Academy vs. ROTC

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by vampsoul, Oct 7, 2009.

  1. vampsoul

    vampsoul Candidate

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    I posted it in the USMA forum, but I thought I should post it here to get a rounder perspective.

    I had ROCT and Academy interviews this week, and my interviewers were very passionate about their respective path to commission. It led me to wonder, what led you guys to choose one over the other? If you could choose over again, would you make the same choice? Why?

    Thank you for your input!

    Vampsoul
     
  2. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    It is a very personal decision. For DS, it came down to the school curriculum. He was accepted into a scholars program, non-tech. full ride. He was a military child for 18 yrs. and decided that the military will be his career, but wanted this time to be a "kid"

    We did a come to Jesus meeting with him, about what his course load would be required. He saw it, visited the det/college and decided he was willing to take the risk of what the AF threw at him for the program he is in..

    He is the son of an AF officer F-15E WSO who was commissioned via ROTC, and saw his father's success.

    The SA's open doors that ROTC doesn't, but it is what you do when the door opens that is the most important factor. I know SA grads that got passed over for Lt Col, and ROTC grads that hit the top (Powell). Your commissioning source in the beginning will help you, but when you go up for 0-3 it will not save you if you are an SA grad.

    The true question should be are you intending a career or diving? If you intend to dive, without a doubt go SA, since it is par to Ivy regarding education.
     
  3. sprog

    sprog Member

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    Um, I'm going to have to step in and respectfully disagree with this last quote. Brief background-I did AFROTC at VMI, served four years in the USAF as a missileer, and left the service (or "dived") after my initial commitment.
    After the service, I went to law school and am now a practicing attorney.

    Ok, so my beef with the above quote is that while an SA education is undoubtably top-notch, I don't think there is any reason to believe that choosing an SA over an equally prestigious civilian school is "without a doubt" the best move a kid could make if he/she has no aspirations of service past the initial service obligation. SAs immerse the cadet/mid into the world of the respective branch, and are there to produce professional military officers. Sure, the education received by a student there is high quality; but, the goal is to make an Ensign/Lieutenant who, at least potentially, could one day become a senior leader in the service. I would only suggest that a service academy is "without a doubt" the best place for a kid to go, if he/she at least had an idea that career military service was something that interested them. Or, at the very least, that the student was willing to devote the next 9 years (or whatever) completely to his respective military branch.

    I may not be making myself entirely clear, but, for a kid who wishes to be a citizen-soldier, or has desires to return to civilian life as soon as the obligation is over, it really makes very little difference if he attended an SA or an equally-ranked civilian college (with respect to the academic exposure). That is, a kid with a degree from USNA/USCGA with 5 years active duty, is, I think, equally prepared to handle graduate school admissions/the job market as a University of Michigan/Cornell/UVA grad who also has 5 years of active duty.

    I don't have anything against guys that go SA and serve only the minimal requirement, quite the contrary, as there are many reasons why a military career becomes less appealing to people over time. Using myself as an example, I had initially hoped to make the USAF a career; but, once I got into it, I really had no desire to pursue what was necessary to make that happen. I am worlds happier as a civilian, yet I wouldn't trade my VMI or USAF experience for the world. Still, I think, given the educational mission of the various SAs, that a kid should at least be open to the idea of a career in uniform if he/she decides on attending there. Desires, wishes, interests change as we get older; but, if you don't want to be immersed in the military, and go to the SA just for the academic experience or what might possibly be a reward a decade or so down the line, it is going to be a rather miserable college experience. Simply-you shouldn't go to one of the SAs because it is "par to an Ivy;" rather, you should go because you want to dedicate yourself to the service of the nation, and because you are willing to give the necessary sacrifices so that you can be trained as a leader (potentially a future senior leader) in the Armed Forces.

    So, my advice-If you want to be an officer in the military, and that is something that is in your very core, and you are at least open to the idea of a career in the service (i.e. not opposed to it), then most definitely apply to one of the SAs. If, on the other hand, service is something you feel it is your duty as a citizen to do; however, you don't think it is possibly your life's calling-that is, if you wish to serve in uniform, but know right now that your ultimate goals and interests do not center on the military (e.g. medical school, politics, whatever)-I think that more than likely you would be unhappy in the SA environment. I would never discourage an applicant from applying to anywhere they had an interest; but, it is just important to keep in mind the type of enviroment that the next four years will involve, and if that is something that is worth enduring, or indeed is essential, to what the ultimate goal of the student is.
     
