ROTC at an SMC vs. traditional university

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by 2016 mom, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. 2016 mom

    2016 mom New Member

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    This post can be placed in this folder or the ROTC folder. MY son is very confident that he wants to join the military. Yet, he wants to keep his options open in deciding how to pursue that goal. He is not very interested in a SA, but he is strongly considering Norwich and maybe VMI. However, even though a SMC like Norwich has civilians, he is still looking at traditional universities. At this time, those include Baylor, TCU, Davidson, and Rice.
    Part of him would like a traditional college experience, while the other wants more structure and military lifestyle at an SMC.
    I understand the obvious differences with ROTC at a traditional school and an SMC, most notably living in a military lifestyle vs college life with training. However, this question is mainly geared toward life outside of college. Is their an advantage (for lack of a better word on my part) to going to an SMC when pursuing a career in the military, when compared to ROTC at say, Baylor? Finally, I know that a student at a SMC is given active duty if they are allowed by school officials. My son would like active duty, so how difficult is it to get it when attending a traditional school? Thanks for your help.:thumb:
     
  2. nick4060

    nick4060 Member

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    If he's torn between the two options, I'd suggest he look at Texas A&M and Va Tech. Both schools are SMCs with full-time military college training, but theyre withing large traditional universities. Cadets live together in dorms, wear uniforms every day, drill etc. But they go to class with traditional students, enjoy college sports, go downtown once their 21, etc.

    As far as "advantages" to going to an SMC vs traditional ROTC. The only real tangible one is the fact that you're guaranteed an active duty commission. It really just depends on your son's preferrences as to what kind of experience he wants in college. He can have the same military career after either route.
     
  3. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    2016 mom- :
    Out of curiosity why would he be interested in a career in the military , and attendin a senior military college but Not interested in a Service Academy?
    It's pretty hard to generalize about Cadet life and experiences at the Senior Military colleges as they are really are pretty different from each other. VMI is completely and totally a military environment from the first day until graduation- there are no civilian students on post and you are always in uniform 24/7 and pretty much every facet of your life is governed by regulations affectionately known as "The Blue Book". Citadel is pretty much the same (although they do have some nonmilitary students on campus for night graduate courses)- in contrast Norwich is 50% military and North Georgia; A&M and Va Tech are a far smaller % of the student population (North Georgia is <15% military, and A&M (though you wouldn't know it as the Corps is such a vibrant presence on campus)and VA Tech are <3%) so the environments are really, really different.
    But what are the advantages of an SMC?
    a. Intangible but real: At VMI for example you will have been immersed in a 24/7 military leadership learning lab - not just a single 3 hour lab period per week and you will have done so in a high pressure physically and emotionally demanding environment where you are forced to carry your own load or fall by the wayside and leadership by example is the norm. You can scam out of anything and often can fool others for a short period of time- but when you are in it all day, every day- the true nature of people comes out. You will be amazed at how valuable a lesson that is when you get on active duty- (or for that matter out into the Corporate world). On top of that- VMI implants the Honor code into its graduates like a surgeon transplants an organ- it becomes a part of your way of life. Your word is your bond - it's expected and you expect it of others. That's not innate- and in this day and age it's not common- but it is ingrained into you by your experience at VMI.
    b. More tangible: You will run into fellow alumni throughout your military career just by sheer weight of numbers. People may or may not like to admit this, but we all help those who share ties with us. When there are 100 of your classmates being commissioned- the chances of running into fellow alumni are a great deal better than when you are one of 10 being commissioned.
    c. Related to b above: The SMCs have a strong reputation in the various branches of the military- people know them, know graduates of them and you get to ride on those coattails at least until you build your own track record.
    d. The guarantee of active duty if the PMs recommends you is not a big deal today- however should we eventually pull out of Afghanistan and the penulum on the size of the Army begins to swing in the other direction- that guarantee suddenly has a lot more weight.

    I'm biased - I and my brothers all graduated from SMCs, were career soldiers and my son is now doing the same. My wife - also a career soldier from a regular ROTC program will point out that there a few downsides to VMI (like a rather stilted social life, a tendency towards cynicism too early or even at the start of ones career, and a universal inability to eat a meal at less than the speed of light:rolleyes:). By and large though- the positives outweigh the negatives from my perspective.
     
  4. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    Our son is currently a Rat at VMI. He had his mind made up about going there pretty much from the get-go. My husband and I convinced him that he should at least take a look at non-military colleges with ROTC programs, so that he could make an informed choice. One of the visits we made was to a large private university with a well-established Army ROTC program. We spent some time talking with the PMS and ROO, who were both West Point graduates. I asked them, from their perspective as Military Academy graduates and now responsible for the Army ROTC program at this liberal arts university, how they would compare those experiences. The ROO responded that when it comes to getting your choice of MOS, a very important factor (along with LDAC scores) would be college GPA; he believed that it is more difficult to maintain a strong GPA at a SMC or Academy (due to the additional demands of military life,) whereas you could go to Podunk U and have a 4.0 GPA "with a major in basket weaving," placing you higher on the national order of merit list, thus improving your chances of getting the billet of your choice. (Of course, we will bear in mind that it is the Recruiting Officer's job to make the case for his battalion :wink:)

    Our son never waivered in his choice of VMI, so my husband and I agreed that it was important for him to follow his dream. Good luck to you and your son as you make these important decisions. My advice is that he take this time to research his options and visit the schools that interest him (spend an overnight where possible) - that will really help him (and you!) to get a feel for which will be the best fit.
     
