Whether it is the MGIB or the Post 9/11 GI Bill; this single piece of contractual agreement that you have between yourself and the military that you once called home is one of the most beneficial things somebody will ever give you. I can’t stress this enough. The government might be taking away or “trimming down” Veteran’s Benefits left and right but so far this has, and in my opinion will continue to stay untouched. 36 months of fully paid tuition, a fully paid stipend for your books and other materials, and the best part: a monthly living allowance! For most of us (because it is dependent on location) that is roughly $18,000 a year from the VA just to GO to college! Most college students have to work full-time jobs to earn this amount of money while attending classes. You get it for free. And tack on a part-time job: you can easily be earning over $30,000 a year. Hell! Most new college graduates would be happy to find a career that pays in the $30s!
The GI Bill is a blessing – you get to be care free for a few years as long as you stay enrolled in classes and live a relatively simple life jumping around between part-time jobs. I worked at a jet ski/watersports rental place near Disney World loving life and spending half my time on the water. It was barely considered work! School was relatively easy for the most part but it definitely had its negative moments; the deadlines, the idiot fellow classmates, professors you disagreed with, tests/exams, etc. But if your only and legitimate excuse for not going to college is “I don’t want to deal with the young and inexperienced classmates.” You probably wouldn’t get very far in college much less life itself. Tough love, get over it.
If you can deal with getting through the military, and getting up at zero-dark-thirty every single day for four years along with dealing with the bureaucracy and menial tasks that we are all so familiar with. Then there is no reason you can’t get your undergraduate degree. The discipline is molded in you, it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Use the motivation and discipline before it’s too late. Before you get caught up working full-time jobs with no future potential. Before you get too comfortable in life. Granted college isn’t for everybody, but you will never know unless you tried. I personally hated high school and I even failed a class! I did two semesters in a community college in 2002 before I joined the Army and I loathed it more than anything. I couldn’t wait to get to the Army and deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan with the Rangers. Fast forward to 2007? I enjoyed school and I did well because I had a thirst for learning and bettering myself because I was more mature. As opposed to simply “doing what you’re socially supposed to after high school.” I knew that I had a great military background and with a college degree I would be unstoppable! That’s the mentality you need to have. And to be honest I had a great time for those three years because the GI Bill allowed me to do so.
Is it worth the effort? Simply put yes, depending on a few things. One, your degree and two, what you do right after graduating. As a non-college graduate you can definitely get a decent job in a wide array of fields. But you’ll get stagnant at a certain point and career improvements will be hard to find especially because higher level roles in established companies require a college education, regardless of what your experience level is. Unless you are an entrepreneur or in a very specific career field such as IT or government/defense contracting don’t expect to make anything above $55,000 a year. No matter how long you’ve been doing it. A college education makes all the difference when jumping the hurdles in career progression. That degree is the key to unlocking the doors and moving past the $55k range and on to the $70k range, to the $100k range, etc. You get the picture. You may not like it, you may not agree with it, but this is how our capitalistic society works and you must adapt to it.
I’m not your parents giving you the “you better go to college” speech. I’m just the guy who is telling you it is one of the best investments you can ever make for yourself. And I promise you this, you will never regret getting your degree. Become a college educated war veteran – the world will be yours.