Many high school students dream of attending college.
However, there is rarely much discussion about the options available for military colleges.
Most assume that you either enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces after completing high school or you don’t.
Fortunately, there are many ways to prepare for a career in the Armed Forces, and attending a military college is among the best choices.
Here is a breakdown of the top 15 military colleges in the United States based on reputation, location, and opportunities.
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#14: California State University Maritime Academy
Location: Vallejo, California
Acceptance Rate: 82%
Average yearly tuition: $7,116 per year (in-state), $18,996 per year (out-of-state)
Description: California State University Maritime Academy is a public university in California.
The maritime academy is among an extensive list of 23 campuses in the highly esteemed California State University system.
It’s also the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast of the United States.
The university offers seven bachelor’s degrees along with one master’s degree.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Cal Maritime University as the top public college in “Regional Colleges of the West.”
There is no armed service obligation after graduation, however, incentives do exist for those that wish to serve their country.
The institution is very small with less than 1,000 students.
The programs at Cal Maritime combine classroom learning with applied technology, global awareness, and leadership development.
A highlight of the learning experience is spending time aboard the training ship Golden Bear.
Additionally, school-sponsored study-abroad trips allow students to focus on maritime security and policy with first-hand exposure across the globe.
#13: Marion Military Institute
Location: Marion, Alabama
Acceptance Rate: 55.9%
Average yearly tuition: $16,288 w/boarding per year (in-state), $22,288 w/boarding per year (out-of-state)
Description: Marion Military Institute (MMI) is a public military junior college in the southern United States.
The old institution dates to the middle of the 19th century, designating it as the oldest military junior college in the U.S.
It’s also only one of four military junior colleges in the country.
Marion is highly selective with less than 400 students.
The programs at MMI include the Army’s Early Commissioning Program (ECP) and Reserve Officers Training Corps program.
The latter of which can earn a qualified cadet a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army after only two years of college.
Additionally, students may consider the Service Academy Program (SAP) which prepares students that wish to attend one of the major service academies in the United States.
Lastly, students can consider the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course (PLC) or the first two years of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Several important generals of the U.S. Armed Forces have attended MMI along with other distinguished alumni.
#12: Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Location: Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
Acceptance Rate: 90.1%
Average yearly tuition: $10,776 per year (in-state), $24,664 per year (out-of-state)
Description: Massachusetts Maritime Academy is frequently shortened to Mass Maritime or MMA.
Mass Maritime is the second oldest state maritime academy in the nation.
The public college offers undergraduate degrees in maritime-related fields, as well as graduate programs.
Mass Maritime dates to the late 19th century, when it originally served as a program for deck and engineering officers of the U.S. Merchant Marine.
The military college does not require service after graduation though many graduates serve in active or reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Students get the pleasure of training on the ship the USTS Kennedy.
The students have the responsibility of preparing the ship for sailing to foreign ports in the Caribbean.
Students rotate class and laboratory sea training with an emphasis on deck and engine watches, as well as maintenance and emergency drills.
The alumni include Captain Richard Phillips.
#11: New Mexico Military Institute
Location: Roswell, New Mexico
Acceptance Rate: 41%
Average yearly tuition: $9,694 per year w/boarding (in-state), $13,220 per year w/boarding (out-of-state)
Description: New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) exists in legendary Roswell, New Mexico.
The public military junior college enrolls nearly 500 cadets at the high school and junior college levels.
It’s the only state-sponsored military college in the Western United States.
The notable alumni include several members of the military that served at senior levels.
NMMI is notorious for a demanding academic and physical training regime.
The Army ROTC Early Commissioning Program (ECP) prepares students for officer ranks while another hundred move on to one of the five major U.S. service academies.
New Mexico Military Institute follows the motto of “Duty, Honor, and Achievement”.
The “West Point of the West” features Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees.
The school’s two-year ROTC Early Commissioning Program allows about 30 cadets to join the Army as 2nd Lieutenants every year.
About 100 cadets transfer to one of the U.S. Service academies after their two years at NMMI.
Its unique educational philosophy incorporates honor, integrity, and responsibility.
#10: U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Location: New London, Connecticut
Acceptance Rate: 13%
Average yearly tuition: N/A
Description: The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) is one of the major service academies, even if it lacks the reputation of the others on the list.
It’s the second smallest of the five U.S. service academies.
This military academy focuses on preparing future Coast Guard officers in nine major fields of study.
Unlike the other service academies in the United States, USCGA does not require a congressional nomination for admission.
Students are officers-in-training and seek to graduate with a Bachelor of Science.
The students are then commissioned as Coast Guard ensigns with a five-year active-duty service obligation.
