As a military related student, you have a wealth of veterans benefits at your disposal, but unless you apply for and use those benefits in a timely manner, they can be difficult to attain and impossible to maximize.
To avoid any delay (or worse – total loss) of your veterans benefits, follow these five tips:
- Get approved. Just because you are a veteran or active duty or military spouse doesn’t mean you will automatically receive benefits. Appropriate applications need to be filled out, sometimes months or weeks in advance, and the appropriate official at your college needs to review these with you in many cases. As soon as you know the school you’ll be attending, set up an appointment with their VA Office to get the ball rolling on your benefits.
- Register for classes early. Registration for a semester can starts months in advance. Pay attention to your school’s academic calendar and take note of the registration dates. The earlier you register, the more likely you are to get the classes you want. When you apply for and use benefits, each school’s certifying officials are certifying enrollment with the Department of Veterans Affairs on a first come, first serve basis. So the earlier you apply and submit your funding sources, the more likely you are for it all to be taken care of in time.
- Stay on track. Ensure the classes you’ve registered for are a part of your curriculum by seeing an academic counselor and having them run an advisement transcript. DVA will pay for developmental classes as required by the Virginia Placement Test as long as the classes are taken in person. But not all programs provide funding for development or out-of-curriculum courses, so make sure you’re aware of this beforehand so you’re not stuck with a hefty tuition bill.
- Save on books. Buy your books from an online source such as Amazon or Cheapbooks. The DVA pays for your books by credit, not actual cost. So for those super expensive science textbooks, shop around.
- Apply for financial aid. Just because you’re receiving VA benefits doesn’t mean that you can’t also apply and qualify for financial aid to cover any remaining costs. Remember, applying for financial aid does not mean you will be getting into debt. Once you have applied, if loans are available to you, you will need to take an additional step to receive them. (Find more tips on completing the FAFSA and filing for financial aid.)
Veronica Cianetti is the interim director of military student support services at Tidewater Community College’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE) at the Virginia Beach. She enlisted into the United States Army immediately after high school and served three years of active duty and seven years in the Army Reserves. Cianetti used the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) to attend SUNY Delhi earning an associate’s degree in veterinary technology. While working full time as a vet tech, she obtained an associate’s degree in business administration from Tidewater Community College. From there, she transferred to Old Dominion University where she completed a master’s degree in business administration.
Cianetti has worked in financial aid at the community college level for several years. After several years as a veteran’s affairs office manager in Portsmouth, Virginia, she was hired as veteran’s service coordinator for the CMVE.