7 Questions You Need To Ask Your College Officials

Attendees receive advice at the Education on the Green College Information Fair at the Falcon Creek Golf Course June 5.
Photo by Russell Meseroll

When you make the decision to get out of the military and go to school, the amount of questions you have can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start or what to ask. With that in mind, here are some questions to ask when considering potential schools.

1. Is the school accredited? And more importantly, is it regionally accredited?

If the school you are considering isn’t accredited, or might lose its accreditation, then you need to look elsewhere. A school can be either nationally or regionally accredited, but being regionally accredited is more important. Regionally accredited schools break  down into six regions of the country: Middle states, New England states, North Central states, Northwest states, Southern states, and Western states. Going to a regionally accredited school allows for easier transfer of credits and allows the school to take part in federal and state financial aid programs. To find out a school's accreditation status check out the Department of Education’s database on accredited schools.

2. Is the school a for-profit?

Also known as “diploma mills,” these colleges might not be your best choice when looking at schools. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa investigated the rise of the for-profit colleges in conjunction with the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Harkin’s investigation found that for-profit schools charged up to 20% more in tuition for a bachelor’s degree versus a traditional school and four times more tuition than community colleges. And because of that cost, 96% of students take out federal student loans, compared to 13% of students at community colleges. Nearly half of all federal student loans defaulted on in during the 2008-2009 school years came from students who attended for-profit schools. While many for-profit schools offer flexible classes for non-traditional students, make sure yours has all of your best interests in mind before applying.

Related: How veterans screw up college »

3. What is the graduation rate?

Knowing the graduation rate of a school lets you know how much time and money you need to budget for your college career. If the majority of students are taking more than four years to graduate, which isn’t uncommon, then you should plan accordingly or investigate why this is the case. It’s good to know ahead of time if some degrees can take longer than four years to finish. For instance, engineering degrees often take five years to complete.

4. Is the school part of the Yellow Ribbon program?

Under the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, veterans who have served at least 90 days of active service now are charged in-state tuition rates in any state within three years of leaving the military --- a cost covered under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. However, if you go to a private university, you will have to make up the difference in tuition on your own if the cost surpasses this amount, unless the college is a Yellow Ribbon school. Yellow Ribbon schools and the Department of Veterans Affairs have a program in which participating schools offer to give a certain amount of money toward making up that difference of tuition and the VA will match it. Often this will result in your tuition covered completely.

5. What is the veterans community and network like?

Going from a regimented military lifestyle to being a college student can be somewhat of a culture shock when you transition to the civilian world. There's a good chance you’ll find common ground with fellow veterans and they can help you figure out the whole school thing. Ask how active the student veterans organization is and attend a meeting to see if it is something you would like to get involved with.

6. Will the college accept transfer credits for schools and experiences I have had in the military? And how do I get the transcripts?

Each school varies on what credits it does and does not accept from your military background. You should still ask and present your adviser with your transcripts to save time and money by not having to take classes you have already completed. It is easy to get your transcripts from one website no matter what branch you were in. Check out the Joint Services Terminal run by the American Council on Education. It’s easy to set up and you’ll have your transcripts as soon as you create an account.

7. What does your career services office offer?

Most major colleges will have a career services office that can help you find a job. Career services counselors help you find out what you want to do, search for a job, write your resume, and prepare for the interview. This is a great resource to take advantage of while you are in school and while it is free. Some colleges offer services to alumni for a fee after they graduate. If the school you are looking at has a robust career services office it could help you a lot when it come time to graduate.

If you have any other questions, take a look at College Navigator; a website made by The National Center for Educational Statistics. This is a great place to find out about potential schools you are looking at, all at the same website.

Choosing a college is an exciting process, but it has to be something you go into with all the facts. A school you think is a good fit might not be the best choice. Ensure you ask the right questions, and get the right answers; not just what you want to hear.

Here are five smart degrees to consider when applying for college.

U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

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