This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


New Member
5+ Year Member
May 31, 2017
Reaction score
So I'm a graduating senior now who wants to become an orthodontist. I've wanted to become this for years for various reasons.
I know becoming an orthodontist is extremely competitive so I'm attending the Citadel, which is the military college of South Carolina next semester. The Citadel is unique because it is one of the few colleges where I can do ROTC for 4 years and not have any requirements to serve in the armed forces. In fact, 2/3 of the students never enter the military. I plan to major in Biology for preparation for dentistry. I plan to minor in whatever is close to the classes i'm already already taking. I've been in JROTC for 4 years and am very confident that I will excel in the military environment.

Here's my problem,
I'm out of state, and the total tuition is very expensive. I've filled out my FASFA and received 5,500 total of tuition assistance per year. The Citadel costs yearly about 50,000. There's possibilities of receiving scholarships while attending the Citadel but this isn't guaranteed. This will potentially land me in almost $200k debt. Then debt will then grow when I go to dental and orthodontics school, i haven't yet calculated total estimated debt. I have residency in North Carolina which means I can potentially get in state tuition for UNC Chapel Hill which is home to a great dental program.

I'm under the impression that if I attend the Citadel I'll be building a great reputation, building myself as a person, and a creating an extremely competitive resume to get accepted into a dental and ortho program.

Is it wise to join the Army Reserves for my next 10 years of schooling?

From my understanding:
  • They will pay a large sum of my schooling.. dropping me down to almost no debt straight out of orthodontics school
  • I'll receive a monthly check for being in the reserves, while in school, which I can save up, helping me purchase/open a practice
  • While I'm in school, my education won't be seriously interrupted
  • I don't need to participate in the "boot camp" the army reserves has due to me being in the Citadel
  • I'll attend a weekend of drill per month, shadowing a 2nd LT or higher, who is in the dentistry field (granting me competitive resume experience)
  • 10 years of part time army reserves while in school commits me to an additional 10 years of part time reserves after graduation (which is a guaranteed income)
  • Upon graduation of the Citadel I'll be an officer (due to the 4 years of ROTC)
  • Upon graduation of dentistry school/ortho school I'll be considered a doctor, granting me the rank of Captain or higher (with the pay)
  • It's unlikely that I will be deployed even after graduation, which allows me to work with other orthodontists in my area or allows me to open a practice
  • 10 years of schooling reserves, plus the 10 years of required reserves grants me access to the 20 year retirement plan
Please let me know what you think. This is one of those decisions that will shape my life forever.

I'm participating in a skype "meeting" with a recruiter from the Army Reserves, a recruiter from the Citadel, and my loving mother so even if you're not an expert, but you have questions that you think I should ask please let me know below and I'll ask.

I'll be sure to keep this forum updated as I figure things out.

Members don't see this ad.
Members don't see this ad :)
Your post SEEMS to be almost entirely driven by monetary gain. Your statement "The Citadel is unique because it is one of the few colleges where I can do ROTC for 4 years and not have any requirements to serve in the armed forces. In fact, 2/3 of the students never enter the military" actually reinforces this. Combined that there is no personal statement about any sort of desire to serve because of patriotism, family having served, friends etc. Traditionally, those who commit for financial reasons, tend to be the least happy. Ten years of unhappiness is a very long time. The 10 year ROTC thing doesn't make sense, and you had better make sure that your Recruiter knows what you think you know. The way you are explaining it sounds hinky. Also, have him explain how you will be allowed to delay your ROTC payback while in dental school and in residency past that. Any mention of needing to be granted an "educational delay" means that you may be turned down if it is requested - then you're hosed.

Have you considered the fact that while you are in dental school/residency or after and in private practice, that your Reserve Unit can get called up to go to God knows where, and they don't care what your personal situation is? You signed up for this 4-6-8-10 years ago and now it's time to pay the piper.

You are now what? 18 years old? By the time you are 30, will you be married, have kids? What if your two week drill happens to fall during the time your pregnant wife needs to give birth? What if you fall in love with someone while in graduate school, who hates the military? Are you going to be able to look them in the eye and say, "Sorry, but six years ago (before I met you), I committed myself to a very long term relationship with the military and now I'm stuck.

