USAFA vs AFROTC - please dont start a word war.

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by skismuggs, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. skismuggs

    skismuggs Member

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    this question was asked of me today... why would someone want to go to a military academy and subject oneself to 4 years of "torture" and not 4 years at a civilian college doing rotc and have the "college experience" when there is no clear advantage after graduation? - meaning everyone becomes an officer. or is there? assume that everything else is on the same level - financial and the desire to serve. i know there are people that are just for academies and there are those that are just into the rotc, i want to get the opinions of those that are in between those extremes. i dont want to start a usafa vs rotc war by asking this, i just want a civilized discussion if it is possible, thanks.
     
  2. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    Well, I think you answered your own question to some degree. Different strokes for different folks.

    Some folks are going to thrive in the strict discipline of a military academy. It's where they know they will do well.

    Other folks, like my son would never thrive there, perhaps not solely because of the discipline and lack of college experience but also because of some of the academic requirements, especially Calculus. And its not because he doesn't enjoy the military discipline of ROTC but he wanted the "college experience" as well. This is the environment in which he is thriving.

    I think most folks who attend an academy will tell you it better prepares you as an officer because it is a military environment 24/7. Another school of thought is that ROTC prepares (or can prepare) a more well rounded officer. I think this will be argued until doomsday and suffice it to say that good, and excellent, officers come out of both environments.

    There may be more exposure to training opportunities in the summer via a military academy which can be both helpful and rewarding.
     
  3. FlyingFuzz

    FlyingFuzz Member

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    It is true that coming from a service academy does not give you a leg up after graduation (or at least it isn't supposed to). Whether or not ROTC or an academy is better depends on the particular person. For me, whenever I do something I tend to be an all or nothing kind of guy, which lines up with the academy. Other people don't want the uniform 24/7 their college years and desire more personal freedom up front, which lines up with ROTC. You just need to know yourself and what kind of environment would work best for you. Great officers come from both the academies and ROTC.
     
  4. the tone

    the tone Member

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    My cadet was awarded an ROTC scholarship to any ROTC school in his state. When I told him the news, he said, "Have we heard anything from the Academy?" It's all about what you really want...
     
  5. MN-Dad-2016

    MN-Dad-2016 Member

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    My DS wanted a dramatically different college experience. He figured the pressure would make him better at time management, dealing with stress, etc. He didn't care about the traditional "college experience". He wanted whatever path stretched him the most.

    So I guess the "torture" was actually desirable. It is why employers like to interview academy grads. If you can handle the stress and you flourish in the USAFA environment, it opens even more doors and you learn a lot about yourself as well.

    Also, he looked forward the unique opportunities like the Scholars program, travel overseas for free, language immersion programs as he is minoring in Chinese (again for free). The opportunities are endless if you take advantage of them.

    He also loved the fact that the President of the United States would hand him his diploma in 2016. The Academy is a special place and he wanted to be a part of that tradition. ROTC wasn't on his RADAR.
     
  6. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    I think that the "different strokes for different folks" is probably true, but I personally believe that newly minted officers from the Academies are more knowledgeable, and better prepared at commission. Five or ten years down the line, it doesn't matter. And of course, I am speaking of my own personal opinion, and from what I have seen with my sons at IFS. From what I have seen at the local university where they have Army and AF ROTC, the Academies also put forth a product (if one can call a 2nd LT a "product") with more discipline and perseverance.

    Does that make one a better officer? Maybe. The Air Force and Army might disagree.

    I do feel that the young people who go to a Service Academy are far more independent, generally, from their parents, as 21 and 22 year olds, then those who attend State U. Just an observation.

    Well rounded? What are we talking about, really, here? More Friday nights bombed with booze? More exposure to drugs? Possibly true (definitely on the latter). There are very few colleges which expose the student to a more well-rounded academic program than the the Service Academies. maybe someone going to State U has more time to attend things like concerts and movies.
     
  7. John41057

    John41057 Member

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    Academy v. ROTC

    Hi
    The only advantage that was told to me by both an academy grad and a ROTC grade was that the chance to get a pilot slot was higher if you went to the academy.
    Regards
    John
     
  8. Non Ducor Duco

    Non Ducor Duco I am not led, I lead

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    I would like to point out that not all ROTC cadets choose a civilian college because they want the "normal-college experience". I chose to do AFROTC at my university because it is a top-tier engineering school. I've wanted to go here for a very long time and am very happy with my choice. The Academy has challenges that help produce fine officers true, but civilian colleges also have their own set of challenges and, wouldn't you know, they produce fine officers too. It's all about what you want. Weigh the pros and cons and decide which path you think will help you most in reaching your goals. The biggest thing for me was that my college had my desired field of study, the AFA did not.
     
