Recent USNA Graduates please help- USNA vs Marine Corps NROTC

Cadet1998

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I have had the honor of recently being notified that I have both received a nomination and appointment to attend USNA class of 2021. I see this as a huge blessing but the more I research the Naval Academy, the more negative perspectives and opinions I come into contact with. I have also received a Marine Corps NROTC Scholarship to Texas A&M University and am happy with the options that God has given me in terms of education before service. I have read reviews of USNA from people who graduated anywhere from 20-50 years ago but with today's changing political atmosphere, I would like a fresh perspective from those who graduated 1-5 years ago. Just to be clear, I am extremely thankful for this opportunity and am trying to figure out which option would be best for me.

What I've heard about A&M ROTC and Corps of Cadets:
  • Close to Home
  • Part time college-student, part time midshipmen
  • Modern classes and environment
  • Traditions, Alumni, and a vast network upon graduation
  • Opportunities within the Corps (training exercises)
  • A fair amount of downtime
  • Not as focused as a Service Academy
What I've heard about USNA:
  • Not that different from an ROTC program
  • Great opportunities to make connections such as politicians, guest speakers, future service members
  • Being able to be immersed in military lifestyle and learn to lead
  • USNA is a constant grind and many people have said the best part of USNA is leaving and being able to say you graduated
  • The educational program (degree path) is not as up-to-date and emphasized as leadership skills and military knowledge
  • Many doors opened and opportunities post-graduation
I am not as concerned with which school I attend as I am with being able to serve in the Marine Corps. Any and all perspectives and advice are welcome. I'm just an 18 year old trying to figure this out. My main question is: What was your time spent at USNA like, how did it help you, and would you choose another route (ROTC) if possible?
 

NavyHoops

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Will take a stab at this. One of my closest friends is a Texas A&M grad and we have spent many hours discussing the school (he went to VMI his first year then transferred). I am also close friends with a USNA classmate whose father was in charge of the Corps at one point. My fireteam buddy at TBS was an A&M grad. I feel like I have pretty decent grasp of the Corps from an outsider's perspective. There was a thread going on a week or so ago about NROTC vs USNA. Not exactly the same with the Corps option, but some things to think about as many do apply: https://www.serviceacademyforums.com/index.php?threads/usna-vs-rotc.53272/#post-523217

First and foremost you need to pick the school that best suits you. I recommend you visit both and make a judgement then.

Texas A&M is a great school. It is unique with its Corps environment. Yes it is more military than your regular ROTC battalion. Is it as 24x7 as a SA, probably not, but close, especially freshman year. I asked my buddy this question and his response was... "you can make it as military or non-military as you want." Although the Corps has a very strong reputation and is commissioning more and more Cadets each year, not everyone is going to commission. According my buddy who is a grad, he said majority of your friends and life will revolve around the Corps, but many develop other relationships too. This can vary by the person. At USNA everyone has the same goal in mind and is moving in that direction.

Couple of things to consider:
  • Room and Board costs - not included in scholarship. Other scholarships to cover this? How are you/family picking up this tab?
  • If you decide the military isn't for you, you can remain at A&M. You can even remain in the Corps and still graduate. USNA you would have to leave.
  • A&M has more majors
    • If both schools have the major you want, then its a wash.
    • USNA tends to have much smaller classes than most schools, especially those of A&M size.
    • What are the Math/Science requirements for MO NROTC (in that past they were pretty minor, not sure about today)? USNA is very STEM based regardless of major. Is one a better fit than the other.
  • ROTC scholarship you have a guaranteed Marine spot if you pass OCS.
    • I will defer to kinnem, but even with scholarships, you still have a decent attrition rate of Midshipmen in an ROTC program. This can be tough to see so many leave and I also think it leads to many others jumping on board and dropping out.
    • At USNA you won't be guaranteed a Marine spot, but if you want it and aren't brain dead, can run 3 miles and lead someone you will get the spot. For some the option of being able to go Navy is a bonus.
    • If you go via USNA, you won't have to do OCS. That can be seen as a pro or con depending on opinion.
  • I disagree with a few comments. The academic program is not out of date. It is different. You will spend more time on ethics, military leadership, character development, military history/art than you would at a civilian university. You will still have plenty of time in other classes too. Classes like cyber warfare are definitely rather progressive as it is becoming a larger part of daily military operations.
  • Yes USNA is a grind, so is any school balancing a full load of classes, PT, ROTC, etc. It is all what you make of it. I loved my time at USNA. It wasn't easy, but I have no regrets. It prepared me well for the USMC.
  • The Alumni network is amazing for USNA. If you are a local Texas guy, I am guessing the A&M network is very strong in Texas. USNA is more strong nationally.
  • The training at USNA for a Marine was very solid. Not going to OCS was never a hindrance for me. Leatherneck, Semper Fi Club, FMF cruise, Marine Corps Officer class, etc prepared me well. I had plenty of exposure to USMC Officers and Enlisted at USNA. I was able to take off and running at TBS and in the fleet with no issues. Regardless of school your level of engagement is the key. If you choose to not take advantage of the opportunities that exist that is your fault. USNA has more training options as its larger, located near Quantico and has more officers/enlisted to support training. There is usually plenty of training opportunities if you choose to seek them out, join clubs, get involved. The Corps I am sure offers plenty also, especially if they combine with the Army ROTC unit to do training.
If you have more specific questions please let me know and I will try to answer them or track down someone who does know. Ultimately this comes down to what you want and what is the best fit.
 

