National Guard During College

Should you join the National Guard during college?  That really depends on your specific situation.  For most people, I think it is a very smart move to join the National Guard during college.  However, I will be the first to admit that it isn’t for everyone.  In the paragraphs below, I want to cover some of the advantages and disadvantages of enlisting in the National Guard while you are still a college student, so can determine if it is the right course of action for you.

Advantages

  • You could qualify for the GI Bill – Most enlistees will qualify for the GI Bill, which can pay upward of $1,000 per month (tax free) while you are a full-time student.  This can really help you out financially.
  • You could qualify for tuition assistance – Most states offer low cost or free tuition to state residents serving in the National Guard.  This can save you thousands of dollars.
  • You will have an extra income – Most college students need a part-time job or income while they are in college.  The National Guard pays quite well.  You could earn a few hundred dollars a month for your weekend drill, plus any extra money if you are activated or work extra days during the month.
  • You could purchase Health Care Insurance – If you need health and life insurance, and aren’t covered by your parents, you can purchase the TRICARE Reserve and SGLI for you and/or your family.
  • You will learn responsibility – As a Soldier, you will learn responsibility and accountability.  This will help make you a better student.

Disadvantages

  • You could get deployed or activated – There’s always a chance you could get activated and/or deployed for a state or federal emergency.  This could happen half way through a semester.  It’s not likely, but still possible.  You could get activated for a week or deployed for a year, which means you could miss some school time.
  • You could have requirements outside of drill weekend – In some cases, you will have military commitments outside of drill weekend.  This could include an inspection, an important meeting or last minute training events.  In addition, you will have your two week or three week annual training once a year, which is normally during the summer, but could happen during the school year.
  • You will have to leave for Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training – Depending upon when you enlist, you might have to miss a semester of school to complete Basic Training and/or Advanced Individual Training.  In most cases, you will be able to go during the summer, but you could leave for these schools during other months too.

At the end of the day, only you can decide what is best for you.

national guard during collegeIf joining the National Guard during college interests you, I recommend you do a few things. First, contact a local recruiter and get some basic information. It might even be in your best interest to even contact two recruiters, so you get different perspectives. Once you do that, make a list of questions that you have and get them answered. Another great thing to do is to find a few people (at least three) who are serving in the National Guard while they are in college (or did so at one time) and listen to their stories and advice.  Additionally, you should consult with some people you trust, such as a parent, spouse or mentor.  By following these steps, you can educate yourself and make the right decision for you.

If you served in the National Guard while you were in college, please share your story by leaving a comment below. If you have any questions, you can ask them here too.

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20 thoughts on “National Guard During College”

  1. Well I’m currently in the National Guard right now and I just finished AIT and I’m looking to go back to school to get Bachelor of Science! Any feedback would be nice! I’d like to ask how tough would it be to get a degree while serving in the Guard?

  2. I must say that I believe joining the National Guard is a very wise choice in college. It would probably be even better if you did it just before you registered for college, this way you could get basic training and AIT completed before classes start. It just makes good sense to have the extra income and all the other benefits that you can receive by being a member of the Army National Guard while in college. You are right in the fact though that everyone should consider it carefully.

  3. I joined the Army National Guard after my second year at Oregon State (I completed my degree in 6 years). I couldn’t tell you why I decided to at that time, I never imagined being in the military in the first place. Something deep in my gut just sent me to the recruiter’s office, and the only reason I chose the Guard over the regular Army was because I could continue at OSU while serving.

    It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. I became more focused on my classes, to include going back to earning A’s and getting on honor roll; I also landed an internship with the athletic department. I was fortunate and only had to miss one term due to an orders mixup for AIT. I never deployed while I was in college, but that wasn’t the case for everyone I knew. I had the benefit of being able to do PT with the ROTC class, which increased my fitness and ability to lead PT sessions.

    Something that helped me that I wasn’t aware of when I enlisted (I enlisted in California, where I grew up, and did an IST to Oregon a couple months later) – When you are an out of state student like I was, being in the National Guard will get you in state tuition without having to become an Oregon resident. This was better than any enlistment bonus or money I could have gotten. My tuition was cut in half and I was able to pay for school much easier! I came in as a PV1 and worked my way up the ranks quickly by being motivated and squared away.

    1. Good for you Candace.

      I never knew about the in state tuition for National Guard Soldiers working in another state. That really is a good deal, especially with the rising costs of a college education.

      Keep up the good work.

