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Military Service Gives Students an Edge Paying for Grad School

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides former servicemembers – and their family members – financial support to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as on-the-job training following their military service. This financial benefit, the level of which varies depending on the veteran’s length of service, helps former servicemembers pursue their education goals.
For those veterans interested in pursuing graduate degrees, a number of additional financial resources are available to help. Some scholarships are open only to prospective graduate students, while veterans pursuing advanced degrees are eligible for a number of scholarships that are also open to prospective undergraduates..
Those pursuing an advanced health care degree should explore the U.S. Army F. Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program, whcih is one of the most lucrative military scholarships, although it comes with service obligations. This scholarship pays full tuition for qualifying students in accredited medical, dental, veterinary, psychiatric nurse practitioner, psychology or optometry programs, plus a monthly stipend of more than $2,000 for other expenses.
Medical and dental students also receive a $20,000 signing bonus. Recipients must qualify as a commissioned officer and commit to one year of active-duty service for each year they use the scholarship.
The Society of Army Physician Assistants annually awards three $1,000 Capt. Sean P. Grimes Physician Assistant Educational Scholarship Awards in honor of a fallen Army captain. SAPA members, their spouses and children up to age 24 are eligible, and applications – including a school acceptance letter, list of achievements, transcripts and recent photo – are due each year by Aug. 15.
The Army Nurse Corps Association presents $3,000 scholarships to students enrolled in bachelor’s or advance degree programs in nursing, nurse anesthesia or a related health care field who are serving or have searched in the Army, Army National Guard or Army Reserve. The awards also available to students whose parents, spouse or children are serving or have served in those organizations. 2017 applications are due March 31.
Military MBA grants $20,000 in scholarships each year to veterans who are U.S. residents with undergraduate degrees. Applicants must also be seeking MBAs from member schools, including Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Pennsylvania State University—University Park’s Smeal College of Business and George Mason University School of Business. The deadline to apply this round is April 15.
The Colonel Loren J. and Mrs. Lawona R. Spencer Scholarship provides a $5,000 award to U.S. Air Force personnel, including full-time Air Force National Guard and full-time Air Force Reserve members, to pursue graduate-level education in management and administration fields. Applicants must submit a letter of recommendation from their Air Force commander or supervisor as well as a 600-word essay detailing their education golas and how they anticipate the degree helping their Air Force service. The deadline to apply is April 30.
Student Veterans of America and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems have teamed up to offer two $10,000 2017 Raytheon Patriot Scholarships to U.S. Army veterans who are currently enrolled full time in an accredited institution as undergraduate sophomores, juniors or seniors or graduate students. Applicants must be honorably discharged.
To apply, students must submit an online application, a letter of recommendation as well as provide answers to three essay questions. The application deadline is March 31.
The Army Aviation Association of America’s AAAA Scholarship Foundation provides awards to further the education of group members and their families. The foundation has awarded more than $6.5 million to more than 4,100 recipients since its establishment in 1963. Last year, it provided more than $450,000 to more than 250 applicants.
To apply, eligible individuals must first complete a prequalifying form, after which they’ll receive confirmation of their eligibility. Then they must create an account and complete the application. Applicants are encouraged to complete this first step before April so that they have time to submit their application before May 1. Recipients are announced in mid-August.
In addition to these opportunities, some colleges also offer scholarships for military veterans. For example, Georgetown University offers the Mujica Graduate Student Veteran Stipend. This $2,000 award is given to a veteran pursuing a degree from the school’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Check the school’s site for announcements on when the 2018-19 application period opens.
Veterans should explore institutions’ websites or reach out to them to determine whether they offer scholarships for the military. In many cases, though, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a good initial resource for former military personnel seeking funds to pursue higher education. Veterans should just remember this isn’t their only resource.

