Coming from a non-military family, I had no clue what being an Army officer actually looked like. Like the majority of cadets, I had never qualified on a rifle, given an OPORD presentation, gone on a ruck, rendered a salute, observed an officer/NCO interaction, etc. I didn’t know how the branching/posting process worked. I didn’t know the difference between combat arms/non-combat arms. I didn’t know what ADSOs/PADSOs/BRADSOs were. I definitely did not understand the full meaning of the word bureaucracy.
I do not want to dwell into the specifics of everything I liked/disliked about the branches (mainly because I never actually experienced any of them and only have my own impressions). Suffice it to say, I was not interested in paper pushing/management or in field operations. My top branch preference (and the only one I really considered interesting) was Cyber. Ultimately, I think I could have had an interesting time in the branch, but I never got enough information to convince me that it was worth 5 years plus a 1 year ADSO. The information I did get indicated that the Cyber branch was running into bureaucratic red tape and struggling to actually make any significant contributions to the country.
Additionally, I realized if I regretted leaving at a later point, as long as I received my bachelor’s I could still become an officer through OCS. Not affirming did not eliminate my option to become an Army officer, it just freed me from committing years of my life to a career path I was not passionate about.
Deciding to not affirm also involves understanding the challenges and risks that come with transferring schools and career paths. I took my interests and financial situation into heavy consideration.
Honestly, I still don’t know precisely what I want to do, but at the time I made the decision I realized that I wanted a career that aligned better with my innate interests and talents. Luckily for me, I am most interested in Computer Science and Mathematics which are fields that have many available positions and good pay. I figured that if I finish my bachelor’s degree in CS I can certainly find an adequate job offer (even if I don’t find my “one true calling”).
In terms of getting to college itself, my future was much less certain. Particularly for me, because I decided to leave only weeks before Affirmation, I would have to take an entire year to apply to transfer to other colleges. IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING LEAVING, THEN APPLY TO OTHER SCHOOLS DURING YUK YEAR! I had to leave with no guarantee that I would get accepted to a good program, that my credits would transfer, or that it would be financially feasible for my family.
In the end, I was fortunate enough to be able to live at home for the year and found a good paying job to fill the time. The transfer application process was much more brutal than I expected, but I survived that as well and even got into my top choice (the reject pile was still high though…).
Some Outside Factors to Consider:
- where you will stay before you get back to college
- how many of your credits are transferable
- how you will pay for civilian college
- how much family support you have (emotional and financial)
- career prospects for your intended major
- civilian college options (selectivity, program availability, location, price, size, etc.)
- how you will keep yourself busy for a year
Deciding to leave West Point was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I still miss so many things about West Point and occasionally wonder about what would have happened if I chose to stay. Ultimately though, I know I made the best decision I could with the information I had available at the time and do not regret my choice at all. I also do not regret going to West Point in the first place because my time there taught me so much about myself, about teamwork, and about the world. Hopefully this long-winded post helps someone out there think about their decision a little more clearly! Feel free to reach out if you have other questions.