  9. lisah

    lisah Member

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    My dad used to tell me...Go to college to get a well rounded education; apprentice as a plumber or any other blue-collar worker while in school...you will always have a 'job'..but your (liberal arts??) education will make you an interesting person...to yourself and others.
    College is about life-experience and learning how to 'think'.

    Service Academies are 'different' then the standard undergraduate education with/without ROTC. It is about service AND learning how to think AND holding a higher standard of performance 24/7. How you define a 'well-rounded education' must take into account the opportunities offered to those who are committed to serve from the age of ~18yo and the rigor inherent in a SA vs the 'real' college experience.

    Granted, the moment of graduation may reveal a different sorta officer...but, in the end...all are committed to serve their requirements. Personally, I am fascinated by the different 'environments' these graduates (2d lieutenants) have. Is there no research that compares/contrasts the eventual careers of SA grads vs ROTC grads?

    I suspect my DS would be a completely different officer if he attended a 'real' college then what he now experiences at USAFA. Not right. Not wrong...just a different collegiate experience and thus a different officer. He probably would not cope with the distractions of a real college and be as successful. This I know as a mom. I am not sure he knows this.....but he is thriving at USAFA. He will be a decent officer. The ultimate goal. Each kid needs to find their own way. I suspect my DS knows the USAFA has allowed him a success he may not have known at a real-college. But...who really knows?
     
  10. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Personally, I think the academies are better at preparing new Lts for the military branch they are about to enter. I think the ROTC route probably prepares people better to approach problems from a non-institutional standpoint. USAFA cadets will often be better prepared to deal with the Air Force way of doing things, since they had four years of very focused interaction with the AF and its thinking. Most ROTC grads didn't have the opportunity to do "global engagement," combat survival training, soaring, run BCT/push a flight at Lackland, go on Ops AF, and more. Many will get an opportunity to do some of those things, but USAFA cadets are the "spoiled kids" as far as cadet opportunities go.

    Now, the other side to that is that ROTC grads have to manage their educations on their own a bit more. They have to find housing, probably an outside job, manage their schedules, and plan out their finances a bit better. USAFA cadets get paid to go to school, get free housing, healthcare, food, etc. A lot of everyday life concerns are taken care of for USAFA cadets, so they can focus on studies and military duties. ROTC cadets have to figure it out on their own.

    As for which is better? They both bring positive effects for the AF. New ROTC grads bring in more diverse expediences at a cheaper investment. Academy grads bring 4 years of focused experience and a knowledge of how the service likes to do things. For the individual, it depends on what they want and how they work. Do you want structure and focus or do you want to develop your own path?

    I don't want anyone to think that money should be a driving factor, but ROTC cadets get the short stick, compared to most academy cadets. Academy grads usually have zero student loans, although most choose to take a career starter loan.
     
  11. cadet15

    cadet15 Member

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    First some background on me: I went to USAFA for a year and now I am in ROTC. There are advantages to both. USAFA gives you more training opportunities, especially in the summer. ROTC gives you more well rounded (and this is just my opinion based on my detachment). Many of us are paying for college ourselves, working throughout the week, participating in clubs, and our grades really matter, along with every other number the AF could think of. Yes there are the kids who go out and party, but the ones who are really dedicated to the program are studying on Friday nights, getting up early to PT on our own time, helping out the det any way we can...you get out of ROTC what you put into it. I feel like that applies to anything and everything in life. Initially out of USAFA, you have a massive group of LT's that you know and grew up with, so to speak. My det will send ~30 new Lt's into the big blue in May, and that is a large class. Networking is easier for USAFA grads, but arguably, ROTC grads have had more experience with that. A lot of ROTC is going out and getting stuff...doing things for yourself. The Academy hands a lot to the cadets. I could go on with more information. It boils down to this though: They both have strengths and weaknesses, but you get to the same point at the end of the day and where you go from there is completely up to you.
     
  12. Aglahad

    Aglahad Member

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    +1

    Even if I was offered an appointment to one of the academies I would have turned it down for ROTC. I just prefer the "normal" college lifestyle and have never regretted my decision for doing so. People say academy grads do better in their first 5 years or so after commissioning and maybe they really do. I have no doubt they are better performers at D&C and general military customs and courtesies (I will say their training opportunities are a lot better funded and more plentiful). However, is an academy a realistic military environment compared to the actual military? I don't know and can't answer that because I am not an academy grad. I really wonder if some academy grads are pretty disenfranchised when they see what the actual day to day life of the military really is.


