Military Children in the College Admission Process: What to Know

While I hope that everyone had a relaxing long weekend, it is so important to remember that Memorial Day is not just a kickoff to summer or a day to enjoy a barbecue. There is truly no greater sacrifice than giving one’s life to protect our country, and I can’t begin to acknowledge my appreciation for the men and women who have died in this effort (as well as those who are fortunately still with us, working hard to make sure we have the freedom we enjoy).

Three out of my four grandparents were active duty military, and I loved growing up in the shadow of these amazing men and women. My grandmother, a member of the Army Nurse Corps, spent almost twenty years living in a retirement community at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio until her death this past year, and I learned so much from spending time with her and the other residents during my visits every few months. 

Because of my location in the D.C. area, I have the opportunity to work with military families each year, and so I thought that a blog post geared specifically toward this group might be helpful. So, in no particular order, here are my top tips for military children embarking on the college admissions process:

Keep impeccable records. It is not uncommon for me to work with a student who has attended four high schools in four years. Military families can move quite a bit, and even though official school records and transcripts will move in the student’s permanent record, it is SO MUCH EASIER if the family keeps a separate record of all important documents. By this, I mean transcripts, copies of special papers or projects, details of awards and honors received, and personal contact information for teachers and guidance counselors. I say personal contact information, because especially at DOD schools, many school officials are military themselves and it can be hard to track them down with school email addresses down the line. 

Provide recommendation letter assistance. I make sure that ALL of my clients “help” their teachers and guidance counselors write their recommendation letters, but this is especially helpful for a military child whose counselor may not know him very well. You cannot assume that simply providing your teacher or counselor with a resume is enough to land a helpful recommendation letter. It is essential to give them a comprehensive document with the information that you would like reflected in that letter. This is really critical for students applying to highly competitive schools. 

Start everything early. Because we may be dealing with multiple transcripts and recommendations from different individuals at different schools, it’s so important to start taking care of all of this very early. A student who will be starting at a new school during senior year should have already made arrangements for her 11th grade teachers and counselor to write recommendation letters, for example. Do not wait until 12th grade begins. Allow plenty of time for all of the documents to reach their intended destination (and back to point #1- try to see if you can get copies for your own records!).

Take on leadership roles- no matter how new to the community you are. I completely get it- it is hard for ANY high school student to throw themselves out there and jump into leadership roles. This is magnified – big time – when a student is brand new to a community and knows no one. However, military children should really try to push themselves and jump into leadership roles when possible, even if they end up with different roles every year in their different communities. This IS possible and will be a huge asset in the admissions process. 

Do your research with the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. It it is so important to understand the ins and outs of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and how transferability works. Some service members decide to use the funding for themselves, and others will transfer it to a spouse or child. There is NOT a “right answer” here in terms of the best way to use this money. It depends on quite a few different factors, including the earning potential of the service member/spouse, age of the children, realistic educational goals of the family, etc. Please do not rush into a decision here. Understand the pros and cons of the different ways this money can be used. 

Be strategic about residency. Make sure that your family understands the difference between “home of record” and “state of legal residence”. This is so important! In the last few years, I have worked with kids living in Virginia who were considered in-state applicants at top state flagship universities in various other states. These kids may very well not have been able to be admitted as out of state applicants- not to mention the ENORMOUS difference in tuition they would have had to pay!

Get help when you need it. I get a lot of calls from military families in particular who assume that I will be out of their budget. This is definitely the kind of situation where working with a professional who understands “the system” can save A LOT of money in the long run. Whether working with me or a different educational consultant, spending a little bit of money up front can be very beneficial to long term financial savings. 

Apply for outside scholarships. I have said before that applying for outside scholarships can often be a waste of time. There are not that many out there and they are ultra-competitive. However- this is NOT necessarily the case for military children. There are many more scholarship opportunities than one would think, and since you have to be military to apply, it really cuts down on the competition. Apply away!

I hope this was helpful! Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions.

Posted on May 31, 2016 pm31 1:06 pm

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