  5. 2016 mom

    2016 mom New Member

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    Thanks all for your great replies.
    We visited West Point, but my DS didn't think that it suited him well. I think that the engineering past of the school had much to do with it - science and math are not his strong point. He just couldn't see himself at WP for four years. I guess the common adage is that you only have four years of college, and it goes by quickly. Yet, four years is still a long period of time. WP is a fantastic school with a first-rate education, but at the end of the day, when he didn't get a great feel for the school, he felt that alternatives should be looked at.
     
  6. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I graduated from VMI in 1999, and got a BA in International Studies. I am also of the right-brained, artsy-fartsy ilk (math-phobic). VMI has great liberal arts programs, and you're correct, the required coursework for humanities majors at VMI includes far less math and science than at USMA. In my day, liberal arts guys had to take statistics and chemistry in Rat Year (although the chemistry was geared for non-math types). I think we had to have two more free science electives as upperclassmen, but there are plenty of options which don't require tons of math.

    On the flip side, as a VMI humanities guy, the professors will expect you to be a strong writer and to develop an analytical mind. The advanced coursework in the major can be intense, but very intellectually satisfying. This is why we go to college, right? :0).

    I found that the "distractions" of the SMC were at a peak during Rat Year. Once the nonsense ends, you have a lot more free time to study and focus on grades. I was a Distinguished Graduate of the place, and I did this even with a somewhat lackluster academic performance as a Rat.

    There are social opportunities at VMI and other SMCs. It's not a prison. However, you'll have to wait until you're an upperclassman before you can take advantage of a lot of them (and you have to keep your nose clean with regards to demerits etc.). It won't be the same as a "normal college," but there is no reason to assume that grades will be lower as the ROTC instructor suggested. Indeed, if you're stuck on campus, the best thing to do is to study or read for class. (Most of the social events I speak of take place off of VMI's post. There are numerous women's colleges within a short drive).

    The ultimate question is if your son wants to deal with the "distractions" at an SMC, or if he'd rather have the civilian college experience. I expect that he probably already knows the answer to this. If not, you should have him visit VMI or Norwich (or Citadel, A&M, whatever) when the "suck is on" for the freshmen, and then have him consider the differences in lifestyle.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  7. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    Hi, I am HMQ's son (the current rat at VMI). Right now I'm home on furlough for about another week before I get to start straining again. For the son of 2016 mom, if you do not know what straining is, send bruno or sprog a private message; it was a lot more "popular" back in the Old Corps and they will better able to describe its many nuances.

    Back to the subject of an SMC vs. a "regular" college with ROTC. I had a much similar experience with my application and decision making process. Originally, I had wanted to go to West Point, but the engineering and sciences oriented program there did not appeal to me (ironic I know, going to one of the premiere engineering schools in VA and the South). Also, I like the fact the fact that people who get into VMI tend to be much less pretentious than USMA acceptees.

    Going to a SMC does have many "tangible" benefits over a non-military college too. While any rat, knob, plebe, etc. will invariably tell you that they wish they had gone to a "real college", it is just the pain and sleep deprivation talking, you will have fun with it when Cadre isn't around and you have time to mess around with your BR's. The stuff you have to go through in these schools will change the way you look at yourself and the path you have chosen - the military.

    In addition, while it may seem that the military system at a SMC will destroy your GPA while you're competing on the order of merit list, the truth is that your grades are what you make them. My first semester GPA was a lot better than I expected because of the fact that these schools will actually make you look foward to studying and will force you to learn time management and diligence. In closing, it is your decision to make, so consider what you want to do with your life and how you want to get there.
     
  8. America's Finest

    America's Finest USMA Cadet

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    Maybe we should just stick to facts. Especially since the OP is choosing between a SMC and a "normal" college which has nothing to do with a SA making this comment completely irrelevant. :wink:

    To the OP: It is not difficult to get an active duty slot at a "normal" college (assuming your son isn't at the bottom of the OML). I highly recommend your son visit his top SMC and civilian college choices at the very least to get a feel for daily life in each of them so he may compare them himself. Just make sure he gets the chance to talk to seniors (or recent graduates) from both as they will provide the best opinion since they went through the entire 4 years and their experience isn't limited to being a freshman (which would likely make a SMC seem worse since their experience is limited to the tougher first year).
     
  9. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    I appologize to "America's Finest", I did not mean to generalize. Good luck 2016 son (and mom) on your decision, hope to see you here.
     
  10. havana brown

    havana brown Member

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    I would also like to add North Georgia to the list. My son's #1 school was VMI all the way (especially because we live in VA), but once he visited and toured NGCSU he loved it. He gets the best of both worlds, civilian and military. Plus, they have more money to give out in scholarships, and have the #1 ROTC program two years in a row.
     

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