Norwich vs. VMI, Making a tough choice


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5-Year Member
Feb 17, 2009
My son has just been accepted at both Norwich and VMI and struggling with his options. I am a grad of Norwich and have tight committments to the legacy of Norwich but of course want the best for my son. Could use some perspective and insight from current students and graduates from both schools. Both schools are committed to the military lifestyle, but which school best realizes personal success?
My son has just been accepted at both Norwich and VMI and struggling with his options. I am a grad of Norwich and have tight committments to the legacy of Norwich but of course want the best for my son. Could use some perspective and insight from current students and graduates from both schools. Both schools are committed to the military lifestyle, but which school best realizes personal success?
I don't know how you could answer this in an objective way. Both of these are good small colleges. As a Norwich grad you know that the Norwich of 30 years ago is significantly different than the Norwich of today which is about 50% military compared to the Norwich of my little brothers day- and VMI is a lot more "adversative" in its approach- it's changed a lot less since I graduated as my son is now experiencing. Both have very good reputations in all of the services with a lot of successful alumni. Outside the military-I believe that Norwich is a more regional reputation than does VMI- I live in Massachusetts and in New England and the Northeast Norwich is a pretty well known school. VMI, while obviously best represented in the Southeast is a school with a national reputation and is ranked as such in many of the college rankings (US News; Forbes; etc...).
I really believe that your son ought to make this decision based on fit and feel- visit both, spend a night at both and then decide. I'm pretty certain that there is no bad decision here (I'm assuming that financial offers etc... are roughly the same for your son). Good luck to him
Norwich vs. VMI (USMC)

I am planning on doing NROTC Marine option during college. My first choice of colleges is VMI or Norwich. Assuming I get accepted at both, which one is a better school for the Marine option, or is there any difference? Norwich claims in their info packet that they produce the most NROTC Marine option cadets of any college in the US second only to the Naval Academy. Any opinions?

Thank you!
I am planning on doing NROTC Marine option during college. My first choice of colleges is VMI or Norwich. Assuming I get accepted at both, which one is a better school for the Marine option, or is there any difference? Norwich claims in their info packet that they produce the most NROTC Marine option cadets of any college in the US second only to the Naval Academy. Any opinions?

Thank you!

Well I think it's a wash but I don't the think the claim is accurate- at least not based on the numbers I can find (the summer 2008 VMI Institute report and the May 2008 Norwich University communications office posting about graduation and commissioning). In 2008 VMI commissioned 26 Marine Officers while Norwich commissioned 17 Marines. Overall I believe that VMI commissioned about 130 officers in 2008 while Norwich commissioned 91. I think that if you want to be a Marine officer (or an officer in any of the other services)you will be well prepared if you go to either school.
There are significant differences in life style, and feel and location between the two schools and each school has its areas of strength among its majors. Your son really ought to make his choice based on his compatibility with the school and what he wants: a very stressful fourth class year in a totally regimented environment, or a less stressful but still regimented environment but one that is shared with 50 % civilian student body? Small but yuppy town in Virginia (which you won't have much opportunity to enjoy as Rat )or a very small town in North Central Vermont which doesn't have much to explore but which is near some of the best skiing in New England. Tough call- nice to have the choice.
Good luck
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Okay...pilot perspective here... :shake:

RAT line...VMI...history, no air conditioning, boards for beds...

NU/VT College (note the COLLEGE part)...cadet life...scenery of VT...

BABEAGE in VT College...:biggrin:


****okay...serious now...can't go wrong with either! I considered both when looking for my choice...BOTH are superb and will get anyone to their goals. I think the big choice here would be lifestyle. I think (IMHO) that the VMI experience is a bit more...rigid than is that of Norwich. Not to say NU is "easy" as I know a young man there now that just finished his second year...but it's NOT VMI.

