Transition Tales

Embracing the Post-9/11 GI Bill

September 07, 2023

The transition from active duty to veteran or retiree family can be confusing as it is exciting. Through the Transition Tales series, MFAN’s Advisory Board and Alumni combine personal experience with practical advice and resources to assist the whole family through this complex adjustment period.


The opinions in this column are the views of the author, Jennifer Goodale


Transitioning from service in the Marine Corps to the civilian sector was a journey filled with challenges and opportunities. My name is Jennifer Goodale, and after spending seven years in uniform, I decided to go back to school with the support of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.


Hopefully, my experience will serve as both a lesson and also as an inspiration for my fellow veterans. Accessing and utilizing VA education benefits can be tricky, so bottom line up front, make sure you use all the resources available when planning your GI Bill journey and take everything into consideration.


Leaving behind the structured life of the military and stepping back into the realm of academia was a courageous leap. I graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2002 and commissioned into the Marine Corps through the ROTC program. After some unfulfilling jobs and a brief hiatus to have children, I wanted something more. Without seeking any advice from others (FAIL!), I enrolled in a for-profit institute to pursue a degree in photography. The college administrators were incredibly helpful and walked me through the steps of certifying eligibility and registering for courses. What I didn’t realize was that their eagerness to assist was merely focused on getting the Post-9/11 GI Bill funds into their coffers and not on my success.


Long story short, the program was a joke. I learned next to nothing and had to invest in expensive equipment they didn’t even teach me how to use. Fortunately, I figured this out fairly quickly and didn’t waste too much of my benefits. Unfortunately, trying to disenroll was a nightmare. Suddenly, those administrators who had been so helpful getting me set up were no where to be found. It took over four months to get out of that terrible situation and left me wary of even trying to use the remaining education benefits.


Luckily, after a few years, I was ready to dive back into education. But this time, I did my homework first. I read as much information as I could from organizations such as Student Veterans of America and researched the VA website extensively. After a few months of researching and talking with other veterans, I applied to Arizona State University (ASU). The Pat Tillman Veterans Center — designed to empower and engage military and veteran students with their academic and personal success — was an incredible resource. From their “Is College Right for Me” survey to their VetSuccess Counselors program, I felt supported throughout the entire journey (even as a fully remote student).


The Post-9/11 GI Bill provided me with essential support to pursue my educational aspirations. This comprehensive program covered my tuition and fees, offered a housing allowance, and even provided a stipend for books and supplies. These benefits were instrumental in removing financial barriers that might have otherwise held me back from going back to school. Balancing the demands of coursework, assignments, and exams with the challenges of being a mother and active duty spouse was a unique challenge. However, the discipline and work ethic instilled in me during my time in the Marine Corps proved invaluable. The skills I honed in leadership, teamwork, and adaptability seamlessly translated into my academic pursuits.


My military background wasn’t just a chapter of my life; it was an integral part of who I am. Transitioning to civilian life can be isolating, but the opportunities afforded to veterans who use their GI Bill can help open new windows.  My journey wasn’t just about personal growth; it was about empowering the larger veteran community. I share my experiences to hopefully inspire fellow veterans (and military spouses!) to consider higher education as a pathway to personal development and career success. Each step I took was not only for myself but also to pave the way for others seeking to transition successfully.


To learn more about the GI Bill and how you can use this benefit to support your military transition, click here.

About the Author

Jen Goodale

Jen serves as director – military spouse & family for the government relations team at the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)…
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