Earning a degree is a goal for many active-duty service members and veterans, and enrolling in the best online colleges for military members offers many advantages. Students can save money, meet new people, and receive academic and emotional support.
If you want to enroll in a degree program but need a flexible schedule, consider military online colleges that accept tuition assistance and recognize the unique circumstances of students who are service members.
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Fortunately, there are several military schools online available to those who desire to further their college education after serving in our nation’s armed forces.
Online Colleges for Military
If you are an active-duty service member or veteran who is considering what to do next, attending college may be a natural step. Choosing which college to attend can be daunting, particularly for military members who have been away from civilian life for some time.
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Many of the online universities military members attend apply government benefits to the cost of your tuition. Offerings like military tuition assistance, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program offer financial support to students who are seeking:
- Associate’s degrees
- Bachelor’s degrees
- Master’s degrees
- Vocational training
The VA maintains a database of approved schools that are eligible to accept education benefits like those included in the GI Bill.
Depending on your major and the school you plan to attend, there are opportunities to turn military experience into college credit, which can shorten the amount of time it takes to graduate. The best military schools offer resources specifically designed for military members, which can be invaluable when adapting to the college environment.
Additionally, military-friendly schools often have student groups so that you can connect with other veterans and active-duty service members.
Benefits of Military Friendly Online Colleges
Veterans who want to earn a degree can benefit greatly from attending an online school for military members. Some of the most important advantages include:
- Flexibility: Attending an online college allows you to achieve your academic ambitions while also pursuing other passions, like caring for your family and working. An online school is also flexible in terms of location, allowing you to take classes no matter where you live at any given time.
- Military benefits: Not all colleges accept military programs like the GI Bill, but military-friendly schools will help students to maximize the benefits that they can receive. This can help students avoid taking on any unnecessary student loan debt.
- Transitions: After serving in the military, some veterans struggle to adjust to the return to civilian life. Military-friendly colleges often have services, such as mental health and transition counselors, that help veterans adapt to this often-difficult change.
- Employment prospects: Holding a college degree may significantly strengthen your resume, particularly in combination with your military service. Many of today’s employers will only hire college graduates for the best-paying job opportunities.
- Advanced education: Becoming a college graduate not only helps you prepare for the workforce but also builds a foundation for furthering your education. After earning a bachelor’s degree online, you may be well-positioned to apply to master’s programs, which can further expand your employment options and potential earnings.
While most colleges enroll military members, attending military online universities is especially advantageous. They provide opportunities for service members to seek an affordable education with a schedule and format that aligns with their unique needs and circumstances.
How to Choose a Military Friendly Online College
When you research military-friendly online colleges, you may quickly realize that there are many different options available, and they often seem quite similar. It may be helpful to compare these specific points:
- Degree programs: One of the first points to consider when comparing online schools for military members is whether the college offers your preferred degree program. If you haven’t yet selected your major, look for a school with an array of degrees so that you aren’t limited when the time comes to make your choice.
- Cost: Although military benefits may help offset much or all of the cost of your tuition, it’s still important to consider the cost of each school you consider. In addition to base tuition, research what additional fees you may have to pay and what other forms of financial aid are available.
- Format: Some online colleges offer synchronous courses that have set meeting times each week. Others are asynchronous and allow students to watch prerecorded lectures and participate in class discussion boards at a time of their choosing. Investigate whether the school offers one or both formats and determine which would work best with your learning style and schedule.
- Accreditation: If a school does not list its accreditation status, it’s best to look for other options. Accreditation can affect the value of your degree as well as the ability to use tuition assistance and GI benefits.
- Student services: Many online colleges offer student resources that are equivalent to on-campus opportunities. Look for military and veteran-specific services as well as other programs such as tutoring, career guidance, and accessibility.
If you’re struggling to narrow down your choices to one college, consider reaching out to alumni, faculty members in your preferred department, or admissions counselors who can offer insights into what your experience at this college might be like.
College Credits for Military Service
Our nation relies on its service members and veterans to protect and serve the country. Many of these service members participate in advanced military training or leadership development courses throughout their years with the armed forces.
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To support our veterans in advancing their education after their military service, accredited military universities online throughout the country recognize the effort and skills gained from this experience. Traditional and online military universities do this by offering opportunities to turn military experience into college credit including:
It is important to note that every online college for the military has its own unique policies for transferring credits and advanced placement. Speaking with an academic advisor at your chosen school can help you ensure that its policies align with your educational and career goals.
