Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

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wupNsup
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Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby wupNsup » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:15 pm

Hi everyone, brand new to the forum here as I feel this is the best place to get the information I'm interested in.

So my original plan was to apply for law school this september, and be off when the Fall semester started next year. However, I have recently become interested in joining the Coast Guard and working my way up into the SAR units. However, I still hold an interest in law school. I have been doing a lot of research and can't seem to find a definitive answer on the subject, which is: will the Coast Guard help me financially with the tuition for a law school of my choosing (with my grades and LSAT I can get into / want to go to University of Pennsylvania, in case that matters)?

Since I already have a degree I would go into the OCS to become an officer, and the minimum active duty is 3 years, which I may go longer since I have a feeling I will really enjoy my work. After looking through certain articles, namely the PG-Advanced Education Process Guide, I have seen some mentioning of this: if you want the Coast Guard to pay for further education, including a JD, you will have to serve 3 months for every 1 month of education for first year, then 1 month for every 1 month after that, so in other words 5 years of service for 3 years of law school. Is this correct? I want to study corporate law and the PG-Advanced guide says "law students do not specialize in any one area of law." I'm unsure if this is just a general statement about JDs or if this is indicative of the kind of curriculum I'd be forced to take for the CG to pay for it.

I know this is rather lengthy, but I'm having trouble finding closure on the matter. It's either I join the CG nowish, and do law school after, or I take the LSAT this October and head to law school next Fall. Should I take my LSAT before joining the CG either way? I know the scores are only good for 5 years, so what if my service goes beyond that?

By the way, I've already read this thread but it doesn't really seem to answer my questions: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=111722

Thanks in advance, and again sorry this is so long.

Gideon Strumpet
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby Gideon Strumpet » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:23 am

Look for information on the GI Bill. Depending on how long you serve, you will come out with some guaranteed amount of money that you can use for education after your enlistment ends. That's money you get based on your completed service, so you don't have to make any further commitment in order to get it.

The programs that pay for grad school with the assumption that you will come back into service after you're done tend to be extremely selective; the regulars in the Military Law thread can give you better advice on that. Prior military service never hurts for getting a JAG position after law school either; although it doesn't guarantee anything, and JAG is not generally going to pay for law school.

If you think you would like serving in the Coast Guard, and not knowing anything else about you, I would say go ahead and do it. Making money, having benefits, getting some money for school, and doing something other than law school for three years is probably the credited move. Also, if you have finished college, you should be able to apply for OCS if you want rather than enlisting.

There is generally no such thing as a "major" or "specialty" in law school; you can take pretty much whatever you want second and third years. You can take several courses in one area that interests you, but many people just take whatever lets them sleep in latest, or take an array of things that will be generally useful or that they have some personal interest in.

For some jobs there are some courses you will be expected to have taken; Evidence, Crim Pro, and Trial Ad for someone who wants to be a prosecutor or PD, for instance. People who want to do tax should obviously take Tax at some point. People going to big firms will tend to take Corporations and maybe Accounting for Idiots or whatever your law school calls it. But that's about it.

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Rotor
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby Rotor » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:51 am

Advice from a Navy veteran: if you want to serve, serve. If you want to do SAR, as an officer you won't be a rescue swimmer, if that's what you are looking for; but you can go to flight school in Pensacola to become a SAR helicopter pilot or go to a staff after SAR Planner school. But I would dissuade you from conflating your two career goals for the reasons Guideon outlined above. USCG will likely only pay for your JD if you go JAG and that doesn't sound like what you want.

And yes, you can be successful in LS and landing a job even after a substantial amount of time of uniformed service (I was in over 20 years). The work experience you get will help in the apps process and job hunt.

Finally, as Guideon mentioned the GI Bill will be your best bet. To clarify one thing though, in its current iteration, it's not a fixed amount (that was the old Montgomery GI Bill). Instead, if you have 3 years of qualifying service VA will cover full tuition/fees at public schools and up to 17500 per year at private schools. So, you expressed an interest in Penn, but despite its name, it's a private school and you may be better off going to a peer school like UVA, Mich. or Berkeley. Penn may participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program which could cover the amounts over 17,500 so go check out gibill.va.gov. Of course, anything GI Bill related is subject to changing legislation (and school participation in the case of YRP), so that's something to be mindful of as you make your decision to stay in the service or not.

