Service Academies, ROTC, & Military Colleges

There are several ways to serve our country in the military and receive a college degree along with career training.  Some students may choose to enlist directly into a branch of military service while others may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree from one of the options listed below.  These options will prepare you to become an officer upon graduation. At military academies and ROTC programs, you will not have to pay for tuition, room & board, uniforms, etc., but you will have a commitment of service for a number of years after graduation.  For others, you may receive a stipend, in exchange for service upon graduation, or you may not be required to serve after your course of study.

U.S. Service Academies

U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY

U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD

U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO

U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT

The admissions process to all four above is an extensive and very competitive process, requiring excellent grades and rigor of high school curriculum, a record of interests/ accomplishments in and outside of high school, and the tasks of securing a Congressional nomination. Therefore, it is important to understand all the requirements early on so you have time to accomplish all the necessary components. Graduates of all four academies receive a Bachelor of Science degree and are commissioned as officers in their respective service branch. In all cases, there is a service obligation of a minimum of five years.

If you are interested in one of the academies, consider applying for that academy's summer program to experience a week of classes, military training and physical fitness training at the academy to help you make an informed decision on your college choice.

Summer Program - U.S. Military Academy

Summer Program - U.S. Naval Academy

Summer Program - U.S. Air Force Academy

Summer Program - U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Merchant Marine Academies

The United States Merchant Marine program is a fleet of civilian-owned merchant ships that transport cargo and passengers on behalf of the United States. In times of war, the Merchant Marines are an auxiliary to the Navy and can be called upon to deliver service members and supplies for the Military. Midshipmen at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. receive full scholarships in exchange for a service obligation in the Merchant Marine Reserve or Navy Reserve. The six other Merchant Marine academies also produce shipboard officers for vessels integral to shipping and transportation needs, but a service commitment is not always required. They are the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy, California Maritime Academy, State University of New York Maritime College, and the Texas Maritime Academy.

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)

ROTC programs are offered at over 1,000 colleges in the US. With the exception of the Coast Guard, each service branch has its own program; Army ROTC, Navy ROTC and Air Force ROTC. Each has its own requirements and features. There are two ways to enter a college ROTC program:

  • 4-year ROTC scholarship recipient—This is a highly competitive process that requires you to apply for this merit-based scholarship through your selected ROTC branch of service. The application may take place in the spring of the 11th grade or the fall of the 12th grade and requires applicants to state a U.S. college campus where the scholarship will be applied upon acceptance to that campus. The scholarship is given in exchange for a set time commitment of service to that branch.
  • As a ROTC college program participant—you join the ROTC program offered at your college campus as either a freshman or sophomore, and participate in the weekly ROTC classes and exercises in addition to your regular school schedule. During that freshman year, you can apply for a 3-year scholarship, or after sophomore year, you can apply for a 2-year scholarship. Both are in exchange for service upon graduation. If you wish to continue with the program beyond the sophomore year and are endorsed, but do not want to go the scholarship route, you can commit to service upon graduation in exchange for a monthly stipend for those last two years of college. The service commitments can vary in length depending on the option chosen, but all of these routes will lead to the goal of becoming an officer.

ROTC Programs

U.S. Senior Military Colleges

Senior Military Colleges (SMCs) offer a combination of higher education with military instruction. They include Texas A&M University, Norwich University, The Virginia Military Institute, The Citadel, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), North Georgia College & State University and the Mary Baldwin Women’s Institute for Leadership. Every cadet must participate in the ROTC program, but only those cadets who receive an ROTC scholarship are required to enter military service following graduation.

This link will lead you to a wealth of more detailed information including entrance requirements, tuition, scholarships, and career paths for the college-level military options above, along with links to the websites for each of these institutions or programs listed above. This website is produced by the US Department of Defense in cooperation with the service branches, so you will find the most up to date information here. There are some excellent videos of each program on this website and also on the individual websites of each program or institution.


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