Going to college at the same time that you serve your country can seem almost impossible, but a large number of military personnel on active duty status find ways to balance their education with their military service every year. No matter what branch you enlist in, you have a number of duties that you are responsible for every day, which may leave limited time left over for working on your classes. Many military students opt for online programs and colleges that are more flexible with their duties and schedules.
Create a Schedule
The day that classes start, sit down and create a schedule that you can follow over the course of the semester. Don’t assume that you only need to write in the days that you’re on duty and the larger assignments or tests that you have. You also need to schedule time that you can use to prepare for those assignments, research and write papers and prepare for discussions in your classes. Some military students also find it helpful to schedule prep time at the end of the day, but others will prefer setting aside time at the beginning of the day.
Choose Flexible Programs
Colleges that cater to military students are extremely popular because these schools understand that the schedules of those students can change quite a bit from month to month. You might enroll in school and then receive deployment orders that send you all the way across the country or even to another country. Programs that are more flexible will offer options for military students. The school might give you more time to work on assignments because you do not have a strong internet connection. Some schools will let you take distance education courses and mail in your work, and others will let you pause your education and resume your courses later.
Build a Support System
Building a support system is one of the best ways you can achieve a balance between your military service and your education. Take the time to ask around your base and find other students currently taking college classes. Even if those students take classes from another campus, you can still spend time together and talk about the problems you face or get feedback on some of the work that you do. Your support system may also include the person in charge of your group, friends who took college classes in the past and those in your battalion.
Take Some Time
Laura McMullen of U.S. News & World Report recommends that students who work and attend college take things slowly, and you can use this same tip while enlisted in the military. Instead of enrolling as a full-time student right away, sign up for just one class. Once you see how you handle that class, you can add a second class in the coming semester. As you slowly add more classes to your schedule, you can learn what you need to do to make time for your service and your education as well as for yourself.
Going to college at the same time that you serve the country is hard, but it’s not impossible like some might think. You need to find ways to manage your military service with your assignments, which is easier when you take things slow and have a support system in place.