ROTC for those in most of the healthcare field usually adds time for very little gain in the grand scheme. If you were my kid, I'd tell you to loan out undergrad, because as a practicing dentist, you will be able pay it back especially if PSLF is still around eight years from now. Also, you can look to HPSP or HPLRP, for help with dental school costs...

My disclaimer here is that I'm not a recruiter and have no vested interest here.
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Thank you for your response,

I think you're partially right, I'm trying to avoid $400,000+ debt. The money is a huge factor to joining. How am I supposed to open a private practice if I'm $400k in debt out of school? The reserves offers a definite route of employment. There's definitely other benefits to joining such as the life experience, the feeling of fulfillment after serving and the opportunity to shadow other practicing dentists through the military. Anybody I talk to who served never say they wish they hadn't, some say they wish they could do it again. I need to start building a resume for ortho, and I believe this is a strong factor to it. I agree though that 10 years of required commitment is a long time, especially if i'm starting a family. I wouldn't be done until I was 38 years old.. maybe 40 if my specialist school takes 3 years instead of 2.. which is a scary thought.

I wouldn't be in ROTC for 10 years, I'd be at the citadel for 4 years, where ROTC is a required class (So ROTC 4 years), my dentistry school for 4 years, then my specialist school for about 2-3 years for hopefully orthodontics. Throughout that 10 year period I'd be in the reserves participating in a weekend of drill per month (with educational delay) then following that I'd have 10 years without educational delay (from my understanding)

After my 4 years at the Citadel would I be considered an Officer in the reserves instead of an enlisted personnel?

Excellent point on the being "granted educational delay", i need to be guaranteed educational delay, wording is everything.

How likely is it to be called upon while in the reserves? What's your background experience with it? Personally, I believe if we are at war, or something huge is going on where they need full support of our nation, I should go regardless of what's going on in my personal life.

Isn't betting on PSLF still being around kind of a gamble?

Thanks again.
After my 4 years at the Citadel would I be considered an Officer in the reserves instead of an enlisted personnel? Officer

Excellent point on the being "granted educational delay", i need to be guaranteed educational delay, wording is everything. In my 30+years of experience both in war and peacetime, there is no guarantee. When you graduate, you will be considered to be a qualified officer for whatever area of concentration the Reserves hands you.

How likely is it to be called upon while in the reserves? In 1988, the answer was slim, then something happened in 1990 that changed the world and the way that the military does business. I vividly remember Reserve soldiers walking into my office in tears saying "but I only joined for the education, I don't want to go to war". You may want to take a look around. We (United States military) are still in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and then there is this little guy on the other side of the pacific who is just asking for it.

What's your background experience with it? Over 30 years working in and for the Army, most in the Army Medical Department.

Isn't betting on PSLF still being around kind of a gamble? You are looking at the military when there is a war in Syria, we are still sending troops to the middle east, North Korea is rattling it's saber, let's not forget a little place called Bosnia, and you think that PSLF is a gamble? Yeah, Congress can give-ith, and Congress can take-th away, but judging by the rhetoric in the last election about education as a whole, what would you think will happen 7-8 years from now?
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
I'm going to offer another view of how to get your education from a financial standpoint.

First as you already know, dental school and ortho residency can be very expensive. Therefore, I wouldn't count on the reserves covering any of that. It is only certain other military scholarships such as the HPSP that will cover dental school. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend going to a $200k school for undergrad. It's just adding too much debt early on. Also- a 10 or 20 year commitment to the reserves is a LONG time. If you're in dental school or residency, you're going to be so busy you're likely going to feel like you don't have time to be gone for a weekend every month. That's a lot of study and work time.

If your goal is to become an orthodontist with as little debt as possible, I would recommend going to a 4-year university that is MUCH cheaper, such as your state school. Yes, the Citadel is a good school, but dental schools are going to look at your GPA, DAT scores and extracurriculars. You have just as good of a chance at getting in if you go to your state school. Then, if you want to serve, apply for the HPSP scholarship and serve 4 years in the military after dental school. That will delay ortho residency, but it's an option. Or work your butt off to get top grades in dental school, so that you can go to an inexpensive ortho residency, therefore not joining the military at all.

You have a pretty good chance of deploying if you're in the reserves. And there is no guarantee at this time that you will get out of deployment due to your education status unless it is somehow written in your contract (as with the HPSP).

In the grand scheme of things, the reserves are likely not going to be very financially beneficial- if you go to a school that is much more affordable.

Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user