USMA vs. USNA

hopefulSAgrad

New Member
Hello everybody,

I have received an appointment to both USMA and USNA, and I really can't decide one over the other. I see both as great opportunities, and I'm having a hard time differentiating which one to choose. I was wondering if you guys could provide some insight on the following things. This is where I'm at right now - I like the majors and academic opportunities at West Point more, but I would much rather attend Navy and be a part of the Navy. I've heard West Point is more prestigious and it trains leaders more effectively. How true is that statement?

Which one would provide a better opportunity to get into an elite MBA program or Law School... after service. I would like to go to a high level graduate school, but I don't know which one would be better suited for something like that. My thought was that the majors offered at West Point would prepare me better for that, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, which actual branch, Army vs. Navy vs. Marine Corps, has the best lifestyle? My concerns basically are deployment lengths, deployment cycles, and what goes on during a deployment. I know the Army usually has a 9 month deployment period, while the Navy is only about 6 months. What is a deployment in the Army or Marine Corps like?

Finally, family life... Which branch is best for having a family? How often would I get to see/be with them while on active duty.

Also, what is it like to be in the Reserves of any of the branches. What are the locations, and how much of a time commitment is it?

Overall, I just need some more guidance and help making this decision. I don't have much time left, and any response is helpful. I'm sorry if I sounded stupid with anything I said.
 

parentalunit2

5-Year Member
But seriously, a service academy pedigree will get eyes on you from elite grad schools, as long as you do well at either.

Have you visited both schools? What is your gut telling you?
 
I know of many and several currently going for their masters direct from USMA. Which is a huge plus in my book. Although, I'm sure USNA does the same I just haven't talked with many who have done so.
 

time2

10-Year Member
I've heard West Point is more prestigious and it trains leaders more effectively......

Which one would provide a better opportunity to get into an elite MBA program or Law School... after service.
If you are already focusing on how this will build your career resume AFTER you leave the military, then you might not be happy with either choice. Even those who are 110% convinced an SA is for them, find it far more challenging then they ever imagined. I wouldn't pick any college based on which is harder/more prestigious/etc.

As others have mentioned, you should have been thinking about your interests while applying and perhaps visiting/talking with those currently involved.
 

USMA 1994

Member
The answer to all of your questions is really they are different but very much the same. Having a normal family life is difficult and you will be away from home often. In the Navy it may be a 6 month cruise but in the Army it may be two weeks at a time. I was in the field for nine months during my first year as a platoon leader and none of those things were actual deployments. Would you rather be sleeping in a cramped bunk room on a ship or in the open desert where it is cold at night.

It comes down to do you see yourself as a platoon leader who will lead soldiers into harms way or be more of a technical leader on a ship. There are a few other career fields but this is where most graduates spend their first few years.

I also agree with time2. If you are doing this to help prepare for your civilian career, you will most likely be miserable during your time in the service.
 

hopefulSAgrad

New Member
If you are already focusing on how this will build your career resume AFTER you leave the military, then you might not be happy with either choice. Even those who are 110% convinced an SA is for them, find it far more challenging then they ever imagined. I wouldn't pick any college based on which is harder/more prestigious/etc.

As others have mentioned, you should have been thinking about your interests while applying and perhaps visiting/talking with those currently involved.

I am not focusing on how this will build my career resume after I leave the military. I am just facing the reality that I probably will not serve for 10-15+ years, and I will have a life beyond just the military. I want to go to a service academy to develop leadership skills and abilities that I would not be able to develop at a civilian school. I want to serve my country, AND also develop traits that I can apply to make the world a better place when I eventually decide to part ways.

I am asking for more information on the questions I asked, not for you to criticize my decisions. I am more than confident I want to attend a service academy, and I realize it will be tough. I signed up for it, and it is what I want to do. I am just curious about a couple of things that will help me make my decision on which school of the two to attend.
 

Dadof2

Member
OP, unfortunately there is only one person who can answer the question you are asking, and that person is you. I'm sure you've done your research, but realize that there are things you can never really know until you experience them. Most people of my age have gone to schools, taken on new jobs and/or new positions, gotten married, started a family, etc., with a vision that things were going to be a certain way only to realize, once you are in that new situation, that some of what you thought things would be like is accurate and some not so much. Doesn't necessarily mean the choice was good or bad, just that you can't always know everything about a new situation before experiencing it.

