Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Enlisting in the Military: Deferring College

by Craig Landis

Why do we have colleges? Have you ever thought about that? Lots of people think that college is continuing education; a sort of extension of high school. As a junior, you start hearing more and more questions: “What you’re going to do about college?” It’s almost as if it’s taken for granted that college comes after high school. But why?

People say that without a college degree you won’t earn as much money, have as much credibility, or be taken as seriously as those who graduate. Does that mean we have colleges so people can make more money somehow? How?

It’s only been recently that going to college has become routine for so many students. It wasn’t always that way. It used to be that going to college was only for special students, or for those who were wealthy. So why did they want to go to college?

Think about the first problem you encounter when you get to a university or college: You’re asked to choose a major. And that major will be the area of knowledge in which you intend to specialize. Isn’t that the whole point and reason for being in college—to specialize your knowledge in something?

General –vs- Specialized Knowledge

As a society, we need to educate our kids with a broad understanding of our history, knowledge, structure, and culture. To accomplish this, we have grade schools where students learn how to read and write, make calculations, and understand the country’s basic social structure.
Leaving the general education system, a young adult then chooses what they would like to do with their life. What do they want to do for work, how do they want to live, and how do they want to fit into the overall social structure? Not all life styles require complicated, additional education.
Some people, however, do have an interest in a career that requires sophisticated skills and complex knowledge. It’s for these people that we have colleges and universities. The thing is, though, that these folks also tend to already know what they want from life, before they leave high school.

The Buffet of Life

Not everyone gets to have a lot of diverse experiences coming through childhood. In fact, it isn’t at all unusual for young people to have no idea at all about what they’d like to do with their future; particularly in today’s varied world.

Many students never have traveled to other countries, nor experienced other cultures and languages. Although television and the Internet introduce us to “the world,” it isn’t the direct experience of actually visiting another country.

With limited experience, how does anyone choose an area of specialization? Yet students somehow are supposed to already know this when they get to the university!

Wouldn’t it make sense to take some time between graduating from high school and entering college, to sample some of what life has to offer? Without an opportunity to try something, how would you know if you like it?

In some cases, taking a job and moving away from home offers this chance to explore. But then again, not everyone can become self-supporting right out of high school. There is another option, however, and that’s to enlist in the military services.

Military Service Broadens Perspective

It’s true that in today’s uncertain world, being in the military carries a significant risk. On the other hand, there are many benefits to having some military experience prior to taking on college. For example:

-- Within the military, you’ll be provided with an education in a variety of fields, often at your choosing when you enlist.
-- The military is well known for introducing self-discipline, honor, perseverance, and determination. All these are necessary when starting a business, a family, or any other long-term life goal.
-- Men and women leaving the military have a tremendous sense of competence and confidence that they can handle almost any situation.
-- The military provides a steady income without many of the expenses of civilian life.
-- Military veterans are eligible for benefits that apply to the high costs of a college education, making college affordable for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to specialize.
-- Enlisting in the military also usually means travel outside the country. It’s an opportunity to see the US from a distance, to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the meaning of America.

Having a college degree, in and of itself, doesn’t mean you’ll be hired as an executive. The degree only indicates something—that you have a desire to excel in a particular field, and the discipline to follow through in your work.

Neither is college a required extension to high school. Plenty of people enjoy lives and careers without the need for a college education. But to know how to choose between two things, we first have to experience those two things. To choose an area of life in which to specialize, we first have to have a sense of what areas life has to offer.

Enlisting in the military is a way to take some time out, see the world, try different life styles, and figure out what you do and don’t like. With today’s average life span reaching toward 100 years, there’ll be plenty of time to go to college after you have a good idea of why you want to be there.

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