With an economic recession on the way, a college that
offers free education and guarantees a job after graduation
seems like a dream come true. It's not such a distant
fantasy for some.
Instead of matriculating into conventional college,
some students decide to go to military academies or
colleges for the education and discipline it offers.
There are four major federal service academies sponsored
by the U.S. government and supported by taxpayers, so
there is no tuition.
According to Sandra Padgett, director of college counseling
at The Harker School in San Jose, Calif., "the
kids pay nothing in exchange for serving in the military
after graduation, but it's a gamble because they might
end up shot or blown up in Iraq."
"It's something students need to seriously consider,"
Finding common values
Senior Kyle Mui has considered this option by applying
to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The school
requires all graduates to serve in the Navy for at least
Mui first started thinking about military college on
a trip back from Japan the summer before his junior
year. He met a naval officer and felt that their "interests
lined up." Participating in a military summer camp
last summer reinforced his interest.
"The people there value the same things that I
do," he said. "I want to be like them."
Will Courchesne, who graduated last year, is at the
Citadel in South Carolina. He applied early at the end
of his junior year. By his senior year, he knew he was
accepted and went to an overnight program in October.
"After that, I decided that I wasn't going to
apply to any other college," he said. Unlike federal
service academies, the Citadel does not require the
students to do service after graduation. Courchesne
has until his junior year to decide if he wants to enter
the armed services. But regardless of his decision,
Courchesne said graduates of the Citadel come out with
a special bond.
"If someone has the Citadel ring then you know
they went through the same hell as you did. Because
he has the ring, he's your brother."
A stricter environment
Besides post-graduation military service, military college
differs from conventional colleges because of the strict
schedule and strict code of conduct.
The punishment for getting caught with alcohol is severe.
Students caught with drugs have their scholarship immediately
revoked and risk expulsion.
"It's more structured and more regulated than
regular college, and also emphasizes physical exercise,"
said Mui, who is also a football player. "Most
[other] colleges don't train the whole person."
However, senior Hassan Shenasa, who had considered
military college because of its free education, was
concerned about the academics.
"Military school doesn't have the same academic
opportunities as regular colleges," Hassan said.
"There's not as much in the sciences like research
Lieutenant Dan Doyle, western U.S. regional director
of admissions at the Naval Academy disagrees.
"All graduates take a core curriculum with a good
dose of math and science classes in order to prepare
them for possible service selection in any warfare community
upon graduation," he said.
The academy also has very small class sizes-none larger
than 25 students.
Junior Kevin Wang, whose focus is more academic than
military, said he thinks he would be rejected because
of the high physical standards at military schools.
Ninety percent of the students that were accepted last
year at the Naval Academy played at least one varsity
sport in high school.
"I'm not disciplined enough," Wang said.
"As a person, I'm pretty physically inept."
Wang also said he wouldn't want to serve in the military
because he disagrees with the war.
Junior Arman Gupta's father was initially shocked when
he brought up the idea of military school, but his father
warmed to the idea. "My mom doesn't want me to go since
she's scared," Gupta said.
For others, there is not much of a choice. "I'm
Swiss. We have to do military service for one year or
less," said Raphael Cottier, a senior and an exchange
student from Switzerland.
Despite all the restrictions at military schools, Courchesne
feels that military college is a great opportunity to
"grow as a person and have [his] maturity level
"When you suffer through the same things, that
bonds people together."