The curriculum centers on performance in a holistic program of academics, physical fitness, leadership, and character development.
A unique aspect of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is that tuition is free and students also earn a small paycheck for their commitment.
The Coast Guard Academy includes “Swab Summer” and other traditions that date back as far as the founding of the military institution.
The alumni include several prominent admirals of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy Cross recipients.
#9: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Acceptance Rate: 56%
Average yearly tuition: $15,208 per year (in-state), $33,857 per year (out-of-state)
Description: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University usually gets shortened to Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech University is a public institution with its main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.
The campus is noteworthy for being designated as only one of six senior military colleges in the United States.
Its Corps of Cadets ROTC program is highly esteemed and an offering for its large enrollment of over 35,000 students.
The public university is the second-largest in Virginia based on enrollment.
Virginia Tech provides 280 undergraduate and graduate degree programs for students.
The public university ranks 74th overall in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of the Best Colleges in America.
Virginia Tech also consistently ranks among the “Most Innovative”, primarily because of its Corps of Cadets program.
It remains one of three public universities in the nation to feature both an active corps of cadets and a civilian lifestyle on the same campus.
More than 1,100 cadets reside on the main campus in Blacksburg along the cadet barracks.
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#8: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
Location: Kings Point, New York
Acceptance Rate: 25.2%
Average yearly tuition: $1,080 per year
Description: The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) is one of the cheapest military colleges on the list for affordability.
Both in-state and out-of-state students only spend a little over $1,000 every year on tuition.
USMMA trains officers for all the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces along with the transportation industry.
Students are known as Midshipmen, who receive training in maritime law and marine engineering.
The college also emphasizes navigation, ship administration, personnel management, international law, and customs.
USMMA is among the five U.S. service academies yet not nearly as talked about compared to the academies of the Air Force, Navy, and Army.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy provides five academic programs that lead to a Bachelor of Science.
These include Marine Transportation, Marine Engineering, and Marine Logistics and Security.
USMMA features a long list of successful and highly esteemed alumni.
#7: Georgia Military College
Location: Milledgeville, Georgia
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Average yearly tuition: $6,480 per year
Description: Georgia Military College (GMC) is divided into several programs.
The military-focused institution features a junior college, military junior college, high school, and middle school.
The college is state-funded yet not affiliated with the University System of Georgia.
The main facility is the site of the former state capitol of Georgia.
A main campus serves approximately 250 full-time resident ROTC Cadets.
More than a thousand students also commute to the small campus daily for studies.
Georgia Military College is one of four military junior colleges in the United States to participate in the Army Early Commissioning Program.
Students that graduate from the two-year program become commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army as 2nd Lieutenant.
After completing a two-year program, students have the opportunity of receiving a transfer scholarship to a four-year degree provided at the state’s senior military college – the University of North Georgia (UNG).
Georgia is the only state in the country with both a military junior college and a senior military college.
#6: Valley Forge Military College
Location: Wayne, Pennslyvania
Acceptance Rate: 85%
Average yearly tuition: $29,975 per year
Description: Valley Forge Military Academy and College (VRMAC) is an expensive yet highly prestigious military college in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
The military junior college also doubles as a private college preparatory boarding school for grades 7-12.
VRMAC follows the traditional military school format in-line with Army traditions.
Graduates have the option of serving in the Armed Forces or pursuing a career elsewhere.
The Valley Forge Corps of Cadets is unique in that the program is entirely run by the students.
Additionally, VRMAC is the only American military organization that has maintained British rank, drill, customs, and ceremonies.
The Corps of Cadets is also the only program in the U.S. to feature a traditional mounted battalion of one cavalry troop and one artillery battery.
“The Military College of Pennsylvania” requires cadets to pass a board and earn a “Capshield” to become an official member.
#5: The Citadel
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Acceptance Rate: 86.4%
Average yearly tuition: $14,918 per year (in-state), $38,174 per year (out of state)
Description: The Military College of South Carolina, often called simply The Citadel, is one of the larger military colleges in the nation. It even competes in several Division I athletics.
The institution in Charleston is one of six senior military colleges in the country.
It provides 18 academic departments which are divided into five schools and more than 20 majors.
The public college separates a military program from its non-military programs.
The Citadel includes the South Carolina Corps of Cadets.
It’s one of the largest uniformed bodies in the United States with 2,300 members.
The Corps of Cadets combines academics with military discipline and physical demands.
All members of the corps are required to participate in ROTC.
Cadets have a choice between five schools: Engineering, Science and Mathematics, Business, Education, and Humanities and Social Sciences.
Cadets are also the only students to live on campus with a substantial percentage of women or minorities.
Additionally, the veteran’s program at The Citadel allows vets to return to school and complete their degrees.
