A Manly Option for Higher Education: Senior Military Colleges

by Brett on February 1, 2009 · 76 comments

in Money & Career


Are you a young man who is trying to decide where to go to college?

Are you drawn to the discipline, leadership, physical, and mental training provided by the military, but aren’t sure if a military career is for you?

Do you desire a college experience that will provide you with a challenging rite of passage into manhood instead of endless nights of drinking and video games?

Have you thought about joining the ROTC at college, but feel like the program isn’t immersive enough?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (or have a son who would) it’s time to look into the opportunities provided by Senior Military Colleges (SMC). Most men have probably heard the names of “Citadel” or “Virginia Military Institute” before, but likely have little idea of what kind of program these schools offer students. In short, in addition to rigorous academics, Senior Military Colleges provide the discipline and leadership training found in the military without asking for a commitment to join the military.

Why Attend a SMC?

College was once seen as a rite of passage for men, an experience that helped a boy transition into manhood. These days, college is likely to be more of an impediment to that process than a facilitator. Many of the young men I went to high school with were quite upstanding gentleman in high school, only to devolve as men once they went through college. Partying, hooking up, and wasting time is now considered a sacrosanct part of the college experience. While there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of fun when you’re young, men often graduate college without the skills in self-discipline, time management, self-reliance, and personal responsibility needed to navigate their future and become a success. They thus spend their post-graduate years quite lost, stuck between boyhood and manhood and confused about how to proceed with their life. The education found at a SMC provides a strong remedy to this dilemma. It is designed not only to educate a man’s mind, but to prepare him with the skills, values, and experiences needed to be a successful, highly motivated leader.

The Advantages of a SMC Education

Senior Military Colleges in the United States have long histories and were not designed solely for those students intent on joining the military. The founders of these schools understood that all men, regardless of their career path, could benefit from a military lifestyle coupled with academic excellence. Thus, unlike service academies and ROTC programs at civilian colleges which require commission in the military, students at SMC’s, members of what is called the Corps of Cadets, may choose to be commissioned when they graduate, or they may walk away to a life in the civilian world. While it varies from school to school, around 1/3 to ½ of graduates take a commission in the military while the rest go on to civilian careers or to graduate school. And, unlike traditional ROTC students at civilian colleges, if you do decide to seek a commission in the military, you are guaranteed an active duty position if you desire it.

The SMC Experience

At each SMC, a student enrolls in both the ROTC and the Corps of Cadets. The Corps of Cadets experience goes far beyond that of the typical ROTC program. Requiring much more than wearing a uniform once a week and attending military classes, it’s an immersive experience, similar to that found at the nation’s service academies.

The SMC experience is not for everyone. The cadet experience begins a week before the semester starts, when they must report to campus for a mini-boot camp. Heads are shaved and uniforms are donned. The cadets must learn how to march in formation, handle a weapon, take care of their uniforms, and keep their rooms clean. Beyond this initial “Hell Week,” things don’t get any easier for the freshmen. They are lead by “cadre” consisting of upperclassmen who shadow the newbies, yelling in their faces, making sure they are following the rules, quizzing them on the cadet’s code and the school’s traditions, and making them do push-ups whenever the mood strikes. Most colleges have several phases during the freshman year that are both mentally and physically grueling which new cadets must pass through to earn greater privileges and respect. At the end of freshman year, the scrubs are welcomed fully into the Corps’ ranks if they pass certain physical tests and rites of passage.

A cadets’ life is disciplined, structured, and challenging for all four years. There is a set wake-up and lights out time, mandatory study hall, and daily physical fitness training and drilling. Cadets are required to wear their uniform at all times on campus. They live together with other cadets in rooms that are subject to cleanliness inspection. Cadets are often required to eat together at certain times and must march to and from the mess hall. There is free time available each day and on some weekends, although other weekends are designated for military training.

In return for giving up the freedom of a traditional college, SMC students are shaped and molded into men of honor, discipline, and integrity. Without the distractions found at other schools, cadets can concentrate on their studies and on building themselves into the kind of men they wish to be. Senior Military Colleges are as intent on molding a man’s character as they are on boosting his intellect. Participation in the Corps of Cadets provides unmatchable leadership training. There are few other experiences in which a young man can receive hands on training in honorably leading his subordinates. Cadets become a close-knit band of brothers that quickly learn the value of teamwork, communication, initiative, and tradition. Individual cadets gain self-confidence and a sense of self-reliance. They come to embody values like integrity, honor, personal responsibility, and perseverance. They graduate from college far better men than when they entered. Plus, you get to wear a dang spiffy uniform.

There are six Senior Military Colleges in the United States. While they share many similarities, each program has its own flavor and traditions. What follows is a brief description of each of these schools.

Note: While the tuition at most SMC’s appears expensive, keep in mind that many scholarships and grants are available to cadets, especially to those who wish to accept a commission in the military.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Image from mumansky

Location: Blacksburg, VA

Established: 1872

Total Undergraduate Student Population/Corps of Cadets: 25,000/700

ROTC Branches: Air Force, Army, Navy

Tuition: $6,332 (in-state), $18,789 (out-of-state)


Similar only to the program found at Texas A&M, the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech is situated at a large public university amongst 25,000 civilian students. Not only do students have the opportunity to befriend thousands of civilian students, they also get to rub shoulders with members of all the services; cadets from the Army, Navy, and Air Force live together in dorms. Cadets live a military lifestyle, but are also free to join any and all of the clubs, fraternities, sports teams that civilian students enjoy. Plus, cadets get free admission to all home football games. Students are not obligated to join the ROTC at all and can instead choose the “Civilian Track” and participate only in the Corps.

North Georgia College and State University (The Military College of Georgia)


Location: Dahlonega, GA

Established: 1873

Total Undergraduate Student Population/Corps of Cadets: 5,000/650

ROTC Branches: Army

Tuition: $12,600 freshmen year, and $10,600 for each of your sophomore, junior, and senior years. (out-of-state cadets pay in-state tuition)

Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, the Military College of Georgia is a small liberal arts college attended by both civilian students and those who join the Corps of Cadets. The cadets are trained in the military lifestyle and live together in the Corps’ coed barracks, but are also free to join the normal college organizations like clubs, intramural sports, and fraternities. Cadets attend classes with traditional students, and class sizes are kept small. NGCSU is the most affordable of any of the Senior Military Colleges and issues many grants to students to defray the costs. Cadets graduate from the program with a leadership minor, in addition to the major of their choice.

Norwich University


Location: Northfield, VT

Established: 1819

Branches: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force

Total Undergraduate Student Population/Corps of Cadets: 2,000/1,200

Tuition: $24,722


Norwich University is the oldest (and now only) private military college in the country and the birthplace of the ROTC. Cadets are required to enroll in ROTC all four years they attend the university. The Norwich cadets live in separate dormitories but share classes and extracurricular activities with the traditional students on campus. Freshmen arrive on campus as “rooks” and must pass through several phases of training to earn the title of “cadet.” Cadets have the opportunity to join special units within the Corps. The Independent Artillery Battery fires Civil War era cannons at sports games and special events. The Calvary troop which teaches cadets horsemanship. The Mountain and Cold Weather Company takes advantage of the rugged Vermont landscape to teach cadets skills such as skiing, snowshoeing, wilderness survival, basic and advanced first aid, climbing and mountaineering, and the basics of cold weather fighting and survival.

Texas A&M


Location: College Station, TX

Established: 1876

Total Undergraduate Student Population/Corps of Cadets: 45,380/2,000

ROTC Branches: Army, Air Force, Navy Marines

Tuition: $7,844 (in-state), $22,274 (out-of-state), (includes fees)


Texas A&M boasts of having more uniformed students that produces more military officers than any other school in US outside of the service academies themselves. All cadets are required to take two years of ROTC classes their first two years; those who seek a commission continue with ROTC, those who do not remain in Corps and continue their leadership training as Drill and Ceremonies cadets. Aggie cadets have their own residence and dining facilities but rub shoulders with traditional students in classes and student organizations.

