VMI and USNA comparison

maxd950729

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Joined
Jan 24, 2016
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116
Hi I am a current candidate for VMI and USNA class of 2021. Because I live 20 minutes from the academy, I did a CVW and my father is a grad I have had a lot of exposure to the Naval Academy. I don't know much about VMI except from what my boss, a VMI grad, told me. He mostly talked about the rat line. I really believe I would love it there and do well there. I have researched a lot about Cadet life and the rat line and am interested in the challenges I would face if I attend there. Could anyone tell me some similarities and differences of VMI and the Naval Academy?
 

Vitalzt

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Jan 10, 2017
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278
First of all, they are good choices. VMI's honor code is said to be the toughest, what I mean is that if you dare break the honor code and are found guilty as charged you are going home. While USNA is more about developing you gradually into becoming an officer even though you may make some mistakes, as long as you learn from them. I'm not saying that you won't get binned from USNA if you break the rules, it's just that compared to VMI, USNA is much lenient towards certain mistakes, I guess because they have more invested in a candidate. As far as academics go, USNA will be much more challenging than at VMI, even though when it comes to PT VMI is known to be very tough on getting people into shape than any other military school. According to my knowledge you will have more liberty at USNA as a plebe than at VMI because someone is always at your face yelling for no reason. Two of my uncles attended this schools.
 

emwvmi01

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Sep 21, 2012
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271
As a VMI graduate I think it depends. They are two very different organizations with very different missions.
Similarities
Structured military environment with uniforms 24/7, intensive co-curricular program, and grounded in traditions

More significant are the differences
- USNA exists to produce officers for USN and USMC. Training and structure of everything there is to meet that end. VMI uses a military structure to provide a unique collegiate experience but not intended as a developmental lab for career officers. This all goes back to the history of both which is the same era 1839 (VMI) and I think 1845 (USNA).
- Academic programs at USNA geared towards is Naval mission are very heavy for all cadets on Science/Math/Engineering. VMI has a good academic program but is much more equivalent to a state undergraduate program with strong liberal arts, sciences and engineering program. So as a history major I took Chemistry, and 6 more hours of science but no engineering and the math was liberal arts oriented to statistics and probability.
- VMI classes commission about 50% of graduates +- 3-5%. USNA is 100% going active duty in the Navy/Marine Corps. VMI commissions in all ROTC programs and has a cooperative with USCG but other than SMC status for Army not much different than a normal ROTC program.
- USNA staff and faculty is very heavy on active duty Navy/Marine personnel. There are civilian faculty/administration but USNA is guided by Department of the Navy and run by 3 star Admiral. VMI is a state school run by a Board of Visitors. The current supe is a retired 4 Star/VMI alum but the previous two Supes were both grads who served but not career Army officers. The Commandant at VMI is a retired O6 and his staff is all retired/NG/Reserve. The Commandant at USNA is a Flag Officer and his/her staff is all active duty USN/USMC officers. Their focus will be on what Dept of Navy says. The VMI staff is more about the Board of Visitors and the unique mission/tradition of VMI (most officers there are grads). The only active officers/enlisted at VMI are the ROTC detachments. A large majority of the staff are retired officers which is way different.
- USNA is located obviously in Annapolis proximate to DC and has a 4,000 person +- a couple hundred Brigade of Midshipmen. VMI is located in a small city (7-8K) in rural Virginia which is focused on two universities (VMI and Washington and Lee) and heavy tourism. The Corps is about 1,700 in size so not even half as big as USNA. The post at VMI is small and centered around the parade ground. USNA you already have a feel for.
- VMI is a state school but known in VA for how it runs so the Commonwealth leave it to run itself in many ways. It is very rooted in the tradition of "being VMI" with the ratline and not as subject o change as the military and DoD. Pros and cons to that I think. The Commonwealth is a supporter (LT Gov of VA and Senate Majority leader are both Alumni) but not directive. USNA is a federal institution with congressional oversight and interest. The Supe is going to receive direct guidance from SECNAV and CNO/CMC on how to do business. Mids are in the active force which is a big distinction from VMI Cadets.

