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By Jason Jowers, MS, MFT

Woman in Yellow Shirt Writing on White Paper

Military teens grow up with their own unique set of challenges. From parental deployments to relocation, teens in military families have learned to be flexible and resilient. That flexibility and resilience can be a great benefit when teens are planning their next steps after high school graduation. For many, that next step means heading off to college and laying the groundwork for the beginnings of a career. As military service providers, we can support military families as they navigate the ins and outs of the college search and decision process. And that support may include figuring out how to pay for college and finding support in their new college life.  

Finding a College  

Some teens grow up knowing where they want to attend college. Maybe it is a family member’s alma mater or a place they’ve always wanted to visit. For those that are unsure, it can be daunting since there are so many options. From online, in-person, and hybrid learning opportunities finding the right fit (location, degree programs, affordability, etc) is an important decision that can involve the whole family. 

Families that are considering multiple schools are encouraged to use the College Navigator to explore options. Information can be added to a spreadsheet for easy at-a-glance comparison. On the spreadsheet, it may be helpful to include things like location, degree programs, open house dates, test scores, application fees, and deadlines.  

Paying for College  

Once you’ve helped military families create a list of schools and degree programs available, taking into consideration the cost may help narrow down their top picks. 

Some might be surprised to learn that military families can start earning money for college during high school, with scholarship deadlines approaching during the high school junior or senior year. Military OneSource outlines college scholarships for military teens and how to apply.  

Federal financial aid, GI Bill, and the Yellow Ribbon program are all great considerations to look into when considering all options when paying for college for military family dependents. 

Off to College 

Going off to college is a transitional time for all families. For military families, the support continues within the post-secondary learning community.  

Finding military spaces, like the university’s “green zone”, connecting to the Veteran’s Resource Center or VA benefits office, and health and wellness centers can provide wrap-around support for military teens integrating into everyday college life.  

Military college students are encouraged to lean into student activities and find communities that align with their passions and interests. Their resilience will help them thrive in this new and exciting chapter. 

Cover Image: Pexels [Woman in Yellow Shirt Writing on White Paper by Andrea Piacquadio, Sept. 15th, 2018, CC0]