As a veteran, you may be eligible to have some or all of your school paid for by the U.S. Department of veterans Affairs (VA) through the GI Bill. Here are 5 steps for receiving financial support and maximize your benefits to complete your desired program:
Complete the FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines your financial aid eligibility. After your school receives your completed form, you may qualify for enough scholarships and grants (free money) that you will not have to tap into your GI Bill at the outset. This will prove useful if you are pursuing a four-year degree or graduate school.
Seek out resources
Determine the veteran point of contact (POC) at your school. They can guide you through the application process. The POC will inform you about the documents required for your GI Bill to be processed. Some of these documents are the DD214 or the Certificate of Eligibility and an official copy of your military transcript.
Many schools have a veteran services office on campus that helps returning service members navigate the institution. If your school does not have a veteran services office, they will likely have a Certifying Official. In most cases this person is typically in Financial Aid, the Bursar’s Office or the Registrar. This official is responsible for certifying veteran enrollment to the VA to ensure veterans receive their education benefits. Contact them as soon as possible to determine what is required from you to process your GI Bill.
Determine Your GI Bill Eligibility
There is more than one version of the GI Bill so it is important to determine which one applies to you. Your qualification depends on several factors; when/how long, you served, disability ratings, money garnished from your pay by DOD or other factors. Make sure you refer to a complete listing of the different GI Bills.
After determining which GI Bill you qualify for you will need to apply for benefits through the VONAPP system. Once the VA approves your application, they will send you a Certificate of Eligibility that outlines your entitlement.
Pick Your Classes
Once admitted to your school you will either, have to pick classes on your own, or your school may assign an academic advisor to you. Be very careful when selecting classes so as not to overload yourself in your first semester. Consider taking the minimum number of hours considered as full-time for GI Bill purposes in order to maximize your benefit.
Check with Certifying Official
Once you have registered for classes contact the certifying official to ensure your GI Bill paperwork is in order. Do this as early as possible, preferably before classes start. That should leave you with plenty of time to resolve any issues and avoid being dropped from your classes.