Joint Services Transcript
The most popular way of requesting college credit for military experience is through the submission of a Joint Services Transcript (JST). This document is accepted at over 2,000 institutions across the country and is used to validate a service member’s military experience in accordance with the American Council on Education (ACE) recommendations.
When it comes to earning credits for life experience, the ACE is the standard that most accredited universities use to determine what can be applied to a degree program. If you are a member of the Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy, you can access your JST by visiting the JST website. If you served with the Air Force, you can receive your JST by contacting the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF).
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While the JST is an excellent start to earning college credit for your degree program, you still have to be aware of the fine print in your college’s policies. Some schools only allow credit based on ACE recommendations to apply to general elective credits and not toward specific degree requirements.
Credits by Exam
Many accredited schools across the country also accept examinations as a way to “test out” specific college courses.
There are several recognized exams available that you may take in an attempt to earn college credit for your experience and prior knowledge, including the following.
- College Examination Program (CLEP): With 33 different examinations offered, passing a CLEP exam can help you earn credit that can be applied to a wide range of degree programs.
- DSST Program: The DSST exam is often an excellent choice for military members seeking to earn college credit for their life experience. This exam was originally designed to support those who served in the military, and it is fully funded to offer free, first-attempt examinations for eligible service members.
- Excelsior College Examinations (ECE): The ECE offers 50 different tests covering a broad range of subjects. Due to the nature of the ECE exam, it is essential to check with your individual school to see if they accept credits earned through this program.
A credit-by-examination program is a useful tool for military members to receive credit for experiences that may not appear on a JST or school transcripts. While some schools have restrictions on the type of courses that are eligible for credit by examination, other colleges may offer up to 60 credits earned through the successful passing of these exams.
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Portfolio
While the JST and credit by examination are the most time-effective ways of applying for credit for your military experience, service members can also attempt to present a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) portfolio.
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A PLA portfolio gives you the opportunity to showcase the skillsets and knowledge you’ve gained through your military experience. It is typically required that you are already enrolled as a student at the university before submitting a PLA. It is also important to note that the majority of institutions only accept portfolio submissions for undergraduate credit consideration.
The process of submitting a portfolio can be lengthy and may require:
- Meetings with an academic advisor or counselor
- Completion of PLA preparation courses
- Successful completion of any prerequisite university course requirements
- Development of a professional portfolio for submission
- College evaluation processes, including interviews and submission of additional documentation
The goal of a portfolio is to demonstrate to the traditional or online college you’ve chosen that you have the skills covered in the college courses. You can use a variety of documentation to build your portfolio, including military certification and leadership training, honors and awards, and experiential learning essays.
Military Friendly Colleges Admissions Requirements
Military members often have unique experiences and backgrounds, but they are generally evaluated in the same way as non-military students when it comes to admissions requirements. These are the most common criteria:
- Transcripts: Submit official transcripts from any prior schools you attended.
- Personal statement: Explain your background, interests, and future goals.
- Letter of recommendation: Ask former instructors or superior officers to describe your abilities.
- Test scores: Some colleges require minimum ACT or SAT scores.
If you hope to receive credit for military training, you will also need to submit a military transcript.
Online Military Friendly Schools Accreditation
If online colleges and universities are offering valuable academic experiences for students, they can apply for national or regional accreditation status. Earning accreditation is a mark of quality and success. Check to see if your preferred school is accredited by visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
While both forms of accreditation speak well to the strength of a degree program, regional accreditation is particularly desirable. It is often easier to transfer credits from a regionally accredited school, which is essential if you choose to change schools or pursue further degrees.
In addition, financial aid programs available through the military, such as the GI Bill, will not cover tuition expenses for colleges that aren’t accredited. Future employers may also look more favorably at your degree if they see that it was completed at a regionally accredited institution.
Financial Aid for Online Military Students
The academic goals of many military students are made a reality because of financial aid. Students can file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine what kind of federal funding they might receive. These are the most prominent programs that are specifically designed for members of the military:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill: Military veterans who served for at least 90 days of active duty after September 10, 2001, may be eligible for benefits under the GI Bill. The program covers tuition and fees for up to 36 months at accredited college programs. Additional benefits include funds for relocation, textbooks, and housing.
- Military Tuition Assistance: Each branch of the military has its own tuition assistance program, which can fund up to 100% of a student’s tuition and fees. Some programs are exclusively for active-duty service members, and most have funding caps in place.