For the first 100 years of its history A&M was a military college, and many of the school’s most vaunted traditions such as the University’s Bonfire, yell practice, Aggie Muster and Silver Taps, were created by, and now carried on by cadets. About 1/3 choose to be commissioned and the rest are Drill and Ceremonies Cadets. The Corps includes special units such as the Calvary Unit, and units that train cadets who wish to become Navy Seals and Army Rangers. The most famous special unit is Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, the world’s largest precision military marching band, which is known for its spectacular halftime shows. And all Corps cadets, whether band members or not, get to march onto Kyle field before home football games.


Image from pboyd04

One of the most cherished traditions is the Senior privilege of donning the “Senior Boots,” distinctive leather riding boots which can run a cadet around $1000. Seniors are allowed to yell, “I need a fish!” to summon a freshman to help them remove the boots.

The Citadel

The Citadel

Image from vacationer101

Location: Charleston, SC

Established: 1842

Total Undergraduate Student Population/Corps of Cadets: 2,000/1,900

ROTC Branches: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force

Tuition: $16,420 (in-state), $28,920.00 (out-of-state) (including fees and room and board)

Unlike other SMC’s where the Corps of Cadets make up a small part of the student body, at the Citadel, the Corps is the student body. Traditional student take evening classes, but cadets do not share classes with them and only cadets live on campus. Cadets must undergo four semesters of ROTC training.

The Citadel, which calls itself the “West Point of the South,” prides itself on its elite reputation, strict discipline, and rich history. Having only admitted women in 1996 because of a court order, the Citadel is still a male-dominated campus; only 6% of cadets are female. The college also places a great emphasis on honor; it was only in 2007 that locks were placed on barrack doors.

While “hazing” is technically against the rules at the Citadel (and the other military colleges), the upperclassmen cadets are still famous for the harsh rites of initiation they put the knobs (freshmen, named for their shaved heads) through.

Image by V-rider

The reward for enduring this trial by fire comes during the senior year when the cadet receives a mammoth 10 karat gold Citadel ring. Earning the right to wear this “Band of Gold” is an honor of incredibly weighty significance.

Virginia Military Institute


Image by Art Afficionado

Location: Lexington, VA

Established: 1839

Total Undergraduate Student Population/Corps of Cadets: n/a/1300

ROTC Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines

Tuition: $5,262 (in-state), $22,160 (out-of-state)


Virginia Military Institute is a place with a storied history and reigns as the oldest state-supported military college in the country. The cadets experience this history firsthand, as many of them live in the “The Old Barracks,” a National Historic Landmark built in 1848. VMI prides itself on continuity and tradition and was the last military college to admit women, which it did upon court order in 1997. Similar to the Citadel, female students today make up only around 6% of the cadets.

VMI maintains a reputation for rigorous academics and a lifestyle that is Spartan-like even by military college standards. The freshman initiation experience, known as the Ratline, is particularly grueling. “Rats” eat their meals at attention, pound out countless push-ups, and are called on morning and night runs. After a challenging test of their fitness and teamwork abilities, rats are welcomed into the VMI community as fourth classmen at a ceremony called Breakout which occurs during the second semester.

VMI cadets take the virtue of honor seriously and uphold the last “single sanction” honor code among the military academies. If any student is found guilty of a single insistence of lying, stealing, or cheating, they are expelled from the school in a “drumming out” ceremony.

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pat February 1, 2009 at 8:57 pm

No. Just…no.

If you want to play soldier that bad, just join the army. They’ll even pay you, and you’ll become disenchanted with the martial dreams you once carried.

2 Tony February 1, 2009 at 9:05 pm

This is really interesting. I had no idea such an option existed. Unfortunately I’ve already graduated from college, I wish I would have known about this in high school-it’s right up my alley.

3 Dave February 2, 2009 at 12:40 am

I agree with Pat… What the heck? Have a look at Norwich University’s video with the sound off. It’s not so cool then.

This article sucks, and it’s total nonsence. You can teach a young man the values of a military life, while in a civilian setting (and without the disadvantages).

4 Tuff February 2, 2009 at 5:26 am

I completely disagree. It is impossible to learn the values of military life while sitting comfortably in a purely civilian atmosphere. Civilians can go through their entire college career and never be challenged, never be pushed, and never take responsibility for own actions. While I’m not saying all civilian students are that way, you don’t find many of those people at military colleges.

A good military school will teach you what a civilian school cannot: motivation, courage, mental toughness, and honor. Attending a military school was the best choice I ever made. I have never regretted it for a single second.

5 Jeff February 2, 2009 at 5:27 am

Dave and Pat are a bunch of whiney little bitches. Dave, what are the disadvantages of going to a military college? That you have to leave behind your precious video games and won’t be able to make beer mittens? Sounds like you’re just a pussy.

Militiary colleges are unique part of American history and they’re full of rich tradtion. As someone who graduated from the Citadel, I’m glad someone bringing people’s attention to these institutes.

6 Dave (not the pussy one) February 2, 2009 at 5:36 am

Great article! I have a friend who joined Texas A&M’s Core of Cadets; I went the civilian route. He’s gone on to serve in the Army. I was always jelous of the commardery he had with his fellow cadets. And there was definitely something different between cadets and civillian students. Civillian students looked and acted like a bunch of overgrown teenagers. Cadets looked and acted like men. They had a presence about them that made you respect them.

Gig ‘em Aggies!

7 Chris February 2, 2009 at 6:06 am

No mention of the REAL military colleges, the service academies? I’m disappointed. The education, both mental, physical, and military, at the Air Force or Naval Academies or West Point far outstrips any of the options listed on this page. Of course, I say this as a junior currently at West Point, but when I hear mention of these civilian “military” colleges and look at their training, I can’t help but laugh.

I’m not trying to discredit the above options, as I’m sure they are a cut above your average regular college, but if you want to serve in the military, the service academies are the way to go.

8 Shakeel February 2, 2009 at 6:07 am

I’m sorry, but this article is crap. It reads like an ad for military colleges. And if you want to go that route, good for you. But seriously.

“The freshman initiation experience, known as the Ratline, is particularly grueling. “Rats” eat their meals at attention, pound out countless push-ups, and are called on morning and night runs.”

“While “hazing” is technically against the rules at the Citadel (and the other military colleges), the upperclassmen cadets are still famous for the harsh rites of initiation they put the knobs (freshmen, named for their shaved heads) through.”

If you heard shit like this about any other school, you’d assume that it was some dumb bunch of frat boys hazing students in some stupid rite where they establish their superiority over the pledges. And this is different how?

Also, I’m not a big fan of the author’s apparent disdain for the non-military school experience. Who wrote this? A recruiter? Did you get paid to write this thing?

9 Charlie on PA Tpk February 2, 2009 at 6:09 am

Back in the day (+/-25 years ago) I was presented the opportunities of ROTC, and I declined. My decision was in no small part due to the lingering rhetoric of the military is a baaaad thing, which was replaced in later years with the reality that would be physically excluded from military service should I ever had been tested.

However, in my youth I never bad-mouthed the efforts of those in the military, and in fact gave them due credit for going through the training AND subjecting themselves to the ridicule of others for doing so.

Now, my nephew is nearing completion of his studies in the AF academy, and I could not be more proud of him.

Some people may not like military life, and that’s fine: one of the reasons given by service men and women for NOT reinstating the Draft is that they only want to fight along side people who truly get military life and service.

My hat is off to all who serve with honor!

10 NTO February 2, 2009 at 7:19 am

I used to be very anti-military. But while in college, I made friends with people who had served as soldiers. I have learned a lot from them, and I aknowledge that they showed character traits as discipline, goal achievement, commardery and integrity; traits that I had to develop in life through different manners. I have learned to re-evaluate my perception about the military life.

But, I still don’t consider this was an option I would have taken (The title of the entry is very appropriate: SMC is an OPTION). It would be very interesting to read about other options. Some of my relatives and friends attended agricultural schools and I know that they developed a firm character through waking up really early (3 AM) to feed/milk the stock, work the land, face the weather, etc, before attending classes. Now that’s something I would have chosen back in the days.

