Freshman's Opinion on Service Academy vs ROTC

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by vaiowong, Apr 14, 2016.

  1. vaiowong

    vaiowong New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2014
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    12
    I've been seeing a lot of threads started about choosing between the service academies and rotc at a regular university. As my first year of college winds down, I feel I can give some insight that can hopefully help you guys figure out what's best for you.

    I am currently an Army Cadet in his first year at MIT. I did have the choice between my current school and USMA/ USNA. And I know that had I not gotten in to MIT, I would have went the service academy route instead of ROTC at my second choice (umich).

    But looking back, I do not feel that would've been the best route for me if I was in that situation. There are many more things to consider than X school is better than Y school, especially considering the vast differences in lifestyle between a regular university and a service academy.

    Also, there have been one argument particularly for the service academies that I feel is skewed, which is that you can always attend a regular university for grad school. The undergraduate and graduate experiences are completely different, at least here, and there is definitely more to college than just the degree at the end.

    Here is what I would personally consider if I had to choose between ROTC and a service academy now:

    For most universities, you will still need to pay room and board if you go with the ROTC scholarship. Is money an issue for you?

    Are either of your choices particularly known for what you want to study?

    And do you see the military as a long term career? At the end of both paths, you will still end up as a 2nd LT/Ensign. But from what I understand, service academy cadets/mids have a better shot at what they want in accessions. And I'm sure there are also many other small perks of the SAs to consider when looking at the big picture outside of college.

    And probably most importantly:
    Do you want the life of a service academy cadet or a regular college student? ROTC does have a commitment but it is not enough to consider yourself completely different from a normal college student. There is a lot of freedom you will be giving up. College is supposed to be the best four years of your life. Where do you believe you will find that?

    There is still some time to decide. If I recall correctly, decision date is May 1st. Talk to people, service academy cadets and grads, ROTC cadets and grads at your first non SA choice. Don't make a rash decision that decides the next four years of your life.

    If you guys have any questions, feel free to PM or post on this thread.
     
  2. k2rider

    k2rider Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    213
    "College is supposed to be the best four years of your life. Where do you suppose you'll find that"?

    Not at MIT over Michigan, that's for sure!!
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,753
    Likes Received:
    1,004
    Good points!
     
  4. payitforward

    payitforward Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    485
    Likes Received:
    88
    Long, long time ago I was a college student. It was 4 years of highs and lows, some good times, some great times, some lonely times, some extremely difficult and stressful times, and some really horrible depressing times. We put so much pressure on high school kids to pick "the right school" based on this notion that college is going to be "the best 4 years of your life" (so choose wisely). But the thing is, it's ok to just choose, and to live your life, and to expect that there will be good days and bad days, and probably, out of those 4 years, at least a half of the first one is likely to be more transition and anxiety than "best time of your life" material. But that's ok. A good life is about the middle parts, not the beginning or the end.

    To top my argument off, I am hard-pressed to categorize my college days as even coming close to the joy of being a mom.
     
  5. Craig

    Craig Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    95
    Something to factor in to the equation. All graduates from USMA get an active duty spot. All graduates from ROTC do not. The number for ROTC active slots has gone done recently based on some numbers I have seen. I was NROTC years ago and loved it. My DS is WP and loving it. Some of his peers are not loving it.
     
  6. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2010
    Messages:
    5,540
    Likes Received:
    841
    The number of Active Duty selectees from AROTC was actually higher this year then last, but your right at WP Active is guaranteed for everyone.
     
  7. Craig

    Craig Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    95
  8. Craig

    Craig Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    95
  9. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2010
    Messages:
    5,540
    Likes Received:
    841
    The numbers for Active Duty through ROTC can be a bit confusing. While it's true that the percentage of cadets that are accessed Active is about 50% of the total number of ROTC cadets, it's not a true representation.

    In ROTC there is a large number of cadets that are pegged for Reserve/NG from the beginning, many that have the GRFD Scholarship. When it comes time for Accessions there is an added number of cadets that make the choice to access Reserve/NG. This lowers by quite a bit the number of cadets that want to compete for Active Duty. Last year the percentage of cadets that requested AD and received it was about 78%. This year that percentage including Nurses is about 80%.

    So, when you hear someone say that only 50% of the ROTC cadets get Active Duty, there is much more to those calculations. Right now getting Active Duty if you want it carries pretty good odds.
     
    Vista123 likes this.
  10. Striker17

    Striker17 New Member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2015
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    1
    Does a 4-year scholarship mean that you will definitely get Active Duty or is that not entirely true?
     
  11. Vista123

    Vista123 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2011
    Messages:
    1,180
    Likes Received:
    105
    Jcleppe did a great job explaining it. re-read Jcleppe's post. To answer your question specifically though, you are not guaranteed Active Duty. Rank low on the OML and you may not get Active Duty. But it wont be a matter of waking up Senior year and realizing your wont get Active Duty. You start getting ranked (w/in your battalion) just about the first day you arrive freshman year. You are aware all along generally how you are doing and what you need to do to fix yourself. While there are a ton of changes in the military (semper gumby) there aren't many surprises.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
    Striker17 likes this.
  12. Vista123

    Vista123 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2011
    Messages:
    1,180
    Likes Received:
    105
    Also
    as a mom of one at a S.A. (never applied for ROTC) and one ROTC (never applied to S.A.) I can tell you the following in my point of view:
    1.) the ROTC kid is enjoying life far more.
    2.) The ROTC kid has far far more money (but tbh room and board were tossed in at his school)
    3.) the S.A. kid got PRK-I dont know how that works for ROTC
    4.) The S.A. kid is far more cynical.
    5.) they both will graduate with the same rank
    6.) they both will (most likely) get to do what they want to do upon graduation (service assignment) .
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
    ENwifeArmyMom, Striker17 and rehula like this.
  13. Striker17

    Striker17 New Member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2015
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thank you for clarifying and yes Jcleppe's post was also very helpful.
     
