Tag Archives: education

Pursuing a Career in Mental Health? You’re Going to Want to Know About This…

Laura Merandi, like many other military spouses, has struggled to start a career. She has faced multiple PCS moves–4 so far in her 9½ year marriage–three deployments, and several separations due to trainings. When she met her husband, Paul, she had been accepted to a top-tier graduate school in New York to get her master’s degree in social work. Her plans were detoured as a result, but she was happy to join Paul as he navigated through his career in the military. “He is the love of my life,” she shared, “of course I put everything on hold for him, for our future family. To me, there was no question, no hesitation.”

The first few years of marriage brought twin girls into their lives. With the moving, and the demands of parenting young children, her dreams of becoming a social worker had to go on the back burner for a while.

“I was so caught up in the day-to-day of caring for my twin girls, and preparing for changes that military life would bring, I just stopped thinking about my own career,” Laura explained.

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Once her girls were school-aged, Laura decided to reignite her dream of becoming a social worker. But going to that ivy-league school she was once accepted to was no longer an option. Nothing but an online or hybrid program would work for her anymore. “When I was not married to the military, I could choose colleges that were brick-and-mortar. This was not the case now. I needed to rely on programs that were available online, or if needed, programs that had some limited time on campus, but with the bulk of my time spent doing my work remotely.”

This was the first of many hurdles for Laura.

First, she struggled to find an accredited school online. There were few options online for schools with counseling or social work. So Laura decided to enroll in an online school in counseling with the right accreditation… as far as she could tell.

Laura, like many other military spouses, took on her education with the help of loans, scholarships, and grants. She excelled in her coursework, earning a 4.0 GPA during her two year master’s degree program. “I was excited,” she recalled. “I loved my coursework and found that I could design the work around my schedule and anything the military threw our way.”

Her happiness was short-lived, however, when she couldn’t t find supervision in order to get licensed. She was moving again.

And that wasn’t all.

It turned out the school she attended was regionally accredited, but not accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which was now a requirement to work with many insurance panels. Particularly those who work with military service members, veterans and their families.

I was devastated. I worked so hard, raising a family, supporting my husband, and getting through a demanding program. It felt like all the doors were slammed shut on me. I couldn’t find an internship and supervisor because we kept moving and my program didn’t have the right accreditation. I couldn’t even think of getting licensed under those circumstances. Then, even if I tried to take courses in an accredited program, it was cost-prohibitive. I wanted to give up. My dream of supporting the mental health needs of our military community pretty much went up in smoke.

Just when Laura was going to give up, she found the support and friendship of other military spouses in an informal network online.

“The Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians (MHBHC) social media group supported me through it.” Laura said. “I received advice from other spouses who were going through similar circumstances and had come out on the other side.

Using this network, Laura found out she could use her husband’s Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and pay for courses to complete my studies in a CACREP accredited program. But she still struggled to find a supervisor. When she finally did, it was costly, and took her much longer to reach her goals than she hoped.

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Today, Laura is searching for jobs that don’t have an issue with the moves associated with being a military family. She’s also working on her second professional license.

“Military spouses should not have to jump through so many hoops to be able to help our own community,” she shared. “What is most frustrating is that we have a nationwide shortage of providers. Why is it so hard for us to get our careers going?”

This is a question echoed by many military spouses whose career choices require them to be licensed. They face unending barriers, in some cases, just to be able to work and support their families and their community.

If we really want to be able to effect change and mitigate the mental health crisis in our communities, we need to support those who are working hard to do just that. This is why the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network, a joint effort spearheaded by the National Military Family Association, in partnership with Give an Hour, is so timely and important.

With support through military spouses’ entire journey, from finding the right educational program, to helping with supervision and licensure, and assistance finding employment, spouses will be able to break existing barriers and complete a career that is meaningful to them. These careers are so helpful to our military community. It is our hope that with the right support, spouses, like Laura, will be able to join the mental health workforce and provide services to those who need it most.