I attended business grad school, and that is one of the fondest experiences I remember in my life. I know, it can’t be compared with military college, they both belong to totally different files. For a curious reason, my class was not the corporate jungle I would have expected, but the environment where my character was trained, and I learned the commardery and discipline that I lacked of, traits that I could not show or achieve in my college years.

I agree, college is mostly about frats and partying. But I insist there are other options in manliness.

11 John February 2, 2009 at 7:27 am

Please be careful taking that attitude with you into the active Army. About 6 weeks into my first platoon leader position, I told our Battalion XO that “Officer Basic Course was just where they sent the VMI, Citidel, and ROTC guys to catch up with the West Pointers.” Right after that, I got a close inspection of his VMI ring, and an excellent lecture on the value of diversity in the officer corps. Having friends and colleagues from the “lesser” academies, and understanding their background and why they chose to do what they did, will make you a better officer and more importantly a better person.
I have several life-long friends that went to VMI and the Citidel. To this day, I can’t understand why they would PAY to get hazed, but I assure you that, at least in my day (which was before the Corps went to Hell), I was only physically hit in the kidneys once as a plebe, and did my push-ups on a much more voluntary basis than they ever do at the Citidel and VMI. The sad fact is that federal law has made West Point’s Plebe Semester a shadow of the privately-funded hell that knobs endure.
Now get your neck back and finish your sosh paper. You’re getting a great education, and take advantage of the fact that your instructors are Active Duty officers. Possibly the greatest advantage you have over your peers at the other SMI schools, is the close daily contact with AD officers.
Finally, I commend you on reading “The Art of Manliness” during your officer training. Please encourage your classmates to subscribe, also. Being a gentleman is a vital part of being a good officer.

John Gorkos
USMA ’93

12 Tuff February 2, 2009 at 8:02 am


If you think the class of 2009 went to hell, you should see 2012.

13 Brett McKay February 2, 2009 at 8:24 am


I didn’t mention the real service academies simply because they are so well known. I think a lot of men don’t know about SMC’s. I had no idea such a program existed until someone told me a few weeks ago and I decided to write this post just to let readers know about the option.

14 Steve February 2, 2009 at 8:24 am

For those who feel it necessary to trash this entry, I ask you this: Do you now, or have you ever served in the Armed Forces? Those who have can attest to the myriad of benefits this type of training offers across many facets of daily life. Organization, discipline, structure, physical fitness…the list goes on. The SMC is a fantastic option for those who desire more out of their college experience than beer pong and Ultimate Frisbee in the quad, yet are undecided about making the decision to join the military. I’ve been Active Duty for 11 years, and I can tell you that the tools I was taught in basic training have served me well, and they will continue to serve me when I decide to transition to the civilian world.

As an employer, would you want to hire people who can work on their own and can follow the rules? As a father, would you want your child to understand how pride, discipline, and honor can benefit more aspects of their lives than they could ever fully comprehend? The SMC offers that opportunity without incurring a service commitment (as an aside, the Military Academies certainly aren’t free…they require graduates to serve in the military to “pay back” their education expenses).

AoM, thanks for a fine post that highlights a few options to the next generation of upstanding gentlemen!

15 Lee February 2, 2009 at 9:06 am

Great article, thank you very much.

BQ ’97 A-Battery here. Or for those who don’t know, was in the Fightin’ Aggie Band, A-Battery class of 1997. Wore my dad’s boots, he was ’69 in Squadron 11, then went on to serve in the Air Force.

Many of my buddies from those days went on to serve in every branch in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Corps at Texas A&M molded a young punk into a man. It taught me discipline and gave me friends for life. I would highly, highly recommend this route to any young man wishing to broaden his horizons as he travels through the college experience and come out the other end a polished Man.

16 Bill February 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm

You sure do try to romanticize these places. Did you use their brochures as your sources? The fact that only 1/3 to 1/2 are commissioned says a lot about many of them just wanting to play soldier for 4 years without having to make any true sacrifices. Now don’t get me wrong, the ones who take the oath of office should be commended, but they are not any better of an officer than those from any other commissioning source. These colleges should exist to produce officers who are not only going to be proficient in their jobs but also ethical leaders, not just men who can say they did something tough for that fact alone.

You say “While “hazing” is technically against the rules at the Citadel” as if hazing goes on and that is fine with you. There is nothing wrong with strong discipline, but to insinuate that any sort of hazing is permissible is ludicrous. Perhaps I’m wrong and you’re mistaking hazing with making push ups to be done or holding a rifle at arm’s length, I don’t know. But you’re crazy if you think laying hands on another person is ever right.

17 Nino Balducci February 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm


I graduated from a military academy. I went for all the romantic reasons, the challenge, etc. All the things that appeal to an 18-year-old.

You will get there and find out IT’S ALL MARKETING. You will become intensely cynical and disillusioned. You will learn to despise the very romanticism that led you there. And you’ll wish you hadn’t decided to waste your youth in a bad Lord of the Flies re-enactment.

Go to a real college. Don’t waste a minute of your precious life dealing with the profoundly irrelevant bullshit that military academies will bury you in.

Of course, if you’ve already drunk the Kool Aid, you’re not going to believe me. Yet. But you’ll remember my words every day, as you waste another hour spit-shining your boots.

18 Tuff February 2, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Nobody said a military college was right for everyone. That’s why so few choose to go that route. It sucks. Its hard. Its not fun (in the way most people define fun). If you’re going there for the “romanticism” you will be disappointed. If you’re going because its ‘free’ (in the case of the service academies) you will be miserable. But if you’re going because you value what they represent and want to learn all they can teach you, you will appreciate every minute as I have.

19 jake February 2, 2009 at 1:29 pm

enjoyed the articles but the comments even more so

i am in the army rotc program at a large state university and i plan on commissioning active duty after my four years here.

i chose rotc because it is the best of both worlds – discipline, routine, physical fitness, and education interspersed in a huge vibrant college setting – and because of readings and snooping i did on my own on west point and the smcs – i came to the same conclusion that nino has corroborated… so i am happy with my choice

and to the people who actually believe that the modern american university does anything to mold teenager males into men are fuckin idiots

20 Gavin February 2, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I’m disappointed to say this, but having held my tongue a few times this entry has just pushed it over the edge.

First, let me say I respect many of the things military colleges have to offer, and my objection is not to discussing them… they have helped many men find themselves. This article however, read like unmitigated propaganda. The leadership training they receive may be better than aveage but is nothing “Unmatched”. The academics are rarely weak (discipline goes a long way) but are by no means top tier. Most salient though is that, while many great people graduate from such colleges, the pervasive bigotry, sexism, unbridled machismo and other “soft sanctions” that thrive in [para-]military student bodies is certainly “unmanly” if not unworthy.

One poster mentioned Hazing as an example. Barriers lead to strength, and shared trials build community, but much of the hazing at military colleges breeds scorn and hatred instead. SMCs have some serious flaws to go with their serious strengths… blind zealotry on the part of the author is unbecoming.

Over the past year, AoM has been progressively losing much of its enjoyable balance; virtue AND pragmatism. I’ve always appreciated the examples (and validation) of how a modern man can still stand up for manly qualities (strength of character, body, and mind. Courage, nobility, tolerance, wisdom.) while still living a balanced, healthy life. Entries are increasingly sanctimonious and pious. Moderation and perspective have given way to an insistence and implication than anything relaxed, fun or less than virtuous is evil or weak… instead of self-awareness.

We are human, and should accept that because the best men are those who pursue goodness but also seek those outlets for their humanity which don’t harm others. Those indulgences allow us to replenish our strength and more enjoy the world.

