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Should I join the Air Force or go to College?

Hi, My name is Samantha and I am 1 of 5 siblings. None of which went to college or made a life of themselves. But I am the only one out of 5 that is super smart and has excellent grades. I am a student that have straight A's and could possibly get a scholarship. But on the other hand, I looked into the Air force, which also seemed like a cool challenge. But I am stuck between both and I really don't know which one to choose. I really want to be an Aerospace Engineering but I don't know which path to take. #military #college #engineer


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Nate’s Answer

Congratulations on getting to a position where you have career chooses as you leave high school! There is no magic right or wrong answers that I can give you based on what I know about you from your question. But their are several answers that you can carefully consider and weigh the options. I will tell you that before you sign any deal with the USAF (United States Air Force) you need to carefully read it, maybe have a lawyer look through it, what the USAF recruiter tells you and what the deal you sign says are not always 100% the same. If you have any family friends that are retired military, especially high ranking officers, it would be very, very wise to talk to them and get their take, even show them the deal the Air Force is offering you, they may know what fine print to look out for.

I am going to lay out four paths that may help you think about your options:

Path 1: Join the USAF and use the GI Bill to get a degree when you retire from the service. I have four friends that went this path, two became engineers and two became history teachers. The military helped pay for their educations and they started college a little later in life, so they came to school with more life experience. Downside is two of them went to school while married with children, which is very, very tough.

Path 2: The ROTC (reserve officer training core). I had several friends in university that were in the ROTC, mostly air force, but a few army. They got a partial scholarship from the military and had to do minor PT and military training during the school year. Then when they graduated they were placed in their branch of the military as officers. This is a big benefit as they got officer pay and officer treatment while in the military. Plus when they left the military defense contractors love hiring former officers. FYI, I highly suggest path 2 over path 1)

Path 3: US Air Force Academy. A bunch of others people have talked about the USAFA, so I am not going to go into details. Know that officers coming out of the USAFA get preferential treatment from the Air Force when compared to officers that came out of ROTC.

Path 4: Go to University and get a degree in STEM, then join the Air Force when you graduate. The Air Force will give you a big signing bonus that will help cover your student debt. This path gives you the added advantage that if you get through university and have changed your mind on the Air Force, you can just enter civilian life, you have not signed a contract.

Best of luck!

I totally agree with Path 4. It gives you the option to go through school and if you still fill the need to join the Air Force you can. However if your path changes while in college you can enter the civilian life. Sacoyah Montgomery

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John’s Answer

Samantha, Have you considered the Air Force Academy?

The United States Air Force Academy seeks individuals who possess an exceptional academic track record and strong leadership potential. Because we offer one of the most prestigious and respected academic programs around, standards are high. The Admissions process includes a review of two major academic performance indicators. Not sure you meet the requirements? Apply anyway. There are other paths to the Academy.

PROSPECTIVE CADETS CANDIDATE REQUIREMENTS

• Be eligible to be a U.S. citizen.
• Be unmarried and have no dependents.
• Meet specific medical standards for a commission in the Air Force.
• Be at least 17 years old and not have passed their 22 birthday by July 1 of the year they enter the Preparatory School.

The academy relies heavily on academics and uses it as 60 percent of its admission criteria. They suggest taking four years of math, English and science classes, three years of social studies courses, two years of a foreign language and one year of computer science. Honors classes and AP courses are a plus. Class rank, GPA and standardized test scores like the ACT and SAT are also taken into consideration. The SAT requirement for the Academy is 4830, and the ACT requirement is 0530.

Candidates must also undergo a complete medical evaluation. Academy applicants must complete the Candidate Fitness Assessment, which measures their strength, speed, endurance and agility. The CFA consists of a basketball throw, pull-ups, a one-mile run, a shuttle run, crunches and push-ups. Participating in sports such as soccer, football, swimming and wrestling is beneficial to perform well on the CFA. Individual skills, such as distance running, sprints and upper body strength are also important.