If you are a military spouse pursuing an education or career in the mental health field, join the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network and set yourself up for success in reaching those goals.

ingridPosted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Pipeline

6 Awesome Resources Job-Searching Military Spouses Need to Know About

A few short months before our wedding, my fiancé and I packed up and headed 1,236 miles from Kansas to Northern Virginia. As a Midwest girl, I was a fish out of water in the strong currents of the east coast. I quit my first real job and moved to a city with endless possibilities…or so I thought. Like so many others, I updated my resume and began job searching. Hitting the submit button on the online job application became my worst enemy; it was like I was sending my resume down a black hole… if only I knew then what I know now.

What do I know now, you ask? I know there are wonderful resources out there for military spouses pursuing careers, and not just careers, but portable careers. Before you start sending your resume out to the black hole of the internet, consider these available resources to help your job hunt.

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America’s Career Force

  • It’s mission: Assist career minded military spouses with portable remote careers that will follow them wherever the military takes them.
  • Does it work? As a connection between companies and the global military spouse network, America’s Career Force recently worked with a Fortune 500 company and placed a military spouse with them. The company was so excited to have her on their team and didn’t realize the struggles military spouses face, they’ve since started a military spouse hiring initiative to support military spouses further.
  • What else: CEO and Founder Leigh Searl explains, “I recently moved to Germany and the second military spouse I met said to me, ‘I have a master’s degree and there just aren’t jobs for me here. I don’t want to work as a clerk somewhere, I want to be able to use my education.’ This is exactly why I started America’s Career Force – to help professional military spouses find meaningful employment alongside their active duty service member. Remote careers are the solution to bridging the spouse unemployment gap.”

Flex Jobs

  • It’s mission: FlexJobs provides an innovative, professional job service to help you find the best flexible jobs available, safely and easily. Every job is hand-screened and legitimate. Guaranteed.
  • Does it work? Military spouse, Angie Dahlstrom, was looking for part-time employment while stationed in Korea with her family and found the perfect fit with Flex Jobs. Angie says, “I find the FlexJobs site user-friendly. I appreciated the email alerts, resume and interview support, as well as the awesome job hunter resource options available. The fact that FlexJobs offers global, remote positions was a huge plus for me!”
  • What else: FlexJobs is a partner of NMFA and offers military spouse’s subscriptions at a discounted rate. Register with NMFA for more details on this offer.

Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program

  • It’s mission: A nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
  • Does it work? To date, more than 28,000 veterans and military spouses have obtained jobs through Hiring Our Heroes events. More than 2,000 companies of all sizes have committed to hire 710,000 veterans and military spouses as part of the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign. Of those commitments, there have been more than 505,000 confirmed hires.
  • What else: Digital resources include distinct resume builders for veterans and transitioning service members, as well as military spouses; a jobs portal that allows veterans and service members to search for employment opportunities in America’s fastest growing job markets and industries; a 24/7 virtual career fair platform; an interactive employer best practices site; and a virtual mentorship program that connects veteran and spouse protégés with experienced mentors.

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Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN)

  • It’s mission: MSCCN works with spouses, caregivers, and dependents to get them employment-ready, and help them find and secure employment opportunities aligned with their experiences and goals.
  • Does it work?  In 2015, Corporate America Supports You (CASY) & MSCCN reported 7,045 (including 2,919 National Guard) hires; in 2016, CASY & MSCCN have reported 1,798 (including 786 National Guard) hires to date.
  • What else: MSCCN employment specialists, in concert with a training department, provide resume, personal branding, and interview assistance, assist applicants with the job search, and mentor applicants throughout the employment process.

Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP)

  • It’s mission: The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a career partnership connecting military spouses with more than 300 employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses. MSEP is part of the Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program that offers comprehensive information, tools and resources to support military spouse career exploration, education, training and licensing, employment readiness and career connections.
  • Does it work? More than 300 MSEP employers have hired more than 90,000 military spouses.
  • What else? MSEP is a solution to assist spouses in finding and maintaining employment to achieve their career goals, despite the challenges of frequent relocation. Military spouses can find jobs and career opportunities by logging in to the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Career Portal.

