Not everyone is fortunate enough to have families that can pay for a four-year college education. Some people turn to expensive school loans; others exhaust themselves by working full-time. But many choose another way to pay for school: service to their country. Plenty of young people choose military service as a way to pay for their college education. In many cases, military service can give the student skills that will help them get a great job after graduation.
There are three basic ways to use military service to pay for college:
One of the most common ways of using the military to pay for school is to enlist as an active duty member in one of the military service branches. When you enlist you can opt to invest in the GI College Bill. With the GI Bill a small amount of money is taken out of your paycheck. In return you qualify for veteran benefits after finishing active duty. The terms vary but it typically means that the military will pay for some or most of your four year college education if you return to school upon discharge.
Another way to take advantage of the GI Colleg Bill is to enlist in the reserves (also known as the National Guard). Instead of investing a portion of your check you commit a certain amount of time in the National Guard in exchange for some of the same financial benefits as the active duty GI College bill. The major difference between the two choices is that with active duty you do your time and get out of the military and are free to pursue your education. With the reserves you commit to the potential of going active for a certain period of time as you go to school.
The last way to have the military pay part or all of your schooling is the ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps). With this program, you go straight to college and enroll in ROTC classes that teach you basic military service skills. ROTC offers merit-based scholarships to students who participate in their program. This can be for first year students or those that are already in school. The trade off is that students must agree to complete a term of service on active duty or in the National Guard.
Using military service as a way to avoid student loans is not for everyone. That said it's a way to give back to your country and get something tangible in return.