- Hundreds, if not, thousands of students nationwide attend 4 year universities w/o community college. Why do people attend CC? Because it's cheaper, sometimes easier, and less stressful. Honestly, you can attend CC while in the service online. If anything, I encourage it.
I attended CC in person as a civilian, and also now while in active duty. I’m doing much better now, because it’s less work, and I can spend more time studying then sit in class listening to a boring lecture. The colleges bend over for military. If my unit requires me to head to the field for 2 weeks, I simply inform my professor and we work out an arrangement. Had to finish work earlier, but this is not very common in civilian world.
As a Marine, you’ll be heading out to the field. Guaranteed
- Time depends on your unit and job. I work in healthcare, so my hours tend to be fixed (usually). However, your weekends will be yours. Accross all services, weekends are left to the servicemember. Unless you have a mandated duty (fire guard, staff duty, or other duties pertinent to your job). Typically, the combat arms dudes had less time. But that's not across the board. I have infantry dudes next to me whose schedule is better than mine!
I highly suggest you pick a job with marketable skills and pertinent to your major. If you pick combat arms, I hope that was something you thought through. Marine Corps has many jobs ranging from combat to combat support to intelligence. You sound pretty smart, so I’m sure you’ll score good on the ASVAB.
- (I'm assuming you're asking post service). Once out of the service, you can ask your leadership (bosses) to write you letters of recommendation. You simply contact the college, explain you're leaving the service and if one of your bosses can write you memorandum sponsoring you (letter of recommendation). 9 times out of 10, they understand and will work with you. This is not just military friendly colleges, colleges like Amherst College and Columbia University allow this. This is very important especially if you're coming back from deployment.
- Yes, AP scores are valid forever. Take as many as you can. I wish I did back then, but my high school didn't provide them. If you can't for some reason, you can always do CLEP. CLEPs are free in the military for your 1st test ($80 per test), but retakes aren't (unless Marine Corps have different policy). Also, google the Marine Leadership Program, very awesome program once you exit the service. Very few use it. I believe Columbia University guarantees admission to marines also, but few do that also.
- It's a regular job but with longer hours and more responsibilities. You will be expected to perform physically and take leadership, ESPECIALLY in the Marine Corps. A Private First Class will have more responsibilities as a Marine than a soldier. It's unheard of. Even I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. You will have dorms, toiletries, and all equipment provided to you. Your salary is guaranteed. Free healthcare and dental care. There is always promotions and you can make a career.
I highly, highly recommend you look at ROTC for college. Worth a look, it can pay for your college and get you ready for the miltiary. If you do decide to enlist instead of commission, you’ll have a GI Bill at the end, experience and probably (I will assume) a 2 year degree once you exit. You’ll be way ahead of your peers. A Marine background is well respected by colleges, employers and your peers.
Don’t forget to consider Marine Reserves also. Look at all your options. Remember, this is your future. Ask all the questions you can while you’re a civilian because once you sign, it’s very very hard to go back. Change your mind, cry, laugh do all you can. Be comfortable with your final choice.
A Marine is always a Marine.
Note: I’m in the Army, not Maine Corps. Different, but all branches have similarities.