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.
- 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.
- 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.
If 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.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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