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Old 08-30-2010, 11:29 AM   #21
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I know you're a USNA graduate. Just wondering what advice you would give a high school student who had a choice of either a military academy or a scholarship ROTC program at a well regarded college or university. (I did neither, having been in a now-defunct program called "ROC.") I've advised a few young people to think about ROTC before the academies, my point being that ROTC is not such a "total immersion" experience. But I may be missing something and am curious as to what your take is.
Can't wait for his reply!

(Nord's daughter entered the ROTC program at Rice U last week.)
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Old 08-30-2010, 12:58 PM   #22
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I know you're a USNA graduate. Just wondering what advice you would give a high school student who had a choice of either a military academy or a scholarship ROTC program at a well regarded college or university. (I did neither, having been in a now-defunct program called "ROC.") I've advised a few young people to think about ROTC before the academies, my point being that ROTC is not such a "total immersion" experience. But I may be missing something and am curious as to what your take is.
Well, you probably already know my answer. Some of my commentary is cynicism. I think Navy & Air Force interest rises whenever the country's in a recession (or a jobless recovery), especially while the Army's getting press for being in a shooting war. I don't think the Marines are exactly beating the crowds back from the recruiter's office, either.

IMO, smart kids with some self-discipline or maturity would do very well at ROTC, especially NROTC followed by aviation or submarines-- or intel/cryptology, right? Engineering and/or critical thinking. They'd get most of their college paid for while they pursue their interests and do what they love with a guaranteed job waiting for them at graduation. High school self-discipline would be demonstrated by not needing a lot of supervision or by achievements like varsity sports & Eagle Scout. I do not believe it is demonstrated by high grades or high SAT scores.

Again IMO, a smart kid lacking self-discipline or maturity would do very badly at ROTC because there's still so much liberty & independence. OTOH these types of teens tend to do very well at service academies with rigid systems demanding stamina, persistence, and externally-imposed time management. (I like your "total immersion" term.) There's plenty of "mentoring" (the bad kind as well as the good) and although the rules may be incomprehensible at first, the game can eventually be figured out. I had the chops to get into schools like Carnegie-Mellon & Notre Dame but I'm pretty confident that if I'd started the fall semester at college as a civilian or at ROTC then sex/drugs/rock&roll (and alcohol) would have sidelined me before Thanksgiving. I was initially dedicated to the same distinction at USNA but thanks to the persistent "mentoring" of CAPT Tony Armbrister USMC I managed to stay mostly within the rulebook. I did a lot better once I stopped challenging authority and began seeking out my own challenges.

The best advice I can give, for either program, is to visit at least 2-3 campuses and ROTC units. Tour State U and a private university, especially a stretch goal like one of the top 25. Start practicing it after 9th grade to learn how to do a campus tour and how to ask good questions. See if you feel like a "good fit" (or a stranger) and could figure out how to succeed there (or don't even want to see the dorms). Try JROTC in high school. Do the college summer programs for science & engineering (or whatever subject), go to their sports camps, and apply to a service academy's "Summer Seminar". It's expensive (three weeks at Notre Dame was $1750 plus airfare) but it's a lot cheaper than starting over after screwing up the first semester on a bad fit.

Teens might know themselves better than their peers & counselors, and perhaps as well as their parents, but they lack the self-assessment vocabulary. The tours and the programs, plus talking with parents about the irresistible challenge of a service academy or the great feel of a campus, will help families figure it out. Our kid was fine with any of the colleges she toured but Rice made a particularly good impression. Of course it was also the sixth college she'd seen so perhaps she was in a more receptive frame of mind. She also learned enough at USNA's Summer Seminar to realize that (1) they were deliberately leaving out a lot of information and (2) she didn't care for the stamina marathons like Sea Trials as an analogy for plebe year.

