USMA vs MIT ROTC

txfwindian

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Aug 6, 2019
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912
My thoughts ( no military background, my DD preparing for class of 2025, USMA #1 choice), so take it with grain of salt.
Whatever path you chose, dont look back in the mirror and doubt yourself. It will be a dis-service to your present you and your future you.

Regards and good luck on your journey.
 

usma84

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Mar 30, 2019
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You have a great problem to have, given that both are excellent opportunities. Congratulations! You're doing the right thing in getting lots of input. Once you go thru this analysis phase, make your decision and certainly don't have any regrets. Good luck!
 

dadof2018grad

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Aug 8, 2017
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39
You cannot go wrong either way. Having said that, MIT likely provides you with more options later in life. Your risk in attending MIT is much lower than USMA due to the flexiblity and options it offers you. In other words, your expected outcomes is higher with lower variability.

If you know you want to be in the military for 20+ years, you should attend USMA. If you are not sure you want to spend 20+ years in the military, you should attend MIT AROTC.
 

Heatherg21

USNA mom Bacon Lover Dog Lover
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Jun 26, 2019
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What an awesome decision to have to make. Congratulations to you! My mom heart says to sleep on it. Really. Go for a run, go for a hike, spend some time alone thinking about it. Do a SWOT analysis on paper. You have tons of good advice and personal experiences here. The 2 you earned acceptance to, really couldn't be more different in terms of location and lifestyle. And no matter what any of us, or your personal friends say, you will be the one doing the homework, doing the PT, jumping out of planes--not us. Make sure you decide for you, not others.

In terms of connecting with your fellow students, both have students from all walks of life. Our DS never found his tribe in high school, he was ready to move on last semester. When he made his decision in February (he chose USNA, declined USMA, USMMA and NROTC to Norwich) he really struggled with it. He said saying no to West Point was incredibly hard. Saying no to USMMA was tough as well, but he wasn't sure the smaller enrollment fit what he was looking for. But he had been to USNA, spent a week there and he loved it. It felt like where he belonged-- he loved the labs and the instructors he was exposed to. He, too, isn't sure if it will be a 20 year career or if he will choose to return to civilian life sooner than that. But, he knew USNA had the major he wanted and career options he thinks he would be happy with.

When he went to his Senators's meet and greet for appointees, the other USNA kids and he instantly hit it off and we had to drag them out of there for the drive home. They all expressed that they were excited to attend USNA and all seemed to have had a similar drive to earn an appointment. I hope he will find his tribe at the academy.

I would imagine MIT would be similar, you have to work hard and put in the dedication to earn entry to their school. You might also find some with similar goals there as well. How regimented is the NROTC program at MIT? That would also be a factor, I would think. Ultimately you will get what you put into it, from either.
Good luck to you, and when you decide, no rear view mirror!!!!
 
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billyb

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Jun 17, 2010
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445
My 2 cents.... you are obviously very smart. If you really want to serve in the Army I would go to USMA. My reasoning is if you are extremely smart and rank top 10% at USMA you can basically go to any grad school you want. Get your advanced degree from the best school in the country in your field. Heck, I personally know people that were in the bottom 30% academically at USMA that went to Ivy's for MBAs. As far as academic opportunities at USMA, you really need to be asking those that are top of the class. The academic opportunities they have are different than what the average cadets (like I was) have.
 

CrewDad

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Jan 7, 2018
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@Undecided. Congrats. Well done. Obviously a difficult choice. Both excellent choice. You won’t regret either way. However, the difference between MIT vs USMA is day and night. First you can go to USMA now or never. MIT you can go there for different degrees more than once. If you went to USMA you’ll get a full military experience. Anticipate to spend 50% of your time to Academics vs 90% to academics at MIT. Remaining will be taken by the Academy doing military responsibilities, athletics, training, going to mandatory Army Games, etc.

In truth, many West Point grads aspire to attend MIT as a grad student. I have known WP grads get into various MIT Masters programs with GPA 2.5-4.0. So the range is wide. Because experience the Army gave them is wide and diverse. Some are now faculty at West Point. If you want both West Point and MIT degrees, go to West Point. It’s simple as that. If you want MIT and other Civ grad degrees go to MIT. You’ll be respected either way in the Army and in this world.

if this was my choice, I’d do West Point then MIT Grad School. I like this combination better. It’s a better combo if you want both schools.
 

