Virginia Military Institute

Updated: December 24, 2022
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    If you’re looking for a college experience that is more transformative than a traditional college can provide, then the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is for you. Situated in the Shenandoah Valley town of Lexington, VMI was founded on the site of the state arsenal in 1839 and is the oldest state-supported military college in the Nation and is modeled after the service academies. VMI offers both an excellent education and immerses you in a leadership incubator that produces citizen-soldiers ready for military leadership in the armed forces or civilian leadership in business and government.

    The Corps of Cadets at VMI stands front and center, taking the lead as the most important element of the school. The Corps is made up of the Corps of Cadets, the Honor Court, the Class System, and the ROTC units. If you want to attend VMI, you’ll have to complete four years of ROTC training. You can choose from one of three programs: Air Force, Army, or Navy/Marine.

    The VMI Corps system is designed to prepare you for a military commission after graduation. As part of ROTC programming, upper-class cadets serve as leaders in the ROTC units at all levels and organize major training events. As a first-year cadet, you’ll start at the lower ranks and work your way up to the top. If the military is not on your radar, that’s fine; there is no requirement that you pursue a commission. You can use your training at VMI to make a name for yourself in government or business.

    VMI Corps of Cadets by the Numbers

    • Year Established: 1839
    • Number of Cadets: 1,722
    • Approximate Number of Cadets Commissioned Annually: 180
    • ROTC Programs: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps

    What Kind Of Degree Programs Are Offered At VMI?

    The academic program at VMI will educate you in a demanding environment and develop you into a citizen of character. VMI offers you a challenging four-year core program and 14 nationally recognized majors in the humanities, engineering, and the sciences.

    Am I Eligible To Join The Corps Of Cadets?

    The application procedure is the same for first-time, transfer, or international students. New cadets are enrolled only in August, at the start of the academic year. All cadets are admitted entirely based on their academic record, physical fitness/condition, and character.

    To be eligible for admission into the Corps of Cadets, you must:

    • apply and be accepted to VMI
    • be not less than 16 or more than 22 years old at enrollment
    • not be married or a parent
    • pass a fitness review to make sure that you can complete program requirements

    How Do I Apply To Join The Corps Of Cadets?

    Applications open Aug. 1 for high school seniors or high school graduates.

    Step 1: Submit Your Application

    Step 2: Submit Supplemental Required Documents

    You’ll need to submit the following documents via the mail, Naviance, their secure site, or fax by a school official. Please convert the documents to a PDF file before uploading them.

    Note: VMI is Test-Optional, so you don’t have to submit either an SAT or ACT score. If you choose not to send them in, this will not be viewed negatively in your application review process.


    • Early Decision – All documents must be received by Nov. 15. Notifications will be made by Dec. 15.
    • Regular Decision – All documents must be received by Feb. 1.

    What Branches Of The Service Have ROTC Programs On Campus?

    You are required to take ROTC as an all-college program requirement for completion of your degree. VMI has Army, Naval, and Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) units. About half of VMI cadets are commissioned each year upon graduation.

    Army ROTC

    VMI has the largest ROTC program in the Nation, with more than 800 cadets enrolling in Army ROTC each year and VMI commissions more second lieutenants than any other senior military college. If you don’t plan to be commissioned, you’ll be enrolled in Army ROTC. You can also select to be part of the Army National Guard or Army Reserves through VMI’s Army ROTC program.

    Air Force ROTC

    The Air Force ROTC program at VMI is designed to give students the chance to earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force or Space Force while earning their degree. There are a variety of career fields open to officers.

    Navy and Marine ROTC

    VMI’s Naval ROTC Unit provides two programs in which you can enroll: the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps. If you pick the Navy track, you’ll get the chance to pursue an exciting career as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. You’ll serve as an officer in specialties such as surface warfare, aaval aviation, submarines, special warfare, combat arms, communications, or logistics.

    Navy-Marine Option

    Once you complete the NROTC program through the Marine Option Midshipmen, you’ll be commissioned as second lieutenants and serve with either ground or aviation forces.

    What Scholarships Are Available?

    Army ROTC Scholarship

    You can compete for a two-, three-, or four-year Army ROTC scholarship that pays full tuition, book allowance, and a monthly stipend. In return, you will earn a commission as an Army officer in either the Active Duty Force, the Army Reserves, or the National Guard.

    Air Force ROTC Scholarship

    You can compete for a two-, three-, three ½-, and four-year Air Force ROTC scholarships that pay full tuition, book allowance, and a monthly stipend. In return, you will earn a commission as an Air Force or Space Force officer. Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Meteorology, Nuclear Physics, and Nuclear Engineering are highly desired majors. If you select one of these majors, you might receive priority in the scholarship selection process.

    Navy And Marine ROTC Scholarships

    If you are selected for the highly competitive Navy ROTC Scholarship Program, you’ll be awarded a scholarship and receive full tuition, a book stipend.

    What Is My Service Commitment After Graduating?

    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.

    What Is Life Like As A VMI Cadet?

    Daily Life

    You’ll find living in cadet barracks very different from other colleges. Your room will be sparse, and you’ll share a room with up to five other fellow cadets. You’ll all share in the job of keeping your room clean and in inspection order. As you gain rank and progress in your four-year journey, you’ll be allowed more liberty, like what personal items you can have in your room. You’ll live in a military environment 24/7 at VMI, ensuring that everyone competes on a level playing field.

    First Year

    Your first days at VMI revolve around matriculation day and military training. Matriculation is the day you register for classes by reporting to Cameron Hall and signing the matriculation book. You’ll then take the New Cadet Oath at a ceremony held at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park.

    Many former cadets will tell you that VMI has one of the most demanding first-year experiences of any college, and it all begins with the “Rat Line.” The Rat Line starts on Matriculation Day and ends when you “break out” in February and are recognized as a 4th Class cadet by the Corps.

    The term “Rat Line” refers is a VMI tradition where you and other new cadets walk at attention along a set route whenever you’re inside the barracks. You may also may be stopped and tested by upper-class cadets and must maintain impeccable personal grooming and your uniform has to be spotless. The Rat Line instills and reinforces character traits that will serve a cadet well during your cadet years.


    Your four years of cadet life culminates in graduation, held in May and December each year. Every cadet in the Corps attends, and the graduating first class symbolizes the virtues of the dedication, excellence, and hard work that a VMI diploma represents.

    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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