For whatever reason, when spouse and I were teens we didn't visit college campuses. Our parents didn't think that way (or they didn't have the money) and we never did more than look through the brochures. I hung out at CMU nearly weekly for various high-school computer-geek programs but matriculating there was just a vague backup plan if USNA didn't come through. Nearly 30 years later when spouse & I toured Notre Dame, CMU, RPI, and Rice with our own teen, our immediate emotional reaction upon setting foot on every campus was "Holy crap did we ever screw up in 1977." As a teen spending a weekend at USNA, however, I was fascinated by the challenge and the whole Marine Corps "few good men" image. 30 years later, doing the same tour with our teen, both spouse and I were almost suckered into signing up all over again. So perhaps we're just susceptible slow learners.

Kids who just don't want to do college (for whatever reason) might benefit from a military enlistment. Their motivation would initially be the exciting challenge, the lifestyle, and the GI Bill. I've seen lots of immature sailors who, a few years later, were totally committed to college with night/weekend study. Whether they pursued a commission or a civilian career with their degree, just a few years of the enlisted lifestyle transformed them into incredibly motivated college students.

My nephew the Army Ranger struggled at his magnet/charter high school and was intimidated by college. However the Ranger challenge (and its $5000 bonus) was irresistible. Three years and three combat deployments later, college didn't seem so scary and West Point was begging him to attend. As he rose through the ranks there, he noticed that the system could coach and motivate even the most persistent screwups to perform beyond their potential. USMA gave them a "supportive" environment where they didn't need to be mature or disciplined to succeed-- just persistent. When he later attended his 2LT pipeline training he noticed that the ROTC officers would buckle down and get to work to learn their new jobs, while the USMA alumni would coast on their background to catch up on four years of deferred partying. Within the year, though, the USMA alumni had grown into their own maturity & self-discipline.

There is one significant difference developed at service academies and a few select schools like the Citadel: taking a shotgun blast to the face. When I went to the fleet after USNA, being screamed at and mentally (or even physically) abused was no big deal. I knew how to take it and I could even reciprocate without getting busted. (As more than one of my XOs/COs can attest.) However I'm not sure that this "life skill" is necessary for adult success, and it may even reinforce bad habits. As more than one of my XOs/COs can attest.
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Old 08-30-2010, 02:04 PM   #23
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Great response! Thanks very much.

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IMO, smart kids with some self-discipline or maturity would do very well at ROTC, especially NROTC followed by aviation or submarines-- or intel/cryptology, right? Engineering and/or critical thinking. They'd get most of their college paid for while they pursue their interests and do what they love with a guaranteed job waiting for them at graduation. High school self-discipline would be demonstrated by not needing a lot of supervision or by achievements like varsity sports & Eagle Scout. I do not believe it is demonstrated by high grades or high SAT scores.

Again IMO, a smart kid lacking self-discipline or maturity would do very badly at ROTC because there's still so much liberty & independence. OTOH these types of teens tend to do very well at service academies with rigid systems demanding stamina, persistence, and externally-imposed time management.
Very interesting observation. Makes sense but I would have thought otherwise.


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The best advice I can give, for either program, is to visit at least 2-3 campuses and ROTC units....
Quick sea story: I was visiting St. Joseph's University in Philly with my daughter years ago. It was a Sat. morning and the guy doing the tour wasn't too bright nor was he a good pitchman for the school. At one point he said, "Anybody interested in Navy ROTC? My Lieutenant said I should give a pitch for NROTC." (St. Joe's had a cross-town program with Penn as the host school.) I was flabbergasted that he would have made the cut for NROTC. As I thought about it during the remainder of the tour I thought maybe he was Marine option. I knew that the Navy folks had to take a physics course but I was pretty sure the Marine folks didn't have to. At one point (not having identified myself as a naval officer), I asked the guy, "Does the Navy make you take any particular courses over and above what's required for your major?" He said, "Oh, yeah. We have to take advanced math and physics regardless of what we're majoring in." I said, "I understand you can go into either the Navy or the Marine Corps when you graduate; which are you going into?" He said, "Definitely, Navy. I'm going to be an F-14 pilot." So much for my theory!

