Enlisting with a college degree...bad idea?

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Spencer96
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Joined: 02/27/2017

Hello all, and thanks in advance for any information!

I'm 20, and graduating in December 2017 with a BS in Criminal Justice from the University of Tennessee. I'm 6'5 and 175, in good shape. I am torn between bothering with OCS or just enlisting, and desperately need some advice..

I want to be able to join right after graduation. However, the OCS application process is long and I am not a prime candidate. We all know the Army is downsizing, and according to two recruiters (if they're telling the truth), OCS has a 21% acceptance rate currently for civilian applicants.

The Army seems to be searching for STEM majors with high GPAs, and good recommendations, and lots of athletics in high school and/or college.

I have a 3.1 GPA. I played sports through high school and college, but just for fun. I never did so for the schools, nor did I ever go to competitions. I only joined a handful of boring outdoors clubs in college and didn't stay.

ASVAB Scoring consisted of an 82 AFQT. and GT of 119. I can do anything enlisted that I want.

Work has always been a very important part of my life, which is why my athletics suck so bad. I have paid for everything since high school. I started at Lowe's after graduation where I've worked for almost 3 years and been promoted to sales specialist, now making more than I'd make in the military as enlisted E-5. I drive a brand new car and rent my own house, and am going on my third solo backpacking trip overseas, (Africa this time).

On top of my work, I'm graduating a semester early after going to school full time since I started. Furthermore, I intern for a Congressman. I have no life because of work, but I do have money!.......not sure if that's better or worse.

Anyways, based on this info, what kind of chance do you REALLY think I stand for OCS? Be brutally honest. Is it worth trying, or should I just go ahead and enlist with delayed entry until I graduate?

More than anything, I want to join Special Forces. I've always wanted to, and the 18X candidate program sounds perfect. I'm not in the best shape, but I've got time to be ready by the time I ship out. However, the difference in pay from E4 to O-1 is huge. I know it isn't all about money, but jeez. That's a big difference. Furthermore, there are many more really cool opportunities for officers that I'd be interested in.

Enlisting with a degree I am sure will get me ridiculed by other recruits. What kind of lifestyle would it be compared to an officer's lifestyle? I don't want to waste my degree doing the same thing as some high school graduates and kids with GEDs.

My long term goal is to gain experience to work for a federal agency after the military, preferably FBI. I want to work on a master's while in the Army, and may go on after that for a Ph.D. Being an officer in the army or in special forces would be beneficial, but i'm not sure anything else would be a significant help.

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MSG Glenn
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Joined: 08/31/2010
@ Spencer96

All college grads have a chance at OCS although it's much harder getting in than enlisting.

I can't relate to Officer lifestyles but as a 2LT your commander will load you down mercilessly. Eltee will be the gofer guy with bunch of additional assignments. In Combat Arms as a Platoon Leader he will be almost under the orders of his Platoon Sgt, an E7 with an average time in service of 10 or more years in service. I wet nursed a few in my day on orders of the Company Commander. Eltee was ordered to listen & watch what ever I did & learn from it. They quickly realized that the Academy, ROTC or OCS was nothing like the real Army nor was the training they received able to cover real life conditions, LOL. As a rule they were pretty good guys & became outstanding Officers able to lead Infantry Paratroopers.

There is an incentive to enlist right off the bat. College grads go in as SPC E4. It's hard to get an 18X contract as an enlisted person so it's got to be harder to go to Special Forces as an Officer. You should talk it over with your Recruiter. If you decide to enlist rather than try for a commission you can also try to get into the 75th Ranger Regiment with an Option 40 contract. That would get you BCT/OSUT, Airborne School & Ranger Assessment & Selection Program (RASP) & into the 75th Ranger Regt. Within a year of being in the 75th they would send you to Ranger School. Ranger School is open to all Soldiers including females now but it's mandatory as a Ranger in the 75th Regt. Ranger School by itself is NOT an entry into Ranger Regt. That option 40 isn't exactly easy to get but easier than an 18X. My son had to wait a half year to get his 11X/Option 40. There is a lot of crossbreeding between SF & Rangers. Had my son stayed in he would have gone SF. He stayed in the Reserve though & is now an E7 Platoon SGT & Operations SGT. until they can find someone for that slot. I'm sure he'll retire outranking me, LOL

The main advantage of going in as an enlisted person is you can choose your MOS. As an Officer Candidate you'll be branched according to your ranking in OCS. Ranking includes academic, physical fitness test, marksmanship & peer rating. Those at the top get their choice but it's always according to the needs of the Army.

