If you were to ask a group of Marines what you needed to know before joining their ranks, you would get mixed responses due to varying experiences. There are some facts and values that remain constant regardless of personal experiences and these are the things to remember before enlisting into "The Few, The Proud".
If you do not have a family member or friend in the Marines, chances are your first impressions of one were formed by the big screen or a book. Marines pride themselves in their superior skill with weaponry and competence on the battlefield. This does not mean all of them skulk around in full combat gear and camo paint all day, waiting for the next war to crop up. Killing people is certainly not the focal point of every Marine's life.
Basic training, or "boot camp", is challenging. It is physically and mentally taxing and you will surely have a moment or two of self doubt. The title of U.S. Marine is earned, not given to you. Just as you couldn't expect to be hired by a prestigious law firm without the proper education, you cannot become one of the elite fighting forces without the proper training.
The Marine way of life is structured, more than you may be used to there at home. There are regulations on everything from your haircut to the cleanliness of your barracks room. There is a code of conduct which you are expected to follow and designated times for Physical Training (PT) and other command activities. This way of life is not for everyone so if you are completely against routines and regulations, the Marine Corps is not for you.
Your work schedule and routines may vary with the Marine Occupational Specialty (your job) you choose, but some things remain consistant for every Marine. You will have 30 days paid vacation every year earned at the rate of 2.5 days a month, more than most civilian companies will give you. You will have a stable job that is difficult to lose and you will always be paid on the 1st and 15th of every month. There are always Marines around you to help you with anything, whether it is losing a few extra pounds or handling a difficult personal situation.
The best way to maximize your chances of a successful career in the Marine Corps is quite simple. A positive attitude, keeping your bearing in the face of difficulty without giving up, and possessing a Marine Corps rank structures and other Marine Corps knowledge and regulations will be helpful to keep yourself refreshed on. All of these attributes will help you stand out in a good way and will also be helpful when promotion time comes around.
In the Marine Corps, you will gain a sense of pride, authority, and moral bearing that will be instilled in you for the rest of your life, long after you may forget your general orders or uniform regulations.