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Kids who just don't want to do college (for whatever reason) might benefit from a military enlistment. Their motivation would initially be the exciting challenge, the lifestyle, and the GI Bill. I've seen lots of immature sailors who, a few years later, were totally committed to college with night/weekend study. Whether they pursued a commission or a civilian career with their degree, just a few years of the enlisted lifestyle transformed them into incredibly motivated college students.
Absolutely! Obviously you have seen how many success stories result from going that route - whether staying in the service and becoming a senior PO/NCO, going CWO/LDO/OCS or getting out and pursuing a civilian career. I don't think a lot of people who haven't seen it up close realize what a perfect fit the military is for some young adults at that point in their lives!

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There is one significant difference developed at service academies and a few select schools like the Citadel: taking a shotgun blast to the face. When I went to the fleet after USNA, being screamed at and mentally (or even physically) abused was no big deal. I knew how to take it and I could even reciprocate without getting busted. (As more than one of my XOs/COs can attest.) However I'm not sure that this "life skill" is necessary for adult success, and it may even reinforce bad habits. As more than one of my XOs/COs can attest.
Interesting point.

Again, thanks for an insightful post.

Incidentally, my daughter ended up going to Villanova, another school in the Philly area, which has a robust NROTC program. (I've heard it referred to as "The Villanova Mafia" in the Navy.) Alas, she had no interest in the Navy so I paid.
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:47 PM   #24
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Incidentally, my daughter ended up going to Villanova, another school in the Philly area, which has a robust NROTC program. (I've heard it referred to as "The Villanova Mafia" in the Navy.) Alas, she had no interest in the Navy so I paid.
When our kid started kindergarten in 1997 I kept waiting for the teachers to call: "We give up, take her back. Please!" I'd certainly sympathize with them.

These days it's only been three weeks but I'm half expecting a similar call from the Navy. So far, so good, but we're keeping the college fund parked in CDs for another three years.

Today's college e-mail from our daughter was "Send money" "Help me answer all these questions for my security clearance investigation".

The funniest queries were:
Quote:

Have you or any of your immediate family members had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment (embassies, consulates, agencies, or military services), or its representatives, whether inside or outside the U.S.? Check "Yes", "No", and whether or not "Official Govt Business".
followed by:
Quote:
Have you or any of your immediate family members been asked to provide advice or serve as a consultant, even informally, by any foreign government official or agency? Check off "Yes", "No", and whether or not "Official Govt Business".
Maybe I should refer them to all those mission reports I had to complete.

It's going to be a very interesting Families Weekend. "Here, Captain, these are my parents I've been telling you about!"
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:52 PM   #25
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I'm really curious as to how she responded to this one:

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Have you or any of your immediate family members had any contact with a foreign government, its ... (...military services)..., whether inside or outside the U.S.? Check "Yes", "No", and whether or not "Official Govt Business".
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Old 08-30-2010, 05:14 PM   #26
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I'm really curious as to how she responded to this one:
I'm curious too! These days I never hear "the rest of the story".

I suggested she put down: "Yes" and "Official govt business", along with "We do not discuss submarine operations" "That's our story and we're stickin' to it." I don't think spouse and I can even remember all of that stuff, let alone write it down.

In my case the national archives have my patrol logs to prove it. But if I were the NCIS then I'd pull both our SBIs and think very carefully whether we really want today's Navy to cope with an ensign procreated from those parental backgrounds.

These security-clearance questions evoked flashbacks. All four of spouse's grandparents were born in Russia (literally near Kiev). In the 1920s, after that little political upheaval, they repeatedly lied about their ages (as well as other info) to emigrate. Whenever we filled out our periodic security clearance forms that genealogy was always good for a chuckle from those fun-lovin' happy-go-lucky security-clearance investigators. Thank goodness they had such a great sense of humor and understanding.

But I guess if the U.S. military could survive us then it can survive inbreeding anything.
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Old 08-30-2010, 06:28 PM   #27
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Of course, I had to answer a bunch of questions on a form every 5 years. And toward the end of my career I had to take a couple of polygraphs (which I absolutely hated doing!)

