You’ve decided. There’s no better time than now. This is the best thing for you and your military family. It’ll be tough, and it might mean late nights and early mornings, but you’re doing it.
You’re going back to school.
You’ve researched degree programs, figured out how you’ll pay for it, and now the only thing left to decide is whether you should complete school online program, or in-person.
Weighing the options between online and traditional schools is tough for many military spouses. Life certainly isn’t routine, and you aren’t guaranteed an extended amount of time at any duty station. How do you decide what’s right for you?
I asked two military spouses, who are going back to school, how they made their decision. Here’s what they said:
Heather, an Air Force spouse and mother of four, chose traditional school when she decided to pursue her Master’s degree. She completed her undergraduate studies through an online program, and was looking for the on-campus experience for her Master’s—with a library, places to study, sporting events, and graduation ceremonies with the friends she’d make in class.
“I wanted the classroom conversations and networking opportunities; the ability to raise my hand and get an answer instantly, get to know classmates and professors face to face, attend extra events and workshops, and meet others in my field of study. Because I did a distance program for undergrad, I’m looking forward to the experiences I’ll have on campus,” Heather shared.
I also talked to Lyndy, an Air Force spouse with four kids. She chose an online program for three reasons: time, family, and flexibility.
“The main reason I chose an online program is because of time. I do not have physical time to dedicate to the classroom. I work during the day and I am also the mostly-sole care giver for my kids after work. That includes homework and getting the kids to and from their activities. I need the flexibility to fit school into my schedule instead of my schedule fitting into school,” she mentioned. “I can accelerate my degree if I choose, or I can take it slow if life happens.”
And life is sure to happen (can I get an AMEN, milspouses?).
Family also weighed into Heather’s decision. With four kids, Heather likes that traditional school means less multi-tasking. “When I am in class, I am in class. I won’t need to multi-task while cooking dinner. I can focus.” All of her classes are scheduled for the evening hours, and only meet a couple days a week. “This way, I can give my kids 100% during the day, and still give my classes 100% in the evening.”
Many military spouses can relate to the ‘family first’ mentality. When time is precious with our service member, we soak up every moment. Fitting school into that mix was something Lyndy considered, too, “With four kiddos and a husband who travels and works long hours, the kids rely on me for stability and support. They only have one childhood, so my degree program needs to fit within my family so I can be there for those once-in-a-lifetime moments.”
Heather echoed the importance of family support. “I am lucky to have extended family in the area who are willing to help with the kids when my husband is TDY, which feels like all the time lately. I have a lot of people I can lean on right now to help me get the kids to activities, or make dinner on the nights I won’t be home. I don’t know if I will ever have this level of support again. I know the days we have here are numbered, and I feel like it’s now, or never, to get my degree.
Other factors to consider are whether you’ll use the GI Bill, if you might have to PCS during your semester, or whether you have a support system around to help with unexpected things, like sick kids or deployments.
Lyndy and Heather both know the potential struggles they could face with the program they’ve chosen, but they also know the reward at the finish line. Are you ready to pursue the degree or certification you’ve always wanted? NMFA will help you pay for it! Apply by June 30, 2018 for our military spouse scholarships—we’re giving away more than $500,000 to deserving and motivated spouses.
NMFA has partnered with online AND traditional schools to give you special scholarships for degrees like nursing, teaching, and sciences and technology.
So, what’ll it be: online or traditional school?