Okay...have I gotten myself in a hole deep enough?
Thank you for the advice guys! ill take that to meen that none of the military colleges (not including USMA USAFA and USNA) have strengths in particular services. I was told that the citadel was too political, any thoughts? and you mentioned they have different strengths for majors, how about business? or is business even an option in NROTC?
Well- I think that they have leadership strengths that are equally applicable to all services. Does one school have any particular strength in any one service? I believe you would be hard pressed to quantify such a thing- you could try I suppose to look at past alumni successes (for example VMI historically has a very close tie to the Army Corps of Engineers with several of the recent LTG- Chief of Engineers being VMI alum)- but as every stock prospectus makes clear- past performance does not guarantee future results and I would say this is equally true in this case. I think that they will all serve your purposes- going into the USMC- very well. They all graduate a fairly similar number of Marine officers each year so you will run into an alumni support group in the USMC of roughly the same size from any of these three.
As far as the Citadel being political- huh?? Maybe there are a number of South Carolina politicians who have been alumni- but that's not the same as being political.
I'm haven't attended yet, but I'm coming to Norwich in the fall and I've been thinking a lot about what the differences between it and the other military colleges are, trying to classify it lol. I love military the military setting, plan on making a career of it myself, and I've gotten to thinking that Norwich would offer a much more accurate representation of military life. VMI and the Citadel seem to be more of 24/7 boot camp experiences, the entire year is focused on the rat and knob training regimen and regardless of if you are directly involved it will affect how you live.
Norwich seems to be much closer to the "9 to 5" life that officers can expect (again, from what I've read and gleaned from retired and former officers). Wake up nice and early, PT or what have you, get food then turn to the training schedule for the day (school). You get off around 1600 and go on to extracurriculars, whatever that may be. Basicly, whatever you do to unwind. Then it's study time, something that you can expect to be doing fairly often after the regular work schedule on active duty. There simply aren't enough hours in the day so you'll never escape it haha.
Essentially, you experience a bit of the "bootcamp experience" early on but they gradually take you out of that in order to ease you into a personal motivation driven situation. You won't have cadre yelling at you at all hours like at other schools, it's more about getting things done on initiative (a primary trait all officers need). And if you're looking for a more challenging experience physically and as far as military training goes, I hear that the clubs and such that EVERY service offer can fill the gap you may feel and then plenty more extra.
I'm looking at the Semper Fi Society and simply can't find enough information to satisfy me, but I don't think that is possible this close to arrival day haha. Hope this has helped clear things up a little bit. Any of the Military Colleges is the right choice, it's all about doing something to distinguish yourself.
i would have to agree. thank you all for the help. It sounds like you have a very good point, and that was my concern as well. it appears as tho VMI and the citadel, both very good institutions dont get me wrong, focus too much on assimilating you into their traditions, and not as much on practical training for real life military. anyway, thank you again, all this has been a great help. it's much appreciated.
Well- I have to say that I disagree pretty much totally with Meyer T's characterization and would say that in fact there is nothing about an Army officer's life that is "9 to 5" . -I surely don't know what officer you have been talking to but as my wife is telling me right now- the modus operandi in the Army is that everything is 100% perfect all the time. It is pretty much the ultimate zero defect world, and the fact that you are staggering into a FOB after humping the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan for 2 weeks won't relieve you of the requirement to have a perfect Power Point presentation at 0600 the next morning- far from being 9-5, the reality is that the Army will grind you down with competing demands all of which it expects to be perfect -which is a very wearing scenario. Don't believe me? Go into any S3 shop in a Stateside Army unit and see when any officer in there last got home before 8 PM or went in after 0530- and that is when they are home in a stabilization tour supposedly decompressing! In Iraq or Afghanistan- you will be constantly battered with multiple hi- pri competing demands which will include planning or executing hi risk/ hi visibility military operations as well as the myriad of immediate requirements laid upon you for information, personnel etc... all of which are expected to be perfect .
I believe that the principal theory that VMI and the Citadel operate upon is that by learning to function under extreme pressure with multiple competing demands you are better prepared to deal with the intense pressure and challenges that you may find yourself dealing with in your future endeavors in the military- or in civilian life. Norwich has a somewhat modified view of this - which one of these approachs better prepares any one individual for the future is I suppose open for some debate. However, I don't believe that Meyer's or Gheye's reasoning is a particularly accurate assessment of the differences between these three schools.
I know exactly what you mean and I think you disagree so much because i probably failed in getting my idea across.

By a "9 to 5" existance I merely meant that you weren't going to be on parade and such 24/7. Having not gone through either VMI or the Citadel, I can only go on the impressions each college has given me. They both give an impression where your first year there you are regulated and told "Be here at this time, do this thing, do this thing, then leave. You wil have cadre with you the whole time making sure you don't screw this up" and from the numerous officers and non-commissioned officers I've spoken with, as both speak of life as much the same just at different scales, tell me that the constant supervision and direction of VMI or the Citadel doesn't happen in the active Military (I speak almost exclusively with Marines since those are the contacts I have, so apologies if my info doesn't reflect all services). You can expect to be given a task then accomplish it, with the direction being minimal. Officers aren't micromanaged, just assigned and it's your duty to finish those assignments regardless of the time requirements. I don't expect small amounts of work, because that isn't the life of an officer. The friends I have at Norwich talk about a demanding cadet lifestyle, as is to be expected, but much more responsibility from square one. The microscope marionette act doesn't last long and is replaced by expectations that are put in place and it is your perogative to fulfill them. No one will ride herd on you until you fail to carry out those orders. As long as you get all that is expected of you done you won't have the harassment visited upon you by any all-knowing cadre at all hours of the day.