The academy looks at both athletic and non-athletic clubs or activities that students participate in from 10th to 12th grade. For athletic activities, earning a letter, being named as a captain or co-captain or being a member of a well-performing team can set your application apart. Students should also seek membership and leadership positions in non-athletic activities, like debate, volunteer groups or other clubs. Getting a job and working both during the school-year and summertime is also helpful.

Every application needs to be nominated for the Air Force Academy. Examples of people who can nominate students include members of Congress and the President or Vice President of the United States. There are also special nomination categories for children of deceased, disable or missing veterans, children of Medal of Honor recipients, members of the Air Force or the Air Force Reserve, ROTC and those living in U.S. territories or citizens of other countries.

After completing required courses at the U.S. Air Force Academy, cadets are required to serve as commissioned officers in the Air Force for at least eight years. While attending the academy, students receive a free, world-class education valued at over $400,000, plus room, board and medical and dental benefits. With these advantages, it's no wonder the admissions process is challenging and competitive. Students should begin preparing for applying to the academy early in their high school careers.

The United States Air Force Academy is where future Air Force officers go to college to get the best education and military training there is. Located in beautiful and rugged Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Air Force Academy is the home of around 4,000 cadets who make up the Wing. Getting accepted to this prestigious military academy takes brains, brawn, and a bit of luck, as well Samantha.

John recommends the following next steps:

Register as a Future Falcon
Attend their summer seminar
Interview with their Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO)
Get a congressional nomination from a US State Senator, Congressperson, or other official nomination source.

Thank You John. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia John Frick

Thank You Katherine. “Our generation has the ability and the responsibility to make our ever-more connected world a more hopeful, stable and peaceful place.” — Natalie Portman John Frick

Thank You Melisa. “No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.” – Anne Frank John Frick

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John’s Answer

Samantha,

You are in a very great position. Congrats on your grades and even more thank you for considering joining the military to serve our country. It is not for the faint of heart and requires dedication and perseverance that only so many red blooded humans can handle.

At the age of 21, after a few years of college classes, I decided the traditional college path was not for me and that I was destined for more of a hands on approach to life. I decided to join the military (Navy) and it was the best decision I have ever made. The educational benefits, experiences, and relationships that i have built have completed me in ways that some people may never understand.

I give my background to say, I am pro-military as long as you are ready and willing to dedicate your life to a cause much greater than your own. My friends and family that decided to take the education route and stay in their home town have great lives and nothing I say is to minimize them. The experiences that military folks have been a part of tend to widen their perspective on matters of the world vice what is happening in their town.

I highly recommend talking to a guidance counselor, an AF recruiter, a mentor, and/or a current military member to get their take on active duty life.

I support your decision either way.

Thank you for serving our country and protecting our freedoms. John Frick

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Suzanne’s Answer

Hi Samantha,

I really can empathize with your situation in life. Like you, I was the first and only to get good grades and obtain a college degree. I never regretted this decision. I am a registered nurse (retired) but ultimately had an incredible career and went on to earn a Master's degree of nursing. I believe going on for your advanced degrees will be a life enhancing decision.

I appreciate the answers you have received so far, but I would really like for you to speak to your high school academic counselor before making a final decision. You need to review what is needed to enter into an aerospace engineering program and look at the best schools. You also need to carefully review the requirements needed to apply for the United States Air Force Academy as they are very specific.

Please carefully read through these links. Review the possible career opportunities available to you once you have earned your engineering degree (either through the best college of your choice or through the US Air Force Academy). Stick to your goals and carry through to your ultimate success!

I know you can do this!!

Best,
Sue

https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-engineering-schools/aerospace-rankings

https://educatingengineers.com/degrees/aerospace-engineering

https://www.usafa.edu/academic/aeronautical-engineering/

https://www.academyadmissions.com/requirements/academic/

Suzanne recommends the following next steps:

1. Speak to your high school academic counselor
2. Ensure you have completed the high school requirements
3. Investigate possible career paths for an aerospace engineering degree
4. Apply for any and all scholarships available to you upon making your final selection
5. Ensure you understand all requirements and commitments for either college OR US Air Force Academy prior to your final selection

