Military dependents often face academic challenges due to their upbringing as children of service members. The frequent relocation of military children often leads to anxiety, cognitive disabilities, and exclusion from extracurricular activities. This makes continuing on to higher education a challenging endeavor for many military dependents. Fortunately, there are ways children of veterans can overcome these obstacles and go on to have fulfilling academic careers. Military dependents can succeed in college and beyond by following these five tips.
Take Advantage of Dependents’ Scholarships
By taking advantage of the available military dependents’ scholarships, children of service members can significantly reduce the financial burden of pursuing a college degree. For military dependents seeking college funding, there are number of scholarships, grants and tuition assistance programs. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers financial assistance for military dependents through programs such as Dependents’ Education Assistance (DEA.) This benefit provides monthly tuition payments for children of service members who have been declared totally disabled due to a service-connected disability by the VA or have died from any cause while this disability existed. Additionally, children of service members who are missing in action or were captured in the line of duty may be entitled to DEA. Dependents can apply for this benefit by visiting their local VA Regional Office and completing VA Form 22-5490, Application for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance. Military children can also receive tuition assistance through their parent’s GI Bill. Service members may transfer GI Bill benefits to their children after serving at least 10 years in the armed forces. The GI Bill provides financial assistance for college tuition, job training and housing.
Find a Military-Friendly College
Making the transition from high school to college is difficult for most young adults, but this step can be especially daunting for military dependents. Attending a military-friendly college can help ease this stress. Military dependents should look for schools that offer online classes and flexible schedule options that will allow them to move into college life. It is also helpful to attend a college that offers tuition discounts for military children. Look for schools with quality career service departments that offer lifelong services. Because military dependents sometimes develop cognitive disabilities, this extra help will be a tremendous asset in college and for years to come.
Consult a Mental Health Professional
According to ABC News, children who have experienced having a parent deployed overseas are more likely to develop mental health and behavioral issues. Many military children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the highly stressful situations military life creates at home. A service member who is recovering from a traumatic event that occurred during deployment may display violent outbursts, for example. The stress of military life may also contribute to aggression between parents or toward the child. This is why it is crucial for military children to get help sorting through any trauma they have experienced. Fortunately, mental health treatments are increasingly accessible, and most colleges have mental health professionals available at little or no cost.
Reach Out to Other Military Dependents
Military children often find it difficult to relate to their peers. Children of civilian parents usually have not experienced the frustration that comes with regular relocation and stressful deployments. Younger children can visit online support groups such as MilitaryKidsConnect.org, which offers support to military children as well as educators and parents. When military children enter college, they should consider joining a support group or starting a campus organization for military dependents.
Pursue Your Interests
According to Psychology Today, staying physically active and cultivating interests are great ways to fight depression and overcome adversity. Attending college is a fantastic way for military children to find out exactly what their interests are, as there will be ample opportunities for joining campus organizations, sports teams, and fine arts programs. For many military children, college will be their first opportunity to stay in one place for a significant period of time. This will allow dependents to cultivate friendships and participate in extracurricular activities in a way not previously possible.
Military dependents certainly face many obstacles that can make pursuing a college degree and leading a fulfilling life extremely challenging. By following these five tips, however, military children can begin their journey toward lifelong success.
Image by USAG-Humphreys from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Tara Wilson is a contributing writer and military spouse. She spends her free time volunteering for military children support groups.