2023CDT

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Apr 4, 2019
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As I haven't seen their post yet (maybe I just missed it). As a great SAForums legend always says, take a coin and assign WP and MIT to their own sides. Flip it. If you're satisfied with the school it landed on, then go there. If you have second thoughts or feel like flipping it again, then you have your decision there. Make the choice that you feel is best for you. Feel free to reach out to CDTs on here and ask us any questions you want to know. We would be happy to answer anything you need answered.
 

Undecided

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Mar 20, 2020
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Have you talked with LTC Stalker The PMS at MIT?He’s USMA 2000 also. Probably can give you a fair assessment.

I've been emailing with the Director of Enrollment and Scholarships of MIT's Battalion and have learned a bit about their program. Would it be rude for me to just directly email LTC Stalker? I thought (I might've read some where) that prospective cadets should communicate through the battalion's ROO as the PMS may be too busy to field so many questions.
 
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My DS chose Vandy for this fall over USMA (he had an LOA and a nom, was awaiting medical then pulled his USMA app). It was surprising but in the end, he wanted more of a balance. He wouldn't really expound on it too much.
It's hard for me to add much to what folks here have had to say. But the things that were on my mind as he was making the choice:
Pro USMA:
* It seems like if you are a top student at USMA, they really make sure to get the best out of you. The USMA professors likely recognize the top students and help open doors for them, whereas you'd have to be incredibly bright for an MIT prof, probably focused on his next conference or publication, to spend the time the USMA profs probably would.
* Everyone is there for the same thing. At MIT, the ROTC units are a minority of the kids. So you may feel like like an outlier there. That's one of the things that concern me most. I'd talk to the MIT ROTC kids and ask them about that.
* The training. I think a lot of it is available to top ROTC kids, but it's easier for USMA kids to get their top choices and it seems (though I'm not certain) that there are some more unique internships etc. for USMA than ROTC. I've never been able to get to the bottom of this one, though.
* Unique experiences - MIT will have tons of cool stuff going on, as will greater Boston if you want to take part. But USMA offers unique visits, trips, etc that sound amazing
* Prestige - not that I'm not thrilled that my DS is going to Vandy, but when a candidate for a job or grad school has USMA on his resume, it stands out. MIT is more highly regarded globally than is Vandy, but still, a kid who made it through USMA earns immediate respect in the civilian world for character and toughness. "I did ROTC and served my 4 and got out" isn't regarded the same way.
* Brotherhood - I loved and still keep in touch with my 5 college roommates, but USMA folks speak differently about the bonds than most people do about college friendships

Pro MIT:
* Assuming you'd be a top USMA student, you'll get a lot of attention and place into higher-level classes. But the horsepower you'd run into at MIT from students and some of the professors would be unmatched. The military exposure of the professors at USMA would be super helpful and interesting, but USMA profs are not the academic beacons in their fields.That said, they seem to care about the kids than those at 95% of civilian colleges.
* Dating - Obviously there's some dating at USMA, but I personally would have had trouble going to a college with 28% women, and few other women around.
* Boston vs. Highland Falls - self-explanatory
* Breadth of conversations / people: I am certain there are great, honorable kids from every state in the country at USMA. But the kinds of conversations and experiences you'd be exposed to at MIT would be far broader than at USMA, which might be important since you said you don't think you want to make a career out of the military.

Keep in mind, I'm talking almost entirely of my A**. My DS has not even started ROTC and he obviously never went to USMA. But these are the things we discussed and what I had in mind based on the research and more time on these forums over the last 6 months than I'd care to admit (BTW, SAF folks are amazing--stick around no matter what you choose).

I had kinda hoped he chose USMA, but now I'm very comfortable with his choice. I think he's just going to have to be more proactive to glean the benefits out of ROTC that might have surfaced themselves more readily at USMA.

Good luck to you!
 