  4. singaporemom

    singaporemom Member

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    What a wonderful story. You should be very proud of your daughter and your entire family. I'm proud of your daughter and I don't even know her!! Thank you for your service.
     
  5. NHUSNAhopeful

    NHUSNAhopeful Member

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    I agree with singaporemom. That is a wonderful story and she sounds like a very smart and level-headed young woman!
     
  6. USNA1982BGO

    USNA1982BGO Retired Staff Member

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    Absolutely disagree and if I heard this during a BGO interview I would have a difficult time recommending candidate for either program.
    IMHO I would interpret this as someone fishing for college tuition rather than service to their country.
     
  7. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Let me put some clarification. I am totally opposed to those that go to any SA with the knowledge of 5 and dive, however, it does exist (people know that is my pet peeve). What I was placing an emphasis on was that if you are going to work the system to do a 5 and dive the SA education hands down is the best. The services don't walk in believing that every scholarship recipient via ROTC is going to dive, but it happens.

    I have taken fire many times for saying I disapprove of going for a free education knowing that you have no intention of ever staying passed the commitment. Actually on this site there is a Mom with one child at AFA and one at USNA, her husband attended USNA. She flat out stated that her DH did 5 and dive for the free education, her DS who is probably a 1 dig and her DD a 3 dig have all intentions of following Dad's footsteps of diving at the first chance. They have no qualms about doing it. That is what I mean it happens.

    I don't believe anybody would ever say to a BGO that they are going to dive, but if it is a possibility at this early on, it is probably more likely they will do it, and just throw BS to the BGO on how they want to serve to get the pass. Similiar to kids going to high profile schools like Ivies where they tell the admission officer in the interview this is my dream school, but just change it from Yale to Princeton to Harvard in each interview. Or even for that fact the kid applying for USNA and AFA, at both interviews they are not going to say to the other SA well, if I get USAFA I will take it over USNA when they are sitting with the BGO or vise a verse when sitting with the ALO. They are going to say your SA is my number 1 choice.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2009
  8. DougBetsy

    DougBetsy Member

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    Pima, what's a "dig?" :redface:
     
  9. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Cadets do not go by freshman, soph, jr, sr, they go by degrees aka dig. 4 dig is a freshman, 1st dig is a Sr.
     
  10. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Kind of re-focusing here so it gets back to what the original poster asked. My personal opinion as a VMI grad and retired Army officer is that the Service Academy is absolutely the way to go for someone who REALLY believes that they want to be a professional soldier. While in no service other than the Coast Guard are SA grads the majority of officers commissioned - they are absolutely the biggest single source of officers in any service- even the USMC ie... the college that commissions the most officers in that service. In all walks of life- having lots in common with your peers and your superiors does play a significant role in how you are perceived initially and as you go along. (When Founders day comes along- you either are invited to the party or not- It's neither good nor bad- it just is.) Is that the only thing you will be judged on? Heck no and as time goes by the "old school tie" wears a lot thinner than it did while you were still a junior officer trying to figure out which one is the hole in the ground and which one is your posterior. But it is true throughout your career. So that's something to consider. If you knew that you are a lifer it frankly should be a no brainer- the SA is the principal source for commissioned regular officers and your undergraduate years will be focused on that end. (But of course who knows if you really want to be a lifer? What things look like at 18 are often not what they look like at 27 with 5 years of experience under your belt). So why wouldn't everyone who wants to get commissioned go to an SA if they could?
    Well either:
    - The Initial Commitment: which in the Army is shorter for an ROTC scholarship winner than an SA grad;
    - The Lifestyle- (which is perhaps plusher at USMA than VMI but certainly doesn't compare in any case to the new 28th floor penthouse dorm rooms they built at BU overlooking the Charles River);
    - The Majors that they offer. While the SAs are great schools at the very top of the pack- there are often schools that have individual departments that are superior for what the student is searching for.
    - The desire to immediately go to Grad school/ Law school/ med school etc. While you can do that from an SA- it's a pretty small % who do right away (almost every officer does get a masters or higher if you stay in long enough but not immediately after graduation). You have more of a shot at doing this from a civilian college than you do from an SA.
    Finally: you are not completely sure that the military is the life that you wish to lead after graduation and you want to preserve your flexibility without transferring colleges.
    And the flip side- I knew that I wanted to be in the Army from the time I was 6 years old- but if I had not gone to VMI- I am not certain that I could or would have done ROTC at a civilian college. Aside from the fact that ROTC in the mid 1970s was not exactly a crowd pleaser at many colleges, I just frankly think that I would not have felt all that thrilled about wearing a uniform to class when others were not, and doing Army physical training, drill etc... on campus when others were not. I think that really would have been difficult for me. It was easy to put up with all the rigmarole at VMI - everyone else had to as well- but I'm not sure I would have gone out of my way to do the whole ROTC thing in a school where >90%of your classmates look at you as something from another planet. I salute the kids who do this for 4 years- but I suspect that it's not always such an easy or popular choice.

