When faced with the decision of what to do after high school, some students will likely consider joining the military in some capacity. And while military service can be a noble and selfless endeavor, to say the least, you should ensure you’re fully aware of what life in the barracks will entail. It requires a monumental amount of willpower, discipline, and sacrifice. But it can also be highly rewarding, lead to a college degree and a successful career in just about any field imaginable, and provide an abundance of invaluable life lessons. To help you make a fully informed decision, check out the following paths you can consider if you’re interested in military options.
Meet with recruiters
Military recruiters are more than eager to give high school students all the information you’re looking for. And in my experience, they can also border on pushy. During my senior year of high school, a Navy recruiter was relentless in contacting me, and while I appreciated his enthusiasm, it was difficult to keep in mind that all the great benefits he was playing up would offset the rigors of things like boot camp or possible deployment. Students interested in military involvement should speak with recruiters and hear them out while keeping in mind your own personal and professional goals. It’s a big commitment, and you shouldn’t let those initial promises of epic heroics and free tuition cloud their judgment. At the same time, however, there really are great benefits to being in the military, especially for students who truly want to serve this country. And if you’re feeling rushed or coerced, try to arrange for a group meeting with the recruiter, your counselor, and you and your parents.
Look into schools with ROTC programs
Many schools offer ROTC programs that allow you to pursue a college degree while training to become an officer in the US Armed Forces. All branches of the Armed Forces, except the Coast Guard, produce officers through ROTC programs. Parents concerned that military service would delay or obstruct their student’s collegiate prospects may be more comfortable with this option, since many ROTC students receive substantial scholarships that often cover the full cost of tuition. The one caveat is that, in some cases, students must agree to a set amount of military service in exchange for these scholarships. For example, the Army ROTC currently requires an eight-year service commitment, including four years of full-time service in the Army and four years with the Individual Ready Reserve. That might seem like a formidable undertaking, and it is, but students who want both the security of a college education, and to serve in the military, would be well-advised to consider this option. Start doing some research to learn about schools offering Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC programs.
Check out military schools
While admission can be extremely competitive, students interested in a military career might consider one of the country’s military academies and universities. The United States Military Academy, more commonly known as West Point, is probably the most infamous of these prestigious institutions. That particular school—which includes among its alumni a long list of notable politicians and military figures—currently requires applicants to obtain a nomination from an approved source such as a congressman, the President, Vice President, or Department of the Army, which is no easy feat. But other schools, such as Virginia Military Institute, have less stringent admission policies and accept a higher percentage of applicants. Military schools allow students to get a high-quality education in a wide array of majors and participate in competitive athletics while pursuing a challenging and rewarding career in the Armed Forces.
The decision to serve in the military is momentous and honorable, and it shouldn’t be made lightly. Start heading in the right direction by arming yourself with the facts, and be sure to meet with your counselor to discuss your options and what may be best for you.
Search for military schools or schools with ROTC programs and add them to your college list! You can use our College Search Spreadsheet Template to organize all your research.