Photo Credit: Rob Bixby
By Kelly Ryan, Midwest Education Coordinator, American Military University
Life changes can be intimidating. Transitioning from military to civilian life is a drastic change that affects nearly every aspect of life. Preparing for this change can be intimidating, but there is a wealth of help available.
The more knowledge you can gain that pertains to your specific family needs and goals, the better prepared you will become. The first task to tackle should be selecting where you will live after transition, as housing on a military installation will no longer be an available option. For some transitioning families, their home of record is the easy choice, but assuring your family’s goals may mean branching out to a location you have never visited before.
Here is an additional awesome resource to help through this process: Ultimate Guide to College Scholarships
Establish Your Goals
Establishing your family goals is also integral to successfully planning a seamless transition experience. Have you always wanted to go back to school? Has your spouse always had a dream of opening a business? Have you wanted to send your children to a private school?
Defining your family’s priorities will help you to sort through your options and make productive decisions. Among the considerations to be made are: schools for your children, job opportunities, cost of living, local and state taxes, and education options for your spouse and yourself in order to progress to your next set of career goals.
On each installation, there are different transition programs offered to aid with this planning. The Air Force and Army offer the Transition Assistance Program, the Navy offers Transition GPS, the Marine Corps offers Transition Readiness Program, and the Coast Guard offers Transition Assistance Program. These programs are accessible to service members and their spouses up to two years prior to separation.
Certainly not the least of important factors in your transition into civilian life will be the community you plan to move into and the kind of support you will receive there. In the military community, we become accustomed to comradery, support, values, schedules, and resilience that are not commonplace in other communities.
If you find that your family will be moving to a location that is not near a military installation, then you can find support online in discussion forums. Start with www.military.com, which has has several options. Staying connected to others who are undergoing a similar life change may ease the transition experience.
Consider Adding to Your Education
Check out the The Comprehensive Guide to College Scholarships in 2017
Many military spouses find that the career path they desire requires that they further their education. Researching higher education options is sometimes a daunting task. You need to select an area of study and research institutions that offer what you are looking for. Given your schedule and transition plans, online schooling is often the best option. Most colleges and universities typically have deadlines for application submission and registration, so ensure that you become knowledgeable about your school of choice’s deadlines.
Funding higher education is sometimes confusing and overwhelming. If your spouse has chosen to allow you to use his or her GI Bill, then you can begin by applying on www.va.gov. Aside from GI Bill, there are several other options to fund your education. Information found at https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college explains the financial aid process, college costs, and offer scholarship search features.
Tap Into Helpful Resources
While transition often challenges families separating from the military, it does not necessarily have to become a battle. Proactive planning with research and prioritization can provide for a seamless transition from military to civilian family. Arm yourself with knowledge using the resources provided below and you will be on your way to a successful transition into the next stage of your family’s journey.
Check out this list of disability specific scholarships and rights for students with disabilities who are attending college at GoodCall.com.
Transition Assistance by Branch of Service
Air Force: https://www.afpc.af.mil/lifeandcareer/transition.asp
Military One Source: https://www.militaryonesource.mil/phases-retiring?content_id=267523
State Tax Information
School Ratings (K-12)
Cost of Living
About the Author
Kelly Ryan serves as the Midwest Education Coordinator for American Military University counseling active duty, reservists, national guardsmen, veterans, and spouses. She works with the transitioning service members and families on a daily basis, offering guidance and direction for families in transition. Ryan is also a veteran of the US Army.