    There is no right answer to this question- you really need to know yourself as best you can. whatever course you choose to follow- it goes a great deal easier if you are committed to it up front as opposed to vacilating back and forth.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2009
  11. sprog

    sprog Member

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    ^^^ I agree with my fellow Keydet. The choice is personal, and the reasons are as varied as the people who make them.

    An interesting aside, and perhaps this should be a topic of a new thread (and probably has already been discussed somewhere), but what do you guys think about how USMMA fits into this ROTC/SA debate? I mean, obviously it's a fine school, and I don't mean to cast a shadow on it, but it is a rather unique animal, isn't it. I wish I had known more about it when I was young, as it sort of existed on the periphery of the unknown when I was looking at colleges.

    I know the responses will be varied, just curious to hear some opinions on the subject. I mean, it advertises itself as a place where you can serve in any branch, including the USCG; but, from what I've learned on here (the limited majors, required sea time, etc.), is it a good choice for a kid who has limited interests in a career at sea, but maybe has an interest in the Armed Forces?

    Just curious.
     
  12. tucker92

    tucker92 Member

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    I have no personal experience, however, my daughter is seriously considering USMMA, and we've done a great deal of looking into it. To have your pick of services upon graduation is attractive. Bottom line, though, is there's only one major at USMMA, and that's learning how to operate ships. To learn how to operate ships you take four years of rigorous academics in three years, and you spend a year at sea. A kid with limited interests in a career at sea might have an epiphany in that regard at USMMA, but if he doesn't it'll be a long and possibly miserable four years. I can't see that it's a "good choice" if the alternative is ROTC at a college of the kid's choice -- but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. I know we won't send our daughter to USMMA if she is at all uncertain about living the life of a mariner at sea.

    That being said, the difference between USMMA and NROTC (or USNA for that matter) is that the former teaches you how to be a mariner and the latter teaches you how to be a sailor. I expect lots of USNA/NROTC students had no interest in USMMA for that reason. I don't think you should attend USMMA if you aren't going to consider (not do, just consider) a civilian career right out of the academy. I've really come around on this point. Originally I and my daughter looked at it purely as a means to an active duty commission. But after visiting and speak with the admissions folks as well as several alumni, we began to appreciate the opportunities for an immediate civilian career with a Naval Reserve commission. I have to believe that if a kid has an open mind in that regard, the USMMA experience will go down much easier.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2009
  13. sprog

    sprog Member

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    ^^^ I agree with the above. It would seem as though USMMA is a strong choice for someone who has more than a slight interest in a career at sea, even if they should eventually choose not to pursue it. In my opinion (and that is all it is), it doesn't seem to be the right place to go if you have no interest at all in the shipping life.

