For students who would like to experience a military environment while getting a first-class education, the five Service academies – the U.S. Military Academy (Army) in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy/Marine Corps) in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Air Force Academy (Air Force) in Colorado Springs, Colo.; the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (Coast Guard) in New London, Conn.; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. – offer an outstanding education and full four-year scholarships. Tuition, books, board and medical and dental care are all fully paid for all four years.
Midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy receive from the Federal Government their education, room and board, uniforms, and books. However, midshipmen are responsible for the payment of fees for mandatory educational supplies not provided by the government, such as the prescribed personal computer; activity fees (athletic, cultural events, health services, student newspaper, yearbook, etc.); and personal fees (self service laundry, barber shop, and tailoring charges).
The competition to get in is fierce. Admissions criteria include:
- High school academic performance
- Standardized test scores (SAT or ACT)
- Athletics and extracurricular activities
- Leadership experience and community involvement
- A congressional letter of recommendation (not required by the Coast Guard Academy)
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.
Similarly, the Senior Military Colleges (SMCs) offer a combination of higher education with military instruction. SMCs 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. SMCs are among the most prestigious and famous education institutions in the world and they offer financial aid packages for eligible students. Every cadet must participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, but only those cadets who receive an ROTC scholarship are required to enter military service following graduation. For example, about half of Virginia Military Institute’s cadets earn commissions as second lieutenants (Army, Marine Corps, Air Force) or ensigns (Navy).
An additional option for students is Maritime academies. The United States Merchant Marine is the fleet of civilian-owned merchant ships that transport cargo and passengers on behalf of the United States. In times of war, the Merchant Marine is an auxiliary to the Navy and can be called upon to deliver servicemembers and supplies for the Military.
Maritime academies also produce shipboard officers for vessels integral to shipping and transportation needs, but a service commitment is not always required.