I've always been heavy into my Irish heritage and, as it turns out, if you can provide documentation showing that your parents or grandparents came from the Ould Sod, you can get an Irish passport. (I understand this is different from becoming an Irish citizen, but I've never checked into in too much detail.) I always wondered how the Navy and other government agencies would have liked it if I had filled out a form saying that I had an Irish passport.

Come to think of it, now that none of that no longer matters, I might look back into it.
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Old 09-01-2010, 12:30 PM   #28
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Yes, it felt kinda odd withdrawing the funds for Number 1 son, but am doing it again today for Number 2 daughter. In Canada, we contributed to RESP plans which allow you to accumulate investment gains interest free. Unfortunately, the portfolio gains were pretty much nill over the last 12 years.
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Old 09-01-2010, 12:57 PM   #29
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Hi Btravlin....it is important they do what they love. I'd like to share our story. My oldest stepson went the NCState. After a couple of "faulty" semesters of not knowing what he wanted to do,(he was originally accepted into the engineering dept) he decided on Sports Management. He too loves sports.
.
My son is more the opposite in that he will talk your head off given a chance, especially about sports. He's already said that he'll be willing to relocate but would like to get a job nearby with the Indianapolis Colts. He's attending Ball State and they have a strong Sports Admin program with a good track record of getting their graduates placed. Hope that trend continues until he graduates. Hope your son eventually finds his spot within the field.
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Old 09-01-2010, 12:59 PM   #30
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There is one significant difference developed at service academies and a few select schools like the Citadel: taking a shotgun blast to the face. When I went to the fleet after USNA, being screamed at and mentally (or even physically) abused was no big deal. I knew how to take it and I could even reciprocate without getting busted. (As more than one of my XOs/COs can attest.) However I'm not sure that this "life skill" is necessary for adult success, and it may even reinforce bad habits. As more than one of my XOs/COs can attest.
+ on the Citadel grads. I once asked a Citadel grad to wash down our old RV while he was living with us for free. Hours and hours later it looked spit shined!

But yeah, the ability to withstand and dish out abuse may or may not be considered valuable life skills outside of its hallowed halls.
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Old 09-01-2010, 01:29 PM   #31
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Wow, it seems that in many cases you guys aren't spending a lot more than we are on our kids in the UK. Last year DD's tuition, room and board came to 9K GBP, that's getting on for $14K. This year her off-campus room and tuition will come to $10K and she hasn't bought a book, a burger, or a Bacardi and Coke yet. DS is entering his final undergraduate year (pre-semester field trip, $2500 with equipment, kerching!) and has been told that if he wants to continue studying, he'd better get a loan or find some sponsorship...
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Old 09-01-2010, 02:13 PM   #32
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DD just entered kindergarten full time today. So far we have spent $10 on school supplies and $2 for lunch in the cafeteria the first day. Hope that gives some of you fond memories of cheaper days.

