Determine eligibility and apply to use your GI Bill education benefits

You may or may not be eligible for certain benefits based on your or a parent's military service that could cover some or all of the costs of your education, and even pay you a housing allowance and a stipend for books while you are enrolled in school.  It's important to verify your eligibility and apply for these benefits through the VA as far in advance as possible.

Check to see if you are eligible for education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Click here for more information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.  Generally, you are eligible for benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you’ve served on active duty for as little as 90 days, whether continuous (all at once) or interrupted (short periods of time adding up to at least 90 days), after September 10, 2001. 

The Post-9/11 benefit is the one that you would be eligible for if your military sponsor (spouse or parent) transferred their benefit to you.  Transfer is allowed under very limited conditions and restrictions, so if you are a dependent using benefits transferred to you, confirm your eligibility!    

The amount of your benefit paid depends on the military member's length of service, so it's important to verify your benefit rate based on that time.  As of 1 Aug 2020, the minimum benefit rate is 50% of the full benefit payment after serving at least 90 days, and service longer than 36 months (3 years) qualifies for the full 100% rate.  You might also fall somewhere in between.  You can always check your current Statement of Benefits online to view, print, and confirm any remaining eligibility you have.

Depending on when the military member separated from service, these benefits may expire.  Again, check your Statement of Benefits to confirm remaining entitlement. 

  • If military service ended before January 1, 2013, your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits will expire 15 years after your last separation date from active service. You must use all of your benefits by that time or you’ll lose whatever’s left.
  • If military service ended on or after January 1, 2013, your benefits won’t expire thanks to a new law called the Forever GI Bill - Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act.
  • An individual servicemember still only earns 36 months of GI bill benefits (roughly 8 semesters, or 4 academic years).  Students in a qualifying undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) program, which can often take longer than 4 years to complete, may be eligible for an additional 9 months of Post-9/11 benefits.  Check details on that program here.

Check to see if you are eligible for education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill

If you were Active Duty, generally, you are eligible for benefits through the Montgomery GI Bill (Active Duty) if you elected to have your military pay reduced by $100/month for your first 12 months in order to buy in to this benefit, and were honorably discharged with at least 3 years of service (less in some situations).  Benefits under this GI Bill program can NOT be transferred to dependent family members.

  • MGIB-AD pays the service member up to 36 months of tuition reimbursement when enrolled in an approved program.  There is no book stipend or housing allowance paid under this program as there is with the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
  • Approved trade or job training as well as college tuition can be paid with this benefit
  • Eligibility for this benefit normally ends 10 years after your latest date of separation or from the time you started using benefits, whichever is earlier
  • Check the complete rules and apply here:eligibility requirements for Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty

For Reservists or National Guardsmen, generally you'd be eligible for Montgomery GI Bill (Selected Reserve) while serving in the Selected Reserve with at least a 6-year service obligation that began after 30 Jun 1985. 

Apply for VA Education benefits

This link will take you to the VA's instructions for applying online, in person at a VA regional office, or with another trained professional in your area.  Or you can call and request a paper application form be mailed to you.

Please allow about 30 days for the VA to review and make a determination on your application.

VET personnel are also happy to assist if needed.  Just contact us!

Post-9/11 GI Bill Extensions for STEM Degrees

Running out of Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility but not yet done with your degree?  Hopefully you’ve heard that your 36 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility can be extended to complete certain technical degrees that normally take longer than 4 academic years.  This is known as the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship, and it’s not automatic; you must make a formal application.  Approved recipients in eligible majors will receive up to nine months (one more academic year’s worth) of additional Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement, or a maximum of $30,000. 

You must be enrolled in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) program leading to an undergraduate degree and have completed 60 credit hours of a program that requires at least 120 semester (or 180 quarter) credit hours to graduate (So, typically, AFTER completing your sophomore year).  The other case is if you have completed a STEM undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree, but are now enrolled in a teaching certification program.