Myself, I’ve never been drunk and don’t care to (although I like glass of good wine with dinner occasionally)… but absenting damage or harm I don’t begrudge friends who use alcohol to relax or make themselves more comfortable in social surroundings. I enjoy looking at naked ladies from time to time and, because I was careful to check that my fiance is comfortable/aware it’s no threat to her, it certainly has no negative impact on our sex life or the trust between us. I can’t stand smoking of any kind myself, but I’d never think less of a factory worker or soldier using a cigarette to calm his nerves or find solace in a tough year. Of any vice, I’d say organized religion is the one that I hold in greatest contempt (for its teaching that strength comes from fear or another’s will, instead of within)… but if that’s what someone needs to find comfort with the universe I will judge them by their actions in and on the world, not by their indulgences.

Vices which harm others unnecessarily are unmanly.
Vices taken to extreme are unmanly.
Uncontrolled vices are unmanly.

The same is true of virtue.


21 David C. February 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I nearly enrolled at the US Naval Academy upon graduating from high school. I considered all my options (including the SMC options), and I determined that a civilian college was a better route for me.

The bottom line: Just because YOU wouldn’t jive well with the SMC/Service Academy experience (or didn’t enjoy it) does not mean that the same is true of everyone else.

If you’re planning to go the military route because your parents (or someone else) are forcing you to, I have one word: Don’t.

If you aren’t sure you have what it takes to endure and thrive in a tough environment, you probably don’t.

If you enjoy working until you drop, doing thankless chores, and getting yelled at a lot, you’ll probably do alright going SMC/Service Academy/Military-in-general.

If that’s for you, awesome. If it isn’t, don’t try to tell everyone else they shouldn’t even consider it.

Knowing your limits and letting other people operate at theirs is a manly trait, in my opinion.

22 Nick February 2, 2009 at 2:41 pm

As a current member of West Point, I am very glad that I came here. Having spent time at civilian schools and having friends at Norwich and other service acadamies, I feel that it was the right decision to come here. If I hadn’t gotten accepted into West Point some form of ROTC was definitely my second choice.

Military acadamies aren’t for everyone, it is a lifestyle decision that a very small percentage of the population of the country make. Do not slander those that have made that sacrifice or discourage those from making the decision to apply to a service acadamy.

At the end of the day, I could not be happier with my West Point experience. There were difficulties and times I was not pleased with my decision, but it is a crucible to grow and become the military officer that is educated and able to make sound decisions under immense pressure that risks the lives of his or her soldiers. My hat is off to anyone that was ever was, is, or is thinking of going to an acadamy and serving the country.

And according to the Princeton Review 2008, USMA is the number 5 school in the nation and the number 1 public school in the nation. Thanks.


USMA class of 2010

23 Adam February 2, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Hahahaha I am SOOO glad I didn’t go to an academy. Actually at FT over the summer, there were some kids there from a military college and they were worse (performance wise) than normal ROTC cadets by far.

ROTC gives you a normal college life AND a commission into the military. I would NEVER suggest that ANYONE go to a military academy. But then, ROTC and academy cadets both talk each other down. My argument for ROTC is that I had a regular college life, and no cadet from an academy can tell me that they had any kind of ‘normal’ college experience unless they were visiting elsewhere.

24 pete February 2, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Brett, someone’s hijacked your site and has uploaded a bunch of propaganda…

25 Liz February 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Refreshing. A rather balanced look at a Military education that leans towards its rewards of self respect, leadership, and academic achievement instead of the mindless drone syndrome that the Military has a reputation of without the discipline and structure of education. And a run-on sentence on my part. Well done.

26 Wrathbone February 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm

There’s only one way to truly get the military experience and that is to JOIN THE MILITARY.

We used to get a lot of these hot-shot Ensigns who thought they were God’s gift to the service coming out of these military colleges. What they don’t realize is that all the spit-shines and pressed uniforms don’t account for much in a combat situation. The CO doesn’t care about your accomodations, he’s going to be too busy listening to the enlisted guys who actually know what the hell is going on.

27 P February 2, 2009 at 4:28 pm

It’s not a manly thing to fight another person’s battles.

28 Casey February 2, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I tend to agree with Gavin’s perspective above on this article and the blog as a whole.

I found AoM six months ago. I was drawn to its refreshing, but not forceful, perspective. I’m an avid follower; however the tone of many of the articles written in the past months has become increasingly bound in moral absolutes. Drinking beer, admiring beautiful women, and wasting time with your buddies are all healthy and good in moderation. Your categorical rejections of anything not morally pure and macho are pushing readers away. It should be noted that even the most disciplined and virtuous cadets love to get out and party. You should ask a Georgetown or University of Maryland student about their experiences with rowdy Naval Academy midshipmen.

As a senior at USNA, and a future Second Lieutenant of Marines, I was disappointed by what I found in this article and in the comments of some readers. From the self-righteous Norwich video to the rhetoric about hazing at the Citadel, the message is all wrong. I am extremely proud of what I do, and I know no finer young men and women than my classmates, but the donning of a uniform does not make any cadet automatically superior to his civilian brother. Military academies, SMCs, and civilian universities all have a common goal in the development of young men and women for the greater good.

Yes, SMC’s are a nice option to have. Yes, they have a disciplined and enthusiastic student body. But traditions of hazing, bigotry, and arrogance are not manly and should have been weighed in a balanced evaluation. I also agree that if service is not your goal you are wasting your time. From my personal interactions I can tell you joining for the wrong reasons will make any military school the most cynical four years of your life.

29 Matthew St. Pierre February 2, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Norwich University Corps of Cadets class of 2001, going there was the best decision I ever made!

30 Mike M. February 2, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Having graduated from Virginia Tech (but not in the Corps of Cadets), I’ll point out that it and Texas A&M are rather different from some of the other SMCs.

In particular, they share a campus with a large civilian contingent – a good sample of the real world, where you find lots of civilians. Both organizations tend to avoid the extremes sometimes associated with some other institutions.

And it’s worth remembering that VMI and the Citadel are marketing connections, as well as an education and a reputation for extreme toughness. Being an alumni opens doors closed to many people.

31 Brett McKay February 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm

@Gavin and Casey-

Nothing has changed about the content over the last months; you can find similarly-toned posts from the very beginning of this blog. We have always been dedicated to the same thing; writing straightforward posts about being better men. The blog is about holding men to a higher standard than what is expected of them today. That will inevitably sometimes come across as preachy, and I’m truthfully not bothered by that fact.

But I do take issue with your claim that we do not advocate moderation. I challenge you to find any “categorical imperatives” on this blog about drinking, smoking, or hanging out with your friends and having fun. On the issue of porn, I will admit I take a hard line against it. (Although interestingly when we did do a post about pin-up girls, readers went ballistic on us for being immoral-thus proving the adage that you cannot please everyone). But other things are lifetsyle choices, which, if you don’t build your whole life around them, don’t really have to do with one’s manliness.

This post certainly does not advocate that everyone go to a SMC. Which I thought I made clear and highlighted in bold. I didn’t go to a SMC, and my friends didn’t either. But I did want to present a little known option to people who are looking for an alternative to the typical college experience. Normal colleges do not often help men on their path to manhood-but I’m not saying that they can’t. The experience is what you make of it, for good or bad. Again, this was a post simply designed to inform people who might want to look more into SMC’s. It’s not a post about the pros and cons of going to one, it’s simply to present the option.

To those who somehow read into this post some kind of advocation of hazing, I’m not sure how you get that from the one sentence in which I mentioned it. I simply said that it is technically illegal, by which I meant that I could not say absolutely that it did not go on because I have never attended one myself.

32 Bill February 2, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Hazing isn’t just “technically illegal,” it is morally and ethically wrong and despite what some may say has no use; in fact it is counter productive.

