When faced with the decision of what to do after high school, some of your 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, as a college counselor you should ensure that your students are 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, not to mention provide an abundance of invaluable life lessons. Following are a few options you can discuss with students and their parents interested in the military options to help them make a fully informed decision.
Meet with recruiters
As you are perhaps already well aware, military recruiters are more than eager to give high school students all the information they’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.
So encourage students interested in military involvement to speak with recruiters and hear them out while keeping in mind their own personal and professional goals. It’s a big commitment, and they 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 their country. And if you have a student who is feeling rushed or coerced, you can try to arrange for a group meeting with the recruiter, the student, and you and/or the parents.
Look into schools with ROTC programs
Many schools offer ROTC programs that allow students to pursue a college degree while training to become an officer in the U.S. 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 even obstruct? deter? their child’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. Click here for a list of schools offering Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC programs at InsideCollege.com.
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. Steer your students in the right direction by arming them with the facts, and help them research their options. Check out the College Admissions Data Sourcebooks--a great place to scope out military schools and schools that offer ROTC programs.