The Army ROTC Green to Gold scholarship program can allow soldiers to leave active duty so they can attend school. With this program comes a wide array of financial benefits to help ensure that the soldier can complete his degree with little to no expense out of pocket. However, because of the way the program operates, there can be gaps in income that can still cause financial strain. If you can prepare yourself ahead of time for this program, however, you can still keep yourself financially stable. So begin working through these steps as soon as you are accepted into the scholarship program so you will never be caught off guard in your finances.
During the time you are applying for the Green to Gold scholarship until the time you leave the Army, it is very important that you save as much money as possible for future living expenses. Typically, you will leave the Army about a month prior to even starting school. During this time, you will have no Army or Scholarship money to live on. In addition, it can take up to several months before any GI Bill money to start arriving, leaving you to find a way to pay for food and rent. So while you have an income, it is imperative that you save as much as possible for this time when no money will be coming in.
Estimate your Cost of Living
Once you have been excepted into the Green to Gold Scholarship program and know where you will be attending college, be sure to make a mock budget to estimate your cost of living while you are in school. Rent, food, health insurance, car expenses and money for entertainment should all be taken into account. Be sure you find out the average cost for the house or apartment you plan on living in that area. Remember that the cost of living can vary greatly between different parts of the country. Do not make the mistake in assuming that the cost of living in California will be the same as it was in Arkansas or it could lead to financial ruin.
Apply Early for the GI Bill
If you are planning on using your GI Bill to help pay for school and living expenses, be sure to apply early. VA is not well known for getting financial benefits to soldiers in a timely manner and this delay can cause huge financial strain when you have no income and your tuition is due. To help avoid this problem, get all of the information needed for to the VA as soon as you have been accepted to the school of your choice and the Green to Gold program. This will help ensure that when school starts, your tuition is paid and your monthly stipend is coming it.
Estimate All School Costs (including Corps of Cadets)
After being accepted to a school for the Green to Gold program you will need to estimate your school costs. Find out your how much your tuition and fees will be, as well how much books will cost. Remember, your GI Bill has a maximum that will be paid to your school based on the state your college is in. Anything above that amount, your Green to Gold will be used to pay for.
For many soldiers entering the Green to Gold program, you will be required to be part of the Corps of Cadets at the school you will be attending. If this is the case for you, be sure to find out the additional costs associated with the Corps. Some of these costs could be uniforms, meal plans for dining with the Corps, a sports pass for attending games with the Corps, money for Corps related trips and extra classes that are required for cadets. Take the time to contact your future school to find out what Corps expenses you might incur.
Fill Out the FASFA
OK, no one likes filling out forms for the government, but this one is worth it. This one form can get you additional money in the form of grants, school scholarships and government loans that can pay for school expenses that your GI Bill may not completely cover. Remember that you will be receiving your Green to Gold scholarship money whether or not your school expenses have been covered. So the more money you have to cover school, the more Green to Gold scholarship money you will have to help with other living expenses.
Total up All Financial Benefits
Once you have filled out the FASFA and your GI Bill application, start totaling up all of your financial benefits to be sure that you will be covered financially.
For school, calculate how much you will be receiving to cover tuition and books from Green to Gold, the GI Bill, grants and scholarship money. If this money is not enough to cover all of your school expenses, then you might need to consider getting student loans to cover any difference. However, with all of the options available to those in the Green to Gold scholarship program, covering school expenses should not be a large issue.
However, covering living expenses like food, rent and health insurance could be a challenge. Total up all of your monthly benefits you will be receiving from your GI Bill and ROTC monthly stipend and any additional money you will have left over from your Green to Gold scholarship. Make sure this money will be able to cover your basic living costs month after month. If not, see if it is possible to get a part-time job or enlist the help of student loans to get you through.
By sitting down and preparing yourself financially for this unique program, you can make sure you will be able to focus more on your studies and less on financial problems. The more prepared you are, the less likely you will be to dig yourself into a financial whole that would keep the Green to Gold scholarship program from being worth your time. So sit down, crunch some numbers and start saving so you can fully benefit from this opportunity.