Should I Join the Army Before or After College?

The answer to the question: Should I join the Army before or after college will garner a variety of answers. If you ask a parent of a child, many will naturally say after. If you ask an Army recruiter, he/she will probably tell you before.

The first thing I will tell you is: it is your choice. This is not a decision anyone can make for you, and in my opinion, they do not have the knowledge or even right to make that decision for you. But, they do have the right to offer their opinion… especially parents. I also believe it is wise to listen close to every opinion and allow those opinions to “sink in,” so you can weigh all the pros and cons in making the choice of joining the Army either before or after college.

What I am going to do in this post is first tell you what I would do if I were 17 again and considering this question. I will then tell you what my opinion would have been when I was 35 and if my son asked me this question (which he didn’t; for him, the military wasn’t an option). I will then give you my answer if one of my Grandchildren were to ask me this same question now.

After all of that, I will go through what I can find as the pros and cons on both decisions. Hopefully they can help you make a great decision that you will never regret.

If I were 17

If I was 17 now and had the question in my mind if I should join the Army now, or go to college first, I would ask my parents. I would listen close to what they have to say, but more than likely my decision would be to join the Army before college.

If I was 35 and my son was asking me

If it were my son, I would say the same thing that most parents would say. “Son, get a college education, there will be plenty of time to join the Army.”

If my grandchild were to ask me now

If you were to go back to the 2nd paragraph of this article, that is what I would tell my grandchild, and I would point he or she to all the pros and cons I am going to post next. I will then tell them that ultimately it is their decision and I will support them no matter what they decide.

Joining the Army before college pros

  • The ability to retire from the Army at a young age with an Army pension and still having the ability to work in the civilian world.

  • The Montgomery G.I. Bill to pay for your college while you are in the Army.

  • Job security. It is quite difficult to get “fired” from the Army unless you are a complete screw-up.

  • Health and life insurance benefits.

  • You will probably be in better physical shape and have the ability to pass all the physical challenges easier.

  • Great on-the-job training.

Joining the Army before college cons

  • Cuts have been being made in military education funding.

  • The possibility of being deployed to war or a dangerous location. (Some may consider this a pro)

  • No quitting if you are dissatisfied.

  • Less pay than those who chose to enter as officers.

  • You are not free to do as you please.

  • Being away from family and friends.

  • Grooming. This can be a pro or a con, but if you love your long hair, get over it. If you like to dress in ripped jeans, you will be depressed, because you cannot have ripped camo’s. I believe you see my point.

So those are the pros and cons of joining the Army before college. Let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Joining the Army after college pros

  • If college is completed properly, you have a good chance of enlisting as an officer.

  • Your job possibilities are bigger and better.

  • Pay is higher.

  • The Army does offer tuition payback programs for any money you are out in attending college.

  • You have gained better priorities as to where you want your life to go.

  • The possibility of an injury or sickness that could keep you from joining the Army.

  • You can join ROTC in many colleges, and that can better prepare you to become an Army officer.

  • The possibility you will be deployed or too busy in the Army may stop or slow down your college objectives.

Joining the Army after college cons

  • The fees that you will have to pay for your college tuition.

  • Slightly older and maybe not as good physically which can make the initial entry into the Army more difficult.

  • As with the other, the chance of being deployed to war or a dangerous location.

  • Also with the other con list, being away from family and friends.

In Summary

I hope these pros and cons can help you or someone you know and love make the best decision in joining the Army. Each, and every person has their goals and objectives. They also have different backgrounds. While one person may be great in school, another finds school very difficult, but the Army may come easier for them. No one can make a decision for you, but I will say that weighing all the options is the wisest way to make a decision.

Final Thoughts

We would love to hear various opinions on this subject. We also would like to hear if you joined before or after college; and why did you choose to do so?

I will say that a college education can help a lot in future career choices, but the experience and job training you receive in the Army can also help the future career choice significantly. Many employers give military experience a higher place in hiring than they do college. In my opinion, it is best to have both, so whatever you decide, try your best to still gain that college education. The Army can, and will help you do so.

You can leave your comments, opinions and questions below. If we can answer questions, we will. If we have to tell you where you can find an answer, we will show you where to go.

Good luck on your choice and thanks for visiting.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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