- Yellow Ribbon Schools: If students use their maximum GI Bill benefits to attend college and have a remaining tuition balance, they may be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. Specific schools participate in the program, and it only applies to a certain number of students each year. Under this program, the school pays a portion of the remaining tuition balance, and the VA matches the school’s contribution.
- Scholarships and Grants: Schools, businesses, and nonprofit organizations often have scholarship and grant programs in place for military members. Some are intended for specific branches of the military while others may target veterans who were wounded in battle or who have disabilities.
Current and former military members have many different avenues for financial support while attending college. If you are uncertain how to proceed, reach out to the VA or the financial aid office at the school you hope to attend.
What Makes a University Military Friendly?
Determining whether a college is military-friendly seems somewhat subjective. These are some of the elements that you can look for when deciding whether a particular university qualifies as supportive of service members:
- Participation in benefits programs: Seek out colleges that are part of the Yellow Ribbon program and accept tuition benefits offered by the GI Bill.
- Support services: Inquire whether the school has support services, such as transition programs, in place for military members and veterans.
- Student organizations: The presence of an official military or veteran student organization indicates that there is a community of students with similar backgrounds.
- SOC membership: Colleges that have courses and opportunities for service members are known as Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges.
If a school fails to meet one or more of these criteria, you can likely find schools to attend that will have better resources in place to support you as a military member.
Does the Military Pay for College?
Students who want to avoid taking on substantial student loan debt may consider enlisting in the military as a means of paying for college. Military members can receive financial assistance while actively serving and after their service is complete.
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The military has several programs in place that pay part or all of the cost of college tuition. All branches of the military have tuition assistance programs, and most veterans are eligible for education benefits under the GI Bill. Depending on the cost of tuition at your chosen school, the military may cover up to 100% of your tuition and fees.
Do Military Spouses Get Free College?
Some military spouses may be eligible for military benefits that entirely offset the cost of college tuition, while others may receive partial assistance. Every branch of the military has financial education benefit programs for spouses.
The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship is a popular option for military spouses. In an effort to promote professional growth for spouses of service members, the scholarship offers tuition assistance of up to $4,000 that students can apply to licensure or academic programs. A member of the military may also opt to transfer some educational benefits attached to the GI Bill to a spouse.
Is Military Tuition Assistance Accepted by All Colleges?
The majority of colleges accept military tuition assistance with certain stipulations. Most notably, colleges can only accept this kind of assistance if they are currently accredited.
The tuition assistance program has a cap of $250 per credit hour, but some colleges charge higher rates. In these situations, your military benefits may only cover a portion of your tuition. If you’re unsure whether an accredited school accepts military tuition assistance, speak to a representative from the financial aid office. This should help clarify which military benefits the college will and will not accept.
Do Online Colleges Accept the GI Bill?
Many online colleges accept the GI Bill to cover tuition costs. Full-time and part-time students who plan to enroll in associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs can receive tuition assistance under the GI Bill.
The specific benefits that you will receive differ based on how long you served on active duty, which specific GI Bill is the source of your assistance, and what school you plan to attend. Keep in mind that not every school is eligible for or accepts veteran benefits like the GI Bill.
Is it Better to Get Into College After the Military?
Members of the military can choose to attend college before, during, or after their service. Some students prefer to earn a degree in advance because it can offer opportunities to develop important skills and move into higher ranks.
Members of the military can also benefit by waiting to attend college. Financial programs like the GI Bill, which can help alleviate or eliminate the stress of funding your degree, are not available until after your service is complete.
Can You Go to College While on Active Duty?
Yes, you can attend college while serving in the military. While it may be difficult for active-duty members of the military to attend traditional on-campus courses, an online degree program is an excellent option.
As a service member, you likely have many other obligations to uphold. Online degree programs are highly flexible and often asynchronous, meaning that you watch lectures and complete classwork at the time that works best for your schedule. You can also maintain access to your courses no matter where you are located. If you move between bases, you can continue to pursue your academic goals.
Is Getting Into an Online Military College Worth it?
Yes, getting into an online military college is worth it for many students. Attending college can enhance and build upon the specialized skills and experiences that military members already have. For example, those who worked in the medical field while serving may want to pursue a healthcare degree.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare occupations are expected to see a 13% growth rate over the next decade. Earning a degree from an accredited online college may open doors to new career opportunities, promotions with your current employer, or higher ranks within the military.
