A Sailor’s perspective: Back-to-school and tuition assistance

Gwyen Nosse, director of Navy College Office Hawaii, and Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class Gabriela Salvador, explain the TA process to Culinary Specialist 1st Class Maximino Salvador, assigned to JBPHH, at Navy College Office Hawaii.

Story and photo by MC2 Katarzyna Kobiljak

Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii

The other day, while I was organizing my kids’ school supplies and thinking if they really need six dozen sharpened pencils… each?, I realized I am halfway-done with my college classes. I will finally have my associate’s degree. That is a huge deal to me.

It took me forever to go back to school. I was really intimidated by college and I was always looking for excuses of not to do it, because: I am older, English is my second language, my husband and I are dual active duty, we have kids, volunteering commitments, work and, of course, life.

I have been taking classes for almost a year now (with some breaks in between) and I am not going to lie, some of the classes are more challenging than the others, and they can be time consuming. However thanks to TA (tuition assistance), all my courses were paid for and I will have a degree. And a degree is a degree. Thank you, U.S. Navy. No sarcasm, because I am Polish and we don’t do sarcasm.

I have been asked quite a few times “How can I do ‘this’?” I get it. I too was scared to start school, and the whole TA process was super confusing to me. After letting my chain-of-command know that I was planning on pursuing my education, I went to the Navy College Office Hawaii. Let me tell you, the only thing I am sorry about is that I haven’t done it earlier in my Navy career. It was so easy.

One of the Navy College counselors explained to me, step by step, what I needed to do. I had to take two online trainings, come back for education counseling, and I had to establish a degree plan. I was lucky, because I already had an idea of what I wanted to study and did a little bit of research beforehand.

I want to say the whole TA process took me a couple of weeks. After I uploaded the correct documents to VEC (Virtual Education Center) and was approved, I applied for the TA for the courses I wanted to take.

So far, I have applied for many courses and even though I consider myself a pro (just kidding), I still occasionally go to Navy College to ask questions and the counselors always give me the help I need. We, Sailors in Hawaii, are pretty lucky because Navy College Centers all over the mainland are scheduled to close Oct. 1. The whole TA process in CONUS (continental United States) will then be done online.

I didn’t realize it before, but the Navy College website offers a lot of useful information and access to quick links where I was able to find information on DANTES, a tutoring program that will help me prep for some of my classes, like English and math, for free.

The website also has an abundance of great information for those who don’t know what kind of education they are looking for, and offers a link to the Department of Labor’s “Occupational Outlook Handbook.” This can be a great “reality check” tool, because you can basically find information on jobs in any field of interest, figure out the estimated pay, and prospective employers .

Going back to college is not as difficult as it might seem and right now it is a good time to do so because “school is back in session.”

In the words of Gwyen Nosse, director of the Navy College Office Hawaii, “Take the first step, try one course, because what do you have to lose?”

If you need more information, please contact Navy College Hawaii at 4734766/5705 or email nco_hawaii@navy.mil or check out www.navycollege.mil.

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Category: News