Debating Post-High School Opportunities

I’m a junior in high school who has had very high aspirations career wise since my freshman year. I’m looking to pursue a career in medicine, hopefully as a surgeon, and have a pretty alright application. I wouldn’t be concerned about getting into colleges if I were to apply, however, my GPA has certainly limited my previously top choices, as I was looking into top-tier universities before this, though I would say I have good extracurriculars.
Unfortunately, my family is not very well-off financially, and going into college would likely mean leaving behind a tremendous amount of debt if I were to attend first, not to mention that of medical school after, which would be even more, without scholarships.
I’m debating entering into the military for four years to take advantage of the GI bill, and additionally, to gain the discipline that has enabled me to let my GPA slip while I’ve been in high school.
If I were to pursue the military, how would this affect getting into college afterwards, and for those who have experienced it, would you recommend it?

Have you looked into ROTC?

I’m not super familiar with it, but to my understanding it’s mainly for those looking to become military officers, but please correct me if I’m wrong . I would say, at least currently, I don’t see myself having a military career or anything like that, just getting a couple years in. Also, I do worry that I wouldn’t be able to juggle both maintaining the grades and the extracurriculars to get into medical school. But if you’ve had experience doing it, I would love to hear about it.

Not me, a friend’s son did it in a similar situation and had a great experience. But if you don’t want to be in the military after college, it’s probably not for you. However, you can still do your undergrad in your state school or another school which won’t be too expensive, and still get into medical school. You’ll probably have better grades too. I wouldn’t go into the military unless it’s something that attracts you regardless of money.

@mathmaticalguru I know I am late to the party, but there are not many veterans/active-duty students who are still active on this sub-forum, so I’ll help you out.

I highly recommend military service regardless of the branch you choose. I know you have some pretty good stats working for you in terms of extracurriculars and ACT scores, but don’t let those stats give you the impression that the military would be a waste of time. People who have never served will see your stats and immediately question why you’re even considering military service, but I was in the same boat as you, and I do not regret a thing.

It has gotten me accustomed to:

  1. Leadership - At 19, as an NCO, I was responsible for the behavior, development, and welfare of other adults who all came from different backgrounds. If anything was wrong with them in those areas, I was answerable to them, so I was forced to find different ways of dealing with them. Being a “team captain” or “club president” in high school does not even compare.
  2. Stress - I am not talking about getting paperwork done in a timely manner or tackling a written test. You’d have the upper hand in those areas. There are a lot of complex problems you’d have to deal with in the military, some institutional and some with the people around you, and in a split second you may be forced to make a decision that could get you locked up in the brig or get your friend killed. This may sound horrible, but remember, when this is all said and done, you’d be that much more prepared for the real world than your peers in college.
  3. Professionalism - One tenet my branch raves about is customs and courtesies. When is the last time you said good afternoon to someone above you? How often do you find yourself chewing and talking, making up excuses when questioned about mistakes, or dressing like a slob on the first day of class? You’ll learn early on in the military that first impressions are EVERYTHING. Your superiors will immediately assume you are a person who does not care if you do not dress/act like you care on the first day, so you’d immediately learn to act/dress professionally, otherwise you’d be treated like a child.

Also, note that I mentioned “making up excuses.” In high school, if your assignment is late because the printer in the library isn’t working, your teacher might grant you some clemency. In college and beyond, that crap generally doesn’t fly. You will be held accountable for your failures. But no worries! The military will break your bad habits. Excuses were squeezed out of me early on during boot camp. You’ll learn that those above you like solutions not excuses, so you’d get in the habit of finding ways “to make things work” regardless of circumstances. Remember in the movie Apollo 13 when they had a faulty CO2 scrubber, but magically had to “make it work?” That is the kind of stuff we’re forced to do all the time in the military given our terrible budget.

I can rant forever about the stuff you’ll learn, but to keep things short, I’ll reiterate that I personally had no regrets during my four years in the Marine Corps. I got to drive a fire truck during emergencies, participate in current events, travel to different parts of the U.S. and experience different cultures, and meet a great set of friends in the process.

This fall, I am going to study engineering at MSU Honors College (if I don’t get accepted anywhere else) on Uncle Sam’s dime all while most of my peers from high school begin to repay their student debt.

Also, I personally recommend the Navy, Coast Guard, or Marine Corps if you want the best experience overall. The other two branches kind of gave off the “just a job” vibe for peacetime service, but that is just an observation.

Also, if you dig deep into this sub-forum, I asked a similar question five years ago, and some salt dogs gave me some very informative answers. Do check those out!