The Military is finished downsizing. Now they've been ordered by POTUS to build its strength. A larger Army makes it easier all around. Those who had trouble enlisting for some reason or another (or to go to OCS) should start to find it easier now. With GEN Mad Dog Matis as SecDefense & Donald Trump as President means good things for the Military. It was pretty grim under Obama & would have been tragic under Clinton. It was bad enough under Bill but this was & would have been even worse. I'm not trying to be political but facts are facts. I served under many Presidents & it was always better under a Republican. I have a feeling that the increase of troop numbers will begin with the Combat Arms MOSs & those that are understrength by the new standards.

I know many enlisted Soldiers that went to OCS as an enlisted person. It's easier for them because they know the Army by then. in any event you'd be going through BCT with the enlisted Soldiers before OCS. I also know many enlisted college grads that stayed enlisted for their whole career. I was one of them, LOL. I got my degree between my Navy & Army times. By the time I decided to go into the Army I would have been too old to go to OCS, anyhow. I never was kidded about my degree & it's not something that's worn on your sleeve for all to see. You'll see quite a few E4s in BCT/OSUT & they're not all going to OCS.

Run everything by a Recruiter. Start this week! To get any decent contracts will become much harder just before graduations lasting until next fall. They WILL NOT ship you out until after you're graduated. If the exact contract you want isn't available then wait until about next Thanksgiving until mid January '18. A Recruiter can save a slot for you & you'd have your contract in hand. Recruiters can also know what MOSs & contracts are available & when there'll be projected openings.

Good luck! Please keep me updated!!

Spencer96
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Joined: 02/27/2017
@ MSG Glenn

Thanks for your reply! Well, it may be worth an application to OCS, but in the same light, I do not think it is quite what I want to do anyways. I feel like enlisting with a good MOS is better. I like having the choice of what contract. I asked the recruiter about the expansion of the military, and said the same thing as you. It is going to expand, and I should be able to get whatever job I would like.

With my ASVAB scoring, he said I am already qualified for any contract, I just have to get my PFT out of the way at some point, and he will have to find a slot for me in what I choose.

What is your experience with the 75th Ranger Reg? I have been looking at rangers as well as an option. I would still prefer SF, but would it be wise to start as an 11X? I have been watching the training documentaries on SF, and it is very physically demanding. However, my recruiter says that civilians off the street stand a better chance in SFAS than seasoned veterans. What's your take on that?

Basically, he says we start from scratch and are molded into SF candidates, while other previous enlistees just assume they are prepared, and it ends up washing them out faster. And if I didn't make it for some reason in SF (Wouldn't be by quitting), is there any say in where you go? In other words, if I enlisted as an 18X, made it all the way to SFAS and broke a leg and had to quit, would they just drop me down to whatever they want me to be? (Ex. standard infantry) Can you get a backup contract?

THanks!

MSG Glenn
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Joined: 08/31/2010
75th Ranger Regt.

I have no experience in the 75th but my son does. I did my Special Operations with the Navy SEALs. Got out, went to college, got married, had kids & decided to go back in. I got my start in Submarines & then transitioned to UDT & then SEALs. I was too old for any SpecOps jobs in the Navy & there were no sub slots available so I tried the Army & settled for Airborne Infantry. My son went in after HS graduation with an 11X/option 40.

No backup contracts. If you get a medical condition while in SF training they'd probably let you heal, get cleared by the doc & start over again. Since all SF start out at Infantry OSUT followed by Airborne School you could also be put in an Airborne Infantry unit. The needs of the Army would dictate that I'm sure.

From all my SF friends it's agreed to get into SF it's always best to start out in the "Big Army" & apply for SFAS sometime during your enlistment. The land nav course gets many. If your Recruiter says civilian have a better chance through SFAS I'll defer to his judgement. He probably has the stats. In UDT we had the "Challenge Course" before we started UDTR. SF must have something similar. It teaches the basics of what we went through & shows many that it's just not for them. Going from the Rangers to SF is the best route. Many if not most SF troopers wear the Ranger Tab along with their SF Tab. Many will eventually go to Ranger School while in SF. Rangers & SF have a lot of cross-breeding. They're both in Army Special Operations Command.

