Senior Military Colleges

Updated: April 26, 2021

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    Senior military colleges (SMCs) are among some of the most prestigious and renowned educational institutions in the Nation. They were established by law to provide a military experience similar to the federal service academies like West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy, without having to compete for a hard-to-get slot.

    Senior Military Colleges Attending an SMC gives you a similar schedule and experience as students at the service academies while you’re enrolled in college. You’ll also get the chance to earn a guaranteed commission in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Navy through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. As a member of the Corps, you’ll live in dorms set aside just for the Corps of Cadets and be immersed in military life 24/7.

    Does this sound like something that interests or excites you? Then you’ll want to read this article on our Nation’s senior military colleges.

    What’s The Difference Between SMCs And Military Academies?

    There are several differences between SMCs and one of the military academies. The biggest difference is the presence of students on campus that are not in the Corps of Cadets. At a military academy, the entire student population is members of the Corps. You’ll eat, sleep, and breathe military life. At an SMC, you’ll go to class with traditional students attending the institution. You’ll have your own dorms and dining halls and be immersed in military training, but you’ll also have the chance to socialize with other students during your time at school.

    How Do I Become A Member Of The Corps Of Cadets At An SMC?

    Requirements for joining the Corps of Cadets are different for each school. All SMCs have minimum prerequisites (academic, medical, physical) you’ll have to meet to be part of the Corps. Some of the SMCs are 100 percent Corps. That means you have to join the Corps to attend that college (see which SMCs are 100 percent Corps below). Just because you join the Corps doesn’t mean that you have to accept a commission in the U.S. military.

    What Are The Six Senior Military Colleges?

    • The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. You must join the Corps and take courses in one of the ROTC branches (Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Navy) each semester. After graduation, you can choose whether to accept a commission.
    • Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. Norwich is the birthplace of the ROTC program. You must participate in an ROTC program (Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Navy) and complete three years of ROTC to stay in the Corps. To earn your commission, you must take a fourth year of ROTC courses. After graduation, you can choose whether to accept a commission.
    • Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M is both an SMC and a traditional school. Once you are accepted to the university, contact the Corps staff on how to apply. You must select an ROTC branch (Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Navy) and enroll in ROTC courses. There is no obligation to accept a commission.
    • University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Georgia. UNG has multiple campuses and does have students who are not part of the Corps and ROTC program. UNG only offers Army ROTC, and if you want to be part of the Corps, you must attend the Dahlonega campus. Commissioning is not required.
    • Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. VMI is a state-support SMC, and you must join the Corps to attend. If you don’t choose the commissioning path, you’ll be enrolled in Army ROTC. Otherwise, you can select from Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force ROTC programs.
    • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Only 4 percent of the students at Virginia Tech are in the Corps. As a member of the Corps, you can choose from one of the ROTC programs (Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Navy) or enroll in the Citizen-Leader Track (not required to commission).

    What Is The Difference Between SMCs And Traditional Colleges And Universities?

    The biggest difference is SMCs have a Corps of Cadets. The Corps is an organization set up to provide military training to students who choose to join. It’s an immersive military environment, and most students who join the Corps are commissioned as officers in the U.S. military. Some SMCs are state-supported and require all students to join the Corps of Cadets (even though they don’t have to accept a military commission). Some SMCs are public or private universities, and the Corps makes up only a percentage of the student body.

    How Are ROTC Programs At SMCs Different Than ROTC Programs At Traditional Colleges?

    The ROTC programs at SMCs differ from ROTC programs at other institutions in one huge way—intensity! Traditional ROTC programs operate more like an extracurricular activity, while SMCs run more like military service academies. At SMCs, you’ll be part of a Corps of Cadets that live and study in an immersive military environment. You’ll also wear your uniform at all times, receive intense military training, physical training, and be subject to military discipline and a cadet code of conduct.

    What Are The Benefits Of Attending A Senior Military College?

    The biggest benefit of an SMC is the opportunity to earn a guaranteed commission in the U.S. Armed Forces. If you ask any cadet, they will also say that being a member of the Crops builds friends that last a lifetime. The camaraderie among Corps members is very strong because of the challenges of living the military life while in the Corps. There are also many financial advantages to joining the Corps. You’ll be able to compete for scholarships if you participate in the ROTC program.


    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