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Trey’s Answer

Hi Samantha - in additon to @John Frick's suggestion for the U.S. Air Force Academy, have you also considered pursuing an Air Force R.O.T.C. college scholarship or , Air Force R.O.T.C. program at a 4-year university? I took a similar pathway, but instead, earned a 4-year Army R.O.T.C. scholarship right out of High School. The scholarship paid for tuition and books - I only had to pay for college room and board. Plus, the scholarship provided a monthly stipend allowance. After college graduation, you will have a guaranteed job in the AIr Force for your designated commitment (usually 4 or 5 years). Here is the URL to learn more about the Air Force R.O.T.C. program: https://www.afrotc.com/scholarships?gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=CjwKCAjw26H3BRB2EiwAy32zhRG9giJowuKhtUVqEIJias_KEBk6lN0Qkp93ZMafcPdeg8khRPqe9RoCNTIQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

If you receive one of those scholarships, then you are free to choose any university to which you are accepted that offers Air Force R.O.T.C. - there are some great engineering universities out there that offer R.O.T.C.: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Clemson, Texas A&M - look into that.

I have many friends who were in Air Force R.O.T.C. and went on to have full military careers, or, serve their 4 years on Active Duty, and then go into commercial aviation careers. Good luck!

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Robert’s Answer

Hi Samantha, congratulations on your success so far in school. I was in the US Air Force and talked with many officers on the career path they took. The main thing is to talk with a recruiter. They will give you all the options available and it will depend on your test scores to start. I wish you good luck on your career path.

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Tom’s Answer

Hey Samantha,

I would consider the ROTC path.

I personally went down the ROTC path at first and switched out after deciding the army wasn't right for me. What I liked about ROTC is that you're getting a college education and likely scholarship. You have the ability to switch out until you commit with no penalty other than paying back any scholarship dollars that you spent so far. This really gives you the ability to try out both worlds and get a good idea if the air force is right for you while not losing any time at college. Additionally, if you like the airforce you're entering as an officer with more options for your career. If you decided to leave the airforce post college, you would have your degree already and can put in your minimal time commitment and take a normal engineering job after as well.

It's a great win win option for you that allows you to learn more before making a decision. Good luck!

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Roy’s Answer

Do both. After you settle into your first duty assignment the chances are good that you can find evening classes nearby or on your Air Force base. Working all day taking a class at night is hard but you can do it. It would be best to take 1 class per semester so at the end of your first 4 year Air Force contract you can have about 36 credit hours. You will also be learning a new job. That experience will help you to understand about that field of work and if you want to grow in that direction. The Air Force will pay for 100% of college tuition for classes that you take in your off duty time. Sounds good right? It is but keep in mind that the Air Force is not going to baby you, the expectations are high. When you raise your right hand and swear in, you are making a commitment to your country. That you will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. With your life if necessary. This is not like working at a Walmart, you cannot just decide one day that you want to quit. If you decide not to reenlist, you will go back home, meet up with your old friends and be tempted to compare yourself to those who took the straight to college path. Don't. You would comparing apples to oranges. You will be different. You will have work experience that you can put on your resume. You will have the respect in job interviews because those years in the military prove that you can be counted on. You will move ahead from that point to completing your career path with a better idea of what your future will be like.

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Karina’s Answer

Hi Samantha, congratulations on the good grades! You will be able to achieve great things.
I’m an active member of the Air National Guard. At the beginning, I joined for the college benefits, but later I was able to obtain a full time job. I love my job and the people I work with.
Talk to a recruiter Guard, Reserves or Active. There are different options to help pay for college. Even if you join the Guard or Reserves, you will get resources and benefits. Many of my peers do a 4 or 6 yr commitment, while attending college then once their contract is up or once they graduate from college they separate from the military with small to no college debt.

Good luck!

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Gladys’s Answer

Samantha,

As an Army Veteran, choosing between college and Military are two different experiences.
My biggest advice is to ask yourself these questions, what is your reason to joining the AF besides experiencing a cool challenge? How long do you want to serve? Active, or reserve/ Enlisted or officer? Are you ready to possibly deploy and be away from from your family/friends?

