CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii --
Want to get a college degree? You might be further along than you think. The Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript
is a program designed to maximize a Marine or sailor’s education by turning military training into college credit.
SMART is a transcript of an individual’s military training. The American Council on Education evaluates military training courses to determine how many college credits each course is worth, if any.
“Your SMART transcript is one of the most powerful documents you will ever deal with,” said Craig Lockwood, an education specialist with the Joint Education Center, Marine Corps Base Hawaii. “I’ve seen Marines come to me with half of their degrees completed and they have never taken a college course.”
Many service members have a hard time believing military training could help attain a degree, but Lockwood said it wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t.
"In (military occupational specialty) school you had to go to class. That’s what ACE looks at. They evaluate the length of the class, instruction hours, content and then decide how many credits it’s worth.”
Using a SMART, Marines can use credits earned at basic training, combat training, Marine Corps Institute courses and MOS school, which depending on their field could already place them three to five classes into their degree, 12-18 credits.
“I didn’t think so much of my training would count toward college credit,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua J. Robey, a data networking specialist with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “I’m a lot closer to my degree than I thought. On one page alone, I had almost 30 credits. That’s 10 classes.”
Leadership courses such as corporals courses and the staff noncommissioned officer academies can earn up to four credits apiece, and special billets such as Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor can also be accredited.
“In the civilian world, leadership is translated to management,” Lockwood said. “Depending on how many credits those courses are worth, they could already be launching you toward a degree in business.”
Lockwood also said degree selection is essential to maximizing a SMART. Having 20 credits toward a degree in business doesn’t help if a Marine wants a degree in computer sciences.
Marines who decide to pursue a degree in their field get the most out of their transcripts. If striving for an associate’s degree, military and political studies are a faster route given the nature of military courses.
But, there is no guarantee a school will take all the credits on a SMART.
“The SMART is just a recommendation,” Lockwood said. “Colleges or universities don’t have to take it, but the schools we deal with, (such as Hawaii Pacific University,) do a good job of taking as many credits as possible.”
Lockwood suggests not attending a school that does not take SMART credit.
If debating what school to go to, his suggestion is to request an unofficial evaluation of all credit and choose the school that takes the most SMART credit.
“Maximize the use of your credit. Squeeze out as much as you can,” he said. “Which would you rather prefer. A school that puts you a semester ahead or one that makes you start from scratch?”