Bridge to Service: Joining the Military after College

Students that want to serve in the military should carefully consider their options as they apply to colleges. While you could enter the military right after high school, there are many different paths you can take for joining the military after college. In fact, some great college options can help you pay for your higher education and get you fast-tracked on a military career.

Making this choice won’t be easy, but we’re here to guide you through the process and give you all the information you need to know about the military and its role in higher education. 

What Options Are Available for Students Interested in Serving in the Military?

1. Work on Your Degree While Serving as an Active Military Member

Most people assume you have to choose between active service and college, but this isn’t the case. In fact, military bases often have college classes available on-base so that you can take classes while you train or wait to be deployed. 

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While following this path may present unusual challenges—your education might be interrupted by your having to change bases, for example, and certain courses and programs might not be available at your particular base—it is nevertheless possible to fully earn a college degree while also serving as an active military member.  Just do your research in advance, and talk to a military recruiter to ensure this is the right path for you. 

Alternatively, you can attend a branch campus or nearby college while you’re on duty or deployed to earn credits. However, this requires careful planning to make sure your class schedule meshes with your military service. Online classes are also a possibility, but again keep in mind that you will have to work around your other responsibilities to the military.

2. Join Your College’s ROTC

ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) is a less complicated option for college students interested in the military. This college program is still a big commitment, but you don’t have to navigate active service alongside a busy school schedule. Instead, you can pursue your degree while also getting military training as you’re attending school. 

ROTC is an added responsibility for college students, but, you are only adding a few classes to your schedule along with some military training, and if you complete all four years of ROTC, you can enter the military as an officer after college. 

ROTC is perfect for students who want to experience traditional college life while also preparing for military service. You can choose from ROTC programs associated with the Army, the Navy/Marine Corps, and the Air Force. You can also earn scholarships, but in most cases doing so commits you to military service after graduation.

3. Apply to a Military Academy

Some high school students already know that they want to pursue military careers. If you have good grades and a firm commitment to life in the Armed Services, then we suggest looking into attending a military academy. 

Going to a military academy is one of the best ways to advance into the military officer corps. Attending one of these prestigious schools will give a major boost to your career, but it can be difficult to gain acceptance into these schools due to their rigorous entrance requirements.

Notably, if you are accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, or the United States Coast Guard Academy at New London, you won’t have to pay a dime to attend. Theses military academies are fully funded and students attend at no cost. You will get a full college experience and specialized training that will keep you in top physical and mental condition.

Keep in mind, though, that students who attend one of these military academies need to commit to at least five years of military service. If you want the military academy experience without the commitment, you should consider attending one of the six United States senior military colleges

  • The Citadel, 
  • Norwich University, 
  • Texas A&M,
  • Virginia Military Institute,
  • Virginia Tech, and
  • University of North Georgia;

or at one of the four Military junior colleges:

  • Georgia Military College,
  • Marion Military Institute, 
  • New Mexico Military Institute, and 
  • Valley Forge Military Academy and College). 

4. Serve in Reserve Forces While Working on Your Degree

Finally, students have the option to join the reserve forces. As a reservist, you won’t be an active member of the military. Instead, you will undergo full training and be called on if and when you are needed, such as when natural disasters occur or if our country comes under attack.

This method of enlistment can be ideal for students. You don’t have to fully commit to the military lifestyle. You still lead a normal civilian life, but you train during specific weekends to keep in fighting shape. 

Being a part of the reserve forces gives you time to go to college and pursue a degree, and you can also get funding for your tuition. Serving in reserve forces also looks great on your resume and shows that you care about your country. 

How Can You Get More Information about the Military and College?

We went over a lot of information in this post. Students have many different ways to pursue their career goals in the military while attending school. If you still have questions about the military and higher education, we highly recommend contacting a military recruitment officer or speaking with one of our college counselors for guidance.

We at HelloCollege aim to help you get the most out of your university preparations. For more information about college admissions, testing, and practice, read our other blogs or contact us to learn how we can help you!

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The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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