Interest in Military Service is noble and honorable, but should always be taken seriously and strongly considered before putting actions to interest. Before ever joining or talking to a recruiter, it’s important to do your own research to gauge the reality of your interest and prepare yourself for what’s to come. Roll down this checklist to make sure that you’re well prepared for your meeting.

Review the Overall Process

Hollywood paints the process as a fast, easy one: boy walks in recruitment office, signs a paper, and walks out a soldier. In reality, speaking to a recruiter is just the first step in the entire process of enlisting, and is most often done without any commitment. Having a general understanding of the steps in the enlisting process will help in your conversation with the recruiter; you’ll know the questions to ask, you’ll have an idea of where you are in the process, and you won’t feel overwhelmed at thinking that more rests on the visit than actually is true.

Have an Understanding of the ASVAB

Just as you did career aptitude tests in high school to prepare you for college, the Military will require you, at some point in the process, to take the ASVAB – the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery. This test is a large part of what job you’ll get in the Service, so it’s important to score well. Also, it’s important to realize that while your score is important – physical criteria, education level and security requirements are also strongly considered. Going into this portion of joining blindly is a mistake you may regret if you have a strong preference of where you’d like to end up.

Consider Personal Preferences

Joining the military is life changing – it often takes you away from “home” and “family” for an extended period of time. Don’t ever assume that you’ll be stationed nearby or have the option of selecting where you want to go. Rather, it’s better to do research to determine what programs are where and if there are any branches who may guarantee where you’ll be stationed to start. Know that after your first unit, there’s a great chance that you’ll be transferred. All of these things should be strongly considered and not taken lightly when you are considering enlisting.

Consider the Money

There are certain jobs and roles that pay better than others. Depending on where you go, the experience you have, education and extra-curricular activities, you may have quite a salary ahead if you take the right route. Look into what would be considered for higher paying roles, and be sure to discuss them with the Recruiter when you have that conversation. Don’t find yourself in a situation where you are serving and doing less (and end up making less) than what you could be.

Consider the Timing

Remember that you can choose your start date and use the Delayed Entry Program to determine how soon your duty begins! In addition, you need to research different contracts and requirements so you have a strong understanding of what active duty and the reserves will require of you. If there are any questions, always discuss with a recruiter to seek clarification. The last thing you want is to sign up for a branch of service with a contract and service requirements that you don’t fully understand.

Don’t be overwhelmed or stressed out before you meet with a recruiter! Simply do your research and prepare yourself for the conversation with a list of questions about timing, money, preferences, the ASVAB and the overall enlisting process; and bear in mind that a simple meeting doesn’t mean you’re signed up for life!