If your Recruiter told you some info about SFAS I would guess there must be openings. I know Military SpecOps wasn't included much in the downsizing that went on for the last 8 years. I know a lot that left the Army as soon as they had their 20 in, though. SpecOps was way overworked. Hard on guys with families.

In my opinion (for what it's worth) the best route to go into SF is to start as an Infantry Ranger. You'll have the requirement of Infantry School & be Airborne qualified - two of the requirements to be in SF.

All SpecOps in all branches of service are extremely demanding. My son & I can relate to each other's tribulations with his RASP, Ranger School & unit training versus my time in UDTR (what BUD/S was called when I went through). We both had Airborne School but I also had Diver School which my son could have gone through had he stayed in. The SpecOps courses are designed to make people drop out or wash out. My UDT class had at least a 65% attrition rate. Some were recycled but still many of those didn't make it on the 2nd try.

Another good course of action would be to get an Infantry 11X/option 4 if option 40s aren't available nor projected to be for quite awhile. That will get you Airborne School after OSUT. Get into an Airborne unit & your chances of going to Ranger School are very good. That won't get you into the 75th as you'll go back to the unit that sent you. They want to utilize the expertise you received in RS but you'll be better equipped to apply to go to RASP or SFAS.

Another thing to keep in mind is there are more MOSs available other than Infantry in Ranger Regt. My son's buddy could only get a Truck Driver Option 40. He still went on many combat ops when extra shooters were needed. Even Cooks went out. He was able to apply & go to Infantry School & became an 11B then due to some civilian training he had he later transitioned to Imagery Analyst when age crept up on him. He remained in the 75th. Had he stayed in his chances of promotion would have been better holding 3 MOSs. I myself held 3. Public Affairs, Commo & Infantry & that helped me jump ahead of my peers when it came time for promotion to E7 & E8 & getting latterly promoted to 1SG from MSG, both E8. That plus my 3 MOSs would have helped me to E9 had I not been forced to retire due to maximum age. I made the E9 list but projected promotion would have been after retirement.

Try for both option 40 & 18X. Either way you'll have to be in as good a shape as a world-class athlete. My son was in great shape being a wrestler & Judo champ but he was placed in PT with option 40 & 18X candidates. They pushed each other. He knows he would have lost a step had he done standard OSUT BCT. Airborne School was fairly easy but Ranger Indoc was still hard on everyone. He was very glad he was able to stay in good condition. Then their are the morning runs when in a Ranger Batt, LOL. Names like Suicide Hill & Cardiac Ridge come to mind, LOL. We had the Grinder in UDT training & running barefoot or in boots on loose sand at the squad level after getting into a Team, LOL. Of course we swam back - three miles there in sand & three miles back in cold water, LOL. Not done every day though, thankfully.

Keep the updates & questions coming. If I don't know the answers I'll tell you so & refer you to your Recruiter.

Spencer96
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Joined: 02/27/2017
@MSG Glenn

That answers the majority of my questions. I do have one more that comes to mind, though. Regardless of which route I take, I know I need to be in prime shape. I'm in OK shape, but by no means am I world class athlete shape. I'm a skinny guy at 6'5, and have never really been able to gain much weight.

What kind of physical standards should I be trying to meet? Any advice on that?

I currently run every day, 3 miles. Average run time only at 7:45ish per mile. At my fastest record I hit three miles in an awful 21:00.... I know, it's not that fast. I'm working on upping my speed by .1 mph every other day. I've got until next Januaryish regardless, so I'll get there, and then some.
Pushups and situps, also not good yet. I just made it my routine a few weeks ago to max out pushups 3 times before I go to bed and when I get up every morning. Then pullups before I can leave the house. Just little things like that to try and work on it when I am not at a gym. I go to the gym 5 days a week.

however, everyone has a different opinion on how to prepare. What did you find to be the most beneficial workouts? The majority has told me pushups, situps, and running are the most important things to focus on. Then, just to fill in the gaps maybe throw in other things like weights and what not.

What's your take on that? And did you ever have a certain routine you followed to prepare for your training? Whatever route I end up settling with, I do not want to "just get by". I want to be a top choice. If I make it to SFAS, and make it through, and still do not get selected, well, I can't let that be an option. I want them to want me in there.