    What I can tell in my limited interaction with academy cadets is that ROTC has them beat when it comes to interaction with the opposite sex and that's what really counts :thumb:

    "No man...wrangler jeans, new balance running shoes and a plain red t shirt tucked into those said jeans are not going to help you get girls" Haha
     
  13. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    An interesting perspective and I think your conclusion focuses on what's really important for young adults! :smile:
     
  14. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    Based on my limited knowledge of Son's experiences since he has been out of USAFA, I would bet he would disagree with you. :wink:

    I think that the correct answer is that it really depends on what fits the candidate. My son is intensely focused on goals and when he decided to go to USAFA it was an all-in proposition. He didn't apply to ROTC or any other academies because he wanted the sharpest path to being an Air Force pilot. He wanted full immersion in the AF and wasn't very concerned with the 'normal' college experience. I also have to note that he had a lot of 'fun' times visiting people at UCCS or UC-Boulder. It's not like they are cloistered for 4 years and come out at the end a sun-deprived zombie in blues.

    I do want to address the impression that there is no advantage to being an Academy grad once you start your career. (Remember, this is my observation based on Son's UPT training and my discussions with him, not necessarily the end-all truth). When the classes at UPT start, the Academy grads have an automatic mutual bond in place. They know each other, even if not very well. They have many mutual friends and already have many of the 'social walls' broken down. It is much easier for them to form a class bond, which is huge in pilot training. The ROTC and Guard guys will become a part of the class, but it takes more work on their part to get to the level of bonding that the Academy people have. Also, it is knowing what is expected because of the exposure to the Academy culture.
    A very good story to illustrate: Three weeks into UPT the squadron commander invited the class over to his house for a BBQ on a Saturday night for a 'get to know you' event. The two ROTC guys in the class were planning on going to San Antonio for the weekend to party, while the rest knew that the 'invitation' to the BBQ was not optional for a good relationship with the commander and the class. The Academy guys took the other two aside and explained, but it still took a lot of convincing to get the two to stay and go to the BBQ. They felt that they had their weekend coming and they didn't want to give that up.

    I am sure that Son would have done well at a civilian college, but that is not what he wanted and his choice has served him very well.

    Stealth_81
     
  15. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    And ensigns!!! :biggrin:
     
  16. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    That's only because officers have no idea how bad they are with the opposite sex too (don't worry, enlisted are no better).
     
  17. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    You mean, they're no longer allowed to vote?!?!
     
  18. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    I won't go into the pros and cons of each. Suffice it to say, you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned different strokes for different folks. A couple people mentioned here that if they were offered an academy appointment, they would have turned it down to go ROTC instead. They wanted the "Normal" college experience. I know just as many people; my son included; that applied for the air force academy and that was his ONLY choice. He didn't apply to navy, army, coast guard OR to ANY ROTC scholarships.

    He wanted to be "In the Air Force". I had the similar feeling when I was still active duty. Nothing against the guard or reserve, but that's not what I wanted. I didn't want to join a "PART TIME" military. I wanted active duty or nothing. My son, as well as many others, didn't want a "PART TIME" military/academic education. He decided if he didn't get an academy appointment, he would apply for an ROTC scholarship, but admitted it would have been "Settling" for 2nd best. But again; that's just his position.

    So no; there aren't really PROS and CONS. What some see as a PRO, is actually a CON for some people. You say that a pro of ROTC is that you get the REAL College experience. Believe it or not, that's actually a CON for some people. Some want FULL TIME military. They don't want 1 day a week and some training in the summer. Again; just like some don't want the guard or reserve. They want FULL TIME military. Not 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks a year.
     
  19. melindayching

    melindayching Member

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    My DD was offered an ROTC scholarship to arguably the best ivy league university and also was appointed to USAFA. She chose USAFA because she specifically DID NOT want a "normal" college experience. Alot of people thought she was crazy to turn down the ivy with a scholarship, but she knew in her heart that she wanted to do something that few people got a chance to do. She has never looked back and she has thrived at USAFA so far. I don't think she could have made a "mistake" either way; it is a CC says, depends of what you want out of the next 4 years.
     
  20. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

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    Biggest advantage of academy over rotc in 2 words: job security
     

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