You've got two fantastic opportunities in front of you. You say you are confident that you want to attend a SA and that you want to serve your country. So the question is Army or Navy/Marine. You probably aren't going to learn anything new in the short time you have to decide and will only get other's opinions here. You may just be struggling because the two choices are so good. Go with your gut, make a decision then commit 100% and don't look back at what might have been. Good luck.
 

FloridaToUSMA2021

USNA 2021 Appointee
My advice. Don't just think about the major that will set you up for grad school or whatever. Also think about the job opportunities there are in the army vs navy/marines. That's what helped me decide. And I'm going to Navy.
 

LongAgoPlebe

5-Year Member
Hi, @hopefulSAgrad! Congratulations on your appointments!

Wow, you have one of the best problems to have, having to decide between two extraordinary opportunities for education and leadership development. You're asking really good questions. I can't address the questions about lifestyle comparisons among the services, but I'll hope that regulars like @Pima, @NavyHoops, @Capt MJ, @scoutpilot and others will chime in.

You really have three valid areas of comparison: the SA experience, your 5(+)-year commitment AD, and post-service.

It's hard to compare the WP experience with the USNA experience. West Point is in a small town in New York with less direct access to culture and entertainment than USNA is in Annapolis. Both will offer stellar followership and leadership training experiences. Both grant you tuition-free access to some of the most dedicated instructors you'll ever encounter. Both offer very motivated cadets/mids the opportunities to do undergraduate research, whether in naval architecture or civil engineering or history. In both cases you'll graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, whether you major in English or a science. If you earn good grades there, you should have no trouble gaining admission to MBA and/or law school after you complete your service obligation, regardless of what your major is.

That's right, I said regardless of what your major is. By the time you are five years (+) out from your B.S., your major will matter as much or as little as you care for it to matter. I have a student currently working in my lab who's a history major, and he's been accepted to medical school. I was a math and psych major who got a graduate degree in biology. No law school or business school (of which I am aware) requires certain majors. You may find you have to take a course or two, but that's no big deal. In short, your post-service plans will depend on your undergraduate GPA and your general recommendations from people who know you at the time you apply, so I'd recommend not putting too much energy into thinking about this now.

Your biggest concerns, then, are the SA experience for the next four years, and the five-year service obligation. Which has better leadership training: USMA or USNA? TL;DR: both of them. Seriously. Both produce about a thousand O-1s every year who've had 47 months of intense followership and leadership training under academic, extracurricular, military, and sports contexts. There are similarities and differences in the methods each uses, but there's really no way to predict what YOU will best respond to, or how any particular method will shape YOU. Each is designed to get you to "buy in" to the methods so that you, and the Army or the Navy, get the best return on your investment of yourself. You will like some training and find it useful, and you will hate some training and do it to get it done, regardless of where you go. The academics are your most important focus there and they will be challenging.

If you haven't visited both since you were offered your appointments, please do! I know that sounds like a chunk of change now, but if you invest (say) $1000 to fly to each place, visit, talk to current cadets/mids, tour the facilities, etc. you will probably have a much better idea which way you want to go.

Best of luck!
 

NavyHoops

Super Moderator
5-Year Member
I was am a former Marine Officer from USNA. I spent a ton of time in the Joint community as a Marine and lived on USAF bases for about 14 months and spent a 11 month deployment on a FOB with the Army. My thoughts based upon those experiences.

This is not about the school, but what service you want. A SA is a reflection of its a service. Pick the service over school. If you don't like the service you will hate the 5 years you are in and possibly more. More importantly if you hate it, then you won't be an effective leader. The men and women of America deserve great leaders and if you hate it they won't get it. You need to re-evaluate what you want to do in service and let that guide. USNA and USMA will be equally looked at as far as grad school. I have many friends who have attended Grad School at night while on shore duty. The availability of schools, if you want in person, can vary by location. By in large USN bases are in large cities such as San Diego, Norfolk, Jacksonville, etc which leads to many school options in person. I have tons of friends who did Grad School at GW or GTown while at the Pentagon. Each service has their own grad schools and are also great options. USNA has a great location. USMA not so much. I think USMA takes the military training aspects more seriously, while I think USNA takes the lead on academic rigor by a hair. I think both will prepare you very well for their respective service. USNA also has many grad opportunities between VGEP, IGEP and other post grad scholarships. Ultimately the goal of a SA is to make leaders to serve in the operating forces. To be 100% honest a Masters in XYZ isn't going to make you a better Ensign SWO or 2ndLt Infantry Officer. Its why those degrees aren't required at this level. I would second visiting both in person, one will usually stick out as the right place.

