Officer at 18

Adam1441

Clanker
Hello, I would really like to go to Sandhurst straight after sixth form, but I am not sure whether or not I would be at a disadvantadge to other recruits (as I would not have a degree, being younger etc.). Is there actually any disadvantage for those joining straight at 18, or not? I have seen quite a few people on other sites saying that an 18 year old getting in would be virtually impossible as they "do not have the life experience".

Any advice is welcome:)
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
Getting in is one thing, doing the job well is another thing entirely.

Anecdata:

I worked with two who went to RMAS at 18. One had an MC a few years after, the other was pushed to the sidelines and left as soon as possible because he was just too immature to do the job properly. The interesting part was that with a bit more maturity he went on to be a well respected team leader on the private circuit.

Put age aside and have a long hard look at your own levels of maturity, response to stressful situations and aspirations after the military.
 
I might be a bit out of date here given that I went into officer training (RN) 20 years ago, but if you've got the right character there were usually more advantages than disadvantages to going at 18 instead of 21 - for a start you've got time to do more jobs on your way up the ladder. Equally, more recently at BRNC there was a bit of a groundswell that they'd tilted too far in favour of grads, who were bolshy and less likely to do as they were told, and what they really wanted was the 18 year olds who they could mould...

swings and roundabouts. If you're the right 18 year old, given they do take 18 year olds, you'll get in. After that it's what you make of it.
 

Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
About a quarter of OCdts are non graduate. The youngest are 18. Give it a go and if you don’t meet the standard, go and do something else for a year or two, then try again.

The important thing to understand is that you are not in competition with others, there is simply a standard to be met in showing potential.
 
To echo what the chap above said - @The_Duke - it depends on how mature you are. Along with that are you one to take the initiative without being told, or directed.

I saw a fair few young officers over the years who should not be allowed to supervise a group of boy scouts, and others who were very conscienious, and capable go-getters. I worked on the officer recruitment team of my Corps and over a couple of years it became very apparent that the successful candidates in our selection process were the more mature, better rounded individuals, who in the most part went on to pass AOSB.

Whilst attending outward bound courses (as a participant) I got to know a few of the other participants who had been sent along by, or pestered, their families to send them to build some character, leadership skills and test themselves before attending AOSB (RCB as was). If you are still at school go and:

- get involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, or
- do the mountain leader courses, or
- join your school climbing/caving/canoeing club,
- do the Devizes to Westminster Canoe thing,
- do Ten Tors,
- Pack a rucksack and spend 6 days walking the Ridgeway from Ivinghoe Beacon to Marlborough - or a similar long walk, (hint: do it as a group and it counts as an expedition for DoE)
- Swim the Channel,
- learn to scuba dive,
- learn parachuting,
- take up martial arts.

Not all of them, just a couple or three, stuff that will develop your character, make you more interesting, teach you something, and give you something to speak about with enthusiasm and knowledge at interview.
 
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Adam1441

Clanker
So what you're saying is, an 18 year old with more character and maturity (and also more determination) would easily look "better" to the training staff at Sandhurst?
Getting in is one thing, doing the job well is another thing entirely.

Anecdata:

I worked with two who went to RMAS at 18. One had an MC a few years after, the other was pushed to the sidelines and left as soon as possible because he was just too immature to do the job properly. The interesting part was that with a bit more maturity he went on to be a well respected team leader on the private circuit.

Put age aside and have a long hard look at your own levels of maturity, response to stressful situations and aspirations after the military.
Thank you (I've seen from some of the other answers that maturity is very important). Just one quick question, what is an "MC"?
I might be a bit out of date here given that I went into officer training (RN) 20 years ago, but if you've got the right character there were usually more advantages than disadvantages to going at 18 instead of 21 - for a start you've got time to do more jobs on your way up the ladder. Equally, more recently at BRNC there was a bit of a groundswell that they'd tilted too far in favour of grads, who were bolshy and less likely to do as they were told, and what they really wanted was the 18 year olds who they could mould...

swings and roundabouts. If you're the right 18 year old, given they do take 18 year olds, you'll get in. After that it's what you make of it.
So what you're saying is, an 18 year old with more character and maturity (and also more determination) would easily look "better" to the training staff at Sandhurst?
 

Adam1441

Clanker
About a quarter of OCdts are non graduate. The youngest are 18. Give it a go and if you don’t meet the standard, go and do something else for a year or two, then try again.