usna1985

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It's fine to solicit views from recent grads. However, someone who is still in the midst of officer training or early days as an officer lacks the perspective to know whether it was the "right" decision. Whatever the view today, that view may well change in 1, 5, 10 or 20 years.

IOW, if your time at USNA sucked, you may currently think attending was a bad idea. 25 years from now, when you're selected for Admiral, you may have a different view. Likewise, five years from now when you're trying to get into grad school or looking for your first civilian job, you may have a different view. One other thing -- the fact that someone wishes he/she had done ROTC doesn't mean that person would necessarily have been happier actually doing ROTC. One (USNA) is a known; the other (ROTC) is an unknown. There may be an assumption that "anything had to be better than USNA"; that's not necessarily true unless you actually experienced the alternative and found it better which, for most people, isn't an option.

What recent grads can tell you is how likely they were to get their preferred service selection, whether they felt their USNA education prepared them well for their chosen career path, how happy they are doing what they're doing in the military, and how sanguine they feel about their future in the military or outside.
 

kinnem

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I will defer to kinnem, but even with scholarships, you still have a decent attrition rate of Midshipmen in an ROTC program. This can be tough to see so many leave and I also think it leads to many others jumping on board and dropping out.

I do not have general statistics across the NROTC program, nor do I have statistics that address Marine Options only. From anecdotal evidence on this site, I think my son's unit was fairly typical. 45 started NROTC with him. A total of 15 of those commissioned. While USNA can be a very demanding environment, it is also a very supportive environment.

If you go via USNA, you won't have to do OCS. That can be seen as a pro or con depending on opinion.
Not all USNA Marine midshipmen go to Leatherneck. Most do. You could (should?) probably think of Leatherneck as a much shorter version of OCS. It's shorter because of all the training you have already received.

I disagree with a few comments. The academic program is not out of date. It is different. You will spend more time on ethics, military leadership, character development, military history/art than you would at a civilian university.

I'm certain NavyHoops is correct in this. But do not think you will escape them at a civilian college while doing NROTC. Those topics are part of the academic program and you will spend a semester (at least) on each. Of course, you'll encounter them all day to day in either program, but I'm sure it's far more at USNA.
 

NavyHoops

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Leatherneck is more in line with TBS than OCS. It is actually 4 weeks of the parts and pieces of the TBS curriculum. It can vary, depending on staff and numbers for the year, on how tough they push it. My year, Leatherneck was harder than what I did at TBS, They really pushed us at Leatherneck to push attrition as we had over 300 people interested in 160-ish spots. I never thought TBS was that hard. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't anything I stressed over. The overwheleming majority of Mids do go to Leatherneck. In my class we only had 2 not go to Leatherneck and get USMC. It can vary from year to year. Someone better have a good reason why they didn't go if they want to be a Marine.

