Since graduating with my bachelor’s degree in 2008, I’ve been thinking about going to a graduate school. First, I wanted to work a bit to see what kind of education would be best for my career path. In addition, there were so many programs out there, I was hoping the right one would come my way eventually.
After getting married and adjusting my career journey a smidge, I started feeling like now is the right time to pursue that graduate degree I’ve been dreaming about for years. The hunger to learn and educate myself more began to affect me.
In my free time, I researched programs that would add to the knowledge I’m already gaining in my career and found the perfect one. I kept my application process a secret mostly because I was scared to be overly excited. I only focused on a program at one school. Then I started researching ways to pay for my graduate degree.
I came to this conclusion:
College is so gosh darn expensive.
Last August, I mentioned that military spouses have a wonderful program to utilize for higher education called MyCAA. MyCAA does have limitations though. Only military spouses of active duty service members (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force) at the following pay grades: E1-E5, W1-W2 and O1-O2 can use MyCAA. There are additional factors that might place you out of obtaining the MyCAA program like your choice of study. It needs to be an approved course by your academic institution.
To my excitement and fear, I received my acceptance letter to grad school a few weeks after I applied. My spouse’s military status pushes me out of the MyCAA program, so I needed to figure out other options pronto.
For those military spouses that don’t qualify for MyCAA like myself, now what?
I began looking into other options to make sure I can pursue my dream degree. I hope my efforts could help you as you navigate through the financial aid process, especially if you can’t use MyCAA.
The FAFSA should be one of your first stops as you start your educational journey. Don’t be intimidated at the lengthy process because it can open doors to grants and other applicable programs that would give you money for college.
Also, don’t be afraid of qualified student loans. They are the type of loans you want because they have extremely low interest rates and forgiving payback programs. My financial advisor calls it “good debt” and it can be deferred until you find a job. Here is a special link for military spouses and families to search through by the FAFSA folks.
The military members in our lives should consider all higher education opportunities, whether it be the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill Military or tuition assistance.
Out of the three, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is one that could be transferred to military dependents, including military spouses as long as certain qualifications are met.
In the same conversation with my financial advisor about funding my graduate degree, she mentioned that using the Post-9/11 GI Bill might be a good route for us. My husband is currently using tuition assistance to finish his bachelor’s degree and my graduate degree wouldn’t even need the whole contribution. There would still be funding there to supplement any additional education my husband would want after the military.
Plus, the transferability might go away for military spouses and children, so it would be beneficial to do a transfer now because it could always get transferred back to the service member.
School Scholarships and Grants
When you apply and submit your FAFSA, a majority of schools piggyback opportunities that are available to their applicants. If you’re pursuing an undergraduate degree, you can qualify for a Pell Grant, which doesn’t need to be paid back.
Military spouses should visit their on-post Education Center because counselors could share institutions that have special military-affiliated tuition pricing.
I know in Washington, D.C., certain classes that are held on base have lower pricing than the online program or off-base locations. They could also pass along location-based opportunities, you never know!
Scholarships and Grants from Military-Affiliated Organizations
There are so many wonderful opportunities from a number of military-affiliated organizations out there! One that comes to mind for all military spouses is National Military Family Association’s Spouse Scholarship program. Hurry though because the deadline is at the end of this month! It’s held annually, so if you miss it this time around you have another chance next year.
Research organizations that support your spouse’s branch for military spouse scholarships too. That’s a great place to start with military spouse directed opportunities.