ServingTalent

  • It’s mission: ServingTalent actively finds employment for professional military spouses.
  • Does it work? It’s built strong relationships with a number of Fortune 500 and smaller firms who are really excited about working with them, and who have been simply speechless at the level of experience and education the candidates possess.
  • What else: ServingTalent President Maggie Varona, explains, “Our ultimate goal is to end the staggeringly high levels of military spouse unemployment and underemployment by building relationships with employers who understand the value we can bring to their organizations. Thanks to 21st century technology and changing employer attitudes, we can now envision an economy in which military spouses no longer have to give up on their professional ambitions simply because they fell in love with someone in the military.”

Are you a military spouse who’s had success with job searching? What job search resources have worked for you?

allie-jPosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

17 Ways to Celebrate the Month of the Military Child!

When we think of colors that might represent military kids, we usually think of the colors like red, white and blue…maybe throw in a little green camo for contrast, right?

However, the color that best represents the life of the military child is PURPLE!  Why the color purple? It’s the color that’s an intricate part of celebrating the month of April – the Month of the Military Child.

In 1986, April was designated Month of the Military Child by Casper Weinberger to recognize and thank children from military families for the sacrifices they make living the military lifestyle. Purple Up is the campaign that propels activities throughout the Month of the Military Child to honor, acknowledge, and support military connected kids in our schools and communities.

A military connected kid is a child or adolescent with a close family member serving in any branch of the United States Armed Forces, and any status, Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard. Military connected youth face unique circumstances living the military lifestyle, which can be challenging, or opportunities for growth.

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Celebrating our little warriors doesn’t just happen in our schools. As parents and educators, we need to put a little ingenuity and elbow grease behind a few strategies and activities. As parents, we need to solicit support from principals, teachers and PTO/PTA groups to help bring awareness to our little warriors and their struggles. It’s an easy sell, and the positive attitude you’ll bring to school will last long after you’ve moved, hopefully keeping the tradition going.

The Month of Military Child is celebrated in hundreds of schools across the country and overseas. Bring your child’s school into the know and create a visual sea of purple! Help bring awareness to the unique life we live to teachers, principals, and their peers.

Below are 17 fantastic ways to show support in your school for the military families in your elementary school community. They’re low cost, practical, and creative ways to celebrate in the classroom, hallways and in lunchroom at your school.

  1. Kick off the Month of the Military Child with a breakfast, or lunch for Military Connected Youth in the school. Include their parents or other family members associated with the military. Don’t forget to invite staff who were once military kids, too, or who may have a close family member serving our country.
  2. Dress-up throughout the month of April. April 15th is the official PURPLE UP day! It’s always fun to see a school full of smiling faces wearing purple. Another idea is to identify one day each week in April to highlight military families. Ideas include: favorite service logo day, patriotic day, Purple day, etc.
  3. Highlight April as Month of the Military Child on the school’s marquee, and in staff and parent newsletters.
  4. Have a daily or weekly announcement with military-connected student facts. Start with the national facts and move into school facts. For great facts on military connect kids, visit Families on the Home front.
  5. Throughout the month, ask military connected kids or family members to do the announcements, or share an interesting fact about their life as a military child on the morning news show.
  6. Decorate display cases and bulletin boards throughout April with military focused memorabilia, or items brought by military kids reflecting their experiences (where they have live or traveled, family members’ service memorabilia, parts of a uniform, patches, coins, models of planes etc.)
  7. Create a world map and pinpoint where students and staff have lived because of their military lifestyle. This is a fantastic way to connect military kids with their peers. It’s total conversation starter when their peers say to them, “Wow! You lived in Japan?”
  8. Decorate the school in flags, purple, and posters! Have a group of kids design posters thanking their families for their service. Have military kids make posters reflecting their experiences. Decorate with purple balloons. Have staff and students wear purple ribbons or carnations on the designated Purple UP day!4-4 MilKid PINTEREST Rd&Bl
  9. Adopt a deployed service member or unit. Create care packages for deployed troops. As a service project collect items from a class, grade, school group, or whole school. Packages can be sent to a student’s family member or another unit identified through the school or community. Collect items from April 4-22, then take the week of April 25 the to pack up and ship. Don’t forget notes, card, and pictures. For ideas of what to send, contact a family member, local installation, or Red Cross. Most school counselors should know if there are families in your school whose service members is deployed. Ask them to help celebrate their family.
  10. Attempt a LIVE SKYPE session with a deployed service family member in the classroom or at an assembly. With a little technical help and decent time zone, this would be a great experience to for military kids to show how they talk to their parent – when they can.
  11. Start a Buddy Program at your school for ALL new kids that transfer in. It’s great way to take the sting out of being the new kid and create support within the school for military connected kids and other new students. This is a great program to be started by Student Council or PTA/PTO. It takes little effort, just a small welcome packet, a meeting once a month and friendly face.
  12. Ask a military member (a parent or sibling of someone in the class) to be a guest speaker and share their perspective on life in the military, as well as their profession.
  13. Create a Hero Wall to honor those in public service, with a bulletin board or posters pinned up about heroes in a child’s life. It could be a family member or family friend currently serving, or a veteran who served (living or dead). It could also be someone who does good in a community – firefighters, policemen, first responders, or religious figures. Keep the idea that kids can connect and share about who they think a hero is – a hero is defined in many different ways. Keep the conversation going about sacrifice and public service!
  14. Create a Time Zone Wall with a series of clocks on a wall identifying different time zones from around the world, with a focus on where a deployed family may be, where a military child has lived in the past, or where a child might be moving to.
  15. Story time using books about military kids’ experience, the military lifestyle, being the new kid in school, or appreciating differences in one another.
  16. Show-n-Tell! Have students bring in something military-related. Examples might be memorabilia from an installation or service branch, favorite airplane, book, military character, items or pictures from prior living locations, pictures or anything related to being a milkid!
  17. Write letters or draw pictures and send to deployed family members!

