Will Military Service Help Me Get into College? And Other Common Questions for Veterans Considering College

Applying to college can be a daunting process, especially for applicants who are faced with the additional challenge of transitioning successfully from military to civilian life. However, military experience can also be an asset to college applicants. Regardless of which branch you have served, your military background can help to distinguish and strengthen your application. In fact, not only can military experience help you get into college — it may also allow you to graduate faster. If you’re thinking about going to college after the military, now may be the perfect time to apply. 

That said, it’s important to choose a university with the programs and student resources to help you succeed. For example, you may want to prioritize military-friendly colleges. While these colleges may offer the same accreditation, same range of degree programs, and same challenging coursework as traditional universities, they also place a greater emphasis on supporting and enrolling Veterans. Consequently, military service is more likely to benefit you on a military-friendly college application than on a traditional college application. It’s also more likely to translate to course credit, which means you can finish your degree sooner. 

If you served in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, you should know how your military experience could help you get into college — and get more out of your education. This guide will explain how by covering some frequently asked questions about acceptance rates, college credits, ACT/SAT scores, military scholarships, financial aid for Veteranstransitioning into civilian life, and more. 

How Many Veterans Go to College? 

In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, on average, about 18.6 percent of Veterans had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 19.9 percent of non-Veterans. That same year, higher average percentages of Veterans attained associate’s or master’s degrees than non-Veterans: 12.5 percent of Veterans compared to 9.4 percent of non-Veterans with associate’s degrees, and 8.9 percent of Veterans compared to 8.3 percent of non-Veterans with master’s degrees. The following year, the Postsecondary National Policy Institute reported that more than a quarter of all U.S. military Veterans age 26 or older — roughly 5.2 million students — had earned their college degree or credential. 

Does Military Service Help Get into College? 

Military service demonstrates teamwork, problem-solving, work ethic, and responsibility. It can also equip you with specialized knowledge or skills, depending on your training and area of expertise. These are factors that can help your essay or other college application materials stand out, no matter where you apply. 

However, a military background may not always translate into financial aid or course credit, unless you choose a military-friendly college. To give yourself the best possible odds of being accepted for enrollment — and receiving credit for your service — consider applying to one or more military-friendly schools in addition to the traditional colleges on your list.

What is the Veterans College Acceptance Rate at National University? 

Some universities have lower acceptance rates than others, with certain schools accepting only four to five percent of applicants. Combined with potentially costly admissions fees, some students may feel discouraged from applying. But with a 100 percent acceptance rate, National University makes higher education accessible for all U.S. military Veterans. 

To apply to National University or to request additional information about our accredited degree and credential programs, contact our military admissions office. A military enrollment officer can guide you through our admissions requirements, answer questions about financial aid and scholarships, and work with you to ensure that you earn credit for your service. 

Can I Get College Credit for Serving in the Military? 

Whether you can get college credit for serving in the military depends on where you enroll. Many institutions of higher learning offer military transfer credit for experience in the service, working with the American Council on Education (ACE) and Department of Defense (DoD). Individual institutions work with these governing bodies to evaluate military experience and how they may correspond with certain courses. 

At National University, we work with military students to make sure they receive the maximum possible credit for their service or training, following ACE and DoD recommendations to ensure that military experience is accurately translated into course credit. This eliminates the need to spend time or money relearning skills you already possess, so that you can progress more efficiently toward graduating. 

To learn more about credit requirements at National University — and how to fulfill them faster — check out our article on how to get college credit for military experience, or browse our military student FAQs

Do Veterans Need to Take the SAT or ACT? 

Again, the answer to this question depends on the colleges or universities you plan to apply to. Many, though not all, colleges and universities require prospective students to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of their application process. 

If you wish to take the ACT or SAT, you should know that the DoD operates a program called the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, which provides Veterans with free online test prep and college prep materials, in addition to other programs and services that help Veterans earn their degrees or credentials. For example, as the program’s website explains, “DANTES sponsors CLEP and DSST exams,” which refers to the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). As our undergraduate admissions checklist points out, CLEP and other DANTES exams count toward your education experience, along with your military service and training.

Does NU Admissions Require SAT/ACT Scores? 

National University does not specifically require ACT/SAT scores for military applicants. However, certain incoming students may need to take a free ACCUPLACER or WritePlacer exam, which assesses math and English skills. Incoming undergraduates must generally also have a minimum GPA of 2.0, with some exceptions. 

For graduate student applicants, the minimum GPA requirement is higher: generally 2.5. However, if the applicant’s GPA ranges from 2.0 to 2.49, he or she can potentially enroll after taking exams like the GMAT or GRE. Discover the complete list of graduate admissions requirements. 

How Does National University Help Students Make the Military-to-College Transition Successfully?

National University offers a range of resources to help military students adjust to civilian life as a college student. At our Veteran Center in San Diego, our peer mentors offer Veteran-to-Veteran guidance and support, while our Virtual Veteran Center conveniently connects students through an online community 24/7. The National University Veterans Affairs (VA) Office provides additional support by helping students apply for and utilize VA benefits, which you can learn more about here

NU also provides a range of scholarships, discounts, and financial aid resources to reduce the cost of tuition. For example, we are a Yellow Ribbon school that proudly accepts the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Additionally, we offer many of our accredited degree programs online, giving military students the flexibility to plan coursework around their busy schedules.

What Are Some Helpful Resources for Student Veterans and Military Families? 

Looking for additional resources that can help you prepare for college and earn your degree? Here are some suggestions to help you get started: 

Additional Sources

Will currently being enlisted in the military help to increase my chances of getting into a elite university? 

Military Veterans, Here Is How to Get Into the Ivy League

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Veterans in Higher Education

2021 Colleges With the Lowest Acceptance Rates | US News Rankings

Undergraduate/Military Readiness Exams (ACT & SAT)

Frequently Asked Questions

College Credit for Military Service & Experience

ACE Credit-Accepting Institutions

The American Council on Education (ACE’s) Military Evaluations program

What Is a Military-Friendly College?

Military Admissions & Information

Military FAQs

National University Veterans Affairs

National University Veteran Center

How To Transition From Military Service To College 

Admissions Checklist

Graduate Degree Admissions Requirements

San Diego Padres National University Military Scholarship 

Student Veterans

How To Apply For The GI Bill

Student Veterans of America: Homepage


Student Veteran Program Resources

Non-VA Resources for Student Veterans and School Administrators – Education and Training

College Credit for Military Service Experience

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