If you still have Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility remaining, you can’t apply until you’re within 6 months of exhausting the benefit.  Your application will go from the VA to your School Certifying Official, so make sure to keep them advised.  These scholarships are for the military member and Fry Scholars only (children or surviving spouses of servicemembers who died in the line of duty while on active duty on or after September 11, 2001) and CANNOT otherwise be awarded or transferred to dependents that are using their parents’ education benefits.

Check the list here to see if your degree is considered “STEM”.  Generally, health-related fields, physical sciences, engineering, information technology, and agricultural sciences are covered.

For additional information and to apply online, please visit the Rogers STEM Scholarship website or contact VA’s Education Call Center by phone at 1-888-442-4551.

VA Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)

Formerly known as "Vocational Rehabilitation and Employability".  If you're a veteran with a VA-certified service-connected disability that limits your ability to work, you may be eligible for retraining into a new career that is within your capabilities

For example, this could include college courses to become a computer network specialist, or vocational training, like earning a Commercial Driver's License.  Costs for training are paid for by the VA under a separate chapter of the GI Bill.

Check your eligibility, and find out how to apply online for Veteran Readiness and Employment by clicking here. You can also apply by contacting your nearest VA regional office. 

Applying for Financial Aid

If GI Bill benefits won't cover the full costs of college, you'll want to do what EVERYBODY else does and apply for financial aid and/or some scholarships.

Financial aid offered will be more or less at different schools, so compare the deals offered by the schools you're considering.  Aid may be offered in the form of tuition reductions, working off some tuition in work-study job opportunities, student loan offers, and federal or state grants.  Some schools offer the in-state tuition rate to military veterans, while others don't, so check what your total costs will be.

The most important thing to do is fill out the online application, commonly called the "FAFSA" (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  Applying is pretty easy, and again, it's free!  There's lots of help on the site, or you can check with your school's Financial Aid office, or ask us! The most difficult part for some people is tracking down their tax records from 2 years prior, but there is a tool within the application that can pull that information directly from the IRS if you don't have copies of the information yourself.

You only have to fill out one application, and you can choose which schools to send your information to.  Then the schools will let you know how much aid you would get if attending their institution, so you can choose the best plan for yourself.

Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible (normally after 1 October each year) to be considered for the maximum number of aid programs to be used in the following fall term.

Earn college credits by taking College Level Exam Program (CLEP) tests.

College Board exams with fees paid by DANTES for eligible military-connected students

This is a great deal that can potentially save you a lot of time and tuition money by demonstrating your knowledge of a subject on a widely accepted standardized test, the CLEP test.  Anyone can take a CLEP test, but for current active duty, National Guardsmen, and Reservists of the U.S. military, along with certain other eligible military-connected personnel, the exam fees are paid for by DANTES, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support

Exams for military veterans who are no longer active are not funded by DANTES, but veterans can use their GI Bill benefits to pay for a CLEP test.  You would register for an exam and pay all fees up front, and then apply for reimbursement of the fees by sending in your receipts with a request to the VA.  Click here to see the VA's instructions for test fee reimbursement. 

If you no longer have GI Bill eligibility, click here to learn about the Modern States program, which provides free, high-quality online CLEP preparation courses and study resources to anyone, and will even pay the CLEP exam fees while funds in their charitable foundation remain. 

“CLEP-ing out” of even one course could lighten your course load in a semester, giving you more time to concentrate on new courses.  If you score well on just four exams, you could earn as much as 12-15 college credits, the equivalent of a whole semester!  That could help you graduate earlier, saving you both time and money.  Visit the College Board website for military members for all the details, but here are some basics:

Click here to see the list of subjects available for testing.  If you’ve studied any of these subjects before, but it’s not on your college transcript for some reason, taking the CLEP exam could spare you from having to take the course at your desired school.

If you need a little refresher prior to scheduling a CLEP exam, DANTES-funded candidates can also order free examination guides separately, even if they have not yet registered for an exam.  Create a free account to register for exams or request free preparation materials.