      Chuck

  4. I can see also where being in the National Guard can provide first-hand experiences in business, decision-making, teamwork, multi-cultures and of course, work ethic. Having such makes it easier to analyse literature and history and to hypothesize and evaluate in science and computer projects. Without enough world experience, it is difficult to earn as high a grade. Just book smarts and good memory are not enough. Extra tax=free money on the job is awesome, too. Talking with mentors before making a decision about this is helpful. Not only parents and other relatives, teachers, and spouses, but also counselors and ex-bosses … get a view from several you respect.

  5. While the chance of missing a semester or two can make it difficult to transition back to college life, the college benefits provided to those in the National Guard are huge. Most college students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, which is debt that has to be repaid (bankruptcy, to my knowledge, does not wipe away college loans). Since most college students take between 5-6 years to obtain their bachelors degrees, missing a semester or two should not be too difficult to overcome.

    1. I still don’t think there is a better deal to get college money than by joining the National Guard. I know we currently have the education benefits on hold in the National Guard, but once it returns, the NG is still a good option.

    2. My husband is completing his BS as of this week, after starting in 2001! He joined the Guard shortly after starting college at the Oregon Institute of Technology; and deployed 3 times overseas, as well as working in support of Hurricane Katrina and taking a job as a contractor in Iraq last year. We calculated that he was home for a year doing school, then gone for over a year (18 months), and so on, until he finally finished his degree. His advisors and professors all feel personally invested in his achievement. He will graduate with honors and continues to serve his state and nation proudly.

      1. Tell your husband, congratulations. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to reach our goals. As long as we stay focused and keep pressing forward we will reach them. Even though he started 12 years ago, all that matters now is that he finished. That’s more than most people accomplish. Please tell him good job!

        1. Honestly, I think it is even more impressive than me finishing. I don’t want to downplay my efforts, but I don’t know that I could have done so well if I had deployed at the same tempo that he did and then had to resume my classes each time. I got my undergrad done in one shot, and now that I have been splitting up my masters work in between everything else, I am finding it harder to return each time. I will tell him what you said! We are all very proud of him and his dedication to excellence.

  6. Joining the National Guard can be a viable option for a college student; undoubtedly the benefits of the GI bill are immense and very helpful during times when university costs are rising.

    1. Great point, Trident!

      I used my GI Bill while I was in college for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. It allowed me to live comfortably and acquire a solid education without having to get a job while in college. I’m very thankful for my military service and the GI Bill.

      While I was an Army Officer in the ARNG, many of my Soldiers were enrolled in college full-time and using the GI Bill. When you factor in tuition assistance, grants and scholarships, many Soldiers can get a college education with zero out of pocket expenses and have zero college loans. With today’s job market and rising tuition costs, I’m not sure why more people aren’t exploring the Army National Guard and Army Reserves. It’s a great deal!

      Chuck

  7. The GI Bill definitely is an incentive to recruit college students to the military. College is getting more expensive and more and more people are graduating but having a difficult time finding jobs. At least the GI Bill provides some stability and nothing beats free money or financial assistance for school!

    1. So true, Michelle. I was a ‘rich kid’ in college when you factored in my GI Bill, ROTC kicker, unemployment and drill pay. I lived well and had a great time making more as a student than many of my friends did after they graduated. And no, my family isn’t rich.

      The National Guard offers tons of educational incentives if you research them and pursue them. And with the cost of an education going through the roof, it’s one of the few options left out there for most students.
      Chuck

  8. I’ve had friends who have joined the National Guard while in college and I have seen that it has some great benefits. The GI Bill is a GIGANTIC help for those who are truly committed to their education.

    1. For most Soldiers, the GI Bill can pay upward of $1000 or more per month, tax free, to go toward your college education. That equates to a lot of money each year. If you can manage your finances well, there’s no reason anyone getting the GI Bill should have any college loans.

      Chuck

  9. This is good information. Our oldest daughter is looking at colleges and, boy, did the cost of tuition go up since I went! This is something that I do not think she has looked into; perhaps because she knows I am a worrier. Do you know if most people who join the National Guard for reasons related to help with education do so before they begin college, or after they start? Thank you.

    1. Lisa,

      Thanks for the comment. Normally, you can start using your education benefits once you graduate from Basic Training. I’ve found a mix of people who join before college and some who join during or after. I would recommend before college, so there is less likelihood of having to miss a semester or two to attend Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training. If you join during college, that’s okay too. You might just miss a little time. And if you join after college, you might qualify for the loan repayment program, or get to come in as an officer. I hope that helps.
      Chuck

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