USNA attrition is relatively low these days. I think in the 10-15% range.
 

kinnem

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Leatherneck is more in line with TBS than OCS. It is actually 4 weeks of the parts and pieces of the TBS curriculum. It can vary, depending on staff and numbers for the year, on how tough they push it. My year, Leatherneck was harder than what I did at TBS, They really pushed us at Leatherneck to push attrition as we had over 300 people interested in 160-ish spots. I never thought TBS was that hard. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't anything I stressed over. The overwheleming majority of Mids do go to Leatherneck. In my class we only had 2 not go to Leatherneck and get USMC. It can vary from year to year. Someone better have a good reason why they didn't go if they want to be a Marine.

USNA attrition is relatively low these days. I think in the 10-15% range.
Thanks for the clarification.
 

USMCGrunt

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, I think my son's unit was fairly typical. 45 started NROTC with him. A total of 15 of those commissioned.

My DS started with 5 scholarship Marine Options and 4 commissioned. No college program side loads in his class.
 

Hurricane12

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I'm a '12 grad who commissioned Marine Corps and am currently a helo pilot. I don't have any regrets about attending USNA, and feel that my experience there helped a lot in my career so far. I want to make clear though that the things I think were benefits to me were benefits because I made an effort and took advantage of stuff that USNA had to offer. Whatever commissioning source you choose, you won't become the best officer you can be because you do the minimum and only show up for the required training. This is especially common at USNA because guys get burned out and cynical, and then miss out on some awesome opportunities.

USNA grads tend to get a bad rep from TBS 2ndLts. That's because Academy grads are normally dumped in huge quantities on 1-2 TBS classes, and can at times tend to keep amongst their own kind. After TBS grads get scattered and so a single "bad" experience with a USNA grad tends to give other guys a bad taste in their mouths toward the whole batch.There's also a high degree of butthurt from 2ndLts who come straight from OCS (or whose only actual USMC experience is only OCS) towards USNA grads, who tend to be more cynical about things. After about a month of TBS, everything evens out and everyone gets along.
Bottom line, as far as "reputation" goes, things even out a lot after TBS and in the fleet I've never gotten any serious flak for being an Academy grad and that's not something I would be concerned about as an incoming freshman. Honestly, any school that produces a lot of people gets a bad reputation because we tend to remember bad things. Texas A&M has a bad reputation among officers. Embry-Riddle has a terrible reputation. Most of the SMCs in general don't have a great reputation. That doesn't mean that those schools only produce turds, or even produce a larger proportion of turds, it just means we remember that dumb guy who was an Aggie and associate all others with him. The only people I can think of off of the top of my head from work who went to A&M or another SMC are all mediocre-at-best Marines and officers, but I can guarantee that there's like 5 super competent guys I'm forgetting.
 

USMCGrunt

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Great post Hurricane12. Its good that you called out the USNA experiences at TBS which I would second (from a ROTC view). But as you said, it all evens out over time.

I did want to comment on the mediocre or poor Marine Officers one experiences and how they color some people's view of their Alma Mater. Its true and if its not the school they attended, its the commissioning source, or the region of the country, or some other defining aspect of their background. Most people soon realize that the issue is the Marine himself - not those other things. My experience was that poor officers were defined by their attitude towards themselves or others. Most, if not all, were competent in military skills.
 

NavyHoops

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I went through TBS in one of the "Naval Academy Companies." It was interesting. We first arrived and then two weeks later the MECEP grads arrived. So you had the Canoe U guys and the salty priors all now together as our company stood up. We were perplexed by the 'old guys' and they were curious about the 'silver spoon kids.' We all soon realized we had more in common than different. Yes, they were older, but not that old. We were regular college kids, with very few growing up with large bank accounts, most of us were middle class kids from all over the country. We actually gathered really quickly that their prior experience coupled with our knowledge of the TBS/Quantico area was a great combo. We had about 2 weeks with all of us before the ROTC grads reported. We actually forged a great relationship during that time and had a blast during our 6+ months there. We had 1 scandal in our TBS company in which a MECEP grad blatantly cheated on our last exam and was turned in by a USNA classmate of mine. The entire company stood behind my classmate as it was such a horrible excuse for cheating. We did not have many ROTC grads and maybe a dozen or so OCC grads. We all got along fine and except for a guy blowing out his knee and 4 folks being rolled back for mono our company all graduated. Hurricane and USMCGrunt are spot on as usual.... you are the most important factor in your future success. Take advantage of what is out there, you will succeed.
 
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