A Realistic Look
Collegiate education definitely has value, though that value may have shifted in recent years. If you’re convinced you’ll be a doctor or a lawyer, it might be good to prioritize college immediately after high school. There are certainly other similar professions. That said, you might be better suited joining the military and thinking about college once you’ve found your stride there. This writing will explore both possibilities.
Critical Collegiate Realities
The collegiate environment is one fraught with change and discord today. Even were things ideal, on average 1 in 3 college students switches their major, and 1 in 10 switch more than once. If you change your major, you may have to study for a longer period of time. Also, it may well cost more, further increasing the debt you must overcome after you obtain your degree.
Unless you get a full-ride scholarship, you’ll have likely debt. The average college student graduates with $30k in debt. If you switch your major, that number will likely be higher. Meanwhile, the average annual salary is around $51k a year, but the average cost of living is $5,102 a month. That comes out to $61,224 a year. Expensive cities are going to skew that average. When you live in less expensive areas, cost diminishes. In Tucson, AZ, the average cost of living is $1,330 a month; or $15,960 a year.
If you earn $3k a month, and you knock $6k off your college debt annually, in between 5 and 6 years you could have it paid off. If cost of living is too high, though, you’ll barely be scraping by. Unless you can graduate from college and immediately find a job, you won’t be able to work in your chosen profession for some time.
So specific occupations like those in healthcare and law, or trade schools, can be a good move–but you’ve got to fully commit, and know you want to do so, very early on.
Surprising Military Benefits
With the military, you can overcome most of these hurdles much more quickly, and get a college education to boot. You can get up to 36 months of financial assistance in tuition, fees, supplies, and textbooks.
There are ways to get a “free” degree through the military (ie. becoming a doctor through the Army); though you’re working for the government, so it’s not really free; but there are qualifications you can achieve and certain scholarships. Also, you’re going to come out of the military more skilled of necessity.
As you learn skills and are taught to endure difficulty while pushing yourself beyond where you thought you could go, you’ll learn who you are in a way that helps you determine what you really want to do with your life, and is easier to determine for many through the military than college.
Collaterally, this helps give you a potential to earn higher income. You have more skill, and you know how to use it, and where you want to use it, allowing you to more swiftly identify where to be most profitable in society once you’ve finished your service. Read more about these advantages here.
Also, the military pays; meaning you’ve always got work–and good work. You can eventually reach an average that will cover the cost of living nationally at $62k a year. As a cherry on top, the military can make you eligible to all active service and veterans’ benefits, including things like insurance discounts, loans, and healthcare.
So which is best for you? Here’s what to think about regarding college, briefly:
- The College Environment is Presently Turbulent
- You Might Change Major, Increasing Time And Debt
- On Average, College Students Graduate $30k In Debt
- The Average Salary And Cost Of Living Are Imbalanced
- On the Positive, Some Occupational Studies Can Be Profitable
In contrast, the military offers the following:
- Valuable Life Skills
- Financial Assistance–Sometimes Full Scholarships
- Finding True Interests to Help Direct Your Career Aspirations
- Becoming Stronger and More Personally Secure–Exceeding Personal Expectations
- The Greater Likelihood of Finding a Job That Fits You After Your Service Has Expired
- You Also Get Paid, the Average Being Higher Than the Cost of Living, and Benefits
- On the Downside, it Can Be Difficult at Times
How Things Look From a Long-Term Perspective
Which opportunity is best for you may depend on your situation. Right now, there’s much to recommend the military, while traditional collegiate education, though yet advantageous in the classical sense, does have some unique challenges. Also, with military financial aid, it’s possible you could do both and finish with money in the bank.