What ways are you planning to celebrate the military kids in your life? Leave a comment and share it with us!

Posted by Stacy Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer and Managing Director for Families on the Home Front

My Military Kid is Still Struggling in School: Now What?

You moved last year, last month, last week. As directed, you handed over those official and/or unofficial school transcripts, letters from past teachers, and test results. You met the teacher, the principal, and a few other parents. You’ve tried to enroll your child in enough sports and extracurricular clubs to help build new friendships.

But something is still not right.

So much can go wrong when transferring schools, even if you check all the right boxes. But what can you do, as a parent, to help remedy some of these situations? A whole lot as it turns out!

First, get familiar with the laws…and there are a few.

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The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, applies to all students of active-duty or activated Reserve/Guard families. It also applies for one year only to children of medically retired service members, and children of service members who were killed in action, or are deceased as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.

This is most helpful in terms of placement in the correct education categories and classes. For states that have adopted this compact, public schools are required to accept official AND unofficial records, test scores, and placements when the student arrives. Schools should operate under “trust but verify.” Students arriving in public schools in member states (which is all 50 states), even with unofficial records, should be placed in courses and programs equivalent to their previous placement. In short, if your child was in the gifted program at Camp Lejeune, she should still be enrolled in the gifted program in Camp Pendleton. Your child might be retested by the new school, and placed differently based on those results, but initially she should be kept at the same level as her last school.

If they try to fight you on this, be sure to direct them to this interactive map that shows all 50 US states as members of the Interstate Compact. Then direct them to the guiding documents that outline how schools should operate upon receiving new military dependent children.

For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or other special education needs, receiving schools (public schools including DoDEA) must comply with the current, legal IEP until such time as testing can be conducted to create a new IEP. The important thing to note is that this helps to provide comparable, not identical, services. So if your child has PT services provided, they will still be provided, but maybe not at the same frequency or duration as they previously were. The new district will conduct updated assessments, and convene a new IEP committee to create your child’s new plan.

Another important tool for families with children who have special education needs is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This program is designed to identify and assist families and individuals with medical, emotional and educational needs. Enrollment is compulsory, but there are definitely more than a few families who skirt around this. Honestly, it is in YOUR best interest. Not only will EFMP do the legwork for you on determining which schools are best for your child, but they help with the transfer process. If your child has an IEP, 504 Plan, or any other educational plan, enroll in EFMP yesterday (a.k.a., NOW!) Each base has a local office and representative to walk you through enrollment and assist you with the paperwork.