The important thing to understand is that you are not in competition with others, there is simply a standard to be met in showing potential.
Sounds like some great advice, I guess there is nothing to lose from just trying and then trying again later if needs be
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
So what you're saying is, an 18 year old with more character and maturity (and also more determination) would easily look "better" to the training staff at Sandhurst?

Thank you (I've seen from some of the other answers that maturity is very important). Just one quick question, what is an "MC"?

So what you're saying is, an 18 year old with more character and maturity (and also more determination) would easily look "better" to the training staff at Sandhurst?
An MC is a Military Cross - awarded for gallantry/leadership in combat.

You appear to have missed my point. Think beyond AOSB and RMAS - the officer I mentioned earlier got through both of those, but he was still found wanting when he started work.

Do you have any people around you that would give you honest, if painful, feedback? If so, ask them how they view you in terms of maturity, reaction to stress, ability to take the knocks yet still think on your feet.

If they can’t answer positively because you haven’t experienced those things yet (or have, but didn’t respond well) you need to have the honesty to ask yourself if you feel ready to be leading others.

It doesn’t matter if the answer is no, as it may well be just “not yet”. University, work, travel, volunteering etc can all give those experiences, and allow you to have a life before the army.
 
Personally, to slightly contradict myself from yesterday, I'd still go in (as I did) after university - it gives you a fall back option and university's much more fun at 18 than it is trying to do it as a mature student with a mortgage and children (though in some cases the additional maturity might focus the mind and mean you get a better degree). Of the 18YOs I joined with, some were really wet behind the ears (one in particular came across like he was worried about his SATs, never mind his A Levels), and some were outstanding. If you're one of the outstanding ones then crack on.

Don't underestimate the growing up you do between 18 and 21. Having said that, there is secret option C, which a couple of the more outstanding of my entry did - go to work for 2 years and rock up degreeless at 20... the choice isn't school leaver *or* grad.
 
Hi @Adam1441 have you approached an army careers office, sat down and had a chat over a cup of tea? The staff are very good at discussing options and are also pretty good at assessing and suggesting a way forward. They won't tell you but they may steer you. Applying at 18 isn't a problem.

My own experience - dad was RN. I took various tests and interviews and was accepted, subject to A- levels, to progress to BRNC at 18. It was considered background, attitude, realistic knowledge of what was expected were all good. I developed a chemical dermatitis which would be an obvious problem as an engineer officer and I didn't want to do anything other than engineering so I became a trainee land surveyor. I could have joined RNVR as a hydrographer but I joined the Royal Engineers (the TA (before it became reserves) and progressed an army career as a side line to my civilian professional career.

1 - I was most certainly a different character at 21 than I was at 18
2 - Do you have any realistic experience of the joys and frustrations of military life of whatever service?
3 - The reserves gave me a great insight and as the recruiting sergeant said "I obviously had a good life with a career ahead. Why give it all up to join the army without having an insight, join this TA unit and see if you like it ...."
4 - Look to the future and career options. I have friends leaving the army as half colonels and full colonels, RAF as squadron leaders and wing commanders (it's that sort of village). Some are quite lost. Others are doing great things but all seem to be related to MOD/defence work
5 - Go and have tea at a recruiting office.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
About a quarter of OCdts are non graduate. The youngest are 18. Give it a go and if you don’t meet the standard, go and do something else for a year or two, then try again.

The important thing to understand is that you are not in competition with others, there is simply a standard to be met in showing potential.
...at AOSB.

This is rather short-termist advice. Certainly it is possible to get into and through AOSB & RMAS as a non-graduate. I understand that RMAS avoids the longer-term career stuff because it doesn't see that as its job, but that is just about what is in RMAS interests, as an average across the whole group of potential cadets. That's not the same as the best interests of the OP.

Regardless of where you end up in the Army, and regardless of how fair / valid the criteria, you are in competition with others from the point you commission, implicitly or explicitly. When you look at who is competitive at Major and above these days, they are almost exclusively graduates, even those who are ex-soldiers or non-graduates have mostly taken degrees as part of or during service.

As far as the OP is concerned @The_Duke is far more on the money in suggesting that he think about the long-term implications.
 

Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
The course at Sandhurst now counts as the first third of a BSc in Leadership and Strategic Studies. It's called the Higher Education Pathway. Later junior officers are also mapped into this leaving 5 modules to be completed, so there is an opportunity for all non grads to acquire a degree in their first 4 or 5 years in the Army.

 

Truxx

LE
So what you're saying is, an 18 year old with more character and maturity (and also more determination) would easily look "better" to the training staff at Sandhurst?

Thank you (I've seen from some of the other answers that maturity is very important). Just one quick question, what is an "MC"?