For your first attempt on any exam, the $93 exam fee is covered by DANTES for eligible military members.  If you don’t score high enough for credit the first time, you can re-attempt, but DANTES does not cover exam fees on the same exam after the first attempt.

DANTES-funded candidates who register for a CLEP exam will automatically receive the corresponding CLEP examination preparation guide at no cost.  When you register for a CLEP exam, the examination guide will be added to your cart automatically prior to checkout. 

There are also many free, self-paced, online learning systems or printed materials that can help you study and prepare for these tests in almost all subjects.  College Board lists several on their website, and you can click here for the list we’ve compiled. 

Find a testing site near you.  North Dakota has testing sites in Grand Forks, Fargo, Minot, Bismarck, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Wahpeton, Ellendale, and Jamestown.  Test sites listed as “fully funded” will also waive the test administration fee charged by the testing site for eligible military members, so be sure to filter your search to see if there is a “fully funded” site near you.

Generally, test sites that are on military installations are fully funded by DANTES, but there are others, such as Bismarck State College, University of North Dakota, University of Mary (Bismarck campus), and Minot State University.

The exam score will be sent to the school(s) you designate for evaluation of college credits that would be applied to your record.

Different schools award different amounts of credit, and may have a higher or lower minimum exam score, so click here to search for your school and check their CLEP credit policy.

You can see the minimum score required and the credits that would awarded.  For example, one school may have a minimum score of 50 and award 3 college credits, the equivalent of one course completed, while another school may have a different policy.

Overall, this is an excellent education benefit for eligible military members that can really accelerate progress on your degree!

Free for anyone: online CLEP preparation courses (and exam fees potentially paid!) through the Modern States Education Alliance offers free, high-quality, online courses developed and taught by college professors that prepare you for virtually all of the major AP (Advanced Placement) and CLEP (College-level Examination Program) exams, with free online access to textbooks and other study materials.  Any student can sign up, and the Modern States Education Alliance even pays the exam fees for up to 10,000 students annually; it’s almost too good to be true!

These standardized tests (CLEP and AP) are widely-accepted for credit at over 2900 colleges, and by earning college credit through examination, you can save both money and time by graduating sooner and reducing your overall tuition costs.  Even if you only receive credit for one exam, that can lighten your course load during one of your semesters, allowing you to concentrate on other courses or responsibilities.

You can take one Modern States course or many.  Scoring well on any one exam should earn 2 – 4 college credits.  Through their “Freshman Year for Free™” campaign, Modern States encourages students to set a goal of successfully completing eight exams, which can add up to the equivalent of two semesters’-worth of college credits, saving a whole year of tuition, fees, and room and board costs.

These courses are all self-paced, and you can review and repeat as many times as you need to comprehend the material.  Courses are designed so you should be able to work through them in about an hour per day over 4 weeks; definitely a good investment of time!

Colleges do have different policies on accepting AP or CLEP credits, so check your school’s policy on the College Board’s website, or by contacting your desired college directly.

Visit the Modern States website to learn exactly how it works, see the course catalog, and read through their frequently asked questions.

Scholarships for Military and Family Members

North Dakota Dollars for Scholars

Since 1990, this program has awarded over $21M in scholarships to North Dakota students.  Individual awards range from $500 to $2,500.  Applicants must be from a North Dakota community with an active Dollars for Scholars chapter to qualify.  Click here for details and the online application.  Apply between 1 Jan and 1 Apr of each year for scholarships awarded in the following fall.

Wells Fargo Veterans Scholarship Program

This scholarship helps fill unmet financial need of veterans after military benefits and other grants and scholarships have been applied by their school.  Renewable awards of up to $5,000 per year are granted to assist with remaining tuition, books, room and board, and transportation costs as part of Wells Fargo's commitment to helping veterans succeed in the civilian job market.  Application period for awards in the next fall normally open up in February each year; for full details including eligibility and the application, click here!