13 more years, 13 more years... save save save...
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Old 09-01-2010, 04:30 PM   #33
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Wow, it seems that in many cases you guys aren't spending a lot more than we are on our kids in the UK. Last year DD's tuition, room and board came to 9K GBP, that's getting on for $14K. This year her off-campus room and tuition will come to $10K and she hasn't bought a book, a burger, or a Bacardi and Coke yet. DS is entering his final undergraduate year (pre-semester field trip, $2500 with equipment, kerching!) and has been told that if he wants to continue studying, he'd better get a loan or find some sponsorship...
This is interesting--I am reading a book called the "Five-Year Party" which basically talks about how many colleges are hardly citadels of academic scholarship, but rather businesses. One thing the book points out is how US schools make out when kids study abroad, because for most schools, the students pay the US school's tuition/room/board, which is typcially more than what they would pay if they went overseas and paid the costs at the foreign school themselves (consistent with the poster above's point). Basically, the school pockets, say $50K, from the student, and they pay out, say $25K to the foreign institution. If a parent tries to just pay the foreign tuition themselves (and not pay the US tuition), the US school often will refuse to accept the credits from the overseas expereince. Kind of sucks.
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Old 09-01-2010, 04:42 PM   #34
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Basically, the school pockets, say $50K, from the student, and they pay out, say $25K to the foreign institution. If a parent tries to just pay the foreign tuition themselves (and not pay the US tuition), the US school often will refuse to accept the credits from the overseas expereince. Kind of sucks.
Wonder if you could "transfer" to a state school with decent study abroad options for a year, spend the entire year abroad, and pay in state tuition? Get the credits, then transfer back to your $50k/yr private school.
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:47 PM   #35
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Wow, it seems that in many cases you guys aren't spending a lot more than we are on our kids in the UK. Last year DD's tuition, room and board came to 9K GBP, that's getting on for $14K. This year her off-campus room and tuition will come to $10K and she hasn't bought a book, a burger, or a Bacardi and Coke yet. DS is entering his final undergraduate year (pre-semester field trip, $2500 with equipment, kerching!) and has been told that if he wants to continue studying, he'd better get a loan or find some sponsorship...
I live about an hour south of the Canadian border, a bit over 2 hours from Montreal. Every year there are articles in the local (VT) paper about how more and more kids are going to college north of the border. The main draw is the lower tuition. I don't remember the exact numbers but it seems like the average tuition at a good school there is about 60% - 75% of US numbers.) But in talking to a retired college professor who taught for many years in Canada I have learned there are a few other benefits (this is viewed from the parental perspective):
- sports are not the obsession they are at US colleges an universities. (Well, OK; there is this game that's played on ice that the Canadians seem to like.)
- there are not fraternities and sororities.
- the academics are pretty serious.

That said, I have been in pubs in the vicinity of McGill University in Montreal on a weekend night and it would appear the Canadian students can hold their own as party people.

Based on prices I see when I visit Canada, I would guess many of the living expenses are a bit higher than in the US. When the dollars are at par, this hurts us Yanks.
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:55 PM   #36
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Hi Btravlin....it is important they do what they love. I'd like to share our story. My oldest stepson went the NCState. After a couple of "faulty" semesters of not knowing what he wanted to do,(he was originally accepted into the engineering dept) he decided on Sports Management. He too loves sports.
Then he got his Masters in it at East Carolina and recieved a small monthly amount while working as an assistant. Once he graduated, I don't know if it was just him, his personality or what....but he was not able to find a job. (I think he thought it would fall in his lap!)
From my observations, it is important that they are willing to relocate to anywhere in the country. My stepson is somewhat shy and unwilling to leave the state of North Carolina....so...there you go. He eventually found an entry level marketing position for a retail athletic company about 6 months ago ($25,000), is still living at home with his mom, age 27....and is not using that Masters degree in Sports Management. There have been opportunities...and now that I think about it ....I think it was as much his unwillingness to do what it takes...as much as anything. It has been very frustrating for both his Dad and myself....as he had some opportunites but would either bomb the interview or was unwilling to move.
On the flip side, know a friend of my daughters who just moved to Texas to get his graduate degree in this field. He does seem to be willing to do what it takes.
In hindsite..my stepson...probably needed more "career coaching" than either his mother or his dad for that matter...provided. Also on the flip side, my daughter graduated in 4 years as an education major in May and landed her first teaching job making $40,000 in Va in June - she is 22. (versus our 27 year old making $25,000 with a Masters in Sports Management) .

I think depending on the major and where you live - this is more true than anything, and something most kids don't realize. Yes, you can pursue some careers anywhere - including small town USA. But many other careers require you to be willing to pack up and go.....and sometimes you have to do that just to find a job.

DD went to school 800 miles from home, so I think she understood the concept. I kept lecturing her about it just in case, though. Fortunately, after she graduated, she found a position near where her boyfriend lives and works - so she was very happy. But she also knows that if she chooses to remain in that area, she likely will never get the "ultimate" position she wanted. They are few and far between in the area. But that is her choice. She needs to do what makes her happy at this point....as long as she can support herself (which then makes us happy).

