The Citadel

Updated: April 26, 2021

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    The Citadel, aka The Military College of South Carolina, is a landmark in the state and is located near the Ashley River, just a 10-minute drive from downtown Charleston. The Citadel is renowned for its academic reputation as well as its strong military history. The Citadel was founded in 1842, and its 2,300 students make up the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. Undergraduate Citadel students enroll in the South Carolina Corps of Cadets and follow stricter codes than students at other traditional schools.

    The Citadel The Citadel is known nationally for its Corps of Cadets, which draws students from about 45 states. As a cadet, you’ll live in dormitories all four years and study under a traditional military system that makes leadership and character development a vital part of your educational experience.

    The Citadel’s military organization is made up of a regiment of 2,300 cadets, in five battalions, each comprised of four companies of about 100 cadets. The regiment and battalions have a staff, each led by a commander. As a freshman, you’ll be immersed in intense military training that continues throughout all four years of your time at The Citadel. You must also complete four years of military training in the ROTC branch of your choice.

    The Citadel Corps of Cadets by the Numbers

    • Year Established: 1842
    • Number of Cadets: 2,300
    • Approximate Number of Cadets Commissioned Annually: 186
    • ROTC Programs: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps

    What Kind Of Degree Programs Are Offered At The Citadel?

    The Citadel’s demanding academic program offers more than 20 majors and 30 minors. Small classes, excellent faculty, and a wide variety of educational support provide guidance and tutoring so you can reach your highest academic potential.

    Am I Eligible To Be A Citadel Cadet?

    In general, if you are a full-time student at The Citadel and have at least three years left in your bachelor’s degree program, you are eligible to join the Corps of Cadets.

    If you are a freshman, register for the Freshmen AFROTC academic class and Leadership Laboratory. You’ll complete enrollment paperwork during your Leadership Lab. If you are a sophomore, register for the Sophomore AFROTC academic class Leadership Laboratory. Sophomores must also make an appointment with a cadre member to determine their academic plan and commissioning timeline.

    In addition to being qualified academically, you’ll also need to qualify medically and physically to gain final acceptance to the Corps of Cadets. You’ll submit forms to The Citadel Surgeon for evaluation. Final acceptance notifications usually begin going out in late-June or early-July and are communicated in writing.

    How Do I Apply To Be Part Of The Corps Of Cadets?

    If you are a first-time applicant to the Corps of Cadets, you must apply for admission online and be accepted to The Citadel. You can apply to The Citadel as early as the summer following your junior year of high school. The school runs a rolling admissions operation, and the Admissions Committee evaluates your portfolio and usually makes a decision within four-to-six weeks. You’ll be notified of their decision in writing. Their freshman class fills up fast, so the sooner you send in your application, the better chance you’ll have to be accepted (assuming you are fully qualified).

    Here’s what you need to send in with your completed online application:

    • Official high school transcript and any college classes taken
    • Official ACT and/or SAT score report
    • Counselor recommendation form (if you are a first-time freshmen)

    What Types Of ROTC Programs Can I Participate In At The Citadel?

    The ROTC programs at The Citadel offer commissioning opportunities in all branches of the U.S. military. While you must take a course in one of the ROTC programs each semester, you’re not required to work toward an ROTC commission or accept an ROTC commission unless you are on an ROTC scholarship or sign a commissioning contract upon entering your junior year.

    Air Force ROTC

    Air Force ROTC Detachment 765 has a long and proud tradition of training the finest cadets for leadership in the military, as well as civilian business and government positions. Through Det 765, you have the chance to earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and Space Force.

    Army ROTC

    The Palmetto Battalion at The Citadel is currently the second-largest Army ROTC (AROTC) of the 275 units in the U.S. Army Cadet Command. The Battalion shapes and molds highly motivated cadets who will go on to command the U.S. Army, National Guard, and Reserves finest asset, “The American Soldier.”

    Navy and Marine ROTC

    The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at The Citadel trains midshipmen in preparation for careers as U.S. Naval officers. They focus on academics, leadership, and physical fitness to you with the necessary skills to become leaders of this nation’s high-tech Navy.

    The Citadel’s Marine ROTC (through NROTC) detachment’s mission is to prepare cadets for commissioning as second lieutenants into the U.S. Marine Corps. Their program is made up of cadets from the South Carolina Corps of Cadets, and active duty enlisted Marines pursuing degrees and commissions in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP).


