Written by Santiago Leon

This weekend I had an opportunity to speak with a Marine that was 8 days away from getting out of military. This young man was a diesel mechanic and was completing his first contract and wanted to transition back to the civilian world. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “What are your plans were once you get out?”
Him: “I’m going to go to college.”
Me: “What do you want to study”.
Him: “I don’t know.” (very common answer for transitioning veterans,)
Me: “Do you not like being a mechanic?”
Him: “I do but since I paid into my GI Bill I may as well use it right. Truth is I don’t even like school. I don’t want to sit in a class and listen to someone talk at me all day. I prefer more hands on learning.”
Me: “ Than why don’t you go to a trade or vocational school? You can still use your education benefits and either reinforce your military experience with civilian certifications or learn another trade that is hands on like you like.”
Him: “You can do that? I didn’t know”

I ended the conversation with the Marine by providing him with a few contacts for representatives at local vocational schools and another one for college, I suggested him to reach out to each organization, listen to what they say, research and then make a decision.

The advice for the young Marine is not only for those transitioning out of the service, but for anyone who is considering secondary education. I enjoyed my time going to college and I have seen the positive impact it has made on my career but as the saying goes,

“If I only knew than what I know now.”

College is a great way to invest in your professional and personal development as well as a place to explore and learn new things but you also have to take into account the cost, time and commitment it takes. In my case, I took some courses that I did not need to, which pushed back my graduation date.

Make sure that you:

three things to do before deciding to go to college

to find out as much information as possible before making a decision to invest your money and time. This will help prepare you to choose the school, classes and major for your profession.

Also, look into other secondary education programs and schools. Traditional colleges are not a one size fits all institution. If you like working with your hands, look in to vocational training and apprenticeship programs. If you are unsure of what to do, reach out and talk with professionals in the industry you are interested in. Volunteer with organizations that you are passionate about to get a sense of what life would be like working in a certain industry.

On Monday the Marine called and thanked me for the advice. He has already scheduled an informational interview with a couple of the contacts I provided him. The advice I gave him is the same I give to you, don’t be so quick to go to college. Take the time to factor in your career goals, learning styles and your ability to commit to the program. By doing this you will find yourself better prepared to tackle on whatever road you select.