But I am also a strong believer that getting the degree without being deeply in debt is the most important thing. Career changes happen and lots of people are working in a field not even remotely related to their degree (*raises hand*). Maybe we should have a poll on that......
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:47 PM   #37
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I think depending on the major and where you live - this is more true than anything, and something most kids don't realize. Yes, you can pursue some careers anywhere - including small town USA. But many other careers require you to be willing to pack up and go.....and sometimes you have to do that just to find a job.
"Join the Navy, see the world"... I think our assignment officers felt that homesteading was illegal.

The good thing about all the travel was that after a dozen or so moves we knew when we'd arrived at the right place.
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Old 09-02-2010, 12:06 AM   #38
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Wonder if you could "transfer" to a state school with decent study abroad options for a year, spend the entire year abroad, and pay in state tuition? Get the credits, then transfer back to your $50k/yr private school.
My sister did something like that. She was really going to college in Utah and wanted to study abroad in Germany. Her Utah school didn't have any appropriate program for her, so she "applied" to an Idaho university (which shall remain unnamed but happens to have a football program that has won the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl twice in rather impressive style) and immediately upon acceptance used her student status to use their German study abroad program. Got the program she wanted, and because she was an in-state kid and it was a state school, got it for cheap.

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Old 09-02-2010, 05:42 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by friar1610 View Post
Just wondering what advice you would give a high school student who had a choice of either a military academy or a scholarship ROTC program at a well regarded college or university.

I'll give you my two cents on this one. I graduated from USMA back in the 90s and then served on the faculty there for several years more recently. In my opinion, the best thing about the service academies, from both the student and the parent perspective, is the price--cadets/midshipmen do not fund any of their education out of pocket (including room and board). In addition to a fully funded education at a highly regarded institution, cadets/midshipmen also receive a small salary. The cost of their uniforms, books, etc. is deducted from that pay, but they still end up with money at the end of each month. I have a lot of friends that received their commissions through ROTC and, according to them, their ROTC scholarships did not necessarily cover all of their expenses. The scholarships are generous, but in many cases cadets/midshipmen still have to pay some costs out of pocket (room/board and uniforms, in particular). Some schools offer more incentives to ROTC folks than others so not all have the same experiences.

Another upside to the service academies is that by the time cadets/midshipmen graduate, they know most of the other 1,000 or so folks in their class as well as many in the classes above and below them. It means that at ever duty station, there is always a familiar face regardless of the branch. Even the largest ROTC programs do not afford that kind of exposure to so many of your peers within the profession of arms. In the military, as in many professions, networking is important. As I've progressed in my career, I've found that those connections have sometimes come in handy.

In the plus column for ROTC, most individuals in those programs do not get the same level of immersion into a military lifestyle as service academy folks (VMI, Citadel, North Georgia College, and the like are exceptions obviously). They generally get to live a more "normal" college life outside of their ROTC duties and responsibilities. Service academies definitely do immerse cadets/midshipmen in the military lifestyle and, to some degree, curtail their social lives compared to other college aged kids.

ROTC cadets/midshipmen also generally have a greater degree of flexibility with regard to their major. The service academies have expanded their curriculum over the last several decades, but they remain very heavily focused on engineering degrees. Everyone, regardless of their major, graduates with a BS due to the high number of required math/engineering classes. Traditional universities/colleges offer more choices for folks not interested in math or engineering focused degrees.

At the end of the day, a service academy or ROTC program gets a cadet/midshipman to the same place--a commission in one of the branches of the Armed Forces. Whichever path a prospective officer chooses, I applaud them for volunteering to serve.
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Old 09-02-2010, 03:56 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by av8er View Post
The service academies have expanded their curriculum over the last several decades, but they remain very heavily focused on engineering degrees. Everyone, regardless of their major, graduates with a BS due to the high number of required math/engineering classes. Traditional universities/colleges offer more choices for folks not interested in math or engineering focused degrees.
I was surprised to meet a USMA grad with a degree in nuclear engineering, but the Army gets some use out of him on weapons effects and other research.

My nephew the Army Ranger has a BS in History-- but even more interestingly, his GF has a BS in Philosophy...
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