I didn’t watch the youtube videos at first, but just did and they are quite arrogant. As if attending a military college and going through something difficult makes you somehow better than civilians…

33 AoMreader February 2, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Back in high school, I wanted to go to VMI. I blew my knee out in football and ruined any chance of going there. I had a chance to go to a local State University on a full scholarship though and that was fine with me. Years later, I befriended a young man that I encouraged to go to VMI. He was there for one year and decided that all of the stupid stuff the upperclassmen do to underclassmen is completely childish. Making them drop and do pushups to satisfy their own whim, eating meals at attention in less than two min., running through alternating scalding hot water and ice cold water in order to take a shower just to get up in the middle of the night to run. What really made him upset was not the fact that upperclassmen made him do it, but the fact that when he was an upperclassman he was expected to do the same. He could handle the disrespect, but he did not want to put others though the absurdness of several thoughtless traditions that are actually cruel rather than encouraging to young men.

34 ThoughtsOnManliness February 2, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I was wondering. Most men agree that having a beard is quite manly especially if it is kept very well. When did the military institute the shaved face look so every man has to look almost the same? Androgyny isn’t very rugged, manly, or bad-ass.

35 Pat February 2, 2009 at 10:58 pm

@Thoughts on Manliness: Hey man, your kink isn’t everybody else’s kink. : )

But seriously, the beards went the way of the dodo for one reason: the gas mask. You can’t achieve a tight and safe seal with the whiskers.

@Jeff: I will simply reiterate that SMCs are for those who want to play soldier, and no amount of calling people “whiny little bitches” will change my mind. My point is that if you want to serve something other than yourself, and find out what the military is actually like, join the military. It takes a lot more commitment to stay with a calling that oftentimes tends to shit on its most loyal practitioners.

Oh, and I’m a Marine Corporal, I have done a combat tour, and I will be commissioned an Officer of Marines at the end of this semester. One of the best NCOs I ever had was a VMI grad, and one of the worst officers I’ve had the displeasure of knowing was from the Naval Academy.

In the end, I believe in a well-rounded Officer Corps. Good and bad officers come from everywhere. My personal opinion is that SMCs are for those who like to wear uniforms, march, and haze/get hazed. My personal opinions are unlikely to be changed by people on the internet.

36 Bud February 3, 2009 at 1:13 am

You all have valid and valuable comments – this is a very interesting article and I noticed the comment from a current Cadet at USMA saying USMA is superior, etc. Which is a bunch of nonsense – it’s all relative and all meant to build better people & officers. The Federal Academies are well known vs. the ones mentioned here so let them have their due and many do have certain better academic and other programs but I digress… I only have one narrow point

Dear John USMA ’93 from a VMI ’93 Alum thanks for your comment to the young Cadet Chris USMA current – he should be careful and be prepaired to back himself up. As a USMC option VMI Cadet I visited the USMA in 1993 and thought “wow what a country club” this enforced my attitude at the time that I was much tougher than any of them – sometimes true and sometimes not – maybe he’ll need to learn his lessons the hard way.

AoM – thanks for the article!

37 Stephen February 3, 2009 at 3:50 am

I thought this was a great post. Just this last Friday (1/30/09) I visited the Citadel as a potential cadet for the fall semester of 2009. I was very impressed by everything I saw there, and I am about 75% sure that I will be enrolling as a ‘knob’ after I graduate from high school. My other top choice is West Point, although the AIr Force Academy, Clemson, and USC Columbia are options as well.

I think the greatest thing about the SMCs is that they provide an education that combines the best things of civilian colleges and the service academies. Cadets at the Citadel go through physical training and learn strict discipline while practicing honor and integrity. However, unlike the service academies, they provide a broad range of majors (rather than a Bachelor of Science with slight variations), and Cadets have normal college breaks for Christmas and the summer. These breaks allow cadets to maintain relationships with family and friends during their off time. If I went to West Point, I would hardly ever see my family and I would lose contact with my friends and my church family.

To those who have posted negatively about military colleges: you don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m sorry to say. I have watched my friends go off to college, lose focus, and drop out. It is incredibly common- the last statistic I heard said that the college dropout rate was around 40%! If a person already has self-discipline, integrity, and organizational skills, they will do fine in college. However,most kids do not have those traits and habits leaving high school, and they won’t magically appear now that they have freedom. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how talented.

One last note: posts like this would be very useful in the late summer and fall as well, when students are starting to fill out college applications. I didn’t hear of the SMCs until it was almost too late to apply, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

38 Chris February 3, 2009 at 5:25 am

I think I need to clarify what I intended by my earlier post: I think that for someone that wants to commission into the military and wants the military college experience, a service academy is the way to go. I didn’t intend to put down the SMCs, and they certainly have their place, but I don’t believe that you will get the same currently relevant military training that you would at an academy.

That being said, I don’t think either one will make you a better person or leader. Some of the best leaders I know commissioned out of civilian college through ROTC, and one of the worst I know graduated from an academy. In the end, what college you go to has no bearing on what kind of leader you become. It may influence you in some slight way, but ultimately, I think it comes from your personality and values.

39 Alex February 3, 2009 at 7:31 am

I have to say that I am flabbergasted that there would even be any negative comments about this post. I wouldn’t have thought it controversial in any way. It’s amazing how far the military and even military-like training has fallen in men’s eyes. It says a lot about the state of men today.

To simply dismiss SMC’s as “playing soldier” is quite short-sighted. Why should military-like training be limited only to those who wish to make the service their career? Every man would do well to be steeped in the values of leadership, learn survival and combat skills, and be physically trained. The Boy Scouts started as military-like training for boys, but who would say that the Scouts then or now was a waste of time in “playing soldier?”

To those who complain that the tone of the videos is arrogant, the problem is really that you’ve been raised in a society that tries to make everyone believe that they are special and that everyone is equal and no one is better than you. If a man goes to a SMC and he does the academics that all college student do, AND he goes through grueling physical and emotional challenges as opposed to just hanging out for four years, than yes, he is better than you. He has met and overcome greater challenges than you. I went to a normal college and I can readily admit this. Grow up boys, there are people out there who are better than you.

40 Pat February 3, 2009 at 7:50 am

Q: “Why should military-like training be limited only to those who wish to make the service their career?”
A: Because otherwise it’s just masturbation. (in my opinion)

“In the end, what college you go to has no bearing on what kind of leader you become. It may influence you in some slight way, but ultimately, I think it comes from your personality and values.” – This is it exactly.

41 Bill February 3, 2009 at 11:54 am

I previously put out my opinions on things and was going to leave it at that, but since you’re making judgments on people you don’t even know I feel compelled to respond. Please expound on how one who attends a military college is inherently better than anyone who did not? This wasn’t relevant to the arguments I made before, but how does the fact that I went to a service academy make me better than anyone else? I would never be so arrogant as to presume that is the case. I had my reasons to join, but none of those reasons was to become more “manly.” Anyone who joins the military or attends a SMC just to become more of a man has a lot more growing up to do.

42 Lee February 3, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Bill, it isn’t about becoming more manly. It is about taking a big step on your path to becoming a Man. Two completely different ideas.

Those who claim that the Academies are the only path, that enlisting is the only path, that every aspect of hazing is a straying step away from, etc is missing the fact that each man walks his own path. We must all pick our own way down it, if one way works for one, sure let others know of it, but you can’t force or judge all based solely on your own bias or experience.

43 Alex February 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm


I echo what Lee said in that I’m talking about “better,” not more “manly.”

Would you agree that some men are better than others? I would. And what makes them better? Well, it involves a lot of things, like being virtous, loyal, hard working ect. It also involves the number of challenges a man has taken on and overcome. And whether or not he seeks out challenge. If a man has honorably taken on more challenges, he’s probably a better man. So generally, men who go to service academies or SMC’s become better men than those who take the normal route. Is that always true? Of course not. A honorable man at a normal college will trump a dishonorable man who barely got by in a service academy. But it’s generally true, because they’ve generally faced more challenges. But I’m not saying that military education is the only route to becoming better; anything that involves taking on challenge will do the exact same thing.

44 LS February 3, 2009 at 3:39 pm

This article has almost made me finally remove Art of Manliness from my RSS reader. There have been some great articles in the past 10, which is the reason why I haven’t. This blog used to have tons of great articles, but for a long time the signal to noise ratio went way down in favor of pushing some troglodyte macho agenda. Hopefully its not happening again.

