As your discharge date approaches, there’s a lot to get your head around. Where do you want to live? How would you like to earn a living? What are your goals? For over half of military veterans, the answer involves some form of higher education. Fortunately, your status opens the way to many forms of financial aid and other resources uniquely available to veterans. Read on to learn about various educational and career benefits and get tips on how to get them.

Scholarships and Grants


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Program Name Who It is For? Award Amount Qualification Requirements Deadline
Children of veterans, active duty, reserve or National Guard servicemembers.
To quality, applicants must be enrolled or plan to enroll as full-time undergraduate students in a two- or four-year college or university. They'll need a 3.5 minimum GPA. Winners will demonstrate more than just academic achievement, however. Extracurricular activities, work experience, community participation, family circumstances and financial need will count in the decision process.
Feb. 17
Children of Marines and veteran Marines who were killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 Children of Marines and children of Navy Corpsmen attached to a Marine unit, who were killed in combat operations after September 11, 2001 Children of Navy Religious Program Specialists attached to a Marine unit who were killed in combat operations on or after September 27, 2008; or Children of Marines who were killed in training after September 27, 2008.
Up to $30,000 over four years ($7,500 a year)
Applicants must have a GPA of at least 2.0 (on a 4.0 scale). Their family's adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2015 cannot exceed $95,000. Applicants must be enrolled in or plan to enroll in an accredited undergraduate college or career training school in the upcoming academic year. The school must be listed in College Navigator to be acceptable.
March 2
Children of Marines and Navy Corpsmen attached to a Marine unit who were wounded in action in any war or conflict, permanently retired from the Marine Corps or Navy as a result of their service-related injury, or currently ill or injured and serving with Wounded Warrior Regiment/Battalion.
$6,000 to $40,000 over four years ($1,500 – $10,000 per year)
Applicants must have a GPA of at least 2.0 (on a 4.0 scale). Their family's adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2015 cannot exceed $95,000. Applicants must be enrolled in or plan to enroll in an accredited undergraduate college or career training school in the upcoming academic year. The school must be listed in College Navigator to be acceptible.
March 2
Children or stepchildren of members or former members of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force who are high school seniors or currently enrolled undergrad students.
$3,400 per year with a maximum of $13,600.
Candidates must demonstrate academic skill and financial need as well as commitment to their schools and communities. They must be unmarried and under the age of 24 when they apply.
will be listed on or after Dec. 1, 2015.
Children and grandchildren of active or retired U.S. Navy aviators, flight officers, aircrewmen, carrier aviation air wing or ship’s company personnel.
Applicants must be accepted to an undergraduate program at an accredited college or university. Graduate students are not eligible.
March 15
Children and grandchildren of active, reserve, retired or honorably discharged members of the Marine Corps Tank Unit and current members of the Marine Corps Tankers Association (MCTA).
Minimum $2,000
High school seniors, college undergraduates and graduate students are eligible. Winners must be enrolled full-time (at least 12 units).
March 15
Children of current or former armed forces personnel.
No minimum GPA requirement. To apply, students must submit a 500-word essay explaining how they apply values like patriotism, loyalty, honor, respect and concern for others in their daily lives.
Oct. 31
Children of active-duty, retired or deceased Army soldiers.
Applicants must be working toward their first undergraduate degree and be enrolled full time in a 4-year program. The school must be accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. Student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
May 1
Veterans, active military, and guard / reserves, children and grandchildren of veterans, active military, guard and reserves.
$1,000 to $4,000
To be selected, candidates must show academic ability and merit as well as financial need. The award determination is made on the selection committee’s scores of the overall quality of the application and a scholarship essay submitted by the applicant.
Apr. 30
Active duty and honorably discharged veterans and reservists / National Guard who serve or have served during the Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan or Iraqi Freedom Operations (years 2003-present).
Applicants must be enrolled in a four-year undergraduate degree program at accredited four-year school. Approved distance-learning or online programs are also eligible. Candidates cannot be high school seniors, college freshmen or college seniors, and they must major in these fields: Biometry/Biometrics, Computer Engineering, Computer Forensics Science, Computer Programming, Computer Science, Computer Systems, Cybersecurity, Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Geospatial Science, Information Science, Information Technology, Information Resource, Management, Intelligence, Mathematics, Network Engineering, Network Security, Operations, Research, Physics, Robotics Engineering, Robotics Technology, Statistics, Strategic Intelligence, and Telecommunications Engineering. The minimum GPA is 3.0. Successful candidates will demonstrate academic success, community involvement and financial need. 3.0 GPA required. Primary factors considered in the selection process are demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, and financial need.
Apr. 15