    What Types Of Military Scholarships Are Available At The Citadel?

    Each military service has its own scholarship conditions and application process. You can apply for a four-year ROTC scholarship early in high school and a two-year or three-year scholarship once you begin school at The Citadel.

    Army ROTC Scholarships

    For high school juniors/seniors, you can compete for a three or four-year National ROTC Scholarship. This entitles you to full tuition and fees.

    Air Force ROTC Scholarships

    The Air Force offers two, three, and four-year scholarships to high school students and students currently enrolled in college. Read on to find out what scholarships are available at Detachment 765.

    High School Scholarship Program (HSSP)

    If you are competing for an HSSP scholarship, you will need to apply through AFROTC.

    Air Force ROTC In-College Scholarship Program (ICSP)

    If you were not awarded a scholarship out of high school, you have the chance to compete for in-college scholarships in the spring of your freshman year term and again in the fall as a sophomore. Scholarship availability will depend from term to term based on funding.  Consideration for scholarships reviews the following: Commander’s ranking in the cadet class, cumulative GPA, and physical fitness assessment scores.

    Naval and Marine ROTC Scholarships

    The Navy and Marine Corps offer two-, three-, and four-year NROTC scholarships through their NROTC program. Scholarships are awarded each year through the Chief of Naval Education and Training (CNET) and are available if you want to seek a commission in the Navy as an Ensign or in the Marines as a second lieutenant. Benefits include tuition, books, required fees, uniforms, and a monthly stipend.

    What Is My Service Commitment After Graduating From The Citadel ROTC Program?

    Once you get your degree, your military service begins. You’ll begin military life as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Air Force, or Marines, or an ensign in the U.S. Navy. Most ROTC graduates have a service commitment of four years.

    If you receive an Army ROTC scholarship or enter the Army ROTC Advanced Course, you agree to complete eight-years of service with the Army. If you enroll in the Army ROTC Basic Course, you are not committed to service in the Army unless you are on an Army ROTC scholarship.  All scholarship students will be required to serve in the military for eight years. You may fulfill your obligation by serving three years on active duty and five years in the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR). If you are on a four-year scholarship, then you’ll serve four years active and four years in the IRR.

    If you are accepted into special programs like as a pilot, your commitment will be longer. After you complete your service obligation, you can leave the military or continue your military career. Many officers stay on for 20 years and retire from the military.


    Life As A Citadel Cadet

    As a cadet at the Citadel, you’ll progress through their cadet organization. Your performance determines your eligibility for leadership positions and privileges. Your position in the Corps of Cadets is largely separate from your academic standing.

    Freshman Year

    All first-year cadets are known as knobs. As a knob, you must follow a prescribed system of training known as the Fourth-Class System. Many requirements, such as military drill and inspections, exist to expose you to the Citadel’s traditions and values. The end of this knob year is marked by Recognition Day. This is where you and your other knobs march to Marion Square, repeat the cadet oath, and return to campus for a final physical challenge before being recognized.

    Sophomore Year

    As a sophomore, you’ll fill all cadet corporal ranks, serving as assistant squad leaders and clerks.

    Upper-Class cadets

    You’ll still be subject to inspections and participate in military drill. You’ll gain more and more privileges as your progress through each class and grade level.

    Junior Year

    Junior cadets fill all cadet sergeant ranks, from squad leaders to the Regimental Sergeant Major.

    Senior Year

    Seniors fill all cadet officer leadership positions. The Regimental Commander holds the rank of Cadet Colonel, while the Battalion Commanders and Regimental Executive Officer are Cadet Lieutenant Colonels. Company Commanders and Battalion Staff officers are Cadet Captains. All remaining leadership positions are held by Cadet First Lieutenants and Cadet Second Lieutenants.

    Commencement and Commissioning

    All of your hard work and dedication culminate in May when Commencement exercises are held to confer academic degrees upon members of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. A weeklong series of events lead up to graduation day, including the Star of the West competition for the best-drilled cadet, commissioning ceremonies, and the Long Gray Line parade in which the graduating transfers command to the upcoming senior class.


    About The AuthorJim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.


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    Written by MilitaryBenefits