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Online Learning Offers Some a Second Chance at College

In 2013, I was working around 50 hours a week at a full-time job with a promising career ahead of me. Two years earlier, I had left the University of California—Santa Barbara with about half a degree’s worth of course credit under my belt. But for a number of reasons, I decided to leave and join the workforce.
In my four-year-long career, I was able to advance relatively quickly without needing a bachelor’s degree, but I knew that I was headed toward a ceiling and that a degree would eventually be necessary. Beyond that, I had a personal desire to finish what I had started years earlier, despite the fact that I was not successful during my first attempt.
I did not have the luxury of being able to leave my job to go back to school full time in a traditional environment, and after seeing advances in the prevalence and legitimacy of online education, I knew that would be the best fit for me. Even so, I was very intimidated by the prospect of taking online classes in addition to maintaining an already demanding career path.
Four years after I left UC—Santa Barbara, I started looking into returning to school. I got in contact with a few different colleges that offered online bachelor’s programs and was surprised by the support that academic advisers provided to prospective students.
Fast forward a bit, and I was enrolled in online classes at a local community college. I viewed this as an easier transition back to school, and it made financial sense to complete my general education requirements at a lower per-credit cost compared with four-year universities. Immediately, I saw that online learning was going to be very different from the actual classroom.
Since starting at Oregon State University Ecampus, I have been much more successful this time around at completing a degree. Here are three lessons I learned after returning to school through online education.
1. Not everyone is ready for college at 18 years old. I did very well in high school as a multisport athlete enrolled in many honors and Advanced Placement classes. But when I started college, I was totally unprepared for what being successful at a traditional university would entail. The skills you need to thrive in that environment – time management, accountability and prioritization, to name a few – are not necessarily the same skills you develop in high school.
2. A few years of real-life experience goes a long way. Much of what I learned early in my professional career led me to have a completely different educational experience the second time around. It was incredibly easy to transfer these skills to my coursework. In addition, after having a better idea of the subject matter knowledge and practices that would be useful in my career, I was much more engaged with my classes and had a greater desire to learn. I was able to appreciate the wide variety of classes I took.
3. Don’t give up. You should not give up on something just because it did not work before. Being able to build off of my past experience and turn a discouraging experience into a motivating one has been one of my most valuable achievements. I am not the same person I was when I first arrived at UC—Santa Barbara in 2008, and there is a deep sense of personal accomplishment that comes from finishing what I started.
The takeaway: It may take time, and it may seem insurmountable, but for both your career and yourself, you should give your education another shot through online learning. You might just surprise yourself.