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To go along with this, look into the School Liaison program at your new base. Every branch of service, as well as reserve components, maintain an active School Liaison program. These education professionals are employed to help build connections between the military and schools. They are there to help you transition into and out of schools, as well as to help handle any sticky situations that might pop up.

With the legal stuff taken care of, what do you do when everything else happens? Regression. Failure to adjust. Emotional concerns. These, and many more, can seriously impact a child’s academic and social life. Even one “off” aspect of life can severely affect others. A depressed child might exhibit academic regression or fail to make friends. A child who is struggling academically might lash out with anger or retreat into sadness.

There is help out there.

For families with academically focused concerns, Military OneSource has special education consultants. These are fully licensed, master’s level education professionals ready to help walk your family through the special education system. This service is free and unlimited.

Actually, Military OneSource is a one stop shop for so many things to help military families and children. Through this service, you can arrange for non-medical counseling. This can be an awesome and powerful resource for children who are struggling emotionally with school, moving, anxiety, depression, or just need someone other than a parent to talk to. The help is confidential and free.

Sometimes, even though a child is doing well in school and seems to be adjusting to their new home, they struggle to form connections. Let’s face it, Military Kid Life is like no other life out there. Sometimes our kids just need to connect with other military children. Now, they can. Military Kid Connect is another free web service that allows kids from ages 6 to high school to connect with each other through videos, games, and online (parent-approved) message boards. There are even resources for parents and teachers!

Moving with children, especially school aged children, can be challenging and difficult. Armed with the law and with an arsenal of free resources to help support your family, it can help to ease your burden a little and work to guide your child toward success academically and socially.

The help is out there. Now, go use it.

Have you ever had a child who struggled after a PCS? How did you tackle the problems?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws

Military Spouses: Start Your Career as a Financial Counselor! Apply for a FINRA Fellowship Starting March 1!

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” –Bishop T.D. Jakes

I don’t think any truer words were ever spoken. Twelve years ago, I married my high-school sweetheart and entered the world as a new military spouse, a “dependent.” Suddenly, all of those years of awards and accolades came second fiddle to my new husband’s career. For the first time, I had to figure out the answers to questions like, “Who am I? What is my purpose in this military world?”

Years went on, and I gave birth to our first son. Yet, I felt unfulfilled. Would I be content staying at home until he, and our future children, went to school? Luckily, I didn’t have to struggle with that decision for very long.

In May 2007, the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program approved my application to work towards earning an Accreditation in Financial Counseling (AFC). My passion for assisting military members and their families ultimately led me to finding my purpose: promoting financial readiness and awareness to my other family–my military family. I enthusiastically completed my required hours at Army Community Service in the Financial Readiness Branch at Fort Hood, Texas, and I was able to complete the formal education portion from the luxury of my couch, in my pajamas. The best of both worlds!

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A year after I started the Fellowship Program, I earned my AFC. I had a designation that could follow my name and be added to my resume. Robyn Alama Mroszczyk, AFC has a great ring to it! In 2009, we moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where I taught a Personal Financial Management class to new soldiers who were going through the Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course. I was able to serve these newbies before they arrived at their unit.

Between another PCS move to Fort Knox, KY, I taught over 1,000 soldiers. However, I like to think that I reached even more than those 1,000. As we know, soldiers talk to each other (good and bad information), and if they took one thing that I taught them, that knowledge would continue to spread.

While we were at Fort Knox, I had the privilege of working as the Survivor Outreach Services Financial Counselor for Gold Star Families. I was offered the position because I held the AFC designation. For two and a half years, I worked with the greatest families and helped them through their toughest moments. I was heartbroken when we received orders to Peterson AFB in Colorado, as I had finally found my dream job. But, we go where the Army sends us, and my time was up.

Since then, we have moved twice, and I have worked with Zeiders Enterprises as a Personal Financial Counselor. As a contractor, I had the luxury of applying for assignments based on my families’ schedule. I provide short-term financial counseling to military members and their families with managing finances, resolving financial problems, and reaching long-term goals.