#4: Virginia Military Institute
Location: Lexington, Virginia
Acceptance Rate: 63.9%
Average yearly tuition: $19,670 per year (in-state), $48,324 per year (out-of-state)
Description: Another major senior military college in the United States is the Virginia Military Institute (VMI).
The first public senior military college in the United States exists in Lexington, Virginia.
VMI is unique in that unlike other senior military colleges, it only enrolls cadets.
These uniformed members of the Corps of Cadets have the opportunity to complete a variety of baccalaureate degrees.
Therefore, the campus enforces strict military discipline, which is combined with intense academics and physical fitness.
Virginia Military Institute currently offers 15 disciplines in engineering, science, and liberal arts.
All of its students are required to participate in ROTC.
“The West Point of the South” is different from federal military service academies based on its structure.
It currently enrolls nearly 1,700 cadets who may pursue civilian careers or accept an officer’s commission in any of the U.S. military branches.
The esteemed alumni of VMI include members of U.S. cabinets along with the Nobel Peace Prize and Medal of Honor recipients.
#3: U.S. Air Force Academy
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Acceptance Rate: 12.4%
Average yearly tuition: N/A
Description: The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) resides on one of the prettiest campuses in the country.
Even though the academy is incredibly selective and difficult to qualify for, those that are fortunate enough receive a free education.
USAFA is the youngest of the five service academies in the United States as it was only founded in the 1950s.
Graduates of the Air Force Academy earn a Bachelor of Science from 27 majors and receive a commission as Second Lieutenants in the USAF.
The academy is fiercely competitive with the need to receive a congressional nomination to qualify.
Incoming classes average 1,200 cadets with 20% of the students not being successful in terms of graduation.
Cadets are expected to commit to the U.S. Air Force or the newly created Space Force.
The Air Force Academy receives guidance from the core values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do”.
It bases its four pillars of excellence on military training, academics, athletics, and character development.
Cadets receive rigorous military training and must also participate in intercollegiate or intramural athletics.
#2: U.S. Military Academy (West Point)
Location: West Point, New York
Acceptance Rate: 10.7%
Average yearly tuition: N/A
Description: The United States Military Academy (USMA) has a comparable enrollment to the USAFA, with approximately 4,500 undergraduate students.
The USMA is usually referred to as West Point.
Its campus was originally a military strategic point dating back to the American Revolutionary War.
The scenic campus overlooks the Hudson River in New York and is easily the oldest of the five American service academies.
As a result, its reputation speaks for itself, as many high school students desire to train at West Point. Less than 10% receive admission.
However, if you are among the fortunate few you’ll receive a complete education 100% financed by the federal government.
West Point is regarded as a national landmark, with a series of historic sites, buildings, and monuments on campus.
Cadets are officers-in-training that work toward a Bachelor of Science in 45 majors.
The curriculum gauges performance based on academics, military leadership, and mandatory participation in competitive athletics.
Leadership skills are based on four pillars of performance, including academics, character, fitness, and military skills. Every cadet must follow the Cadet Honor Code, and not “not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”
West Point is the first American college to feature an accredited civil engineering program.
All graduates receive a commission as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army, however, although cadets are also eligible for an interservice commission in other military branches.
Students and alumni collectively receive the distinction of “The Long Gray Line” with former enrollees that include U.S. Presidents, generals, and Medal of Honor recipients.
#1: U.S. Naval Academy
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Acceptance Rate: 8.4%
Average yearly tuition: N/A
Description: The United States Naval Academy is the most selective of all the military academies, with a less than 9% acceptance rate.
The fortunate few that receive admission to USNA also earn free tuition and a monthly stipend, like the other federal service academies.
It’s the second oldest of the five United States service academies with the purpose of commissioning officers for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
The U.S. Naval Academy (like West Point) is on a former fort at the confluence of the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay.
It’s within close proximity of Washington, D.C. which is a major advantage for high school students considering the different service academies.
The historical campus is scenic and proud home of Division I athletics, which competes annually with the Army and Air Force academies for athletic dominance.
Midshipmen must receive a nomination from a member of Congress and commit to service after graduation, like West Point and USAFA.
Officers-in-training have the opportunity to receive a Bachelor’s in Science in 26 majors, with a well-rounded education.
Graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy are among the highest-paid based on starting salary from four-year institutions.
Midshipmen must follow the Honor Concept and have their own proud traditions like the other service academies.
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The top 14 military colleges in the U.S. include a wide variety of options.
You have the choice of expanding your education on both the East Coast and the West Coast of the country.
Attending one of the prestigious military colleges on the list prepares you for an advanced career in the military.
Which military college will you pick?
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