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Rotor
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby Rotor » Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:00 am

Forgot to add: before signing anything with your recruiter, get any promises for school, initial assignments, duty stations, etc. in writing.

Semper Paratus.

wupNsup
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby wupNsup » Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:37 am

Thanks a lot everyone for your responses; its just the kind of clarification I needed.

Rotor, you mentioned that as an officer I won't be a rescue swimmer. Why is this? Being a pilot interested me, but I read some information that said prior flight experience was necessary to become a SAR pilot (I could be wrong, some of the military jargon is still unclear to me, I would have to go back and check). So I can be an officer and be a SAR pilot? That sounds great, especially if the school is in Pensacola, since I live in Florida anyway.

The information about private school funding doesn't strike me as a huge surprise. My top 5 aside from UofPenn were Virginia, Chicago, Anne Arbor, and Boston, so if need be I would still be overjoyed to go to one of those schools. I should have mentioned I plan on going into corporate law, but after Coast Guard who knows I may find a new interest in Maritime Law or some other form, and maybe the JAG would appeal to me more then.

When I see a recruiter, what precisely should I ask him and make sure that I get in writing. I've been warned about recruiters as being sort of shady, almost con-men-esque, so any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Again, thanks a lot for the information everyone, I'm going to check the GI bill now.

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Rotor
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby Rotor » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:12 pm

wupNsup wrote:Rotor, you mentioned that as an officer I won't be a rescue swimmer. Why is this? Being a pilot interested me, but I read some information that said prior flight experience was necessary to become a SAR pilot (I could be wrong, some of the military jargon is still unclear to me, I would have to go back and check). So I can be an officer and be a SAR pilot? That sounds great, especially if the school is in Pensacola, since I live in Florida anyway.
Basically, it's because Coast Guard rescue swimmers are "Aviation Survival Technicians," an enlisted "rating" (i.e., job specialty).

This is a function of the division of responsibilities between officer & enlisted within the services. Where the line is drawn varies a bit service to service, but in general jobs requiring high technical skill (like rescue swimming and EMT, helicopter maintenance techs, shipboard firefighters, among many many others) are reserved for enlisted personnel. Those that are more general command responsibilities (like the pilots as aircraft commanders) are for officers. The more cynically inclined would say that the dividing line is between jobs that require hard work (enlisted) and those that don't (officer). Note: This is an exceptionally broad generalization and is really a false dichotomy. Clearly pilots need to have technical skill to do what they do, and leadership skills in the enlisted ranks is also essential and superb. Just trying to explain why you won't be an officer rescue swimmer.

wupNsup wrote:When I see a recruiter, what precisely should I ask him and make sure that I get in writing. I've been warned about recruiters as being sort of shady, almost con-men-esque, so any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.
Just tell him/her what you want to do. Have a conversation and see what they say about how you can accomplish your goals within the Coast Guard. During that conversation, though, realize they are really in the business of advertising and have quotas to meet for bringing people in in the right specialties.

If you do decide to go enlisted (which you absolutely can do even though you have a degree if that's what you want to do), be sure to get your swimmer training guaranteed in writing-- specifically a guarantee for "AST A-School" (where you go to learn to be an aviation rescue swimmer). Also, ask how they assign your first duty station and see if you can get that in writing too. (likely not, but it's worth asking if you want to be somelace in particular.

Similar questions if you want to go to flight school to become a pilot. Is your flight training guaranteed after OCS? How long is the wait to get into OCS then down to Pensacola? What is the required service committment .

These are only scratching the surface, but most you'll be able to think of on your own as things you are curious about during this "conversation" with the recruiter. Don't sign the first time you go talk with them. Take notes, then come back and do what you can to do your own research to confirm the things that are said. Once you are comfortable, THEN go back and sign. Don't worry they will follow up with you!

