1. TA will give you a lot more money and as a student these days that is a BIG thing
2. You don't get a discount at Sandhurst for time spent in the OTC.
3. 3 years in a TA unit as a soldier potentially allows you to do all the fun courses that you can't do as an officer.
P.S. pick a uni within walking distance of a UKSF, PARA, or RMR unit for maximum value.
OTCs are designed more with students in mind, and many are very good at preparing you for AOSB, however that might not be all you're after. The TA will give you some proper soldiering as opposed to the more casual days out with the OTC; it can even send you to war if you want; the money is better and you can choose to either apply to become an officer within the TA or stay as one of the lads to see what it's like.
I wouldn't write off the UOTC entirely, it is to some extent a drinking club, this is not necessarily entirely a bad thing.You are going to spend a significant amount of time doing real soldiering if you're going regular so you might as enjoy yourself with the OTC a bit, in my experience the pissups are legendary and I made some excellent friends.
An important point about the UOTC is that its members will all be students of your age group which is probably better socially than the TA. They are also sometimes opportunities for excellent training and sometimes even you'll get a chance to do things that normal TA soldiers wouldn't i.e. P coy if not in an airborne unit, shedloads of AT. Whether it is right this is another question, as is whether this will continue given that the TA as a whole is facing budget cuts. You might also get a better exposure to the wider army in the UOTC rather than only experiencing one capbadge for the most part as you would in a normal TA unit.
By no means am I saying the TA is a bad idea, it can offer excellent experience, particularly if you're interested in trying that capbadge out with a view to going regular.
Happily there is often a third way, the Territorial Army Sponsored Officer (TASO) scheme can allow you to be a member of a normal TA regiment and train with the UOTC. For admin, pay.etc you are a member of the TA regiment in question and you may, indeed will have to, train with them sometimes. You will wear their capbadge, stable belt.etc but you also train with the UOTC. There are generally two routes into the TASO scheme, the first is that you join the TA prior to university at home and then join the UOTC as become a TASO. The second is that having joined the UOTC you then join a TA unit (generally in your second year), either local to the uni or your home.
The TASO scheme is not guaranteed, some units embrace it more than others and you'll have to convince your TA unit that you're worth the resources they'd spent on you in training with the UOTC and in the case that you are attempting to join a TA unit that you are worth taking on.
I personally would suggest joining the TA at home before uni, you can from 17.5, and then rocking up to the UOTC when you get to uni. This does come with somewhat of a health warning from personal experience. Don't decide that the TA is the be all and end all or that it is more fun than doing work for your A-levels (although it will be more fun) as if you do that you might **** up a bit and miss the grades for the uni you wanted, although to be honest now I'm glad I went to my reserve.
If you want to join the TA as a means of getting in some good military training prior to becoming the field ninja at Sandhurst - then fully agree with the idea of joining an infantry unit as a tom. You will need to devote a significant amount of time to make it worthwhile. But beware that you may acquire "bad habits", which the Regular DS at RMAS may not like. You may also lose out on some of the leadership training that you would get from an UOTC, unless you go as an officer - or TASO (but join the UOTC first).
The advice I got was to join the UOTC for a bit of military education, beer, girls, great parties, more beer and more great parties with some really foxy chicks. You are by the sounds of it in for a long and illustrious career, so why dedicate some of your time at uni to a profession that you may be spending the rest of your life devoted to, when you could be having so much more fun? The UOTC is now more focused at producing the future leaders of both the Regular and Territorial Army, so there is a real advantage of joining it prior to RMAS, especially if you have not completed AOSB. Moreover, your contemporaries from UOTC are more likely to follow you around in your career than any TA mates.
Over to you to decide. My only other comment would be to fully check out the UOTCs and TA units that you are proposing to join - there are many good ones of both sorts out there, but also ones to avoid!
Tried both at Uni. OTC for a year and then got a posting via the hugely good and sympathetic (I was on an army bursary) Regular CO of the OTC to a local TA unit. The TA unit was tops and I spent most weekends hill walking with a great bunch of blokes (not students which was a good change) and being paid for it as well. In those days, going to war was pretty unlikely. These days you might just aquire a tan as well as a degree. In other words you might have to make a decision as to priorities at Uni. Army experience or degree? I reckon you'll get plenty of experience after going reg so maybe OTC and a degree is the only sensible route these days. Somebody more recent might have a view on this?
In reply to your belief that people do AOSB before uni, its not always so. You can do briefing at anytime. Some do decide to do it before they go to uni, so they can get the full bursary (every penny helps whilst at uni, also its worth noting that if you pass AOSB whilst at uni you can claim the bursary for the remaining years you have left at uni). As you rightly say, an offer from RMAS lasts 7 years, my advice would be only to go for AOSB when you are 100% sure that you can pass it. Dont put unnecessary pressure on yourself to pass if your not ready for it.
On the subject matter of this topic, I would agree with drop_short. Have fun before you settle into your career. University life is a lot easier and bags more fun with a bunch of close friends to go through it with (The OTC may help get close friends as you will all be in the same boat i.e first time home leavers etc. and you will all have an interest in military environment).
The TA is indeed good to gain that military experience you are craving for but think of your short term goals first. You should concentrate on getting the best grades you can at A-level first. (I was the same as you at school, bit of a clever c**t and knew it to some extent, but you cannot plan for unexpected set backs.) My ACA keeps reminding me that as much as I want to go to RMAS now, my first goal is to complete my degree.
The benefits of the OTC (from my perspective) is that it will be;
-A lot more fun (which when your studying at university will be a great change to dissertations, exams and coursework),
- A chance for some loving (a big bonus at the end of the night, if you bag a bit of totty, a night to forget and blame it on the beer if not).
- It will also give you the military insight you need,
- There is, as mentioned above, more variety with the OTC.
At the end of the day the decision lies with you on when you take AOSB and whether its TA or OTC. Just keep in mind that you have many small steps to take first before you actually get to Sandhurst.
I am in a similar situation as thegiantorange there only I begin my uni course this October. When I had inital advice meeting for a regular commission we of course discussed the UOTC and TA, and I was rather keen to join both which I was assurred was possible. I went to see a local TA unit about joing as a soldier yesterday to discuss this and it seems I have been mislead and that this is not possible (is this true as I am being told different things by different people?).
However they suggested the TA Sponsered Officer Scheme to try and get the best of both worlds but I have some questions about this.
What is the nature of training you will do with your TA unit, if on the TASO, will it be soldier or officer orientated.
And does sponshership from this unit tie you down to any commitment to them after uni, as he did drop into conversation something about coming back afterwards?
Finnally they mentioned something about joing the TA as a soldier instead of UOTC and then starting some kind of Potential Officers course, however we didnt have time to talk about it, what is this?