SMC or College better for AROTC Preparation, Active Duty, and Branching?


5-Year Member
Feb 27, 2014
Asking for a friend.
What are the advantages of an SMC over a college AROTC program as it pertains to Army Preparation, Active Duty, and Branching and post military career? Also, this is in respect to a 4-year Army ROTC Scholarship awarded. Schools are VMI, Embry-Riddle, FL, and a State School. Price is not the diver, although for full disclosure the SMC would have the most out of pocket expense.

I have also reviewed the following information that I found in other posts:

SMC guarantees Active Duty and the OML math will drive the branching.

Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard is determined by OML.

By law an Army ROTC SMC graduate is guaranteed active duty as long as the PMS recommends them. If one completes the program successfully and honorably then I would be very confident of receiving that recommendation.

In a civilian ROTC program, cadets are given an OML ranking. Based on the numbers the Army needs they'll take everyone above a certain OML number (varies each year) for active duty. Others will go guard/reserve.

What else am I missing.
Missing in the above calculus is a highly subjective vs discipline.

If the candidate seeks a highly disciplined environment along with the sense of "surviving a crucible," then the SMC, particularly VMI fits the bill.
If the candidate would do better in a "normal" college environment, and is self disciplined enough to juggle the military and academic demands, then a civilian AROTC program may be better.

Some people do very well in an SMC. Others struggle and spend four years in misery.

Full disclosure, my DS was offered an SMC but chose a civilian University. He has thrived in that environment (other than a snowboarding accident), making Dean's list, numerous cadet awards, and working a part time job on the weekends. He enjoys being a mentor to the MS-I cadets assigned to him, and he says that his battalion feels more like a fraternity than a "fourth class" system.

I wasn't sure he could handle the freedom there, but so far I have been wrong.
Even though you attend an SMC, you are not guaranteed to go active duty. The PMS does not put all of his commissioning cadets on active duty. SMC cadets are on the same OML as the other ROTC cadets. SMC cadets that have very low OML scores tend to not get Active Duty. I know that SMCs use that law as a selling point, but I also know that they will not put underperforming cadets onto active duty. Now if you go to an SMC and are just below the cut line and are a great cadet, you may get put onto Active Duty by the SMC PMS. The SMC PMS number one priority is to the Army. Why would he take care of a low scoring cadet, and place that cadet's desire over what is in the best interest of the Army? Afterall, if a low OML SMC cadet is placed on active duty, he/she is robbing a spot from a more qualified cadet from a regular ROTC school.

If you want USAR or ARNG, you will get it regardless of your OML score. The best way to ensure that you get active duty if you want it is to have a GPA of at least 3.0 as your college GPA counts for 40% of your OML score.

Since your number one priority in college should be your bachelor's degree, you should pick the institution that best serves your degree. Afterall, most of your time should be spent on your academics. Another factor is as @AROTC-dad describes, you need to pick the institution that has the best environment for you to thrive. I went to a civilian college and received my commission from there, as I didn't want the environment of a military college. I wanted to have time away from the Army and pursue other interests while in college.
I couldn't agree more with the above comments.

Every year the Commissioning and branching results show the number of SMC cadets that received AD that were below the cutoff line, the number has been between 105 and 80 or so for the past few years.

One thing to keep in mind, while a SMC will give you opportunities for AD, it does nothing better your chances during branching, for Branching you on the same list as all ROTC cadets. While you may make AD while being at the bottom of the list, well, actually below the bottom, your ability to get the branch you want diminishes. You should never go into this with the thought of how can I get AD if I am really low on the list.

As mentioned above, the lifestyle at a SMC is 180 degrees different then a traditional university. The best advice you can get is to weigh all your options with eyes wide open, decided what you want, what you really want for the next four years, go where you see yourself being successful in academics, it's an important part of the equation. Ask yourself. over the past couple years what have been your thought about how college would be, what do you want to do and experience.

One other thing to consider, when you graduate and commission you will go to BOLC for the branch you received, nobody there including the trainers are going to give a hoot where you went to school. Their concern will be how you did that day and how you will do tomorrow. The soldiers under your leadership are not going to care either, and frankly they aren't going to want to listen to you talk about it either.

You will hear people say the the SMC was the best decision they ever made, and you will hear the same from SA cadets and traditional ROTC cadets. None are wrong, the point is that it was the best decision for them. Don't over analyze which path may give you a leg up, in the end it really doesn't matter, what matters is what kind of officer you become once you leave ROTC and the best place to go for that to happen is the place you truly want to be.

Congratulations on your scholarship.
First of all, my daughter really never considered an SMC or the academies because she wanted nursing, however, her one concern about a civilian college was it wasn't going to be "Army" enough. That has not been a concern her first year and looking forward to the next three years she sees all the opportunities ahead her. She also says it is just enough structure from a military structure but also enough freedom for her to have some outside interests. If you friend has not already, visiting an SMC and a civilian ROTC both and talking to those cadets at each school should be a top deciding factor. The bottom line is success in college is going to help set your friend up to be successful in their military career, so pick the school that he/she thinks they will be the most successful at and the military career will look after itself.

Back to my DD's original concern, she has noticed the cadets that are struggling in her company are just not taking it seriously, the system is there to help them with school and to learn to be leaders, but they don't take advantage of it, those kids are going to be at every type of school. Wherever a cadet is at if they take their training and education seriously and respect the people and the process, they will succeed. Good luck to your friend.
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What everyone is saying is pick the college because it is the right fit for you. Schools come in all shapes and sizes, it is not a one size fits all. If the school is right for you your chances of performing well academically sky rocket. There are some kids that will do well academically in any environment. And then there are others that, no matter what school, will goof off, not study and not perform. Get good grades, do well in your unit and you will get that active duty spot.

My DS school is the total opposite from @AJC DS school. It has to be the happiest place on earth. I was totally amazed how much everyone there just loved being there. And it not a total party school, it's ranked in the top ~25. When DD went to school she complained about how cut throat many of the students were, but overall she loved her college experience, and many of her best friends are from her college years.

An SMC or military college may be the right place for you, but don't pick it just because you are "guaranteed" active duty.
Thank you for the thoughtful responses, I will pass along to my friend. Full disclosure: My DS is at an SMC on a Navy 4-year Scholarship and it is a great fit for him, for his degree, and service preparation. I do realize that the AROTC program is a different experience and found your comments very helpful.