Best Military-Friendly Online Colleges and Universities
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
American Public University offers a diverse range of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. The university’s low tuition rates and military tuition assistance program may make it an excellent option for students in the military. Active-duty servicemembers may also have access to no-cost textbooks and a technology fee waiver. Many classes are offered conveniently online.
APUS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Arizona State University utilizes an online learning format for many of its programs, offering flexibility for working students. Unique services designed to support active-duty service members and veterans are also available.
The university also offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs popular among military students. Topics of study offered include engineering, criminology, information technology, forensic psychology, and applied behavior analysis.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Averett University offers a wide array of undergraduate and graduate programs. Many programs are offered online to help accommodate working professionals’ busy schedules. Financial aid for active service members and veterans may also significantly reduce financial strain for eligible students. This scholarship is available to qualifying students for all online degree programs.
Averett University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Colorado State University offers diverse undergraduate and graduate certificate and degree programs, many of which can be completed entirely online. Potential areas of study include dietetics, public policy administration, and education. The university also offers programs and services to qualifying active-duty military personnel, veterans, and dependents, including tuition assistance and specialized academic advisors.
Colorado State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Columbia Southern University’s online programs, financial aid opportunities, and dedicated advisors may make this institution an excellent fit for servicemembers and veterans. The university offers a broad selection of degree programs, from studies in business to criminal justice. Many courses are 4 to 10 weeks long and have flexible deadlines that allow students to learn at their own pace.
Columbia Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Eastern Kentucky University offers certificate and degree programs that span a wide range of levels and disciplines. Many are housed fully online, including programs in accounting, education, and political science. The university also boasts a robust military and veteran success program. Potential benefits of this program include tuition assistance, priority registration, and waived application fees.
Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has been a leading choice for military personnel for more than 50 years. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs. Military personnel may qualify for discounted tuition, application fee waivers, and flexible registration benefits. Embry-Riddle Worldwide’s online learning options aim to serve an even larger pool of servicemembers.
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Florida State University offers undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree programs for students with diverse interests and educational backgrounds.
The university offers military benefits such as tuition assistance, work-study opportunities, and transfer credit for military training. Benefits and application processes may vary by service branch, but academic advisors are available to help incoming students navigate their options.
Florida State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
George Washington University boasts several campuses in Virginia and Washington, DC, as well as a robust online learning platform. Potential fields of study include systems engineering, archaeology, language studies, and public policy. The university’s Office of Military and Veteran Services assists service members by helping them understand their options, processing benefits, and providing career services.
George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Kansas State University offers over 250 undergraduate and 165 graduate degree programs. Popular fields of study offered include computer science, veterinary medicine, and marketing.
The university’s military community spans over 2,000 active-service, veteran, and military family members currently enrolled. Students may also benefit from online learning opportunities, tuition assistance, and dedicated academic advisors.
Kansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Liberty University offers a broad selection of programs across disciplines at the associate, bachelor, master, doctoral, and certificate levels. Liberty University may be an ideal next step for active military personnel and veterans. The university’s 8 week online learning format and eight yearly start dates are designed to make education accessible for students with busy schedules.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Maryville University utilizes a predominantly online class model in an effort to make higher education accessible to as many students as possible.
It supports active-duty servicemen, veterans, reservists, guardsmen, retirees, and dependents by offering tuition assistance, enrollment advising, and transfer evaluation for military training. Certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs are available.
Maryville University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Oregon State University may be an ideal option for military personnel wanting to further their education to better their chances of climbing ranks or preparing for a civilian career. Online classes are available across degree levels. Service members attending online retain access to the same resources and benefits as resident students.
Oregon State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Park University offers diverse undergraduate and graduate degrees in the liberal arts tradition. Potential fields of study include nursing, journalism, and international business. The university’s Global Warrior Center is dedicated to the success of military students and families. Whether attending on-campus or online, students can work with advisors to understand their military benefits, enrollment, and credit evaluation.
Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Pennsylvania State University offers over 175 certificate, undergraduate, and graduate programs fully online. The majority of coursework is asynchronous, allowing students to learn at their own pace. Service members and veteran students may receive transfer credits for military training or tuition assistance. The institution also offers tailored advising support for admissions, registration, and career planning.
Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Saint Leo University may be an excellent choice for military personnel entering the next phase of their educational journey. The school offers over 60 undergraduate and graduate programs. A rolling admissions process and 6 yearly start dates are offered to allow students to begin at their convenience. Servicemembers may receive help with tuition assistance and other benefits upon admission.