    My interest in this subject isn't purely academic; I'm actually acting as an Alumni representative for VMI at a local college fair in a few weeks, and I'm trying to wargame some of the questions which might come my way (it is my first time doing this). I mean, if a kid says should I go VMI (or another) ROTC or USMMA, I want to honestly point out the benefits/detractors of both. This is different from the other SAs, for which I already have my answer figured out (that is, if you know right now you want to serve in the Armed Forces, and are at least considering a career of service...APPLY APPLY APPLY to one of the DOD SAs or USCGA and think about VMI as a plan B). USMMA is a little trickier. By that, I mean that clearly USMMA is a great opportunity; but, as the above poster pointed out, it really isn't that great if you have no desire at all to be around commercial shipping (with your focus being on military service instead). I have no doubt that USMMA has produced fine officers for all of the branches, so please don't get me wrong there.

    at any rate, any other opinions on this?
     
  14. tucker92

    tucker92 Member

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    As it happens, my daughter is also looking seriously into VMI/The Citadel/Norwich for the very reason of their diverse curriculum. She can get a degree in the other career field she is considering and a Naval Reserve commission
     
  15. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Sprog- you should enjoy doing that- I've done a few fairs and also visited some local High Schools. in addition to the stuff they sent you-the VMI superintendent's Newsletter is a really good resource when talking about the "I" http://www.vmi.edu/show.aspx?tid=36621&id=36623
    As far as your thoughts about USMMA - JASPERDOG and a couple of others have posted in the USMMA forum on similar subject - (applying to USMMA with no real interest in sailing on their license) about a month and 1/2 ago - you might want to peruse that thread ("KP least competitive Service Academy" thread)
     
  16. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    About grad school and the SA's vs ROTC.
    The top students at the SA's will have grad school available to them, courtesy of Uncle Sam. Last year West Point had 13 grad school scholarship winners, not counting those who were accepted to Medical School.
    http://www.dean.usma.edu/Scholarships/default.cfm
    Navy has a number of scholarship winners each year as well. I know a 2009 Navy grad who is at MIT studying nuclear engineering.
    The Academies support and encourage their top students to apply for prestigious scholarships.
    If one accepts a 4 year ROTC scholarship - you are going to have to commission after graduation so grad school right away is not immediately an option.

    For the Army - Medical school options between ROTC and West Point are about the same. The top students who qualify and get accepted get it. Even though it is limited to 2% of the class, few want it and fewer have the qualifications. West Point is very supportive to Cadets who have a goal of medical school. They have excellent advising and opportunities available.

    As far as choosing between an SA and ROTC - I think the two biggies are Curriculum and lifestyle. Obviously, you want to be happy with what you are studying. Even though the SA's offer a number of majors - the curriculum might not agree with you and your educational talents. Don't just look at the majors offered but look at the Core curriculum and the required courses you must take.

    Fully examine the lifestyle. Don't rely on what others tell you - i.e. the West Point admissions officer telling you that you are giving up 4 years of non-stop skipping classes and partying (which is insulting to most college students I know) or the ROTC Capt who tells you that West Point is a prison. When exploring both opportunities keep an open mind.

    I fully agree with Bruno that it's way to early for a high school senior to think about "5 and dive". Seriously - 9 years is a long ways away.

    While I don't think anyone should sign up for a SA or ROTC for the "free" education you can't deny there are financial benefits to attending a Service Academy. These benefits are even more apparent for kids who don't have a college fund and/or have parents with limited means. At most colleges you still have to pay for room and board. At $12,000/year financial aid might not cover it all.
    At the SA's you are a financially independent adult. Do well and there will be many opportunities available to you that you won't have or might not be able to afford at a civilian school. One of these is the study aborad program at West Point. USMA is committed now that every cadet graduate with a study abroad experience. Some go for a semester, some during the summer and others during break but you will go.
     
  17. sprog

    sprog Member

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    ^^^^ good points made here. I guess the basic answer is that it comes down to the individual. There may be a lot of different "right" reasons to go one way or another. I also agree that it isn't unreasonable to consider the financial burden of attending college. I, as well as most on here, would just point out that it can't be the principal reason for enrolling in an ROTC program or attending an SA. Clearly, there ought to be at least an inkling of an interest in military service to enroll in one of these programs. That is probably a no-brainer, as if you didn't want to spend time in uniform, I doubt you'd be looking at these programs that seriously in the first place. I mean, if you are in it for the free tuition only, and are smart enough to get into an SA, my guess is that there are other scholarship/financial aid deals out there at very prestigious civilian schools which won't require a service commitment.

