This post is aimed directly at the hard-charging future Marine in high school who does not really understand the different implications between the enlisted vs officer paths.
First, for a very thorough discussion of how to decide which path is better for you, read the following post on Future Jarheads:
Myth #1: Officer prospects must join the military ASAP
This is a simple, yet weirdly widespread myth. If you wait until you’re 22 and a college graduate, or even 25-28 years old to apply for OCS, you are not regarded as any less of an officer. In fact you might be better positioned financially and maturity-wise. For many individuals, it’s better to focus on attaining a college degree, and then joining the military.
Joining the Reserves, a different branch, or enlisting first does not get you closer or a “leg up” on other applicants. If you’re 17 years old, there’s no rush.
Myth #2: Officers have the same role as enlisted, only with a college degree
Officers and enlisted are both Marines. However, their roles, training, demographics, and expectations are vastly differentiated. A rough analogy for civilians is white collar vs blue collar jobs in the same organization. Imagine the difference at an auto service franchise between the mechanics and corporate managers. Or another analogy is baseball players (enlisted) vs the coaches (officers). More discussion available here: Why officers vs enlisted?.
Myth #3: Everyone is officer material
Also false. The requirements, expectations, and demographics of the officer pool does not overlap very much with the enlisted recruits. Firstly, a four-year accredited college degree is a prerequisite for officers. The sheer amount of paperwork, management, and administrative duties each officer has make this a commonsense requirement. Even if you have a college degree, you may be a better fit for certain jobs and lifestyles as enlisted. Individuals who feel like they could succeed on either path can find their best fit by contrasting the implications of the two opportunities. Additionally, the Marine Corps has much higher fitness and academic standards for officers.
Myth #4: Programs like MECEP are for those who already plan to become officers, but will enlist first
Related: The idea that going enlisted first will make one a better officer
As suggested above, officer life is different than enlisted life, not just higher up the chain. MECEP (and related programs) is for a minuscule amount of enlisted Marines who are personally recommended for commissioning by their Commanding Officer, and pass a significant amount of hurdles to commission. If you enlist with the actual goal of becoming an officer, you very well might waste years working through that process, and may end up unsuccessful.
Read more here: Enlist First, Try to Commission Later?
Myth #5: High School graduates have a two equally valid options: Officer or Enlisted
Hopefully by this stage, you see that the two paths are different in timelines, requirements, experience, implications, and expectations. Most 18-year olds do not have two equally open opportunities before them.
Are you officer material? Would you be happier enlisted? Do your research. Commit to the path that’s right for you.