Sanford Health Military and Veteran Scholarship

The Sanford Health Department of Veterans and Military Services awards several $5,000 scholarships each year to support military-connected students of exceptional character and leadership in service, academics, and community involvement.  Eligible applicants include U.S. military veterans as well as currently serving National Guardsmen, Reservists, or active duty military service members.   

Applicants must have at least a full academic year remaining in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree or higher, and be attending full-time at an accredited, U.S.-based institution of higher education in the coming academic year.  Deadline to submit applications each year is Sep 30th.  Awards are paid out in installments throughout the following calendar year, and you would have to reapply for awards in future years.

For full details and to apply, visit the Sanford Health Military and Veteran Scholarship website

The application packet requires the following elements that all need to be received by the Sep 30th deadline, so be sure to allow time for each part:

  • A written essay demonstrating service, scholarship, humble leadership, and/or impact (3 page min.)
  • A resume
  • A 250-word bio
  • A copy of your military service document(s) [DD-214, NGB 22, Statement of Service, etc.]. 
  • A short character reference by someone that knows you well
  • A financial worksheet (template within the application instructions)

American Veterans (AMVETS) Scholarships

The American Veterans organization (AMVETS) provides several scholarships annually to United States military veterans, Active Duty, Guard and Reserve members, and some for their spouses or widow(er)s, children, and even grandchildren.  These awards are to help cover unmet financial need after other Federal/State aid and scholarships have been applied.

Visit the AMVETS Scholarships website for details on all these scholarships, and for application information.  Application deadlines are typically April 30th each year to be awarded for the next academic year.

Tillman Scholar Program

Pat Tillman put a promising career in the National Football League on hold to serve his country following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  In 2004, Pat was tragically killed while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.  To honor his memory, Pat’s family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation to champion his causes. 

More than just a scholarship, the Tillman Scholar Program connects recipients of the award to a national support network and professional development opportunities to empower them to make an impact in the fields of medicine, law, business, policy, technology, education, and the arts.  The scholarship (average award of $10,000!) assists with academic expenses, and can be used for tuition and fees, living expenses, and books.  Applications accepted each year between 1 February and 1 March for the coming academic year.

Student Veterans of America Scholarships

Student Veterans of America, in partnership with corporations like The Raytheon Company, Google, Comcast, and others, offers several scholarship programs specifically directed towards military veterans and active-duty military personnel.  Generally, eligibility requirements include: attending full-time at an accredited four-year college or university in the U.S., while demonstrating commitment and passion for their field of study, and leadership and engagement within their community.

Check SVA's Scholarships homepage for specific active programs, eligibility requirements, and application deadlines.  Typical awards are around $10,000 and cover one academic year of study.

Folds of Honor Foundation Scholarships

The Folds of Honor organization provides educational scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and disabled U.S. military service members.

Since 2007, FoH has awarded nearly 44,000 educational scholarships to military families, providing $20M+ in educational support.  In addition to traditional college scholarships, Children’s Fund scholarships are also available that can be used to pay private elementary school tuition or for homeschool curriculum.

Apply each year by 31 March, and please visit the website for full details and instructions!  Military sponsor must have at least a 10% service-connected disability rating as documented with the VA.

Health Professional Scholarship Program (US Dept of Veterans Affairs)

The VA's HPSP program pays 100% of tuition and required/mandatory fees for individuals pursuing a program of study leading to a degree of doctor of medicine (MD) or equivalent degree, and various other health care provider degrees.  The scholarship also pays a monthly living expense stipend directly to scholarship awardees. 

In return, awardees agree to work in a VA health care facility for 18 – 30 months (depending on the degree) upon completion of degree and licensure requirements.

In addition to the MD, other specialties covered by this scholarship include: Nursing, Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist (DRT), Physicians Assistant (PA), Medical Technologist (MT), and Nurse Practitioner for Mental Health (NP-MH).

You do NOT need to be a veteran to apply for most of these scholarships!  Currently (2023), the Physicians Assistant program is open to veterans only, but any US citizen who meets the other eligibility requirements (linked here) can apply for the other programs.