    I think, what best answers the OP's question was best summed up by the above poster-what type of lifestyle do you want?, and how do you want to spend the next 4 years? I'll sum it up with an example that many of you engineering folks might find funny, as I know you think that there is no other discipline worth studying as an undergraduate (kidding, of course). Specifically- let's imagine a kid who wants a BFA in musical theatre, and also wants to commission into the Army. Clearly USMA is lacking in this department. Here is someone who should pass on the SA/SMC and go find a program to make them happy-ROTC or OCS is there if you still want to serve. Just as an example, University of Michigan is one of the finest public schools in the nation, has ROTC, and the best (or close) BFA musical theatre program in the country-you could still be an officer and have a great 4 years doing something that you love. Maybe this is an extreme example; but, I think it proves JAM's point-it's about what you want to study and the lifestyle you want for your college education. I served in the USAF with Theatre majors, and met a Colonel with a BFA in Studio Art, so there is no "one size fits all" answer.
     
  18. KPMum2012

    KPMum2012 Parent

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    On the subject of USMMA, yes, it is a fantastic opportunity. But as has been pointed out, it will be a long and hard 4 years if you have no interest in shipping. Our daughter is a Marine Engineering major. She wanted a career where she could travel the world and have a very hands on job - no cubicle for her. She had no doubts about wanting to be a commercial mariner when she started. Now she is considering active duty in either the Army or Navy. The great thing is that she will have the opportunity to try them all before she has to decide.

    The thing to remember about USMMA is that you do have to have an interest in a fairly limited field. You will major in either engine or deck. You will take many classes that have no place in any other program - fire fighting, safety of life at sea, etc. You can not major in Political Science, nor will you have room for many electives. Mids spend a full year at sea, not a year as in 2 semesters but a full 12 months. All 4 years of course work are squeezed into 3 years. It's intense. You'll either be miserable or will drop out if you don't have some interest in ships.

    Our daughter goes to sea in the beginning of November and will be out until the beginning of March. People ask me when will she come home next. I say "Never." They're shocked and I qualify it by saying we just don't see how it will fit into her schedule. She was home for 3 weeks this past summer. If she manages to schedule her internship for this summer, she'll have about 2 weeks off. Otherwise, she'll be a DI and will only have a week off. Will she come home? I honestly don't know. She's definitely not our little girl anymore. When she walked through the gate onto KP, she moved on into independent adulthood, more what I would have expected after college graduation. In her case it was the right choice.
     
  19. sprog

    sprog Member

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    ^^^^ I think most would agree that a career at sea isn't the only viable option from USMMA. I'm quite sure that there are vast opportunities available for a graduate of that school. My point deals with prospective students, and it seems to me that a kid interested in going to school there should at least be interested in shipping, even if they ultimately end up on active duty or do something completely unrelated to the maritime industry. Otherwise, if there is no interest, it would be a miserable four years. I guess, what I am trying to say, is that if a commission in the Armed Forces is your primary goal, and you have no interest at all in going to sea, the USMMA does not seem like it would be a good choice. I mean, you don't have to spend a year on a commercial ship to be an Army officer. If, then, you are a kid who is seeking the regimented SA lifestyle and an Army commission is your ultimate goal (ships are of no interest), the application should go to USMA with ROTC in mind as a back-up. I would think for such a kid, USMMA would be rather miserable, even though it is a service academy. Conversly, if there is a student who loves the ocean, is interested in shipping, and isn't 100% set on one career direction (or maybe definitely wants to commission, but is interested in commercial shipping nonetheless), that is a kid who would probably be happy and benefit at USMMA, and it would be a great choice. So no one size fits all answer, it depends on interests of the student (me thinks there is a theme here).
     
  20. harmi

    harmi Member

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    HELPP!! My son just got a call from the NROTC, stating they would like to meet with him and give us info re:NROTC. Concern is, my son has applied to USNA and is waiting to hear of appointment...he dosen't remember signing up for NROTC on-line, how did NROTC get his info? Did the USNA share it with the NROTC? If so, was it the academy's way of saying he is not going to get an appointment? Please share any info you may have...we are a little stumped-- we did not expect this twist in events...Thanks:confused:
     

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