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Honor, Tradition, & Education
  ...An Introduction to Choosing a Military School.

Military Student

What is a Military School?

There are different types of military schools. Federal academies are overseen by the US Congress and are charged with supplying commissioned officers for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Merchant Marines. The Coast Guard Academy also is a federal program, but admission is based on a regular college application basis, rather than Congressional appointment.

Private and state-run military institutions also operate on a college-application basis. As private institutions, they are not subject to direct federal oversight, and not all graduates enter military service (although many do). Graduates that do not enter military service often find excellent employment since the discipline and training provided at these schools is looked upon favorably by employers.

Which One Should You Choose?

Which school you should choose comes down to one question - what do you want to do when you graduate?

For example, you might want to train in a technical field and become a controller or engineer on a flight deck off a coast somewhere far away. Here are some schools to choose from:

Or, for anyone wishing to become a commissioned officer and lead an armored battalion or fly a billion-dollar aircraft for the military, here are some institutions to choose from:

Some of the Best Schools to Go To

"West Point has contributed more than 200 years to this country in providing leaders," says Mike D'Aquino of West Point. Certainly recognized as one of the premier military academies, West Point graduates some of our country's finest leaders.

The Citadel is one example of a privately-run institution that is recognized as a leader in military schools. It has been recognized for increasing its enrollment during a time when all branches of the military are facing declining numbers of recruits.

There are many schools that have earned the approval of the Department of Defense. Learn more at the Association for Military Colleges and Schools of the United States website.

What is the ROTC?

Reagan Quote

ROTC stands for Reserve Officers' Training Corps and is a program for students who wish to graduate from a participating school and pursue a career in the military as a commissioned officer. ROTC cadets attend classes and labs on leadership; complete physical training; and earn an undergraduate degree in their chosen field. Labs offer an opportunity for cadets to develop skills and techniques in communication and leadership. Cadets are issued uniforms to wear to class and leadership laboratories, and they are expected to uphold the values and standards of the military, including integrity and service.

ROTC students are awarded merit-based scholarships to help pay for college. Students under an ROTC contract also receive a monthly stipend. The amount a student receives depends on whether they are a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior. This stipend is given in addition to other aid they may be eligible for. Participants are obligated complete a term of service with the Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or Navy (depending on which ROTC program they've joined). You can also choose to serve in the Army or Air National Guard or the Reserves.

There are many options here, so the best thing to do is make a list just like you would for picking out other colleges. What do you want to do with your degree? What locations are acceptable? What do you want to accomplish while you're in college? This list will help you narrow your search.

What to Expect

The type of institution you choose to attend and your choice of major will certainly affect your experience. As noted above, students in federally-administered academies (often called Officer Cadets, or just cadets, while in training) will be prepared for military service, in addition to completing a degree program. Students attending other institutions will have a bit more flexibility in their training and the focus is likely to be more on their field of study than on military training.

"The daily life at a military school can be both challenging and busy. The first eight weeks of a freshmen and sophomore's life is spent on field training exercises, and cadets also face six weeks of basic training. The freshmen and sophomores are sometimes trained by the juniors and seniors, because the academy is based on training cadets in leadership development," said Mike D'Aquino, spokesperson for the United States Military Academy at West Point. It should be noted that Mr. D'Aquino's comments apply to federal military programs only.

Private and state-run military schools listed on our site offer regular bachelor's degree programs in addition to courses or programs in military science. They provide the same type of training you can get at a military academy. "The colleges follow classic military education," says Patricia P. McArver, vice president of communication for the Citadel Military College located in Charleston, South Carolina. "The days are tightly scheduled, and you have to follow a chain of command led by the corps of cadets. A third of those attending this academy do serve in the military after graduation."

Students in military schools complete a degree program in their chosen field. You could major in traditional arts and sciences fields, all branches of engineering, and much more. Some examples of major programs include:

Within the core curriculum, there is English composition, mathematics, engineering, and physics and other sciences. This is intended to provide the student with a fundamental knowledge of general studies, and a high level of competence in oral and written skills. Your schedule as a cadet will be highly structured to reinforce the priority of academic excellence and self-development.

There also are courses in social and behavioral science, political science and international relations, geography, economics, military history, leadership, foreign languages, chemistry, and history. The curriculum provides each cadet with a basic knowledge of people, society, and government which you will need as commissioned officers or in your chosen career.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Military schools have a disciplined and physically demanding environment. Programs conform to strict standards and follow a chain-of-command, which may not suit all prospective students. If you are up for the challenge, and are willing to succeed, this may be the type school you have been looking for.

You should be aware that the academies run by the federal government require their cadets to serve in the military for a few years (usually five) after graduation. Graduates enter their branch as commissioned officers, ready to lead those who have enlisted through regular means.

Strive for Greatness

"A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do so." These are tenets that may seem simple but often necessitate a dramatic change of lifestyle, according to Daniel Clinebelle, Honor Committee Chairman and a cadet at the Citadel.

A cadet's goal is to strive for academic excellence and pursue the maximum level of academic achievement. Your responsibility is based on your individual abilities, and the academic programs are designed to maximize your capabilities.

There are also opportunities to participate in a wide array of sports. Extra-curricular activities are designed to broaden a student's mind and provide him or her with the foundations of college success.

When Opportunity Knocks

Female Military Student

There are a number of ways to help you pay for college, but remember to do your research. In the federally-run military academies the government pays for your education. However, competition for entrance to the academies is fierce; students must be nominated by a member of Congress or the Department of the Army. Private and state-run military schools work on a regular college application basis.

One of the criteria to receive financial aid in your quest for success usually includes having a high school grade point average (GPA) of no less than 3.0 to qualify for a scholarship. Transcripts must reflect a grade "C" or better in all courses attempted. There will be other criteria depending on which school you choose to attend.

There are different scholarship opportunities to choose from. Some will offer two-, three-, or four-year scholarship programs which pay for full tuition at one of their listed colleges or universities, and may include a stipend for text books, money for uniforms, and an allowance for each academic month.

To apply for financial aid for military school, you'll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Your Options After Graduation

Some graduates choose to attend law school under the provision of the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps fully-funded legal program. They may select the program upon successful completion of the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), along with favorable consideration by the Judge Advocate General Selection board and acceptance into an approved law school.

Students also can go on to graduate school or professional school in their field. Most are able to find quality employment right out of college. "Senior cadets at military academies are highly recruited by prospective employers for management positions after graduation," said Patricia P. McArver of the Citadel.

As for those who choose to serve or are obligated to serve, the military distinguishes between enlisted and officer careers and opportunities are good in all branches of the military. Officers must have earned at least a bachelor's degree.

Graduates who do complete military service have many opportunities after they are done. They have proven leadership and management skills and experience, for one thing. They also have a degree from an elite institution.

The point is that completing a degree at one of these schools could open many doors for you. Graduates of military schools have gone on to become civil engineers, Rhodes Scholars, Olympic athletes, members of Congress, professors, presidents of major Fortune 500 companies, generals, and even astronauts (Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Class of 1951, graduated from West Point).

It All Comes Down To This...

The choice to attend a military school can definitely move your life and your career in a positive direction. These programs are challenging, but in the end you are quite likely to be rewarded with a great job that you are well-trained for.

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