Alternative Ways to Meet Your Goals Without Joining The Military

Note: This page is in the process of being updated. Please excuse broken links.

There are many reasons people consider joining the military. You may be thinking about money for college, job training or the physical challenge. You may just need to get out of the house, out of the neighborhood, out on your own. You may want to travel, serve your country, or do something meaningful with your life.

Before you consider enlistment, it is important to know of the hundreds of other options available for you.

Paying for College

The government provides financial aid to help students pay for college. There are also millions of dollars available in scholarships and grants.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Apply for student financial aid from the federal government, including grants, loans, & work-study. Its free. You can download FAFSA forms in English or Spanish, get help filling out the forms and track the status of your application. www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Federal Student Aid Information Center 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

Scholarship Search Tools. There are several web tools that help you search for scholarships.

Various National Scholarships and Grants

Getting Ready For College

Free SAT/ACT Test Prep:

CollegePrep-101
A Web-based Course to Help Students Prepare for College.

Job Training & Trade Schools:

Want to become a culinary artist or learn cosmetology? Maybe, you want to learn a skilled trade that will provide you with a good living. If this type of future is where you see yourself heading, but you don’t have the necessary skills, you can get job training from a variety of sources. Non-profits, community colleges, large corporations and vocational schools provide the necessary skills training to do a variety of jobs and skilled trades. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate among military veterans age 20-24 is three times higher than the national average. Before you think about the military, check out these options.

Directories and Databases

Be sure to do a background check on a school before signing up. Many of them are completely legit, but some are a rip-off. Here are some tips on how to do this.

National Opportunities>

  • Job Corps. This program gets you out of the house, and provides academic, vocational, and social skills training you need to gain independence and get quality, long-term jobs or further your education.
  • YouthBuild. Teaches young people how to build new homes for people in need, and new lives for themselves. Receive a combination of classroom academic and job skills development and on-site training in a construction trade.
  • Americorps. Jobs in all types of community programs. Provides training, work experience, stipend and scholarships.

Finding a Job

Finding a job is a lot of work. Start by checking out your local newspapers to get an idea of what is out there and what you are qualified for.

Job Search Sites:

See the World : Living/Working/Volunteering Abroad

“Traveling” with the military doesn’t exactly mean traveling. If you are lucky enough not to get sent to a war zone, you’ll spend most of your time on a US military base, oftentimes to a country that doesn’t welcome the US Army. “Traveling” with the Navy can mean 6 months confined to a ship, without ever going ashore. If this is not what you have in mind, there are many other options.

  • Peace Brigades International (Guatemala, Columbia, and Indonesia). PBI offers volunteer positions, paid job positions (which are limited) and internships.
  • Service Civil International. Has short term (2- weeks) and long term (3-12 months) opportunities that costs approximately $175 plus cost of travel. Includes food and housing.
  • VE Global Voluntarios de la Esperanza. This program offers an intensive (living with host family) and part time (mostly administrative work) program in Chile. This unpaid program last three months and will require some out of pocket expenses.
  • Operations Crossroads Africa Volunteers. Volunteer work in Africa. Program costs $3500.
  • Independent Volunteer. Volunteer database of work around the world organized by country and type of work.
  • Global Crossroad. Global Crossroad organizes volunteer and internship programs.
  • Global Volunteers. Global Volunteers organizes teams of volunteers to work in local communities and help with projects run by local leaders.

There are many useful books and websites on cheap travel. You can get them at your local library or buy them used on amazon.com for very little money.

  • Finding Voluntary Work Abroad: All the Information You Need for Getting Valuable Work Experience Overseas (How-to Series) by Mark Hempshell
  • Cheap!: "How-To" Strategies and Tips for Free Flights & Cheap Travel, by Vicki Mills
  • You Can Travel Free, Robert William Kirk
  • How to Go Almost Anywhere for Almost Nothing, Maureen Hennessy
  • Encyclopedia of Cheap Travel (Updated Annually), Terrance Zepke

Challenge Yourself

There are many ways to challenge yourself physically & mentally. There are other careers that command respect. Here are some things to check out:

Serving your Country

Many young people feel that the only way they can serve their country and community is to join the military. That is not true! There are many opportunities to become a hero, build communities, and promote peace and justice without risking your life or taking another.

An excellent book of alternatives called “It’s My Life” is available FREE to youth. Websites that can give you some ideas, tips, next steps, and local, national, and international professional and volunteer opportunities:

For more information:
Ya-Ya Network*
212-239-0022

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
215-241-7176

Project YANO
760-753-5718

War Resisters League
212-288-6193 / 212-288-0450

Central Committee for Conscience Objectors (CCCO)
215-563-8787

New York Civil Liberties Union
212.607.3300
ctolliver@nyclu.org

*The Ya-Ya Network compiled this document.