The Montgomery GI Bill has provided a way for thousands of Americans to pay for college who may not have otherwise had the means to do so. However, its benefits are not endless. The program not only has a maximum lifetime benefit but also an expiration date. Students in danger of approaching either of these limitations likely will be forced to look for other financing options.
Determine the Amount
If your GI benefits run out soon, it is best to determine how much longer you plan on being in school. If you are on a degree track and attending full-time, this should be a fairly straightforward calculation. If you are unsure, then check with an academic adviser, who can give you an idea of when you could reasonably expect to be finished.
Luckily for the student, the exhausting of GI benefits is a predictable process. The maximum benefit lasts for approximately eight full-time semesters, which is enough for a bachelor's degree in most cases. If you plan on continuing your education, or you decide to choose a different major, you should start saving money to pay for college as soon as possible. This helps defray the tuition costs later when the bill runs out. Also, remember that GI Benefits are only available up to 10 years after your military discharge date.
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Consult your military Education Service Officer. In some cases, the GI Bill will be only part of what is offered to a student. Different branches of service might have different programs available. So just because your GI Bill benefits have run out does not mean there are not other military funding sources for your education. This could substantially cut down on the cost of college.
Apply for Grants/Loans
Applying for grants and loans should start as soon as possible, at least one year before you the exhaust your GI Bill Benefits. You might already have filled at a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but if you have not, then you need to do so on or before June 30 of the next school year. For example, if you plan to enroll in college in August, the FAFSA needs to be in before the beginning of July. This makes you eligible for a number of grant and loan programs.
There are some scholarships that are only available for members of the military, or veterans, such as LTG Douglas D. Buchholz Memorial Scholarship and the Milton E. Cooper/Young AFCEAN Grad Scholarship, among others. These scholarships could have fewer applicants, and thus be easier to get. Many websites can point you to different scholarship search engines to aid in your search. One of the most popular for the veterans and active duty personnel is military.com. Further, the financial aid office of the college of your choice should also be able to provide some help.