Saint Leo University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Southern New Hampshire University aims to make education accessible through low tuition and broad online options. Popular areas of study include business, healthcare, and technology. The school offers up to 90 credits for qualifying professional military education and field experience. Active-duty military and spouses may also receive up to 30% off tuition and numerous support services.
SNHU is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc.
Syracuse University offers over 200 programs across 13 schools and multiple degree levels. Classes may be attended online or on campus. The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs is dedicated to helping military-connected students achieve their educational goals. The office assists with enrollment, benefits, and transfer credit evaluations.
Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Thomas Edison State University admits incoming students monthly and all programs utilize an online learning model. Courses are typically 12 weeks long. This accelerated format may make the university an excellent fit for busy working professionals. Military personnel and veterans may be able to receive transfer credits for their professional experience.
Thomas Edison State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The University of Alabama offers a wide range of certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Many can be completed online.
The university supports military students who want to direct their service-honed discipline, flexibility, and determination toward their education. Advisors are dedicated to helping servicemembers and their families navigate admissions and tuition assistance.
The University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Arizona’s online campus offers over 150 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. The convenient online learning format may be ideal for active-duty servicemembers. Military personnel has the potential to earn transfer credits for their work experience and training. Military-related students may also qualify for tuition assistance.
The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Central Florida’s online campus is designed with adult learners in mind. Many bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs utilize this flexible learning format. Military students have access to the same resources as on-campus students. Success coaches are available to walk servicemembers and veterans through enrollment, credit transfer, and benefit paperwork submission processes.
The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Maryland Global Campus uses a fully online learning model. Available programs span from undergraduate certificates to doctoral degrees, offering options at all levels. The school’s military advising team offers academic counseling, financial assistance, and support services to active-duty and veteran students. Servicemembers also have access to career advising throughout matriculation.
The University of Maryland Global Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
At the University of Massachusetts, academic and financial support for military students is a high priority. Credit for military training, tuition assistance, and flexible online programs all contribute to ensuring success in and outside the classroom. Benefits vary by service branch, so advisors are dedicated to helping students determine which benefits they qualify for.
The University of Massachusetts is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
The University of Missouri offers a broad selection of disciplines and degree levels. In addition to four campus locations, the university also offers an online campus to help meet the needs of working students who cannot attend in person. Veterans, active-duty servicemembers, guards, reservists, and military families may find assistance regardless of on-campus or online attendance status.
The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Nebraska—Omaha consists of six colleges, each of which offers multiple levels of degrees in a variety of study areas. Many programs can be completed online. The Military-Connected Resource Center aims to support students throughout their transition to campus, program progression, and post-graduation career development. The center assists on-campus and online students.
UNO is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Oklahoma offers traditional attendance, online learning, and self-paced options. Active duty servicemembers and veterans are encouraged to contact Military Student Services for support. Some potential resources include enrollment advising, tuition assistance, transfer credit for military training, and GI Bill benefits.
The University of Oklahoma is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee is a military-friendly university with over 1,000 active-duty servicemembers, veterans, and dependents. The university offers both a Military Education Benefits Office and a Military and Veterans Resource Center. Degrees and certificates are available at undergraduate and graduate levels. Many programs can be attended fully online.
UWM is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Washington State University has been offering fully online classes for over 30 years. This convenient learning format may be an ideal fit for students with demanding schedules who are unable to attend in person. Servicemembers, military dependents, and veterans can utilize WSU Veteran Student Support Services to access information about available benefits and resources.
Washington State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
West Texas A&M University places special emphasis on championing military-affiliated and veteran students. Educational benefits, tuition assistance, career advising, and veteran support are available online and in person. The university offers a diverse blend of degree programs at graduate, undergraduate, and certificate levels. Popular fields of study offered include health sciences, criminal justice, and engineering.
West Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Getting Your College Degree Online
Serving our country through the military offers students the unique opportunity to acquire skills that can greatly benefit them in their future careers. By the above methods, you have the opportunity to turn this valuable training into college credit that can be applied to a professional degree program.
Regardless of the major you wish to study in college, it is worth the effort to look into the different ways that your military experience could save you time and money on your college education. When researching accredited colleges, you can talk to the admissions office or an advisor to inquire about their military programs.
We’ve gathered this information here to help you avoid common problems freshmen face in college and to take the next step in your educational journey!