MSG Glenn
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Joined: 08/31/2010
PT

Be able to pass the APFT with as high a score as possible. 100% is achievable.

One thing I found to be helpful is while watching TV do pushups alternating with situps each time an ad comes on. Continue running increasing your distance gradually.
Do other forms of cardio as well. Swimming, biking, rowing are a good way to save your legs for running. Lifting weights is another way.

My son prepared for the Rangers by doing just that plus he was very involved in Judo. He had wrestled from grade school through high school & did Judo since he was 9. He started right after the wrestling season ended.

Good luck & keep those progress reports coming.

Spencer96
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Joined: 02/27/2017
MSG Glenn

those are helpful ideas! I'll try those, too. I'll keep posting progress on that. I really appreciate your advice. Is there much swimming involved in SF training? I've never been much of a swimmer. Just wondering if that is something I should be working on as well.

MSG Glenn
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Joined: 08/31/2010
RE: Swimming

You don't have to be a good swimmer. You have to pass the Water Test in RASP & Ranger School. Since Rangers are tasked to do waterborne ops they want to make sure you can survive in case your boat gets dumped. The main thing is not to show any fear in & under the water. You'll have to do it with all your gear on, dump the gear & retrieve it. You'll have to swim a certain distance but form doesn't matter. As long as you get there. I have to assume that SF has the same or more requirements. They probably do as much in the water as SEALs do on land. Most SpecOps are pretty proficient for various ops.

Swimming is a very good exercise. It gives you plenty of cardio while being kind on your joints & tendons. I don't know if it's possible but a good idea would be to take some basic swimming classes. Maybe the YMCA. That's where I started & continued from there & I became a Navy Frogman, lol.

A good idea for you to do is try a search engine & search for anything concerning SF & Ranger training. Maybe starting with Ranger Assessment & Selection Program & SFAS. You should be able to find what the requirements to pass are & how to prepare for them.

Spencer96
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Joined: 02/27/2017
MSG Glenn

That sounds better than I expected. I can definitely try and take some classes to try and prepare for that. I'm not a great swimmer, but if it isn't a hardcore focus on swimming I should be just fine, especially after some basic lessons. I hate swimming. That's why I'd never even consider SEALS haha.

I'll look into the training for both routes and hopefully be able to make a decision soon. I'm leaving on a backpacking trip through Africa on the 10th of this month. My goal is to have a decision when I return in two weeks so I can just go ahead and sign for delayed enlistment until graduation and get my spot before it closes, just in case.

I made a huge several page pros and cons list between SF and Rangers, and they come out with almost the same amount of pros and cons between the two for me. It'll be a tough decision to choose one, but as you said, there is inter-breeding between SF and Rangers, maybe I can switch if I get into one and want to try something else. I think I'd be happy going either route, though.

MSG Glenn
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Joined: 08/31/2010
SF vs. 75th Regt.

Go for the one you can get the earliest contract if any are available for either.

The training for SF is much longer. Infantry OSUT, Airborne School, SFAS, SFQ, 18 series MOS school, language school, NCO School- not necessarily in that exact order. Training for Ranger Regt. is BCT, MOS School or if Infantry then you'd go to Infantry OSUT (which runs BCT back-to-back with Infantry School - same location, same Drill Sgts), Airborne School, RASP, assignment to a Ranger Batt. Sometime within about your 1st year in a Batt you'll be sent to Ranger School. All other training such as Breacher, Pathfinder, Air Assault School & a host of other specialized training that your unit might send you to is all done on your existing enlistment, usually 4 years minimum. I'm not sure what the minimum enlistment for SF is but at a guess I'd say longer than 4 years & I'm not sure if you'd have to do your full enlistment if you wash out of any phase of SF training. I'd say you'd have to do the full 6 (?) years. The bad part of busting either is even though you'd be Airborne qualified Airborne units probably wouldn't take you. You'd still be authorized to wear the Jump Wings, though.

Those are all factors you'd have to check out before deciding.

Many Green Berets got their start in the 75th & sometimes they go back for promotion to SGM or CSM. When I visited my son at 3rd Batt. at Ft. Benning I saw several Rangers in Tan Berets with Special Forces Tabs above their Ranger Tab. If they were still SF they'd wear the Green Beret.

Have a good trip. Stay safe & I'll catch ya when you get back.