Is your teen interested in joining the military? With five branches and a huge variety of types of careers to choose from, the United States military offers hundreds of different kinds of opportunities!
So it’s important to help your student zero in on their specific military career goals as early as possible in high school—that way you can tailor their education to help them achieve their dreams.
Helping my teen identify their military career goals
Asking question like these can help your teen engage in a deeper look at their military options: “Am I eager to jump right in as an enlisted soldier or sailor—or do I want to become an officer?” “Would I prefer active duty or reserves?” “How long will I serve?” (And the all-important question . . . “which branch?!”)
Now, if you haven’t yet read part 1 in this series, we highly recommend you take a moment to check it out—it’s chock full of helpful steps (and tools—like career guidance tests and websites packed with useful career details) for walking with your teen through their career exploration process.
OK, now that you and your teen have those career exploration tools in your kit, here are some specific ways you can help your teen prepare for a military career.
(And by the way, yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s really smart to have your teen explore all of their options before making any military commitment, since joining the armed forces is a significant decision—you and your student will want to be as sure as possible that it aligns with their career and life goals.)
A couple of kinds of practical research can come in handy here to help your student develop confident answers to those questions at the beginning of this post:
- Together, you and your teen can take advantage of many online resources to thoroughly explore the different branches, careers, and enlistment routes available. A great place to start is at the US Bureau of Labor Statistic’s military section.
- You will also find it very helpful to talk with people you know who are or have been in the military—they can provide your teen with a realistic picture of military life and offer experienced advice.
Paths to military service
In this post, we’re focusing on two main paths to military service: enlisting after high school and attending a military academy. You can click on the titles below to get a more detailed look.
However, your teen might be interested in another slightly different path: some students choose to attend college—possibly participating in ROTC—before beginning their military service. (And if that’s your teen’s choice, you can get a bird’s-eye view of the college prep process right here.)
Enlisting after high school
If your homeschooled teen is planning to enlist after graduating, they should be prepared to submit their high school diploma, high school transcript, and verification of compliance with any state homeschool statute. But homeschoolers should not take the GED or seek a distance-learning diploma if they plan to enroll in the military. HSLDA members may contact our Legal Department for additional advice before enlisting in the military.
During high school, your student should:
- Pursue a strong academic program.
- Participate in extracurricular activities: sports, community/church involvement, skill-building opportunities, overseas/cross-cultural experiences.
- Become an independent learner.
- Develop motivational skills, accept responsibility, cultivate respect for authority, and develop perseverance.
Attending a military academy
Has your teen set their sights on attending a military academy? Students at the academies receive free college tuition and a strong, prestigious academic education. In exchange, they agree to serve in the military for a specified number of years upon graduating.
Each academy has its own entrance stipulations. Acceptance will require your student to:
- complete a rigorous college prep plan,
- score well on the SAT/ACT,
- pass a thorough physical examination,
- score high on a physical fitness test, and
- submit detailed course descriptions for all classes.
Military academies expect every applicant to have demonstrated leadership skills in their high school extracurricular activities. Recommended organizations for extracurricular participation include the Civil Air Patrol, JROTC, the Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and Scouts. And other recommended extracurricular activities include varsity athletics, community service, volunteer work, and academy summer sessions.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that the academies require students to have congressional or presidential appointments in order to be admitted. You can begin this process by contacting your US congressperson or senators.
OK, that was a lot of tips and tools! But, hopefully, now you and your teen are feeling equipped and confident that they can move steadily towards their military career goals.
And as always, if you are an HSLDA member, and have any questions about the enlistment process for homeschoolers—or anything at all related to homeschooling, please contact us. We’d love to help you!