If you are enlisted in the Army and have also chosen to attend college or graduate school, you probably already understand that a delicate balancing act is called for in order to achieve your goals. Striking a balance between college and military life can be challenging, but it's certainly possible with planning, preparation, and clear goals. If you are lucky enough to be enrolled in an ROTC scholarship program, your college and military life will already be highly organized and structured according to the ROTC program specifications, and much of your ROTC time commitment will be met during the summer months, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy traditional college campus life. If you are not enrolled in ROTC but are already enlisted, finding the balance between college life and your military duties will require more planning on your part -- and that is where the information below will hopefully come in handy. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can find a balance between your military life and college life.
Look for Colleges that Offer Extensive Courses Online
When looking for the college or graduate school program that is best for you, one of the first things you should look for is a program that truly excites and inspires you. But it will also be helpful to find a program that you are truly interested in at a college that offers an extensive selection of online courses, or even an online college. The drawback to attending college entirely online is not having any experience of college campus life. If this is important to you, then looking for a program with both online and on campus options may be a better fit. The advantage here, of course, is that if your military service calls you away for a tour of duty or requires you to be stationed in a new location, you will be able to continue your studies -- perhaps with some modifications -- as long as you have an Internet connection and can continue to dedicate some time each week to your studies.
Choose a Program That Provides Support for Enlisted Students
When it comes to balancing military life and college life, not all schools are equal. If you are enrolled in an ROTC scholarship program, you will enjoy extensive support from the ROTC program. But if not, be sure to check with the colleges and universities you are interested in to see what kinds of support they provide to military students. Some colleges and universities offer support services specifically for military students that can help them balance their studies with military life and provide guidance and group support, helping to ensure that those students complete their degrees.
Build a Support System
Speaking of support, be sure to look beyond your college or university for the support you need to balance college and military life. You may consider partnering with another military student to check in with each other on a regular basis and provide some accountability for keeping on track with study time, assignments, attendance, and other goals. And, if you are married and/or have a family to support, be clear with them about your educational goals and the time you have established for your military duties and study time, and ask that they respect that time and support you in staying on track. The support of family, friends, and fellow students can go a long way in helping you find the balance you need and achieve your goals.
Structure Your Time
When you are trying to juggle the demands of military life and college life -- and even have a bit of a social life! -- time management is a must. Just as the military provides a structured environment, the same principles apply to helping you balance all of the goals vying for a share of your time. Whether you are attending classes online or on campus, set daily time each week for your studies -- and ask that your friends and family be supportive in helping you stick with your study time and plans.
Be Flexible and Realistic With Your College Goals
If you are attending college or graduate school while also serving in the military, flexible diligence is key. You want to be diligent in achieving your degree(s), but flexible in your outlook of the time it will take for you to meet your goals. If you were enrolled in college or graduate school full time, with no military obligations, you could expect to receive your Bachelor's Degree in about four years and a Master's or Associate's Degree in about two years or so. But military obligations, moves, tours of duty and other obligations may mean that obtaining your degree will take more time. Be patient and flexible. It may be all too easy to throw in the towel at the first road block that slows you down. Don't be discouraged. There are many other service members in your situation and you can lean on each other for support. With patience, a flexible attitude, and diligence, you can achieve your educational goals in due time, while also maintaining your military obligations.