For full details and to apply, click here to visit the VA Health Professional Scholarship Program website.

American Legion Riders District #8 Legacy Scholarship

For North Dakota residents that are the son or daughter of a U.S. military veteran, Wounded Warrior, disabled veteran, or a fallen service member.

One $500 scholarship is awarded each year to a North Dakota high school senior.  Short application form and an essay, due 1 April each year.

For most current information on this and other American Legion scholarships, click here to visit the American Legion Department of North Dakota scholarships webpage 

Gene L. Kouba Memorial Scholarship Program

Sponsored by Adam Klein Chapter #3, Disabled American Veterans – North Dakota.  Apply annually no later than March 15th of each year.  Awards of up to $1,000 for the coming school year to veterans or spouses/widow(er)s or unmarried children of veterans that are residents of Burleigh, Morton, or Stark county, North Dakota.  For additional qualification information and application form, click here!

Captain James Ahn Special Forces Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship honors US Army Special Forces Captain James Ahn, who died tragically in 2015 during a parachute training operation in Washington State.

Sponsored by the Gain Service Academy Admission company, this scholarship awards $1,000 annually in Captain Ahn’s memory to a veteran of the US military special forces that is working towards a higher education degree or vocational training certificate.

Applications due by June 1st.  For complete details on eligibility and to apply online, click here.

The Gilman-McCain Scholarship program (for study abroad)

This program is funded by the US Department of State and provides awards of $5000 to undergraduate student dependents (child or spouse) of active duty service members to study or intern abroad in credit-awarding programs.

There are 4 application periods throughout the year, so if you miss one deadline, you don't have to wait long for the next cycle.

Parent/spouse must be on active duty at the time of dependent’s application, and student must be receiving any type of Title IV federal financial aid (for example, Pell grant).  For complete eligibility details and to apply, click here to link to their website.

Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) War Veterans Scholarship

Merit-based scholarships of $2500 awarded to active duty or honorably discharged veterans (including Reservists and National Guardsmen) who actively participated in overseas contingency operations (evidenced by a campaign medal or similar documentation) anytime from 2003 - present.  Must be currently enrolled and attending classes at least part time pursuing an eligible STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degree program at an accredited four-year college or university in the United States.  For more details on this and other AFCEA scholarships, and to complete an online application, click here! 

Veterans of Foreign Wars/Sport Clips Haircuts "Help a Hero" Scholarships

Awards of up to $5,000 per semester to cover tuition and fees.  Must have separated at or currently hold rank of E-5 or below and demonstrate financial need; visit the website for complete eligibility and application details.

Since 2013, the VFW’s “Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship” has awarded a total of more than $12.3 million in scholarships to more than 2,720 student veterans pursuing higher education as part of their transition from the military to rewarding civilian careers.  These scholarships are funded solely through generous donations from Sport Clips team members, clients, individual supporters, and corporate sponsors.

JLV College Counseling scholarship database

A very full list of scholarships you can apply for.  Sorted by category, but don’t limit yourself to looking in just the “Military” category!  Check for other categories that apply to you: hobbies, age, field of study, life situations, etc.

Fisher House Foundation's "Scholarships for Service" Search Tool

Answer some questions about yourself and your situation, and be guided to a number of scholarships appropriate for you!

Scholarships for Service is a free public resource for students of families with a military service background to search and access thousands of scholarship options.  Every scholarship listed here is specifically tailored for active, guard and reserve military, Veterans, retired personnel, or their families.

Student Training & Education in Public Service's categorized scholarship search tool

This site guides those seeking careers in public service to a large compilation of scholarships and financial aid available to students in various fields of study or that meet certain demographic categories.  Links to the eligibility, deadlines, and application process for each program are provided.  Click here to explore their list!

The Jeremiah Program - support for single mothers to attend college

This free program provides affordable housing, life skills classes, and other support to single mothers enrolled or intending to enroll in a two- or four-year college or university.  There is a residence and training site in Fargo, ND.  Click here to visit the Jeremiah Program website for more information!

Top of page