USN
  • In my opinion out of USNA this offers the most options. Subs, SWO, SEALs, EOD, Pilot, NFO, IP, etc. Not to mention USMC out of USNA.
  • It is a sea going service. If you don't like water, its not a great place.
  • It is a service of tradition and each community has its own nuances.
  • Even the most junior 0-1 will have responsibility day 1 on a ship. SWO is the one career field that 30 days after you graduate you will walk onto a ship, not a school, and be expected to contribute. Most communities in all services have a few months of school at a minimum, not SWOs!
  • Even as an 0-1 you will be expected to lead and make decisions on a ship, sub, etc.
  • Lots of masters options while in service. NPS is a great school.
  • Bases are always near water!
  • Family life can be tough, but depends on community.
  • Expect a 2-3 year fleet tour (ship, flying, etc) then a 2-3 year shore tour (more like desk duty and usually home most nights if not every night).
USMC
  • Lots of same options as the USA with a few twists. Every Marine is a riflemen and is expected to lead day 1.
  • Plenty of aviation options
  • Small community which can be a pro and con.
  • The most traditions of any service.
  • The most strict military decorum of all services.
  • NPS is an option.
  • Deployments can vary from a few months to 6-7 months. They can get extended.
  • Duty locations are a mixed bag.

USA
  • Ground based. Focused on the soldier on the ground.
  • Lots of communities to choose from. Just like in the USMC, being a Communications Officer can vary greatly for someone in an Infantry unit vs. a Support Unit.
  • Aviation options are limited.
  • USA has a school for everything. They are big, they can do this. Want to jump out of a plane... more than likely you can.
  • Duty station locations - think these are a con in my mind.
  • Deployments can vary in length just like the other services and can vary by community.
 

AROTC-dad

Moderator
5-Year Member
USA
  • Ground based. Focused on the soldier on the ground.
  • Lots of communities to choose from. Just like in the USMC, being a Communications Officer can vary greatly for someone in an Infantry unit vs. a Support Unit.
  • Aviation options are limited.
  • USA has a school for everything. They are big, they can do this. Want to jump out of a plane... more than likely you can.
  • Duty station locations - think these are a con in my mind.
  • Deployments can vary in length just like the other services and can vary by community.
Hoops, as usual is spot on......I would only add the following regarding U.S. Army:
  • Most rotary aircraft opportunities by far....(well over 3,000 helicopters in service)
  • Largest branch in terms of personnel...more opportunities to lead
  • You had better like ruck marches...and mud
  • Opportunities for Special Forces, Rangers, and other specialized areas.
 

Chockstock

"Forever One Team"
10-Year Member
I am not focusing on how this will build my career resume after I leave the military. I am just facing the reality that I probably will not serve for 10-15+ years, and I will have a life beyond just the military. I want to go to a service academy to develop leadership skills and abilities that I would not be able to develop at a civilian school. I want to serve my country, AND also develop traits that I can apply to make the world a better place when I eventually decide to part ways.

I am asking for more information on the questions I asked, not for you to criticize my decisions. I am more than confident I want to attend a service academy, and I realize it will be tough. I signed up for it, and it is what I want to do. I am just curious about a couple of things that will help me make my decision on which school of the two to attend.
Yes, it sounds like you have both goals in mind (serve your country & be successful as a civilian) but frankly you come across as finding the latter more important to you. Imagine going to a job interview for a small company and asking how a temporary job there would help you get hired at another, bigger company that you are actually trying to go to. No one wants to see their organization treated like a stepping stone and the older gents/ladies on this forum probably don't either. Ultimately, even if you or anyone were to go to an SA for reasons that don't fit the "service to the Nation/troops" narrative, it really shouldn't matter to you what anyone thinks because you have the right to do whatever you want in life and for whatever reason. I don't think anyone is criticizing your decisions but merely asking you to do some expectation management. A strict, military life-style followed by five years of AD in our youth with no telling when the next conflict will erupt is a serious obligation that requires consideration even if you have already decided you do not want to make the military a career. And to already be making plans for after service is also unfair to yourself - you haven't even given the military a chance. I have met many academy grads who commissioned swearing they would never serve past their commitment and wound up serving more than 20 years. Everyone, including you, makes plans for what to do after the military. There is nothing wrong with that. Most who retire are only in their early/mid 40s and in generally good health - certainly good enough to pursue a second career. Most of the folks here are just cautioning you to place your priorities in the right place, especially this early in your life. Life rarely follows an equation or ends up the way you dreamed it would five or ten years ago. My advice to you is to make a choice based on which branch of service you will most enjoy and find fulfillment. As you stated, if you have reasons to believe you will enjoy serving in the Navy more, by all means select USNA. Both SAs are unparalleled in their leadership training and prestige (I am a little biased towards West Point but I can't help that). It is only four years out of the next 70 that you will live. Unless there is some outstanding reason that turns you away from either academy, I would not focus too much on the lifestyle of either school. I will also say this - don't ever forget that you are joining a military. We are giving up partial control of our lives by merely joining. You are not going to have total control of where you live and where you go, stateside or deployed, as you would if you were a civilian. Trying to make the availability of free time a factor at all in your decision-making doesn't seem very useful. You may serve in a garrison Army/Navy for your entire career or you may spend months overseas on back to back deployments. Deployment lengths can change. And your deployment experience will differ greatly based on your specialty. One or two of your questions can be answered with a simple google search. But other than that, you ask some very broad, sweeping questions regarding differences between the services that only someone with real experience in both will be able to answer. Like someone has already stated, the best person to resolve your dilemma is yourself. I hope I provided a little insight for you. Congratulations on your appointments and best wishes down the road.
 