So what you're saying is, an 18 year old with more character and maturity (and also more determination) would easily look "better" to the training staff at Sandhurst?
When I went those straight from school were the majority. In maturity terms I would put it to the Jury that by the time he was 22 a young officer of the day, having been a troop or platoon commander including (at the time) an NI tour would knock a 3rd year Zoology* student into a cocked hat.

* other fascinating but essentially useless degrees are available.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
The course at Sandhurst now counts as the first third of a BSc in Leadership and Strategic Studies. It's called the Higher Education Pathway. Later junior officers are also mapped into this leaving 5 modules to be completed, so there is an opportunity for all non grads to acquire a degree in their first 4 or 5 years in the Army.

Fair enough. These are the facts.

The context is that those kinds of degrees are meaningless in either an academic or later career context, I suspect largely meaningless in an Army context, and basically fill a box-ticking requirement "has degree" or "has masters". Which is enough to get you past an automated sift of any CV, and no further.

My bet is that it will also be meaningless in an Army context, because everyone in the Army knows it is an Army-only thing, and therefore is standard and so has minimal value. This is exactly what happened with officer education modules: a box everyone has to tick, and so nobody respects. In those cases, "real" degrees become the coinage, along with where the degree is from. While Army boards and reporting remain as they are (which seems to be the case despite CASTLE), anyone who has an influence on the OP's career will look at his CV and either see "Leadership BSc" or "Russell Group under/postgraduate", and will place more value on the second one.

Certainly as @Truxx points out this increasingly applies to universities too, but there is still no replacement for a serious degree from a serious university. This is the same effect as grade inflation at A-levels, where competitive companies and universities now regard straight A*s as a box-ticking exercise that does nothing to differentiate applicants who all have them. This is why names like Oxford and Cambridge still have value, because there is some scarcity.

This also implies a premise of the question (which, fair enough, I encouraged by mentioning box-ticking qualifications) which is that university is just about the degree. While these days this is a common idea, it's also stupid, and ignores all the other opportunities university can offer if you're wise.

@Adam1441 - my point is that it's probably better value and strategy to take the 3 years to do it properly, see something other than your school or the Army, get a bit more experience of the world, and do more than just a degree. Consider not what most of your peers do do at university, and think about what you can do. Some examples I've known, all from the military:
  • The French/Arabic student who used university time/freedom to qualify as an Alpine Guide (an extremely tough course). He was astronomically better qualified for the military at 22 than he was at 18, and he had three qualifications of high value to him both in the military and beyond.
  • The medical student who was the captain of university boxing, joined and qualified as a paratrooper and did an operational tour.
  • The microbiology student who used his MSc to teach himself coding for free and then went into cyber with the military.
  • The rower who went to university to get on the British squad and ended up being an Olympian in the Army.
There is nothing you can do at 18 that you cannot do at 21, and if you use the time wisely, quite a bit more you can do at 21 that you cannot at 18.
 

Truxx

LE
Fair enough. These are the facts.

The context is that those kinds of degrees are meaningless in either an academic or later career context, I suspect largely meaningless in an Army context, and basically fill a box-ticking requirement "has degree" or "has masters". Which is enough to get you past an automated sift of any CV, and no further.

My bet is that it will also be meaningless in an Army context, because everyone in the Army knows it is an Army-only thing, and therefore is standard and so has minimal value. This is exactly what happened with officer education modules: a box everyone has to tick, and so nobody respects. In those cases, "real" degrees become the coinage, along with where the degree is from. While Army boards and reporting remain as they are (which seems to be the case despite CASTLE), anyone who has an influence on the OP's career will look at his CV and either see "Leadership BSc" or "Russell Group under/postgraduate", and will place more value on the second one.

Certainly as @Truxx points out this increasingly applies to universities too, but there is still no replacement for a serious degree from a serious university. This is the same effect as grade inflation at A-levels, where competitive companies and universities now regard straight A*s as a box-ticking exercise that does nothing to differentiate applicants who all have them. This is why names like Oxford and Cambridge still have value, because there is some scarcity.

This also implies a premise of the question (which, fair enough, I encouraged by mentioning box-ticking qualifications) which is that university is just about the degree. While these days this is a common idea, it's also stupid, and ignores all the other opportunities university can offer if you're wise.

