Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.

For years the question that concerned many parents was, Can a student who was homeschooled through high school gain admittance into the college of his or her choice? For other parents, the question looming was, Can a student who was homeschooled through high school have a successful career in the military?

This article is focused on the latter and will discuss some of the options the military has to offer, and it also will present data that were collected recently from homeschoolers (or their parents on their behalf) who are currently serving in the military. It is not the purpose of this article to provide an exhaustive historical treatment of homeschoolers in the military but rather to present a look at what’s out there and what to consider.

If your child feels led to embark on a military career, he or she can choose from several options: (1) enlist in one of the military branches, (2) apply for admission to one of the military academies, or (3) attend college and apply to a branch of the military after graduation.

Enlistment

Military recruits have typically been placed in one of three groups: Tier 1 recruits have graduated from accredited high schools, Tier 2 recruits have dropped out of high school but have earned their General Equivalency Diploma (GED), and Tier 3 recruits comprise those who are high school dropouts without a GED. For years, since homeschooled students did not fit quite right into any of those groups, they were often considered high school dropouts, either with or without a GED. Recruits who were not classified as Tier 1 were required to score higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), and those individuals were not eligible for all the benefits available to Tier 1 recruits. Given this clearly unfair policy, the Home School Legal Defense Association(HSLDA) lobbied Congress to create an equitable enlistment. In 1998, with the help of the late Senator Paul Coverdell, this inequity was addressed and a five-year pilot program was started.

Each branch of the military would reserve 1,250 slots for homeschoolers. Homeschooled enlistees would be considered Tier 1 recruits, and their progress tracked. In 2007, the Department of Defense modified its enlistment policy such that homeschoolers who received an AFQT score of 50 or above would enlist as Tier 1. Those scoring below a 50 would enlist as Tier 2.

As a brief aside, what exactly is the AFQT? Basically, all recruits must take a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB includes nine subtests, four of which comprise the recruit’s AFQT score.

Well, with the clock ticking, HSLDA was afraid the Department of Defense (DOD) policy would revert to pre-1998 days, so they went to bat for homeschoolers once again. The result of their efforts was that the DOD would extend their policy through September 2012, so that most homeschool graduates would be able to continue enlisting as Tier 1 recruits, provided they scored a 50 or better on the AFQT.

It’s critical to prepare for and practice taking the ASVAB test. To better understand the ramifications of the ASVAB and AFQT scores, as well as their importance to a recruit, think of these scores like this: Scores on the AFQT determine a recruit’s eligibility for enlistment in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps. Scores on the ASVAB are used to determine the best job for that recruit in the military. Say you want to join the Air Force and you take the ASVAB. The AFQT score might meet the Air Force requirement and, if positions are available, you are in. Conversely, if your AFQT score is a little lower than the Air Force requirement, but at or above the required score of 50, you might find a recruiter steering you to a different branch of the military. The higher a recruit scores on the AFQT, the greater the chance of enlisting in the military branch of your choice, and if the ASVAB scores are high enough, the greater the job opportunities, as well as signing bonuses, promotions, specialized training, and choices of postings.