New and Improved: The Post 9/11 GI Bill

Since the attacks of 9/11, the US has stepped up military action in many parts of the world. The good news is that we’ve also stepped up the GI Bill® for veterans. Its benefits cover:

  • Some or all of your college tuition and fees

  • A monthly housing allowance (does not apply to active-duty personnel)

  • A stipend for your textbooks and supplies (does not apply to active-duty personnel)

You can receive GI Bill benefits for up to 36 months (four school years), and you are eligible to claim these benefits for up to 15 years from your last period of active duty of at least 90 consecutive days. You don’t have to complete a traditional four-year college program – the GI Bill covers programs in colleges and universities, but also on-the-job training (internships, for example), trade schools, apprenticeships and flight schools. Also covered are tutors, licensing, and certification tests (SAT, LSAT, etc.) Those in rural areas can receive up to $500 to relocate at least 500 miles to attend school.

You can even transfer leftover educational benefits to a spouse or child. To do so, you must be a member of the uniformed services (your Uniformed Services ID Card proves your eligibility). Normally, you agree to serve four more years when transferring benefits.

Who Is Eligible?

You are eligible for at least 40 percent of the maximum benefit if you complete at least 90 total days on active duty after September 10, 2001, or were honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability after serving 30 continuous days following September 10, 2001. To get 100 percent of available benefits, you’ll need to have completed at least 36 months of service or at least 30 continuous days and discharged due to service-connected disability. The table below lists the percentage of benefits and required term of service to qualify.

Individuals serving an aggregate period of active duty after September 10. 2001, of: Percentage of Maximum Benefit Payable

At least 36 months


At least 30 continuous days and discharged due to service connected disability


At least 30 months < 36 months


At least 24 months < 30 months


At least 18 months < 24 months


At least 12 months < 18 months


At least 6 months < 12 months


At least 90 days < 6 months


If you have already used 36 months of benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill and you are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you may receive up to 12 months of Post 9/11 benefits.

Yellow Ribbon Program

Students who have met the requirements for 100 percent reimbursement in the Post 9/11 GI Bill are also eligible for Yellow Ribbon benefits. The Yellow Ribbon is a voluntary program in which degree-granting institutions absorb some or all of the tuition and fees not covered by the GI Bill. Active duty service members and their spouses are not eligible, and veteran students attending public schools at in-state rates are already covered 100 percent, so Yellow Ribbon does not apply to them. However, those attending private schools or public schools out-of-state may qualify to have excess tuition reduced or eliminated by this program. The school must be eligible to offer the program and must be a program participant. Use the tool below to find participating institutions in the 2015-2016 school year.

How Does Yellow Ribbon Work?

Participating institutions determine the amount of their contribution toward the student’s tuition and fees, and the VA matches that amount. It then issues payment directly to the school. Suppose a student’s tuition and fees come to $27,085 per year ($6,000 more than the maximum reimbursement by the Post 9/11 GI Bill). The school might choose to write off $3,000 of tuition and fees, per year, the Yellow Ribbon program matches it, and the student now has a free education.

Yellow Ribbon Participating Schools

Expert Perspective: Unwinding the Yellow Ribbon

Louise Calderwood is on the faculty of Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont, which participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. She says that there are many ways her college supports education for veterans, and these programs can be combined with Yellow Ribbon benefits. For example, students who are eligible for Pell Grants can combine them with veteran-specific assistance to minimize their out-of-pocket college costs. There are the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI bills, and additional scholarships for military personnel, reserves / Guard members, veterans and dependents.

Sterling is a relatively small school, with about 130 students. Its Yellow Ribbon program accepts up to ten veterans each year and provides up to $7,500 of tuition assistance for each student in the program. That’s nearly ten percent of the college’s student body. She answers some common questions students may have.

Can students apply to more than one Yellow Ribbon participating school?

Yes, students can apply to multiple Yellow Ribbon participation schools and then select the one with the best total package – combining Yellow Ribbon, other VA assistance and school-specific aid. Sterling College, for example, offers its College to Farm honors program to active duty or honorably discharged students only. Graduates in the Sustainable Agriculture or Sustainable Food Systems programs with at least a 3.0 GPA can get a $10,000 grant and after graduation an additional $50,000 business loan. When choosing between several yellow Ribbon institutions, it’s important for students to consider the whole package, not just the amount of Yellow Ribbon tuition reduction.