Undecided

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Joined
Mar 20, 2020
Messages
10
My DS chose Vandy for this fall over USMA (he had an LOA and a nom, was awaiting medical then pulled his USMA app). It was surprising but in the end, he wanted more of a balance. He wouldn't really expound on it too much.
It's hard for me to add much to what folks here have had to say. But the things that were on my mind as he was making the choice:
Pro USMA:
* It seems like if you are a top student at USMA, they really make sure to get the best out of you. The USMA professors likely recognize the top students and help open doors for them, whereas you'd have to be incredibly bright for an MIT prof, probably focused on his next conference or publication, to spend the time the USMA profs probably would.
* Everyone is there for the same thing. At MIT, the ROTC units are a minority of the kids. So you may feel like like an outlier there. That's one of the things that concern me most. I'd talk to the MIT ROTC kids and ask them about that.
* The training. I think a lot of it is available to top ROTC kids, but it's easier for USMA kids to get their top choices and it seems (though I'm not certain) that there are some more unique internships etc. for USMA than ROTC. I've never been able to get to the bottom of this one, though.
* Unique experiences - MIT will have tons of cool stuff going on, as will greater Boston if you want to take part. But USMA offers unique visits, trips, etc that sound amazing
* Prestige - not that I'm not thrilled that my DS is going to Vandy, but when a candidate for a job or grad school has USMA on his resume, it stands out. MIT is more highly regarded globally than is Vandy, but still, a kid who made it through USMA earns immediate respect in the civilian world for character and toughness. "I did ROTC and served my 4 and got out" isn't regarded the same way.
* Brotherhood - I loved and still keep in touch with my 5 college roommates, but USMA folks speak differently about the bonds than most people do about college friendships

Pro MIT:
* Assuming you'd be a top USMA student, you'll get a lot of attention and place into higher-level classes. But the horsepower you'd run into at MIT from students and some of the professors would be unmatched. The military exposure of the professors at USMA would be super helpful and interesting, but USMA profs are not the academic beacons in their fields.That said, they seem to care about the kids than those at 95% of civilian colleges.
* Dating - Obviously there's some dating at USMA, but I personally would have had trouble going to a college with 28% women, and few other women around.
* Boston vs. Highland Falls - self-explanatory
* Breadth of conversations / people: I am certain there are great, honorable kids from every state in the country at USMA. But the kinds of conversations and experiences you'd be exposed to at MIT would be far broader than at USMA, which might be important since you said you don't think you want to make a career out of the military.

Keep in mind, I'm talking almost entirely of my A**. My DS has not even started ROTC and he obviously never went to USMA. But these are the things we discussed and what I had in mind based on the research and more time on these forums over the last 6 months than I'd care to admit (BTW, SAF folks are amazing--stick around no matter what you choose).

I had kinda hoped he chose USMA, but now I'm very comfortable with his choice. I think he's just going to have to be more proactive to glean the benefits out of ROTC that might have surfaced themselves more readily at USMA.

Good luck to you!
Thank you so much for your detailed response! I'll definitely take some of these points into consideration.
 

Casey

USMA 2015
10-Year Member
Joined
Nov 8, 2010
Messages
770
Pro MIT:
* Assuming you'd be a top USMA student, you'll get a lot of attention and place into higher-level classes. But the horsepower you'd run into at MIT from students and some of the professors would be unmatched. The military exposure of the professors at USMA would be super helpful and interesting, but USMA profs are not the academic beacons in their fields.That said, they seem to care about the kids than those at 95% of civilian colleges.
--

just something to throw out there in general about USMA professors, the advanced sections and your majors will typically be taught by Academy Professors or civilians, less the rotating faculty types. The Academy Professors are still military but with much more time in academia (typically years of teaching, PhDs, and their own individual research projects they’re working out) that along with the civilian faculty can give you the much deeper dive into your field of study than rotating faculty. (I’m not knocking rotating faculty; they bring incredible operational experience that can’t be quantified that cadets benefit from outside of academics I wouldn’t get rid of. They just typically are in their first ever teaching gig in a direct utilization tour after grad school that they lack some of the depth of knowledge the more senior faculty has).

If you’re identified as high speed academically, it’s not uncommon for you to get put into the advanced sections or picked up for research with these academy professors. As an example, my entire academic program was actually managed by my department head, not one of the regular academic advisors, because they tagged me as having research potential; she only had about 5 cadets in my year group in my major that she specifically worked with to tailor our programs to maximize getting the most out of our academics while there. They will definitely find ways to overload you academically if you want it, even if you are smart.

The other thing that I will say that sometimes gets missed is that regardless of section, advanced or otherwise, at USMA, you will never have a class greater than 20 students or so. In your major courses, you’ll probably have less. You’ll also have direct access to your professors for the actual classes, office hours, and anything else you need. You will not experience the mass lecture halls for intro classes many larger universities put together, and you will never have a TA teaching, grading, or providing office hours. That was a huge difference for my educational experience compared to many of my peers I went to high school with, and I think I benefited from the more individualized attention when I didn’t understand concepts.