45 ThoughtsOnManliness February 3, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Line them up, churn them out. When it comes down to it, the military is for one thing and one thing alone…Killing the Enemy. Just because someone does 5000 pushups and can do hundreds of chinups and run for miles, eating at attention and donning the latest in military fashion doesn’t make that man’s life any more valuable than the average Joe down the block shooting a burglar in his house that happens to be threatening his family. Both were protecting their own. Both kill the enemy. However, one is seen as the epitome of manliness while the other one is not.

46 Stephen February 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm

The point of the military is to provide defense for our nation. That is not the purpose of the SMCs. Yes, they prepare you to be commissioned as an officer, but I know that many from the Citadel go into civilian life after the four years. The point of military colleges is that they teach discipline, honor, integrity, physical fitness, academic excellence, and strong moral character. The only one of these qualities that are actively taught at civilian universities is academic excellence. The reason that I want to attend the Citadel is because I want to practice the discipline that they teach at the school, and by learning to be self disciplined, I will be a better man than I would be if I went to Clemson, my next choice.

I’m sorry that many of you are so anti-military. Those of you making comments about ‘playing soldier’ and troglodytes obviously misunderstand the goals and the realities of military colleges. The two most valuable traits a man can have are integrity and discipline, and these are fostered at military colleges. If you think that is a bad thing, then I just don’t know what to say to you.

47 ManlinessManliness February 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm

“The two most valuable traits a man can have are integrity and discipline, and these are fostered at military colleges.”

I agree that these are traits that are fostered, but to what end. The integrity and discipline to take orders from your superiors who may have to place you in the middle of hell to fight the enemy and the integrity and discipline to GIVE orders to place men in the middle of hell to fight the enemy. THAT is what the military does, it has to foster something in someone in order to put men in the front line without question.

The problem though is when people from military schools come out into the work force and are surprised when others do not act the way they do, NO SHIT.

48 Ed February 5, 2009 at 1:11 pm

These institutions are not a waste of time for those that do not choose military careers and they are not for people who are just playing soldier.

The people who enroll here are engaging in their own personal challenges and taking a course different than most of their peers.

I would guess that more than half have military plans or backgrounds that lead them to their choice while others had different reasons (sports, academics, personal). The commissioning rate quoted here is probably low since I believe it applies to military service immediately after graduation and may not include those who join after some civilian time (there are more than a few who do).

Ed VMI’94
USMC enlisted 94-95
USMC officer 95-00

49 Oyaji February 5, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I graduated The Citadel more than 30 years ago and then went on to serve as an infantry officer. My take on this article is that if you are going to attend, then do it for yourself. For You. Don’t do it for your parents, or the country or for picking up chicks, do it for you. You will get an excellent education, both academically and how the world really works (p.s., it sucks!).

When it is all said and done, nobody else cares. If you want to soldier, join the French Foreign Legion. If you want to see action and fight, join the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

50 Sean February 18, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for the great article.

My education at The Citadel was first rate. I can certainly appreciate the opinions of some of the commentators that going to a military college is lame, or doesn’t allow you to “have fun”, etc. However, I had a great time. I’m still friends with everyone from my company. My children refer to each of them as “uncle.”

I would also add that The Citadel still produces gentlemen even though it allows women to attend. In fact, the transition from an all male college to co-ed has provided to opportunity for the young men who attend to prepare themselves for the society that they will be rejoining upon graduation. After all, the real world is co-ed.

Thanks for the comments in support of SMCs, Stephen. Good Luck at The Citadel.

51 DC April 1, 2009 at 8:31 am

These intititutions, along with the Academies, are great places to learn academics and learn to lead. So too are ROTC units (all services) at reputable schools. The problem that comes from the SMCs is that they tend to attract sons and daughters of privilidge at a higher rate than public schools, and some of them can be disconnected from reality at times, and take the lifestyle too seriously, and carry that over to their post-education career. I know many Citadel grads that are very unpleasant and typically enjoyed abusing underclassmen at school, and are now back-stabbers on active duty. There are those kind of people that come from ROTC and the academies, but when I notice it more from SMC grads (mainly VT and the Citadel), there must be something from those schools that either attracts the toolbags, or breeds them.

52 Joe April 12, 2009 at 12:11 am

I spent last year in an ROTC program, and am now at USMA. I think it is safe to say that you will get more thorough training at an actual academy as opposed to ROTC; that being said, I still believe ROTC is a great way to join the military. I have known ROTC cadets who are smarter than some of my USMA counterparts, and vice versa. As for breeding toolbaggery, I would agree that academies, by their exclusive nature, can produce disproportionate numbers of power-tripping toolbags. On the other hand, ROTC seems to lend itself to producing lackadaisical and undisciplined bums. These are broad categorizations though; it really simply comes down to the individual and the way they choose to live.

Great article: I think there is a major lack of awareness and understanding regarding SMC’s; I know I had no idea what they were when I was in highschool.

USMA 2012

53 sferrari17 April 12, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Hey Joe-

I don’t suppose you are in G-4, are you?

54 Jay Burkos August 14, 2009 at 10:59 am

I attended Valley Forge Military College near Philadelphia, and the experience was nothing but positive. What is not mentioned here is the discipline and time management skills learned at these academies. It isn’t about martial skill – I don’t ever remember learning to crawl through trenches at VFMC (except through the ROTC Department!) However, a majority of the students attending VFMC were there to learn time management, leadership, multitasking, and discipline prior to entering the business world. Since VFMC is a two year college, everyone simply graduated and transferred to a civilian school who gladly accepted our credits.

For the detractors here, it is easy to laugh or dismiss a military college (oh, the pretty uniforms, look at the guns, etc) unless you attended one. Go on a tour and talk to some cadets and alumni who succeeded there and in their careers afterward, and then take stock of the lessons they teach you about life.

55 Greg September 5, 2009 at 3:53 am

I am currently a fish in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. I think one thing that needs to be cleared up is the purpose of TAMU’s Corps. I cannot speak for the other SMC’s, but TAMU’s Corps has changed over time. Though we keep many traditions, our purpose is different. As read in the Standard, the Corps’s official handbook, “The purpose of the Corps of Cadets is to develop well-educated leaders of character, prepared to answer the call for values based leadership and service in the public and private sectors.”

We do have an ROTC, and cadets are required to participate for the first two years. To quote a former student, “Alot of people when they think of the Corps of Cadets, they think of the physical challenges. The running in the morning, the push-ups, etc. But it’s the mental strength that you gain from those physical challenges, when you think you can’t do one more push-up, when you think you can’t take on one more task because you’re so loaded down. It’s overcoming the barriers that you think exist.”

I, as a cadet, am required to wake up at 0600, go to formation, eat, and clean my room by 0730. I then get academic time to go to class, study, and participate in student activities until 1630. Then is unit training time, follow by dinner at 1800. At 1900, mandatory study begins and lights out is at 2230. With the need to get up so early, and go to bed so early, we have to manage our time well. We can’t be like regular college students and wake up 20 minutes before class, roll out of bed, and run to class. We get up early, so if we have a late class, we have to make use of the time we have.

It’s a different experience. It’s a rewarding one. It’s an experience that requires sacrifice, but in the end, you get alot out of it. Great friends, a great education, and you come out knowing you’re ready to take on the world.

56 Jon September 10, 2009 at 2:57 am

What is wrong with you “men” today?? This article was written for the sole purpose to make young men aware of just SOME of MANY options in college and in life. IT’S JUST AN OPTION! I don’t think Brett is trying to convey that any of the SMCs produce “better” men than any other school, or produce propaganda that these schools are better than any other. He was merely bringing to light an OPTION of schools for young men.

As a graduate of the Citadel, I don’t believe my time there molded me into any greater of a man than anyone else. I currently serve in the military and have met outstanding men from all walks of life. I also have many civilians friends from civilian colleges who are some of the most upstanding and successful men I’ve ever met. If I could do it all again, as hind sight is 20/20, I would have made the same choice. But that was what I felt was right for me. You should pursue what calls you.

