Is it smarter to go to college before or after the military in the U.S.?
Go to college, get a degree. Join the ROTC, they can help you pay for it, in some instances. If you are poor enough, the government can help you pay for it. If your family makes too much money for you to get that grant, but not enough to pay for college...take out student loans. Join the ROTC whether they help you pay or not. Once you graduate, you can become an officer, lead troops, receive higher pay. Being a commissioned officer in the military sets you up for a higher quality of job in the civilian world. Now you have a four year degree, you are an officer in the military. Pay off your student loans.
Spend 20 years leading troops as an officer, get a retirement, which pays immediately upon retirement...at the age of 45.
Use your GI Bill, or Army College Fund. Go to graduate school. Get a much better job with tour Master's degree, at the ripe old age of 49. Work 20 more years (while getting paid your military retirement), and retire, living very comfortably on two retirements at the age of 69.