A few days ago, I received an email from a reader about the Academy. He had several standard questions, but one question in particular stood out to me. He asked, “What makes it all worthwhile?” I think this is a great question for everyone thinking about coming to the Academy. The academics are tough. The day-to-day life is called “the grind” around here because it can be so difficult. We are held to higher standards of appearance, conduct, athleticism, and performance than the vast majority of colleges. Is the effort to deal with all of that really worth it? The answer to me is absolutely yes.
It is up to each reader to determine the answer for themselves, but I have a few ideas to put forth for you if you’re not sure. After graduating from the Academy, you get the honor of serving as a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard (which is a part of the U.S. military). The work you put in at the Academy is aimed at preparing you to succeed as an officer. If you want to be very successful at your job, then putting up with everything at the Academy is well worth it. The Academy is only four years, whereas you have a payback tour of five in the real Coast Guard, so you spend more time using the skills that you learned than you do at the Academy. In the operational Coast Guard, you could be saving people’s lives or performing other jobs that are crucial to the protection and safety of this country.
I am biased toward serving in the Coast Guard as being the most worthwhile aspect of going to the Academy, but another major benefit is that the Academy is totally free to attend. In fact, you get paid to go to school. The value of an education at the Academy, when combined with the costs of food and living expenses, etc., can cost over $400,000. There aren’t many other schools that invest that much money into their students while still paying them. The free education can certainly make the four years here worth it. You get a high level of education and a Bachelor of Science degree in your major upon graduation.
The final major benefit of going to the Academy is that you are guaranteed to have a job after graduation. There is a five year payback tour, as I mentioned before, but after that you may decide to stay in the Coast Guard or move on. After service in the military, many additional job opportunities open up because of the respect that employers have for service in the military. In the current state of our economy, that is a huge benefit.
For anyone interested in the Academy, it is important to have a belief that being at the Academy is worthwhile. It gives you a goal to strive toward as you complete the four years here.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at Hunter.D.Stowes@uscga.edu. I’m always open for questions!
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