How To Apply For an MBA: 10 Steps to Success

Many prospective MBA students feel intimidated by the amount of work involved in applying to business school.
“Fear is the primary reason applicants lose the energy to continue,” MBA admissions consultant Stacy Blackman wrote in a blog post for U.S. News. “Self-doubt, anxiety, procrastination and generally feeling overwhelmed by this process are often the roadblocks to success.”
One way to mitigate the stress of the business school admissions process is to take a step-by-step approach to MBA applications, experts say. Below is a to-do list for people who are contemplating business school.
1. Assess whether an MBA is a good fit: Experts say although it is common for people who are unsure about their career goals to apply to business school, prospective students should only apply to MBA programs if they have a clear answer to the question of why they want an MBA and how an MBA will help them in the future.
“The answer should show focus, direction and sufficient self-reflection,” Blackman wrote in a different post. “If you aren’t 100 percent sure that an MBA is what you need to succeed, the admissions committee isn’t going to take a chance on you either.”
The case to pursue an MBA is strong for workers who hope to become leaders in industries where executives usually have MBAs, Blackman wrote in a blog post. “If your sights are set on working for companies such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co., McKinsey & Co. or Boston Consulting Group, know that having the MBA credential is typically an unspoken requirement.”
2. Prepare for either the GRE or GMAT: Experts say MBA applicants should take diagnostic exams for both the GRE and GMAT, so they can compare their performance before choosing which standardized test to take since many business schools accept both GRE and GMAT scores.
“I would only ever recommend preparing for one of the two tests,” Dan Edmonds, a test prep tutor with the New York-based admissions consulting firm IvyWise, said in an email. “If students don’t see the kind of improvement or score they expected from one test, it might make sense to switch to the other test.”
It’s also important to allow sufficient time for test preparation, experts say. “Most applicants devote at least 100 hours to test preparation, and depending on where you are in the process, you may have to take a prep class and perhaps take the test more than once,” Blackman wrote in a blog post.
3. Research schools: Experts say it is important for prospective students to investigate the academic credentials of admitted students at various business schools in order to gauge their competitiveness in the business school applicant pool.
“Not all programs are the same, so I suggest applicants do a lot of research as well as soul-searching prior to the school selection process,” Blackman wrote in a blog post. “Being realistic about your profile and aligning yourself with programs that mesh with your particular academic and professional background is the surest recipe for success.”
4. Decide where to apply: Experts recommend that prospective business students apply to a mix of business schools, including at least one reach school, at least one safety school and a school where their test scores, grades and work experience match with that of the typical student, except in rare cases where only one school matches a prospective student’s requirements. Applying to a variety of business schools increases the odds of acceptance to an MBA program assuming that each application is carefully constructed, experts say, but applying to an excessive number of schools often results in sloppy applications.
“Don’t apply to more than six schools,” Blackman wrote in a blog post. “This is an intense and time-consuming process. Applying to too many schools leads to burnout and diminishing returns.”
5. Understand deadlines: Some business schools split their application season into three rounds, so prospective students have the option of applying to these schools during round one, round two or round three. Understanding the timeline of the MBA application process can help prospective students stay organized.
At schools with an early action or early decision program during round one, prospective students who apply during round one have a higher chance of admission than those who apply later on, experts say.
“Early applications show serious interest and planning,” Blackman wrote in a blog post. “In this round, you may have the greatest statistical chance, since you’re only being compared to the current candidate pool.”
The other advantage of applying to an MBA program during round one, Blackman wrote, is that prospective students can respond to a rejection or wait-list decision by applying elsewhere for admission.
However, prospective students who want to retake a standardized test or who are receiving grades for quantitative courses after the round one deadline should consider waiting to submit their application until round two, Blackman wrote.
6. Visit business schools: A campus visit can help prospective students assess whether an MBA program is worth the investment.
“Spring is an ideal time to schedule your school visits,” Blackman wrote in a blog post. “It makes little sense to check out the campus during summer, when classes aren’t in session, because one key characteristic you want to observe is the interaction between students and faculty.”
Conversations with current students can also be illuminating, Blackman wrote. “Often you’ll learn more about your fit with a particular school over these types of encounters than during an official admissions tour.”
7. Craft a compelling resume: Business school admissions consultants say an MBA resume should highlight soft skills that are essential for business executives, such as leadership, communication and teamwork skills. It’s also important, experts say, to show evidence of meaningful personal growth.
8. Write a standout essay: Experts say that an MBA essay should express the author’s personality and clearly communicate his or her reasons for wanting to attend business school.
It’s also vital to establish a cordial tone throughout the essay, experts say. “How you communicate is often more important than what you communicate,” Don Martin, a higher education admissions expert and former admissions dean at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, wrote in blog post for U.S. News. “In other words, your tone needs to be positive but not pompous; conversational but not colloquial; thoughtful but not trivial.”
9. Take time to revise: Once the MBA application is complete, it’s essential to take a second look at the application a few days later, experts say.
“If you can come back to your essays days later with fresh eyes, you’ll often think of a better example or more inspired language to illustrate a certain point,” Blackman wrote in a blog post. “This won’t happen if you’re forced to work at warp speed.”
10. Anticipate admissions interviews: Not all applicants will receive an invitation to interview at each program. Schools generally invite strong applicants to interview within a month of their application.
It’s important to directly and fully answer questions that come up during an admissions interview, Martin wrote in a U.S. News blog post.
“Do not yield to the temptation to veer off track or avoid answering a question. This leaves a very negative impression and makes it look like you are not listening, have something to hide, or are taking control of the interview.”

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