In essence, VMI seems to have a discipline-based system, teachig all aspects of discipline and enforcing them at all turns. Norwich, on the other hand, seems to focus on responsibility and initiative, teaching and rewarding those aspects of leadership. I hope my ideas are a little more clear this time...
I know exactly what you mean and I think you disagree so much because i probably failed in getting my idea across.
Perhaps the VMI cadets who explained cadet life to you didn't explain themselves very well, either. :smile:

The lifestyle you're describing only happens for the first 10 days at VMI. This is known as Matriculation/Cadre/Hell Week and it is your (literal) crash course in drill, customs & courtesies, how to set your room up in military inspection order and how to wear your uniform. You don't have watches or alarm clocks because, as previously observed, you've got Cadre telling you exactly what to do and exactly when to do it. This doesn't last for the entire Ratline, much less your entire cadetship.

As soon as classes begin, the emphasis is placed on academics. You'd better bet that it's still intense, but Cadre ≠ glorified babysitter. Rats eat breakfast and supper with Cadre and they have 2-3 scheduled Cadre Training sessions per week. At the risk of ruining peoples' surprise :)wink:), those Cadre Training sessions generally focus on continued training. Rats learn progressively difficult drill movements and learn how to wear different uniforms (gray blouse, coatee, overcoat, etc.) during these training times, during the school year. It's intense, but normally these periods last from 1615-1730 or 1745.

The fact of the matter is that Cadre have classes and other responsibilities, too. They don't have time to be holding little rat paws. This means that rats are responsible for managing their own deadlines. Heck yeah, they receive a boatload of scrutiny. Rat uniforms are supposed to be perfect all the time just as their rooms are supposed to be in military inspection order all the time, on top of academics. If they fail to meet any of these standards by the stated deadline, there will be consequences.

Yes, there will come a point when upperclassmen who aren't Cadre will be permitted to quiz rats on their knowledge and further enforce uniform standards, but this is all regulated by the General Committee and its subcommittees (the cadet government), with further oversight and guidance from the Commandant of Cadets and his Staff.

One myth that I want to debunk right now is that at VMI, "the all-knowing Cadre" CANNOT "harass" the rats "at all hours of the day." They don't have time for that and there are strict rules about when and where they are allowed to conduct training. Inevitably some will break these rules, and when it's found out, they will almost always lose their rank. At the very least they'll be spending plenty of time on confinement and marching PTs.

As an upperclassman, some of the scrutiny subsides. But they expect you to be an adult. As a rat, the Commandant's Staff tends to be a little more lenient, but not much. As an upperclassman, you are completely responsible for every action and inaction.

Ignorance is no excuse, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to" isn't good enough and if you put yourself on report you're still going to get the same penalty. This is meant to prepare you for life on the other side where "I didn't know that was against the UCMJ" is no excuse, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get your son/husband killed" just isn't good enough and if you do something wrong, you just own up to it and take the penalty. I'm sure this kind of pressure (to force you to learn how to prioritize, manage your time and take full responsibility for everything you do and don't do) is present at all of the Academies and SMCs.

In the end, the decision is yours. My main goal is to help explain things more clearly than they (apparently) were explained to you.

Hope this helps!

Jackie M. Briski
VMI Class of 2009
First Class Private (Ret.)
One last thing, Meyer... I'm not tryin' to rail on you, but if you think you won't be on parade 24/7 at Norwich, I'm afraid you are terribly mistaken. Any time any cadet from any military school does something newsworthy, the name of that military school is splashed across all the headlines. GEN Peay (VMI's Superintendent) refers to this as the lightening rod effect. When you hold yourself to a higher standard, you stand out more, and because of that you often get fried when the lightening strikes.

I don't know Norwich's regulations for when and where the uniform is worn, but just based on the fact there's a civilian side of the school, I'm assuming it's less stringent than at VMI. But don't think your haircut, ring and how you carry yourself won't give you away even in civvies. You will still represent Norwich no matter where you go.

One of the officers at VMI told me about one of his buddies whose Company CO found out the young 2LT had been ridiculously drunk when three of the PVTs in his platoon ran into him on the way back to his barracks. That 2LT was sent packing, on his way to a new assignment. You will always be on parade, because people will always know who and what you represent.

In the Real Military™, you'll be on parade 24/7, too. Just because you're "off duty" doesn't mean you don't still represent the US Military. Especially as an officer. And especially as an Officer of Marines.
I'm glad we've gotten the side from VMI now, cause there was no way I was getting it right having not been there haha. Thanks for the input.

And I didn't mean personal bearing and such when I said "parade". The way you carry yourself is a given no matter where you go, civilian school or otherwise (atleast it should be). I've seen personal bearing and the like stressed way back to the Freshman football level. No matter what you're doing, whether in school, in the military, or out of school you are representing something or someone so the way you carry yourself always matters.

May I ask which institution your child chose to attend? I think both institutions are outstanding - however, I am both a Norwich graduate and worked there as an admissions officer - so - I hope your child chose Norwich!

Roy "Fuji" Fulgueras
Director of Admissions
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
FAX 508-830-5077