A Little Planning Goes a Long Way When Mixing College and Military Life

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way When Mixing College and Military Life

Author: Erica Schreiner, Marine Corps Military Spouse




Military spouses can achieve their education goals no matter how often PCS orders arrive. With a little preparation, you can successfully complete your degree program even as your spouse’s assignments move you around the globe.


I am a military spouse and a student working on a master’s degree. The Marine Corps has moved us three times in the last three years but I have kept my commitment to finishing my degree. Here are my five secrets to success:


  • Pace yourself. Commit to a class load that will allow you to balance school and life’s other commitments. That may be one class at a time and that is fine – with each class completed you get closer to your goal.
  • Don’t stop. You never know when a move will come so you can’t put your education goals on hold in anticipation of what might happen. You owe it to yourself to continue to make progress.
  • Take advantage of online options. Some schools are fully online, such as American Public University System, my employer. Other schools have physical campuses and offer some or all courses online as well. Your life will be easiest if you can find a program that is a good fit that allows you to complete your courses completely or mostly online.
  • Communicate with your professors. Asking for help can make you feel like you have failed in some way, but your professors are happy to know you as a person and to accommodate your reasonable requests for needed extensions or alternative ways to submit assignments.
  • Work ahead. When you have to make a move, use the syllabus to work ahead of, and around, periods when it will be hard to focus on school work.


Planning for Transition


There are things you can do to make it easier to move without derailing your education goals. Start by really understanding all the things you need to complete to earn your degree. What items must be done on campus? What items can be done remotely?


General education course are usually easier to transfer from school to school. Save your course descriptions and syllabi to help with the evaluation process.


Before you leave a school, notify the admissions department. Make sure all of your accounts are current. You don’t want to have a library fee or some other small detail delay your transfer process!


Transferring Schools


It’s not uncommon to have to change schools in the process of completing a degree. As a transfer credit liaison, I work with students who are changing schools all the time. A little preparation can make that process go smoothly.


Before you assume that your move means you have to change schools, check with your university to see if it is possible to complete your degree program remotely. You may have to return to campus for brief periods, but many schools will work with you to help you finish your program.


If you need to make a change, choose the best school to help you meet your goals. Online schools let you work anywhere with an Internet connection. I have done classwork on my cell phone while traveling through Texas to Arizona and at places with wi-fi, such as Starbucks. You may prefer a physical classroom; ideally pick a campus that is convenient, has additional campuses in places where you are likely to move, and/or has options to complete at least some coursework remotely. Ask questions and be informed so you can make the best choice for you.


About the Author


Erica Schreiner is a transfer student liaison at American Public University System. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration from American Military University. Her husband serves in the Marine Corps. She has been married for three years and has been stationed in Quantico, Va., Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and now Twentynine Palms, Calif. Erica and her husband are expectant first time parents. When there is free time, Erica enjoys spending time with her dog and husband, photography, and sightseeing.