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With the AFC, I have been able to add other designations to my name and resume: Certified Credit Report Reviewer and Certified Consumer Debt Collection Specialist. I have taken numerous continuing education classes to keep up-to-date on financial topics. In November 2015, I attended the AFCPE Symposium on a scholarship from the USAA Educational Foundation. While I was there, I met up with FINRA Fellows from the last nine years.

When you become a FINRA Military Spouse Fellow, you are welcomed into a community of intelligent, energetic, and motivated spouses. You are never alone. If you have a question, there’s a Facebook group to assist and cheer you on. We brainstorm and pool our areas of expertise to provide solutions that ultimately help our clients. As we gear up for move number eight in 12 years, to Washington, D.C, I am optimistic about entering the workforce full-time again.

As military spouses, we are part of an extended family that reaches across the world. Just like our nuclear family, finances are a taboo topic to discuss. However, our military members are having to do more with less, and we owe it to them to provide the best customer service we can. As for me, I want to inspire. I know that I can’t fix all of their problems, but I will do what I can to make a difference where I can.  Will you join me in that journey?

If you’re ready to start your career in financial counseling, apply to be a FINRA Military Spouse Fellow starting March 1, 2016. Applications are being accepted through April 22, 2016.

robyn'Posted by Robyn Alama Mroszczyk, AFC, FINRA Military Spouse Fellow

I Used My Spouse’s Post-9/11 GI Bill…and I Don’t Feel Guilty

I have a confession to make. I used my husband’s Post-9/11 GI bill for myself instead of saving it for our kids.

Gasp!

Do I feel guilty? No, I don’t.

First of all, the Post-9/11 GI bill is my husband’s benefit – not mine. When I decided to go to grad school, he offered to transfer it to me. I said, “Don’t you want to use it?” He knew he would have additional educational opportunities through the military and at that point in time he wasn’t interested in further education post-military service.

“What about our kids,” I asked? “Should we save it for them?”

“You want to go to school now. Our kids are in diapers.”

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So, I started to do some research on how I could financially support my family with an advanced degree. The Department of Labor reports “few things affect people’s earnings power more than their level of education. In general, more education means more dollars earned.” There are several reports with lots of data confirming that lifetime earnings increase as education levels increase. The Department of Labor also reports in 2014 the median weekly earnings for full-time workers were:

  • $488 with less than a high school diploma
  • $668 with a high school diploma and no college
  • $1,101 with a Bachelor’s degree
  • $1,386 with an Advanced degree

Wow – that is a $898 weekly difference!

What does all of this data mean for me? It means by using my husband’s Post-9/11 GI bill to obtain an advanced degree I have a better chance of supporting my family financially over the long term. It also means, with careful planning we’ll be able to set aside money to send our kids to college.

Another consideration for our family was to gauge whether the Post-9/11 GI bill would be available for our children. Recent proposals include reducing the Post-9/11 GI benefit for dependent children by removing the housing stipend for dependents receiving a transferred benefit. This proposal wasn’t approved by Congress last year; however no one can accurately predict what the future benefit will look like.

The idea that the Post-9/11 GI bill might not be available by the time my children are old enough to use it is scary. And knowing that I could provide more financial stability for my family sooner than my kids would be able to use the benefit made the choice easier for us to make.

So yes, I’m guilty as charged: I used my husband’s Post-9/11 GI bill benefit. And if it’s the right choice for your family, you should consider it, too.

If the Post-9/11 GI bill isn’t an option for your family, consider applying for one of NMFA’s many military spouse scholarships! There’s something for everyone, and even partner colleges and universities who have incentives on top of our scholarships! Apply by January 31, 2016!

If you’ve used your spouse’s Post-9/11 GI bill, how did you family decide on this? Tell us about it in the comments.

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issues Strategist

Online vs Traditional School: Which is Best for Military Spouses?

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?

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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 January 31, 2016 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, social work, and sciences and technology.

So, what’ll it be: online or traditional school?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager