My husband and I married before I completed college. And you guessed it – he’s an Active Duty military service member, which meant he didn’t live close by. We faced our first common military couple decision at a young age – should I stay and finish school first or should I move to be with him now? I could have stayed with my family for another couple of years and lived apart from my husband until I finished college, or I could have altered my educational and career plans and moved right away. Either decision required a sacrifice. Now, before I go any further, I have good friends who have chosen both of these paths, and each one came with a unique set of challenges. No decision is the “right” decision; everyone must make the best one for him or her! And for us, that meant being together. So I followed my heart, and (very excitedly) moved to join my husband. I’ll make it work, I thought.
My husband’s first duty station took me by surprise. And not that “Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen any place so full of opportunities before!” type of surprise. More like an “Oh my goodness, where are all of the stores and people?!” type of surprise, if you catch my drift. I immediately went into culture shock mode and then decided to take a breath and remember that I hadn’t even given the place a chance yet. Spoiler: things turned out all right.
My biggest concern at first was that I wanted to finish my college plan. This was very important to me, from a very young age. To my disappointment, there were no colleges within driving distance at our new duty station that offered my major. And at that time, there weren’t as many online options for Bachelor’s degrees. I wanted so desperately to finish school and make my family and myself proud. Feeling defeated, I tried to make peace that I would just have to wait until we PCS’d, which would be 3 and possibly more years down the road.
In the meantime, I decided to be productive with this “gap” in my education and fill it with experience and skills. I picked up some small jobs, and volunteered at a local non-profit on base. Through these jobs I networked, made friends, and gave back to the community. I was building my resume and I didn’t realize at the time how much that would come back to help me in the future. Through these new connections, I learned about Martinsburg College and the short-term online certificate programs that they offered. Eager to complete school, I checked it out but was a little wary because we weren’t making much money at that time and I had already racked up some student debt.
Much to my surprise, and this time a good surprise – there are education benefits that military spouses who qualify for can receive, completely separate from the service member’s benefits! Martinsburg College accepts these benefits, and they cover the entire tuition and books for their programs. Okay, my first thought was this couldn’t be true, it can’t be – it’s too good to be true. But, I was wrong! I verified that the benefits were indeed a real thing, and I verified that Martinsburg College was a trustworthy, accredited college. I ended up taking a professional certificate program that paired up with what I was majoring in for my Bachelor’s Degree, and down the road that helped me out in more ways than one.
My certificate program bridged my educational gap in my resume. It complemented my degree choice adding value to my education and value to me as a candidate for job positions. It gave me the skills necessary to advance in a future position I was later hired for. And to this day, I feel proud when I see my certificate hanging on my wall and on my resume. It reminds me that anything is possible – even going to college while stationed somewhere desolate.
If you can relate to my experience as a new – or seasoned! – military spouse with an educational gap, Martinsburg College may be a great fit for you! Their programs are designed with the military lifestyle in mind! This ranges from being stationed anywhere, to completing a program while PCSing, during a deployment, or to preparing for your family’s transition out of the military.