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College 101

All About Military Recruiting
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

The United States military is an amazingly-complex network of branches and organizations. In fact, were you to consider the Department of Defense as an employer, they would be the largest in the world (take that, Wal-Mart). The military is made up of five branches: The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard, each with active and reserve members– and there are countless sub-branches, roles, and ways of joining each branch.

Shmoop knows you are here to consider your options of making the military a part of your education, so here’s a Quick & Dirty rundown on what your options may looks like.

Joining the Military as a High-School Dropout: Good luck with this one. The military is very strict about needing a GED as a bare minimum. Very few slots are available for those who haven’t completed high school. However, there is a program for disadvantaged youth who have dropped out of high school to earn a GED for enrollment purposes.

Joining the Military with a GED: This is a tough road you have chosen. The military categorized GED holders in the same way it does high school dropouts, and severely limits the numbers who can enlist. They do this because their research shows that dropouts and GED holders are much more likely to drop out of the military than high school graduates. You will also have to score much higher on the ASVAB (the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery). There is a loophole, though. If you have 15 or more college credits (such as from a community college), Uncle Sam will look at you as if you have a high school transcript.

Joining the Military with a High School Diploma: This is the minimum requirement (with a handful of exceptions) for joining any branch of the military. These are the folks who enlist, meaning a seven to 12 week stint at one of the branch Boot Camps – which are designed to be difficult and teach you how active duty works. After Boot Camp, Uncle Sam will determine your path and deployment, depending on your skills and the needs of the branch. One good thing about enlisting is that – thanks to the GI Bill – the longer you serve the more you will earn toward continuing your education once you leave active duty.

Joining the Military for College: Here’s where things start to get interesting. There are a few options for combining military service and training with a college degree. Let’s take a look:

The first option is the ROTC program – which stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps. This is a program in which you enroll at the same time as you enroll in college. You attend college full-time like a regular student, only the military helps you pay your tuition. What’s the catch? First, you will need to (in addition to attending classes) participate in drills and exercises throughout college. Second, you are committed to serve for a number of years after graduation as an officer (the commitment varies depending on the branch and your commission, but usually falls between four and ten years).

A second option is to apply to one of the military academies. There are five of them: West Point, Annapolis, the Coast Guard Academy, the Air Force Academy, and the Merchant Marine Academy. These are highly-selective schools with serious academic programs (in fact, all of them but the Merchant Marine Academy require you be nominated by a member of Congress to attend). Uncle Sam will foot the entire bill of your education at any one of these schools, and you will graduate an officer. With a service commitment. That obligation is usually around eight years of service, with that chunk of time split between an active and a reserve commitment.

Finally, there is a sort of hybrid stepchild known as Military Colleges. These are four-year schools such as the Citadel, Texas A&M, and Norwich University, which have ROTC programs, but also have additional requirements for students, such as joining a Corps of Cadets with drills, uniforms, and the whole shebang. The benefit of these schools is that students can take ROTC for the entire four years without necessarily being required to serve actively after graduation. Only those students who receive a ROTC scholarship will have a service obligation.

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