NavyHoops

Super Moderator
5-Year Member
Congrats! Don't ever doubt the decision and only look forward! Its a long, but fun four years.
 

JCK80

New Member
I think you should revisit what you really want to do with your life again. I graduated from USNA and then when nuc subs. When I put in my resignation after my first tour (which was amazing but I wanted to do something else), I was offered to go to Stanford for an MBA for my shore tour. I didn't take the offer. Several of my classmates when to HBS right after their first tour still on active duty in a similar deal and they have all had amazing careers after the military (CFOs and CEOs). Of course, these graduate school offers came with a 3 to 1 obligation which is another consideration. After I got out, I completed my MBA and MS in engineering, founded three startups, sold two to public companies, and have been a C Level exec at 4 public companies since. The question I sometimes ask myself is what if I would have not gone to USNA and just went to college and then started my public career straight out of college. I am in technology so the 6 years of being out of the industry was definitely a lifetime. On the other hand, I think the Navy experience was invaluable in shaping who I am today. I would say my answer about going to USNA is 50/50 on what would have been the best route. But the world is changing exponentially faster than when I made that decision and for that reason, I think I would not recommend the same decision today as back then if you don't think a military career is in the cards.

So if you want to be the future CNO, CEO of a cryptocurrency company, the future CTO of an AI company, or the future leader of (fill in the blank) then you should think about the best route to that goal. Today's world is less about pedigree and training and more about action and results.

Beat Army!
 

Day-Tripper

5-Year Member
Hello everybody,

I have received an appointment to both USMA and USNA, and I really can't decide one over the other. I see both as great opportunities, and I'm having a hard time differentiating which one to choose. I was wondering if you guys could provide some insight on the following things. This is where I'm at right now - I like the majors and academic opportunities at West Point more, but I would much rather attend Navy and be a part of the Navy. I've heard West Point is more prestigious and it trains leaders more effectively. How true is that statement?

Which one would provide a better opportunity to get into an elite MBA program or Law School... after service. I would like to go to a high level graduate school, but I don't know which one would be better suited for something like that. My thought was that the majors offered at West Point would prepare me better for that, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, which actual branch, Army vs. Navy vs. Marine Corps, has the best lifestyle? My concerns basically are deployment lengths, deployment cycles, and what goes on during a deployment. I know the Army usually has a 9 month deployment period, while the Navy is only about 6 months. What is a deployment in the Army or Marine Corps like?

Finally, family life... Which branch is best for having a family? How often would I get to see/be with them while on active duty.

Also, what is it like to be in the Reserves of any of the branches. What are the locations, and how much of a time commitment is it?

Overall, I just need some more guidance and help making this decision. I don't have much time left, and any response is helpful. I'm sorry if I sounded stupid with anything I said.

US Naval officers have the best uniforms. Annapolis has greater access to cultural amenities (bars).

Go Navy - Beat Army!

P.S. Cool factoid. Of 45 US presidents, only 3 graduated from a service academy (US Grant, Ike & Jimmy Carter). US Air Force & Marine Corps have produced zero presidents.

P.S.S. You're overthinking this. You seem to prefer the Navy, so go with it & stop worrying yourself to death. Life is good.
 
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