can just have that score ready to go. If you are still trying to decide where to apply by summer or even fall of your senior year, you may find one of the Schools you are wanting to apply requires that writing score. So better to have it. We chose to mention being a military kid in the essay. Because we were able to stabilize at one location and ours didn’t have a ton of moves just before college and it wouldn’t have been very apparent. We addressed it in terms of how experiencing that has made her tougher, more resilient in terms of being able to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way, and that because she has said so many goodbyes and hellos, if she had a roommate that was homesick she might be able to help them out. Be a good friend.
But also applying to scholarships early one through fastweb.com early and the scholarships that are available for military kids takes time. They need to be ready to put in the work on the required essays for each. If they already have a draft for common or coalition ap, they can just tweak it.
Karen Anderson – In our case, our son decided that he wanted to apply for admission to a military academy. He applied to all five, and is currently in his second year at an Academy. The advantage for military kids applying to academies is that they can receive a Presidential nomination for USMA, ASAFA, and USNA. In terms of congressional nominations, the problem for military kids is figuring out where to apply for nominations. Congressional leaders have individual rules/ requirements. Some will only nominate students who attend high schools in their jurisdiction. Others will only nominate students whose parents claim legal residency in that state/locality. This creates confusion, requires phone calls to find specific requirements, and can cause challenges for students who are living in other countries, as well as students who wait until fall of their senior year to investigate. We were even given conflicting information from Academy representatives! Ultimately, we found that my son could apply for nominations in two states- the one we lived in and our state of residency- but not both.
Lee Neiper – “Start early in high school making your military brat fill out all their own paperwork – check themselves in when you go to the MTF – show them how to use JAG, for lease coordination when they are no longer in the dorms, have them go to JAG before they leave for their freshman year to give parents a medical POA, have them write a will, have them call USAA and set up their own renters insurance when they move into their apartment (our renters covered our sons first year in the dorm), check with the Student health center to see if they take TRICARE.”
Parents don’t have to go it alone. Navigating the college process can be complicated and confusing, especially for military families. There are several solid resources parents and students can use to help and three Facebook Groups parents can ask questions, share experience and support others.