America consists of diverse cultures, and produces diverse men and women. That is what makes America strong. To each his own! Celebrate that we have the right to make those choices in life.

57 Brett November 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm

I currently am a contracted ROTC cadet at a California State school however I attend a local junior college. I have spent two years at the junior college and want to transfer to one of these schools. If I transfer will they make me start over through their program as a freshman or can I continue on as a Junior?

58 Mike M November 13, 2009 at 9:02 am


I am a sophomore at Norwich, in VT, and I have many friends that have transferred here. I’m assuming your an MS II in Army? If so you would come here as a freshman rook in the Corps of Cadets, however, you would also be an MS III in the Army ROTC Dept and an academic Junior. Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.

59 Matt M November 20, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I’m glad I happened upon this site accidentally. This is a great page.

I’m a ’97 graduate of North Georgia College & State University, and I never commissioned, but chose to go to the civilian world. I have absolutely no regrets going to NGCSU, and would recommend it or any other SMC to anyone, whether you plan on a military career or not. My experience has made me a better person and has instilled in me character, discipline, honor, and integrity that I probably would otherwise not have today. I’m not going to say that it’s made me better than everybody else, but I feel that I have somewhat of an advantage over life than others lacking a fine military education. In many ways, it doesn’t stress me out too much, because I know from past experience that “That which doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.” I especially feel that it’s helped me become a better father. The civilian world just doesn’t teach honor and integrity, and it doesn’t teach you self-sacrifice and other important virtues that, in my opinion, are necessary for citizenship in a free, democratic society.

60 matt February 11, 2010 at 4:47 pm

To the West Point guy. Hey, guy, I go to North Georgia, and I’m also in the GA National Guard. I’ve also worked at airborne school as a liaison, and I’ve seen the stuff of West Point cadets. The first group I saw, of around 30, had a fifty percent APFT failure rate. While normal ROTC’s and SMC’s only averaged 2 out of 120. Not to mention they acted pigheaded, undisciplined, and disrespectful to active duty personnel. Oh yeah, by the way, when you graduate, you might wanna keep your mouth shut about high speed you think West Point is, it’ll just show you’re men how little you know.

61 Michael April 13, 2010 at 2:01 pm

To the West Point guy…

Have you ever attended The Citadel or VMI? No. You are at the academy and you are boasting about how prim and proper your superior training is… The reason you think your training is so special and laugh when you look at other SMC’s is simple. It is because your administration TELLS you that you are the gift from god. I would love to see how different your opinion would be after a “hell week” at VMI or El Cid.

When I was a squad leader in Iraq, we deployed with a fresh ring-tapping west pointer who thought the sun shined out of his ass and he got a lot of my men wounded (thank god not killed) because of his incompitence and arrogance. When our new PL from the Citadel showed up two years later while we were gearing up for Afghanistan, he may not have been the top of his class, but he had one thing that I am yet to see a west pointer have… CARE FOR HIS MEN. He was always the last to eat, last to sleep, first to lead, and looked out for every one of us. He even knew the birthdays of his men’s children and gave them the day off to be with their family while in the states. That my friend is a man that doesnt come from a silver spoon academy. He did not treat us like “non academy enlisted men”, he treated us like men.

Maybe one day West Pointers will lose the arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude but until that day comes, I’ll follow the guy who knows what it means to suffer and to struggle together with his comrades.

62 Ed April 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I’ll be attending Virginia Military Institute in the fall of 2010. Some people rip on it and think we’re “playing soldier” but hey, the world may be on the brink of collapse, military training never hurt.

Also, have any of you wondered why there was the prospetity of the 50′s? It was because all the men came back from the war, and they were disciplined, honourable, and hard working.

Military is the only way.

63 Charlie46 May 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Military College vs. Military Academy vs Joining the Army. Last I knew, the Acadamies only accept a few new attendees each year, so not EVERY one can attend an academy and not everyone can get a Congressional recommendation. As for Joining the Army. IF one decides to go the academic route (Either College OR Academy) they have the option of deciding to drop out if it doesn’t suit their fancy. Joining the Army doesn’t give you that option until your time is up and under current conditions, it seems they can still keep you for an extended service.

As for going the ROTC route and getting the same results as either of the focused Academics, I will just say I went to a large, respected State University AND was in the ROTC program. It did not stop me from flunking out. I wish I had had someone to keep me in line.

I know this blog has been going for some time and there may not be anyone reading it anymore, but as been said several times: It is an OPTION!! I was in service with a Medical Doctor who graduated from West Point. He had gotten a free education; he had gotten the Government to pay for his medical training and was commissioned as a Major rather than as a Captain, as most Medical Doctors were at that time. Guess what? All he could do was complain about the military establishment. So it makes no difference where you went to school, it only matters what type of person you became – either before or AFTER graduation.

For me? If my life depends on someone else, I’ll take the person who has a military background and has a confident attitude towards life.

64 J June 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Ok as a Citadel graduate, class 2008, I feel that i need to clarify a few things. I held rank every year after knob year, reported back early junior and senior year on cadre as Training NCO and Training Officer, so i know what the hell i am talking about. When the article stats “While “hazing” is technically against the rules at the Citadel (and the other military colleges), the upperclassmen cadets are still famous for the harsh rites of initiation they put the knobs (freshmen, named for their shaved heads) through.” Anything bad (hazing, racism, etc…) that happens at The Citadel is always in the spotlight and made to seem to be much worse than it really is. This is because of the history of the school. Hazing may have been a problem at The Citadel many many years ago. During my 4 years I was never physically harmed in any way. Hazingis defined by the citadel as
” AA. HAZING. Hazing is prohibited.Hazing is a violation of South Carolina Law and Citadel Regulations and is punishable by expulsion from The Citadel.
1. Hazing is defined as a wrongful striking, an unauthorized laying
hand upon, threatening with violence, or offering to do bodily harm by any student to another student, or any other unauthorized treatment by one student toward another student of a tyrannical, abusive, shameful, insulting, or humiliating nature; or otherwise requiring any student to perform any personal service for another student except as specifically provided for cadets in the Fourth Class System or Cadet Regulations. 2. It is the duty of every Cadet to take positive and immediate action to end hazing. This could take the form of direct intervention or reporting it to the Company Commander, XO, or Human Affairs Officer. Other avenues that exist are the Battalion Staff, the Guard Team, a TAC officer, or the OC.”
If you read the definition(straight out of the Blue Book) it starts out really bad, but then toward the end it gets to small harmless stuff. Example (giving a knob money to go to pick you up something at the gift shop, or doing push up for longer than 2 mins, or more than 20 push up at a time, or fixing a knobs uniform without asking permision, or saying curse words directed toward knobs or just mentioning, or shine your shoes.” What I am trying to say is that the definition of hazing includes a wide variety of things from the really bad(beating someone) to miniscule(making a knob help you move rooms). According to this definition yes everyone was “hazed” but most of time it was not what you think of when you think of hazing. In my opinion 99.9% of the “hazing” at El Cid would not even be considered “hazing” at other schools or frats. The “harsh rites of initiation” that are mentioned here are more mental than physical. If you want to test yourself physically(not saying knob year will not) you will get your chance at The Citadel, but it will come your junior year but will be optional.

65 J June 9, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I am very proud of my decision to go The Citadel and wear my ring with pride. The upperclass cadets and the administration can make your life hell without breaking the rules or by hazing. The Citadel experience is unlike anything else I have ever done and I feel that I am better person for going and learned more than I would have if I had gone to any other college.

66 Transformer '12 July 31, 2010 at 12:08 pm

The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Cadet Corps
The Twelfth Man
The Spirit of Aggieland
The Best Damn Outfit Anywhere!

