When you joined the military, someone probably spoke to you about all the education benefits and possibilities that would come with military life. Maybe you even took a few classes towards a college degree. But then life got in the way: between PCS moves, TDY assignments, and overseas deployments, it’s challenging to finish college classes while in the military. That’s why over 50% of veterans don’t have a degree when they leave military service.

The good news is that the story doesn’t stop there. Just because you didn’t complete college in the military doesn’t mean you can’t ever earn a degree. In fact, you may be a lot closer to it than you think. Did you know that some of your military service and experience may be worth college credits? To see the full value of college credits you could receive, you can request a Joint Services Transcript (JST) even after you transition out of the military.

What is the JST?

Your JST describes your military education classes and work experience in civilian terms that will make sense to a potential employer or a college counselor. It summarizes the skills you have learned and the training you received from the military. The JST is for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Members of the Air Force can request a CCAF (Community College of the Air Force) transcript to see their credits. Think about all those times you traveled to another base for a class or learned a new skill for your MOS. Those experiences are worth something!

Whether you are enlisted, officer, or warrant officer, veterans are eligible for a JST or a CCAF. The transcript will describe military courses you completed, CLEP classes on your record, and other learning experiences. It will also include college credit recommendations based on your military occupation. A service member can request a JST either while they are active duty or after they have left military service. It’s a useful document to show a potential employer or a college counselor.

How can I use my JST for college?

Your JST will be accepted at thousands of colleges and universities nationwide, which will put you on the path to earning your diploma. Many colleges offer a free review process where veterans can discuss with a counselor which credits they have earned, which prerequisites they have met, and how to apply those towards a specific degree. At Purdue Global, for example, there is a military student support staff to help veterans navigate the college registration process. Most of these staff members are fellow veterans who understand the challenges of transitioning out of the military and want to help you navigate civilian life. Purdue Global offers a free review of the JST, and awards the maximum recommendation of credits to veterans. You can use their Military Credit Calculator to see how close you are to earning a degree from your military experience.

Don’t forget your GI Bill® benefits!

When you’re ready to complete your degree, you don’t have to pay out of pocket. Your Post 9/11 GI Bill covers 36 months of college classes, plus a monthly housing allowance (MHA) if you are a full-time student. It can be used towards undergraduate or Master’s degree programs. And if you don’t use all your GI Bill, it can be transferred to your spouse or children. You’ll want to maximize your GI Bill use since it’s a benefit that you earned through military service.

Many colleges recognize the value of that service and offer tuition discounts to service members and their families so their GI Bill will stretch even further. Purdue Global offers veterans a 38% tuition reduction for undergrad classes, and a 14% discount on graduate level courses. With that value and the credits earned from your JST, you can be on your way to completing that degree sooner than you think!

You may not have realized that your military service already put you on the path to earning a college degree. But now you know that your JST shows your potential for college credits, and universities like Purdue Global are ready to help you through the process and award you all the credit hours you have earned. Go ahead and request your JST today so you can be on your way to becoming a college graduate.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

This article is sponsored by Purdue Global.