What happens if a school stops participating in Yellow Ribbon or loses its eligibility while beneficiaries were still enrolled?

If Sterling stopped participating in Yellow Ribbon it would look into other programs to try to maintain financial support for already-enrolled students.

Some schools provide different amounts depending on the student’s major, or offer benefits to those with certain majors only. What happens if a student changes majors to one with different benefits or no Yellow Ribbon eligibility?

While Sterling, like most schools, does not distinguish between majors when awarding benefits, some schools do, and changing majors could impact the amount of support you receive. In general, you’re allowed to change majors, but may not be reimbursed for classes taken outside of your major.

What happens if a student drops out or becomes academically ineligible?

At the University of Delaware and other schools, there’s a VA Office on campus that students are required to contact if they change majors, add / drop classes or withdraw. Students using VA education benefits must uphold certain standards in order to stay eligible. If a student’s attendance, progress or conduct is unsatisfactory, schools must promptly notify the VA so that the agency can terminate benefit payments. However, the student is not required to reimburse the VA for benefits received.

Extra Aid: Tuition Assistance Top-Up

In 2000, military education benefits were boosted by the Tuition Assistance Top-Up program. It can be confusing, and using this benefit in the wrong way can reduce the amount of education assistance you ultimately receive from the VA and the military. Here’s what you need to know.

Top-Up vs GI Bill

Tuition Assistance (TA) and the GI Bill are completely different programs. Tuition Assistance is an education financial aid program provided by your branch of service. Many TA programs pay up to $250 per credit and up to $4,500 per academic year. Only active-duty personnel (regular and reservists) are eligible. GI Bill benefits, on the other hand, are available to both active-duty members and discharged veterans (any discharge other than dishonorable) who have met minimum service requirements. For those attending a public school at in-state tuition rates, the maximum benefit is 100 percent of tuition and fees. For those attending out-of-state public school, non-degree-granting institution (such as a trade school) or any private college, the maximum benefit is up to $21,084.89 per academic year. This is in addition to the other benefits – housing allowances and stipends for books and materials.

Top-up Benefits

The Tuition Assistance Top-Up program covers the difference between TA and the actual costs of your classes. So if you’re taking a three-unit class that costs $300 per credit, TA may cover $750, and Top-up could cover the remaining $150. However, using Top-up causes a reduction in your GI Bill benefits. For those using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, entitlement is reduced by the amount of training time. For example, if you’re enrolled in school half-time, you lose a half month of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for each month you receive Top-up benefits – regardless of how much reimbursement you’re getting. This is why you need to plan your education before applying for benefits.

Who Gains Most from Top-Up?

Top-up is a great program if you plan to use TA to complete a degree program or just take a few courses while on active duty. Then you can save most of your GI Bill to use after service to complete your education program. You probably would not want to use it for expensive courses if you plan to continue your education after discharge.

MyCAA and Other Programs for Qualified Military Dependents

Many people don’t realize that the VA doesn’t just support active-duty or retired military personnel. It’s there for families, too.

The MyCAA (My Career Advance Account) scholarship program provides up to $4,000 of financial aid (no more than $2,000 per year) to eligible military spouses working toward a license, certification or associate’s degree in a portable career field and occupation. “Portable” careers are those occupations in which it is easy to find work in most locations. The idea is that military spouses who move when their spouses get transferred will be able to find employment in a new location.

The program pays for tuition and fees for career training and examinations that result in a recognized license certification or associate’s degree in an approved major. The associate’s degree major cannot be in General Studies, Liberal Arts or Interdisciplinary Studies, unless it’s specific to an approved vocation, like General Studies – Nursing, or General Studies – Teaching. The license, certificate/certification and associate’s degree must be obtained from a MyCAA-approved, US based accredited college, university, technical school or approved testing association. The program must increase career or employment prospects for military spouses.

Other scholarship opportunities for military spouses, dependents and even grandchildren include the Military Commanders Scholarship Fund, which awards $5,000 to qualified children of select active duty, reserve, National Guard or retired members of the United States military and Heroes Tribute Scholarships of up to $40,000 for children of Marines or former Marines who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or have died in combat since 9/11.  For a complete list of programs for dependents, check the comprehensive list of education aid for active-duty personnel, eligible veterans and family members in these pages.

GI Bill is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site.

Updated: December 27, 2018