Good luck.

wupNsup
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby wupNsup » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:54 pm

Hmm, so what exactly are the benefits of starting as an officer, as opposed to just being an enlisted personnel? I know officers start at a higher pay, but is there anything else aside from that? I am pretty set on doing the rescue swimmer, even though I know the fail rate is tremendously high. If I choose to not become an officer, do I just go straight to basic? Or is there an equivalent pre-training sort of classwork I need to do, comparable to OCS. (Do you do OCS before or after basic?). Sorry for asking so many questions, its just better to hear it straight from someone who knows rather than reading the very biased, advertise-esque information from a website.

Edit: I also just noticed when you said this "USCG will likely only pay for your JD if you go JAG and that doesn't sound like what you want."

Is that to say that, even with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which says tuition for law school after 3 years of active duty can be 100% payed for, along with housing subsidy and supply stipend, theres a chance they may not pay for anything? That would be a real bummer to sign up for all of this, only to find out after my service that they wont pay for law school because I would rather not go JAG.

I know LSAT scores are good for 5 years, should I take it before going to the CG (meaning, this october), or just wait until I'm out? I'm leaning toward the latter, in case I choose to extend my duty.

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Rotor
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby Rotor » Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:41 pm

wupNsup wrote:Hmm, so what exactly are the benefits of starting as an officer, as opposed to just being an enlisted personnel? I know officers start at a higher pay, but is there anything else aside from that? I am pretty set on doing the rescue swimmer, even though I know the fail rate is tremendously high. If I choose to not become an officer, do I just go straight to basic? Or is there an equivalent pre-training sort of classwork I need to do, comparable to OCS. (Do you do OCS before or after basic?). Sorry for asking so many questions, its just better to hear it straight from someone who knows rather than reading the very biased, advertise-esque information from a website.
As a swimmer candidate, you'll go straight to basic. Normally you would go straight to AST A-school after that, but because of school backlogs, end of fiscal year funding, etc., you may have to wait for a school date. One other word of warning. You are correct: swimmer programs are notoriously high attrition. But, if you enlist and wash out of swimmer school, you don't just get to say OK, thanks for letting me try-out, I'd like to go home now (or become an officer now, etc.) You'll be reassigned to a rating-- usually one that is otherwise undermanned.

As for starting off as an officer, pay is one of the most direct benefits you'll see. But, for me at least, I wanted the leadership challenge out of the gate. Enlisted have to work up to Non-commissioned officer before getting substantial leadership responsibilities. Other benefits include better shipboard living conditions, typically more permissive liberty (shore-leave) policies, etc.
wupNsup wrote:Edit: I also just noticed when you said this "USCG will likely only pay for your JD if you go JAG and that doesn't sound like what you want."

Is that to say that, even with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which says tuition for law school after 3 years of active duty can be 100% payed for, along with housing subsidy and supply stipend, theres a chance they may not pay for anything? That would be a real bummer to sign up for all of this, only to find out after my service that they wont pay for law school because I would rather not go JAG.
No, no , no. When I say USCG won't pay-- that means the active duty department. GI Bill is administered by the VA and as long as you put in your qualifying service and get an honorable discharge (or general dischargein most cases) VA will pay. What I meant is that there are active duty programs where the service will pay for a degree, but it usually requires that you "use" that degree for the benefit of the service when you are done.

wupNsup wrote:I know LSAT scores are good for 5 years, should I take it before going to the CG (meaning, this october), or just wait until I'm out? I'm leaning toward the latter, in case I choose to extend my duty.

I would wait. Your contract time may not start until you become a swimmer (or a pilot if you go that route). But for that you'll have to ask the recruiter if you'd have any funky clauses like that in your school contract. But for a typical four year enlistment, you're going to be at the back end of the five year window anyway. On the other hand, do you really want to be studying for the LSAT when you're on deployment or something which could be a possibility.

wupNsup
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Re: Question about Coast Guard and Law School Timing / Funding

Postby wupNsup » Mon Jun 13, 2011 10:10 am

Ah ok I figured thats what you meant about the USCG paying while on active duty. Thanks a ton for the info. I think I'll stick with the officer route. Is OCS before or after basic?

EDIT: Nevermind, I understand now that OCS pretty much is basic for officers. They don't do both.




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