  14. payitforward

    payitforward Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    485
    Likes Received:
    88
    Many "ROTC kids" are not on scholarship and pay full tuition at their schools. DS is non-scholarship contracted. Once he contracted, he started getting a small monthly stipend. This helps with living expenses and books, but the rest (tuition and room and board) is college loans, summer jobs, personal loans, savings, mortgaged the house, etc.
     
    Jcleppe likes this.
  15. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    7,544
    Likes Received:
    1,004
    I think Vista was talking about her own son and not ROTC kids in general.
     
    Vista123 likes this.
  16. payitforward

    payitforward Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2013
    Messages:
    485
    Likes Received:
    88
    I thought so too, but so many people assume that every ROTC student is going to school for free* and this is simply not the case. The majority of cadets at DS's school are not on scholarship.

    * Free is relative anyway since there's a service commitment attached to that non-scholarship contract that looks a lot like the one attached to the scholarship one. When DS gets out of school, I'm hoping at least some of his college loans will be repaid for him, but I don't think that's a given either.
     
    Jcleppe and kinnem like this.
  17. zanlew

    zanlew New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2016
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    I think ROTC from the perspective of my school takes a lot more discipline. Most things you need to figure out for yourself often. ROTC is great, but without any military background such as basic training or being from a military family it can be extremely stressful. Many schools focus solely on the advanced course cadets which leaves the MS1's and MS2's kicking dirt unless they go above and beyond doing extra curricular ROTC functions such as Pershing rifles and Ranger challenge. The point I'm trying to get across is if you plan on going Active Duty your life outside ROTC will be limited a lot more then most programs let on when selling their program. I am a GRFD cadet/SMP so I've been able to have a more balanced college experience. If you have the ability to go to a service academy and aren't familiar with the military like I was that be the best route to instill discipline and foster the needed abilities to be an active duty officer. I'm writing this as a warning to those who want a somewhat normal college experience and want to be an Active duty officer through ROTC. I say that also because there is also a big push towards expanding the reserves/guard. My program has been pushing GRFD contracts through fairly easily.
     
  18. BAMA ROTC

    BAMA ROTC Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2014
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    49
    While I am sure your comments have merit, I caution you from projecting your program onto every other program. You see each ROTC detachment has its own set of challenges and also their unique advantages. When I speak with prospects and their families I always discuss the "out of class" time requirements. ROTC itself can be contrasted with attending a service academy very easily.

    Service academies have the benefit of providing an immersive and all-encompassing Military environment paired with world class academics. While ROTC provides a more open architecture version of college and academics that are variable depending on the University attended. As with all things in life a student has to pursue the choice they think will most likely provide them with a positive outcome.

    If you are easily distracted and require a lot of external pressure to act accordingly and perform academically then ROTC may not be the right choice. All in all I suggest that parents provide sound counsel to their young adults. The young men and women they will encounter in ROTC and the Service Academies are performing at a much higher level than their HS peers. Big fish small pond versus small fish big pond.
     
    Jcleppe and MomWPgirl like this.
  19. forumjunkie

    forumjunkie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2014
    Messages:
    382
    Likes Received:
    290
    I can't understand this Idea that S. A. kids have no Fun :frown:. I know it is Hard, and the hours are LONG... But I know too much about what my MID is doing to buy that argument. He is having a great time with lots of fun events and activities. Building friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.

    At a time in your life when you will have more "Disposable Energy" than ever again, I can't help but feel that hard work just keeps young people out of trouble.

    But think about it...just a few of the events.. as early as plebe summer. Water front seats to one of the greatest fireworks displays in the country, Private concert with Dirk Bentley,:band: Day trips to Kings Dominion, Day trips to the Ski slopes, Army/Navy Football games:groupwave: (Upperclassman actually get tickets paid to fly to some of the Away games).
    So far for Summer Blocks, My son has Played in the mud and qualified on a Machine gun with the marines:usa:, got to ride in a Jet with the Navy.:tomcat: Took a 2 week Sail (On a real sail boat, from Annapolis to Boston) , Other Mids went to Hawaii , and visited Ports all over Europe. I can't
    even name all the outings, sometimes it is just snowball fights, and Halloween Parties.

    Yeah I know I make it sound way too easy, but so many of you make it sound like 4 years hard prison time followed by 5 years on parole. Sorry not buying it!

    OH Yeah one more small thought......THEY GET PAID FOR ALL THAT!
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
    MomWPgirl and skismuggs like this.
  20. MomWPgirl

    MomWPgirl Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    202
    Likes Received:
    52
    Interesting thread. Also a parent of SA grad and a ROTC grad...while both paths lead to commission they are very different paths. Lots of support and academic help readily available and easy to access at SA's. ROTC grad had to learn to be more self sufficient and proactive. Both had fun during their years at college, though SA grad probably had to be more creative in finding it. SA grad had amazing opportunities readily presented while ROTC grad had to seek them out. ROTC grad probably gained real life skills quicker as much less structure and support (with greater freedom came greater responsibility). SA grad gained leadership skills and military knowledge much quicker as had to live it 24/7. Both are happy with their choices and careers and neither wish they had gone the alternate route. As a parent, I would say the SA grad's personality/demeanor changed more drastically during the four years than the ROTC grad's but maturity changes personality as well. Advantages and challenges to both....
     

Share This Page