Considering the Military? Here’s What Hillsdale Has to Offer

Written by Jacquelyn Eubanks

I almost joined the military right out of high school.

I say almost because at the last second, I got accepted into a ministry that would let me do a year of mission work. I decided to do that before committing to either four years at a college or four years in the military.

Throughout the mission year, I wrestled with my desire to join the military. Most people thought it was a phase I was going through, and that the mission year would get it out of my system. I’m not exactly an intimidating specimen; as a barely five-foot-three female, I’ve been mistaken for a fifteen-year-old in the not-too-distant past.

When I got to Hillsdale College after my mission year ended, I still couldn’t shake the desire to join the military. Sadly, Hillsdale didn’t have ROTC, so I felt I was out of luck. My dream would just have to die.

Then in the fall of my sophomore year, I saw it: the Marine Corps recruitment booth at The Source, an event in which businesses, student clubs, and other organizations advertise themselves to students. Gathering my nerve, I made the decision to walk up and actually talk to one of the guys in uniform standing at the information table. I put my name, phone number, and email down on a clipboard. And then I asked what I had just signed up for.

The young man at the booth introduced me to a program I had never heard of before: OCS, or Officer Candidate School—kind of like ROTC but for the Marine Corps. If I could successfully go through an application process, get accepted into the program, pass a summer-long boot camp, and keep up impeccable physical fitness all year (as well as a good GPA), then I could go into the Marines as an officer after graduation.

And it turns out that the OCS program at Hillsdale is becoming more developed to include military classes, seminars, and other group activities to keep up training throughout the semester. So it’s becoming more and more like ROTC programs at other colleges.

It was the solution to the desire I’d been wrestling with for years. I could finish up my four years at my beloved Hillsdale College, get my degree, and go into the military—everything I wanted to do, like pieces of a puzzle coming together. I didn’t have to transfer to a school with ROTC, and I didn’t have to give up my dream of joining the military. It was a perfect solution.

But it’s not easy. Ask anyone at Hillsdale who has already gone through OCS (I haven’t yet). They’ve told me it’s exhausting and difficult and at times demoralizing. You’re expected to perform to the best of your ability and work harder than you thought you ever could. But doing this work leads to excellence, and as Hillsdale’s motto reminds me every time I hit the gym, “Strength rejoices in the challenge.”

When I think of the United States Marine Corps, I always picture the photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. After one of the worst battles of WWII in the Pacific, the American Marines having fought their hardest and lost many lives, they eventually achieved victory. That is the kind of legacy I want to be a part of.

So if you’re considering joining the military, if you’ve been tempted to enlist out of high school but aren’t sure whether it would be better to get your degree first, if you’re looking at other schools with established ROTC programs—let my experience offer you a different perspective.

You can serve your country and get a great education. You can go to Hillsdale and join the military as an officer after graduation. You don’t have to compromise or sacrifice one for the other. You can have both.

Jacky Eubanks Jacquelyn Eubanks, ’20, is a politics major with a penchant for writing. She spends most of her time as a coffee-sipping novelist dreaming of life as a fast-paced urbanite à la “Friends.” You can find her currently on social media (@TheJackyEubanks) and hopefully someday atop a mountain.

Published in February 2019.