Remember that joining the AF is to be an Airman first and everything second. Do research, watch YouTube videos, talk to recruiters/veterans. If you think this is for you, go for it and don't let anyone stop you. The AF is a great choice and they encourage you to expand your education.




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Trent’s Answer

Hello, I noticed you stated you are stuck between college and the Air Force. My answer, why not both? If you’re interested in aerospace engineering you can look at Air Force Reserve opportunities. You can be part time in the Air Force Reserve, serve locally, and attend college full time. You would be able to use the education benefits available, paid job skill training, and also be able to earn an associates degree through the Air Force Reserve. A lot of people believe it’s one or the other. Take advantage of both opportunities. If college is a priority I would absolutely take a look at the Air Force Reserve. Do your research online and speak with your guidance counselor. Just know, you can do both if it’s what you want. Good luck to you!

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Deepak’s Answer

Join Air Force, you would definitely have a great career ahead,

Can you please give a little more information on why you think the air force is a better option? It might help the student make their decision Gurpreet Lally

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Michael’s Answer

If you are in college, go for the Air Force Academy. If you are not in college, go to the the Air Force. This would be where you learn about whether you would enjoy Aerospace Engineering as a career or not.

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Trey’s Answer

Hi Samantha - in additon to @John Frick's suggestion for the U.S. Air Force Academy, have you also considered pursuing an Air Force R.O.T.C. college scholarship or , Air Force R.O.T.C. program at a 4-year university? I took a similar pathway, but instead, earned a 4-year Army R.O.T.C. scholarship right out of High School. The scholarship paid for tuition and books - I only had to pay for college room and board. Plus, the scholarship provided a monthly stipend allowance. After college graduation, you will have a guaranteed job in the AIr Force for your designated commitment (usually 4 or 5 years). Here is the URL to learn more about the Air Force R.O.T.C. program: https://www.afrotc.com/scholarships?gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=CjwKCAjw26H3BRB2EiwAy32zhRG9giJowuKhtUVqEIJias_KEBk6lN0Qkp93ZMafcPdeg8khRPqe9RoCNTIQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

If you receive one of those scholarships, then you are free to choose any university to which you are accepted that offers Air Force R.O.T.C. - there are some great engineering universities out there that offer R.O.T.C.: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Clemson, Texas A&M - look into that.

I have many friends who were in Air Force R.O.T.C. and went on to have full military careers, or, serve their 4 years on Active Duty, and then go into commercial aviation careers. Good luck!

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Steve’s Answer

Samantha,
I can empathize with you on this! I got very high grades in High School, even taking AP classes (and passing the exams for college credit) in Physics and Chemistry. However, I had very little interest at the time in continuing my education immediately after High School. I was born during the Cold War and was inspired to serve my country and do my part to preserve our way of life for my family. This may sound really cheesy, but it's honestly how I felt and I've always been extremely proud of my service. Afterwards I continued on to obtain a BS in Electrical Engineering, worked as a Systems Engineer in Defense/Aerospace while earning an MS in Electrical Engineering and now work in Biomedical Device. Being prior military service aslo gives you an advantage over competition when it comes time to look for an aerospace engineering job after college.

You need to ask yourself why are you interested in the military... The people that had the most fulfilling experienc were those that looked at it as an opportunity, whether to serve their country, a personal challenge, or a means to get out of a bad environment. Those that joined just to pay off school debt, or couldn't find a another job, or similar motiviations had a terrible experience.

My nephew was in a similar situation a few years ago. He actually was accepted into the AF Academy but didn't realize that his long term career goals would not be aligned to attending the AF Academy. Once we discussed what he was actually trying to accomplish long term, it became obvious that he should accept the scholarship he had also been offered at the local University. My nephew had developed uninformed assumptions. He has always been extremely appreciative of the advice I gave him and often says how everything I said (including Engineering disciplines and job opportunties) has come to be true. Long story short, seek out people who have worked in the career field you are pursuing and get their advice.

Service is a gift and a challenge. Thank you for yours Adele Suttle

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