You can't go wrong either way but you need to know what you are getting into. One thing I will add is a similarity and that is explore both carefully and examine your own goals. What I saw at VMI and the same for any federal academy is if you don't want it you wont' stay/like it. Even people who really want it (the end state) don't necessarily like going through the experience.
 

Dadof2

5-Year Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2016
Messages
368
Based on my experience as a parent of a current USNA 2019 Mid and a current VMI Rat on ROTC scholarship, I agree with the comments of emwvmi01 regarding the differences. I would only add the following:
  • Summer can be more of a commitment at USNA and in general you will have a little less time off. There are 3 summer blocks and you will be doing summer training for 2 and have 1 off. USNA holiday breaks are shorter than most colleges. At VMI, holiday breaks are like most typical colleges and you will have the summer off unless you are on ROTC scholarship and do summer training for a few weeks.
  • You will get paid ~$1,000/mo at USNA and there is no room and board or tuition to pay. You won't see much of that money the first few years, but you won't be in debt when you graduate either if you are smart with money. At VMI it is expensive if you are out of state. If you are on ROTC scholarship you can get tuition covered and get a monthly stipend but you'll still pay room + board.
  • USNA is more well known, at least in our area. When people ask where DD is going to school and we say USNA, everyone knows what that is. When they ask about DS and we say VMI, most don't know about it.
  • You didn't mention your future goals. If you definitely want to serve, either one will get you there. If you are unsure about serving in the military you can go to VMI without that commitment (unless of course you are on ROTC scholarship).
You can't go wrong either way but you need to know what you are getting into.
This is so true. My kids talk a lot about their school experiences to each other. USNA is great for my DD, but DS doesn't think it would be a fit for him. Same with VMI - good fit for DS, but DD doesn't think she would be happy there.

OP, since you know a lot about USNA and think you might like VMI I highly recommend a visit to VMI. Learn as much as you can about what cadet life is like, especially as a Rat. It is very unique and not for everyone. Once you've checked out VMI, look at what each has to offer and be honest with yourself about what you think is right for you. Try not to think about what others want you to do. Where will you be most likely to succeed and meet your future goals?

Good luck
 

conrack

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Joined
Aug 23, 2016
Messages
278
I live close to Annapolis also and know many USNA grads, great people. The Citadel and VMI are common second choices of those applying to the service academies since they are "the next closest thing' and have some flexibility that the FSAs dont like choosing what service to enter and the fact you can get a commission in all 5 military branches. The Citadel produces the most Marine Officers of any college in the US and one of our grads is the current Assistant Commandant; farther from home but worth considering.
 

KarenH

10-Year Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2010
Messages
103
Make every effort to do an overnight at VMI. With your familiarity of USNA, after an overnight at VMI you will likely have a strong feeling toward one and can make an informed choice. Good luck!
 

vmiwifeandmom

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Joined
Nov 28, 2011
Messages
18
just came home to see a BFE from VMI in my mailbox. I will definitely be visiting there now
Congrats!
As the name implies...PM me if you want to ask any questions of my son or hubby. VMI Class of '15 and '86, respectively. Youngest son has applied to USNA, USAFA and has plan B already worked out with NROTC scholarship, but not to VMI. He saw his brother go thru the RATline, and doesn't want such an intense experience for that long. Agree with all the posters thus far about the differences. You cannot go wrong with either. Also, VMI has excellent academics, especially engineering.
 

vmiwifeandmom

5-Year Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2011
Messages
18
First of all, they are good choices. VMI's honor code is said to be the toughest, what I mean is that if you dare break the honor code and are found guilty as charged you are going home. While USNA is more about developing you gradually into becoming an officer even though you may make some mistakes, as long as you learn from them. I'm not saying that you won't get binned from USNA if you break the rules, it's just that compared to VMI, USNA is much lenient towards certain mistakes, I guess because they have more invested in a candidate. As far as academics go, USNA will be much more challenging than at VMI, even though when it comes to PT VMI is known to be very tough on getting people into shape than any other military school. According to my knowledge you will have more liberty at USNA as a plebe than at VMI because someone is always at your face yelling for no reason. Two of my uncles attended this schools.
Also, if I recall correctly, Rats did not get any liberty until the broke-out, but I could be wrong.
 
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