67 Parent of A&M Corps member August 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I can not believe the bantering going on in the comments on in this article. Having a son who was unsure whether a military career was for him, decided to join the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M. At the same time, one of his closest friends who did want the military, was fortunate to be accepted into the Naval Academy. As mentioned, not everyone who applies is accepted to the military colleges, so what are they to do? The SMC is an excellent option. I can say, after witnessing first hand, the rigors of the Unit my son joined, there is NOTHING wimpish about his training. Several of my son’s ‘buddies ‘ are contracted with the military from day one, some on scholarships, some not. Those who are attend a mandatory summer session with the branch they have contracted with in order to keep up with those attending the military colleges. The option A & M offers is that for those who do not contract, they graduate with Leadership skills. Even if it is not recognized by corporation America, many who have met Cadets who graduated from A&M, it has value. Whether it is recognized or not, the personal achievements are known only to them. Some, after the first 2 years, may change their mind and decide to contract. No one mentioned the fact the non contracted young men and women are not being paid, says something in itself. They have decided to participate in an environment of physical and mental challenges while attending college. I have never heard one cadet refer to ‘playing soldier’, it is not even in their vocabulary. I have no idea where anyone gets that idea. My God, in this day and age of sloppy teens who spend more time vegitating in front of video games and find every excuse to NOT challenge themselves, no one should dismiss the fact there are some young people out there who make a conscious decision to NOT let that define them. A&M offers ALL branches of the military units. There are some I have met who after spending time under the direction of one branch, made the decision to contract with another. A nice option to have. Having the classes with regular students may extend outside the classroom allowing them a chance to be apart of the colege world if they choose, most do not.. I could not be more proud that my son chose the challenge of the Corps. After the first year, even he stated he now knows that ‘he can take on anything and succeed’. For a parent, knowing your child is confident and proud of themselves, to know that they can make it in this world, that they have learned to follow and lead…..what more could anyone ask.
Why ANYONE would discredit the SMC’s is beyond me. It is an option. And thank goodness there is one……

Any yes, this article is still being read. It was posted on one A&M Corps Units website.

68 Mac Golden August 17, 2010 at 12:24 am

Please note that “CALVARY” is the name of the site ascribed to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. What the author should have written is “CAVALRY”, which were soldiers who fought on mounted horseback.

There is a distinct difference between the two.

69 Austin September 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Chris, I am a senior in the Corps of Cadets and Texas A&M. We had cadets from West Point come and spend the night with us for a week when I was a sophomore, and they said themselves that our training was more difficult than what ya’ll go through. Don’t knock it before you try it.

Also, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is not a special unit.

70 Nate February 6, 2013 at 7:16 am

Im a freshman in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech and I can tell you first hand the growth Ive seen since joining the Corps. I hate the Corps with a passion because of all the stupid things it makes us do but in the end it is better for us. It is funny to talk to civilians and see what they do in a day compared to what corps members can accomplish.

71 luke June 2, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I need help I want to go to a military college but I cant decide between, the citadel and Norwich.

72 Ben July 26, 2013 at 2:28 am

Luke, I’m sure you couldn’t go wrong with either. I’m biased, but I would suggest you take a strong look at the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M. As someone has already alluded to, at an SMC like TAMU or VaTech, you get the benefits of a “fulltime” SMC experience while also learning to interact with and lead civilians in class and/or non-corps related organizations. Another benefit of going to TAMU or VaTech is you have a much wider selection of majors to choose from.

Texas A&M has a “Spend the Night with the Corps” program which allows you to spend 24 hours with a unit and go with students to all corps related activities as well as classes. I’m pasting a link to that program below.

Best of luck to you. At times, you may experience a “love/hate relationship” with your school, but you will never regret once you make it through the other side.

In the end, it is what you make of it and you can’t go wrong with any of these SMCs.

Feel free to post any more specific questions you may have here.


73 citadel 16 September 30, 2013 at 7:17 pm

less people would comment negatively on these institutions if they had attended them. I always say you can’t really judge a 4th class system till you have endured it. It will always be the road less travelled and the one worth while

74 Abigail November 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

My own two cents: First, a military college is great for three kinds of people: 1) The person who knows they want to commission in the armed forces, but did not get accepted to any of the Academies; 2) The person who isn’t sure yet if he wants to join the military, or wants the 4 years of military experience but a civilian job; 3) The young man who desperately needs some discipline and toughness in his life. It is NOT good for someone who thinks they’ll deserve a high-paying job out of college because of that specific college’s reputation, like certain VMI cadets I used to know.

Another option is this: Join the National Guard (or the Reserves). Go to any college, drill once a month with your unit (yes, there is a possibility of getting deployed), and have your college paid for. If you join a ROTC unit as well, you can commission upon graduating.

I do not recommend going to a civilian college and joining a ROTC unit. First, because scholarships are not guaranteed. But, more importantly, you will never have the opportunity to go through basic training, or a BCT-like atmosphere (as many of the military colleges have during the first year. I would actually submit that Rats at VMI have it harder than going straight through Basic training). And, because of that, you will have a hard time earning the respect of the enlisted men underneath you when you commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and your only BCT or OCS experience has been 4 weeks of FTX. It doesn’t cut it with the enlisted ranks. They have a ton of respect for those officers who enlist first, then work their way up. Forgive me if I stepped on anyone’s toes.

I’m speaking as a current National Guard soldier, and one who knows several ROTC cadets (who agree with me that FTX is nowhere near BCT) and VMI cadets as well.

75 El Cid '83 January 8, 2014 at 11:41 pm

As a 1983 graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and a retired Lt Col and Air Force pilot, I can attest to the value of attending a military college. The Citadel is not for everyone…it is tough and will test each cadet academically, physically, and spiritually. Every cadet a scholar, every cadet an athlete, every cadet a leader who can handle adversity under stress. Whimps and quitters need not apply!

Today’s men need to “Man-Up”!! Jonathan Martin, who stands at 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 320 pounds, was a professional football player who played in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins. He quit because he was verbally “bullied” by another player on his team!!! I thought NFL football players were tough and manly….Is the young American Man of the new millennium this whimpy??……..Really????? America needs men (and women) with the mental and physical toughness to win in the military, in business, in the courtroom, or anywhere where tough decisions need to be made! America needs military colleges like The Citadel to build men and women of character—–principled leaders who can win and thrive under stress and adversity!

An excellent article about The Citadel was featured in the January 2011 edition of Leatherneck Magazine, the official magazine of the U.S. Marine Corps. The link below will take you to the article.


76 Kevin April 12, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I read this entire blog, and it is obvious who knows what they are speaking about and those that do not. Obviously every F.S.A. will tell you that they are the best. All are very good. The SMCs will tell you the same thing and they are also fine. If YOU put into the education and training that each offers and refrain from thinking that you are God’s gift to the world solely due to an appointment to a FSA or attending a SMC, then you will graduate a better person for it. If you serve or you do not either way you will grow and learn from the exspirence. My son applied to USCGA & USNA. He had a 2100 SAT and a 29 ACT and all the “extras” that the FSA’s require. He did the AIM summer at USCG and was “recommended” to the Academy. He was not selected (only 300 were!). He did get a Congressional Nomination for Navy, he made that cut (17K applied, 4k got nominations), yet in the end he did not make the 1200 that were appointed. He was accepted by Citadel, Norwich and VMI. He was also accepted to a local State school on scholarship and considered the NROTC route. Norwich gave him the most Scholarship $ and as a non-resident of Virginia or S. Carolina he did not get much of an offer from those schools. He is starting Norwich in the Fall of 2014. I say all this as an example that not every talented and smart young person can be selected for a FSA, there are just not enough slots. The bottom line is that he wants to serve in either the USCG (extremely selective) or the Navy as a career Officer. He has the desire to serve something larger then himself. He has the desire and the ability to perform wherever he goes and has the right mind set, to serve his Country. He knows that whichever route one takes, it matters little in the end if you don’t have the heart or the desire to serve others.
The disappointment of not going to a FSA may have only strengthened his resolve. Whichever route you choose, do it for the right reasons, stay focused, remember that to be a true leader you must be humble and learn to follow first.
To all the folks like Chris (USMA), son you better wise up or you will regret it when you enter the real Military world.

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