@Adam1441 - my point is that it's probably better value and strategy to take the 3 years to do it properly, see something other than your school or the Army, get a bit more experience of the world, and do more than just a degree. Consider not what most of your peers do do at university, and think about what you can do. Some examples I've known, all from the military:
  • The French/Arabic student who used university time/freedom to qualify as an Alpine Guide (an extremely tough course). He was astronomically better qualified for the military at 22 than he was at 18, and he had three qualifications of high value to him both in the military and beyond.
  • The medical student who was the captain of university boxing, joined and qualified as a paratrooper and did an operational tour.
  • The microbiology student who used his MSc to teach himself coding for free and then went into cyber with the military.
  • The rower who went to university to get on the British squad and ended up being an Olympian in the Army.
There is nothing you can do at 18 that you cannot do at 21, and if you use the time wisely, quite a bit more you can do at 21 that you cannot at 18.
My experience in command was that (in the Army context) even a Russell Group first was meaningless.

Beyond service life I have no doubt whatsoever that such a thing has value.

But having seen folks transition into a career out of uniform, those who had really "got it" in their first few years fared extremely well.

As far as the OP is concerned I think the key message is to follow ones heart, and having made the decision, to go for it with every fibre of his being. Then, at no point, hesitate and start having doubts.

There are always opportunities and natural break points where directional changes can be made. Even now I find myself faced with choices and I am positively geriatric. I still love the buzz of making the call and then going for it.

I advise the OP to do likewise.

Two up, bags of smoke.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
My experience in command was that (in the Army context) even a Russell Group first was meaningless.
May well apply to competency, but my experience was that the most competitive tiers of the Army at Major and Lt Col were hugely over-represented by Russell Group and particularly Oxbridge. That the Brigadier+ tiers are not so over-represented I think says more about the Army careers system than the individuals, because swathes of them left after unit or sub-unit command.

It's an open question whether they were competitive because they had a Russell Group degree, or they had a Russell Group degree because they were competitive.
 

Truxx

LE
May well apply to competency, but my experience was that the most competitive tiers of the Army at Major and Lt Col were hugely over-represented by Russell Group and particularly Oxbridge. That the Brigadier+ tiers are not so over-represented I think says more about the Army careers system than the individuals, because swathes of them left after unit or sub-unit command.

It's an open question whether they were competitive because they had a Russell Group degree, or they had a Russell Group degree because they were competitive.
What none of them had was a solid 3 years (or more if you add a gap yaaah and postgraduate masters) leading men (and women) in dirty scruffy places.

The single most important part of an officers education.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
What none of them had was a solid 3 years (or more if you add a gap yaaah and postgraduate masters) leading men (and women) in dirty scruffy places.

The single most important part of an officers education.
That's fair enough, but also outside of the control of anyone joining. Once joined, everyone does the same initial jobs anyway, so are equally likely to get the same experience. Most joining also have a specific regiment, arm or corps in mind, and all other things being the same, the more competitive a CV they have the more chance they have of getting that choice.

This is sort of the problem with the "it's all about you" meme of character or leadership: it might be true, but it's also totally useless as advice or direction.
 

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
Hello, I would really like to go to Sandhurst straight after sixth form, but I am not sure whether or not I would be at a disadvantadge to other recruits (as I would not have a degree, being younger etc.). Is there actually any disadvantage for those joining straight at 18, or not? I have seen quite a few people on other sites saying that an 18 year old getting in would be virtually impossible as they "do not have the life experience".

Any advice is welcome:)
Lots of good and informed advice upthread which is all worth considering. In my self-appointed capacity as the resident representative of the Great Unwashed, though, I looked through your post searching for a couple of things:

  • What it was that attracted you to service as one of her Majesty's trusty and well-beloved friends and holder of her Commission
  • What you saw as your likely engagement with the Army - i.e. are you a potential lifer, do you see it something to get out of your system before getting on with your real life, or, perhaps, is the Army your preferred springboard into something else?

In your first tour, you'll be closely engaged with soldiers who, while they're hilarious and highly dedicated to their craft, aren't - necessarily - the nicest or easiest people in the world and who sniff out weakness and exploit it mercilessly when they sense it. That can be a daunting prospect for a 19-year-old. Some young men and women take to it naturally, as @The_Duke notes, others, not so much.
 

Truxx

LE
That's fair enough, but also outside of the control of anyone joining. Once joined, everyone does the same initial jobs anyway, so are equally likely to get the same experience. Most joining also have a specific regiment, arm or corps in mind, and all other things being the same, the more competitive a CV they have the more chance they have of getting that choice.

This is sort of the problem with the "it's all about you" meme of character or leadership: it might be true, but it's also totally useless as advice or direction.
Sadly that simply is not the case.

Show me a graduate "second tour subaltern"
 

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