I agree with your 'one size does not fit all' point completely. Pretty sure you know this, but for others following, MMI IS a college. A jr college, yes, but considering that your primary objective is to transfer the next year, (or maybe two?), then your kid can transfer from MMI just as easily as Civ University. Hopefully, it's to SA of choice, but perhaps Civ University is the better path for you anyhow?This is a touchy subject to me each year as I see it next to impossible to take the raw data and make a determination on how effective the Self-Prep program is in helping a candidate get accepted the next year as most of the information is antidotal. I see the biggest advantage for an applicant that is not mature enough to be successful away from home the first year and who also does not have a solid educational background and lower test scores. The rigor of these schools can help fix those things and make them more competitive. BUT if you have a applicant that has the maturity and the educational background to be successful their first year away, the college experience may be a better option. I would venture to guess that we have at least as many college reapplicants get accepted as we do self prep applicants and probably more. Even though I was accepted out of high school many moons ago, I lacked that maturity and educational background. A year at a program like MMI would have been a great benefit preparing me for USMA. Contrast this to my daughter who did not get in her first year just due to a principal nominee and the lower numbers of offers that year MMI would have hurt her chances. She went to a DIV I school, pulled a 3.5 in her first year as a pre-med major, was a member of the track team, and did well in ROTC. The bottom line comes down to an honest evaluation with input from admissions on where you missed the mark and you have to develop an individual plan to address those shortcomings. For the sake of argument, lets say 150 individuals were accepted of the NWL. Qualified applicant 151 probably needs a much different plan than qualified applicant 300. One size does not fit all.
MMI, with it's corp of cadets, and very well established relationships with Service Academies definitely has advantages over the Civilian U route, IMHO.
Perhaps the service Academy gatekeepers (either congressional board interviewing, or AO at SA), felt DS/DD might not be the best over all candidates for military life? Or perhaps your kid really does need to give being part of a Corp of Cadets a dry run? Regardless, Corp of cadets will be in the plus column. (You could obviously do same at major military U's, such as Citadel, Norwich, VMI, TX A&M, etc....)
Yes, ROTC will provide that experience a couple times a week at State U, but Marion has ROTC also.
Marion has directly experienced professors and staff for fulfilling letters of reference, and SA evaluations required. And for fulfilling not always simple administrative requirements, like dental xray, fingerprint cards, DoDMERB requirements including AMI situations, etc.. Not saying Civ U can't do the same, but you could have to do some more work there explaining and reminding Civ professors who may have 1000 students in your section, of your needs. Perfect example: We got the perfect Dr referal to handle WP requested AMI. They knew a former Army Doctor to send DS to, and someone from MMI actually gave him a ride to and from his appointment. Excellent Support saves time that could be otherwise spent in the pursuit of militarily related extracuriculars at MMI to build a stronger Leadership profile. In particular, if you can pass the difficult Swamp Fox requirements, (many drop out), you will have an excellent experience to talk about in interviews, etc. DS West Point AO had heard all about the MMI Swamp Fox program and seemed particularily impressed by that.
When looking at statistics on appointments coming out of any situation, bear in mind your kid will actually need to perform and follow through. And perhaps some kids goingvthrough this just don't meet tge standards to begin with.
Obviously I'm biased towards MMI, but did everything they promised for my son and MORE. And gave him decent discounts with easy to get scholarships. Furthermore, I can't argue with the RESULTS. 3 appointments to all three Academies he applied to.