I can also talk about the scholarship program at West Point and my experience with it if there’s interest about other opportunities for high academic performers. Feel free to PM me if there’s specific questions
 

Capt MJ

Ancient Mariner, Salt-Encrusted
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Sep 27, 2008
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11,061
My usual comments for this common question:

SA grads, of all the comm sources, are by far the most professionally prepared for their military service. They have already been immersed in the life 24/7, and have been exposed to a variety of senior military leaders, officers in various branches, professional experiences, and soaked up the culture of life in uniform. They have a superb foundation going into their career, whether short or long. ROTC/OCS/OTC grads are equally smart and motivated, and will quickly catch up. In the field, it is all about performance, not where you got your butter bars. In my experience, the “SA effect” wears off in 1-2 years. No resting on laurels.

ROTC and OCS/OTS grads are usually more socially prepared for life as a junior officer, having dealt with apartment rentals, bill-paying, commuting, balancing real-life logistics, interacting with others not headed into the military, personal relationships with fewer restrictions as to time, and other factors. The SA grads catch up on this stuff, just as the other grads catch up on professional stuff.

There are successful grads out of all sources, whether you define success as going on to 4 stars or separating as a junior officer and becoming a CEO of a large corporation or retiring after a full career and going on to achievements in a new career.

The one element that I have observed that is unique and matchless, is the bond present in SA grads with classmates, other grads, and also other SA grads, even 50+ years after graduation. That is a significantly valuable advantage in career transition and networking. In general, military officers are highly valued in the working world for their leadership experience and other qualities. But a hiring official who is a SA grad knows a SA grad candidate went through a massive, highly pressurized experience in both the application experience and the 4 years at an SA - they get that about each other, even if it’s different SAs. The hiring official will certainly highly respect MIT as a reflection of intellectual ability, plus whatever else the candidate brings to the table, but they know what an SA grad went through, the grit and determination it takes to grind out 4 years in a full-immersion military setting completely unlike a civilian college. I watch the bonds my DH has with his USNA classmates, and the instant camaraderie with other USNA grads and SA grads, and it is a unique way of relating that is not matched. As vets, both of us enjoy that broader sense of family with other vets. The SA grads, though, enjoy a closer “blood relation” type of feeling. I have a few good friends from my college years, my PCM doctor is an alumna, but I don’t relate in the same “what we went through” way. At an SA, unlike a college, everyone joins the same “company” for at least 5 years after graduation, so that further cements the bond.

My DH had a choice of USNA, USMA, a few Ivies, Northwestern, and I forget what else. He knew what he wanted was the SA experience. From close observation over the years, he values that SA experience as something that tested him personally and pushed him to the max, and he made it through to toss his cover in the air at graduation with classmates. He credits that pressure-filled training and the ability to dig deep in chaotic circumstances as a key element in his survival in AD experiences that involved cool-headed decision-making in live operational situations with life or death elements.

USMA and MIT are two fine choices, with great potential for success in and out of uniform. The military values officers from all sources. It is a matter of what the individual wants for him or herself, and where they feel they will best thrive.

As noted above, many SA grads go to MIT, Ivies, Stanford, etc., for grad school, and that diploma glows very nicely on the wall next to the SA degree. The USNA alumni in our “sponsor mid” family have attended (in no particular order) Harvard (Kennedy), Columbia, MIT, Stanford, Georgetown, Tufts, Duke, Yale, Penn (Wharton), UVA (Law) and many others, either while still serving or by using their post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits.
 
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BKOTH97

New Member
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Mar 1, 2021
Messages
5
Ultimately, I think it comes down to where you think YOU will thrive. My wife and I are both USMA grads. Our DS was accepted to USMA for the Class of 25 and he also received a 4 year AROTC scholarship to MIT. He ultimately has chosen MIT because of his love for and focus on engineering and science. He still wants to be in the Army, but for him, the opportunity to go to MIT was something that he just could not give up. It had been his dream for 5-6 years. Something to think about...if you have both West Point and MIT tshirts / sweatshirts, which one do you find yourself wearing more often? It can be subconscious, but it could give you an indication of where you belong.
 
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