Earning your commission through an accredited Army ROTC program is great way to go! But which school should you attend? Which ROTC program is the best? That is a tough question to answer and it’s also very subjective. My goal today is to provide a list of the top 15 Army ROTC programs in the United States, as I see it.
I should tell you right upfront that it’s really hard to come up with this list. I do not know the enrollment numbers or history of any of these school’s ROTC programs. I also don’t know how many General Officers each school produced. Nor, do I know the tuition costs, percent of students who complete the program, average GPA’s, etc. The information I share below was collected from independent research online.
ROTC programs began in 1916 with the passing of the National Defense Act. Basically, ROTC allows college students to take military classes while they earn their college degree and receive their officer commission upon graduating with their Bachelor’s Degree.
In all, there are approximately 270 different Army ROTC programs in the United States. Some programs are large and others are small. Some schools are ultra-expensive and others are very affordable.
My objective today is to make a top 15 list, based upon the information I found online. As always, you may agree or disagree with what I have to say. Like anything else in life, be an informed person and do your due diligence before choosing a ROTC program. Enjoy the list!
# 15 Clarkson University – Potsdam, New York
I had to put Clarkson’s ROTC program on this list because this is the program I attended. Located in Potsdam, New York, Clarkson is an admired engineering school. Clarkson offers ROTC for both the Army and Air Force. Their students are from several different colleges in the local area. My experience there was wonderful. The cadre was professional and competent. Student life was great. It’s located about an hour from Fort Drum, so you get access to some great training areas. You can read more about my experience at Clarkson University ROTC program.
# 14 Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee
This university has a long tradition of excellent military training and its fine ROTC programs are a part of that tradition. It is a highly acclaimed educational institution also, so the combined ROTC and degree programs can provide anyone with a nice boost to becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Armed Services. One of Vanderbilt’s cadets in training just recently won the prestigious Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium Award at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. It is not so surprising that a Vanderbilt student won, but the cadet was the first undergraduate in history to take the top prize.
# 13 Iowa State University – Ames, Iowa
Another university with several dedicated ROTC programs. This university can trace its combined military training and educational history all the way back to 1919. The Army has recognized the Army ROTC program several times for being one of the best in the Midwest Region year after year. The university has all the branches of the military represented in its ROTC programs.
# 12 The University of South Carolina – Columbia, South Carolina
South Carolina is a state that has always had a strong pride in its military tradition dating all the way back to the Civil War; the University of South Carolina only adds to that tradition with its award winning ROTC programs. Since its ROTC’s Establishment in 1947, ten officers have attained the rank of General in the Army. The University is also well known and prides itself on the ethnic diversity in its highly successful ROTC programs.
# 11 Michigan State University – East Lansing, Michigan
All branches of the military are well represented at Michigan State University. This huge public university in East Lansing can trace its military based training all the way back to 1884 when it was known as Michigan Agricultural College. It’s well represented cadet corps often receive both regional and national ROTC awards for excellence from the Army, Air Force, and Navy.
# 10 Villanova University – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This small but mighty university ROTC program is most heavily focused on its proud Naval ROTC program which dates back to 1946. Since that time Villanova has produced 22 Admirals and Generals in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. At one point there were only two generals to ever reach the rank of 4 star generals in the US Marine Corps and they were both graduates of Villanova’s ROTC program. They also have an Army ROTC program.
# 9 Combined Program @ George Washington, Georgetown, American and Catholic Universities – Washington, DC
One must wonder if a combined ROTC program at these separate well-known universities can really work. Well apparently the Army thinks it can. This program beat out 272 senior ROTC programs across the nation to be rated the Army’s #1 ranked program in 2011.
# 8 The University of Mississippi – Oxford, Mississippi
Ole Miss is another large university that is well represented in its ROTC programs by all of the major United States Armed Forces. It is another school that has a long history of military training and education that dates back to the universities inception in 1848. As a sign of its strong military tradition, in 1861 the entire student body signed up to fight for the south in the Civil War, they became a unit that suffered a 100% casualty rate, mostly at the Battle of Gettysburg. They have won the Army ROTC’s prestigious MacArthur Award for excellence several times. Over 20 of the university’s ROTC alumni have gone on to become generals or flag officers in the United States Armed Forces.
# 7 Santa Clara University – Santa Clara, California
Santa Clara University can trace its military training history all the way back to the civil war era. They are a small university with an extremely passionate and well recognized ROTC program. Almost half of their ROTC cadets scored in the top 20% of all ROTC scores across the country; that is simply amazing when it comes to academic figures. They also consistently beat out the bigger universities on the west coast for the Army ROTC’s top regional program award.
# 6 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) – Blacksburg, Virginia
This is one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges (ROTC graduates automatically get an officer‘s commission in the United States Armed Services if they so desire). It is one of only two predominantly civilian colleges that hosts a full time active cadet corps (Texas A&M is the other). It is a hybrid program that is extremely popular because it gives you the structured discipline and training of an academy, but with a little down time for normal college life too.
# 5 The University of North Georgia (The Military College of Georgia) – Dahlonega, Georgia
This university was originally founded as a private military college but eventually became part of the state controlled university system. It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges. Of its current enrollment of 15,000 students, approximately 1,000 of them serve in the university’s corps of cadets. The university has been a pipeline for career senior officers in the National Guard and Army Reserves. It currently only has an Army ROTC program, but it’s still represented by officers in all branches of the United States Military.
# 4 Norwich University – Northfield, Vermont
Yet another school on the list that was originally founded as a private military college, this small university has the honor of being the “Birthplace of ROTC”. Its ROTC program dates all the way back to 1819. It boasts having graduated 138 Generals and Flag Officers into the United States Armed Forces since the ROTC program began. Of interest to note: it also has graduated 16 generals which currently serve in the Republic of China Armed forces and 9 Royal Thai generals also. It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges.
# 3 Texas A&M University – College Station, Texas
How good is Texas A&M University as a military officer’s training school? On more than one survey of the top military training schools in the country it ranked higher than at least one service academy. That is a pretty impressive credential to say the least. The school currently has over 2,000 members in its corps of cadets, of which over half are expected to earn military commissions. The school boasts producing a total of 225 Generals and Flag Officers in the United States Armed Forces since the ROTC type programs began all the way back in 1876. It has been represented by an officer in every war that America has fought. It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges. It is one of only two predominantly civilian colleges that host a full time active cadet corps.
# 2 Virginia Military Institute – Lexington, Virginia
This small college with an enrollment of only a little over 1,500 students has an enviable record as a leader in ROTC programs. The school boasts producing a total of 260 Generals and Flag Officers in the United States Armed Forces, which is an incredible amount considering its small enrollment. ROTC participation for the student body is 100% mandatory, one of only two such higher learning institutions that require this (The Citadel is the other). Of interest to note: General George Patton started school there but finished getting his degree from West Point Military Academy. Among the notable alumni is one of only six 5 star generals of the Army in history, General George Marshall. It is also designated as one of the six United States Senior Military Colleges
# 1 The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina) – Charleston, South Carolina
Founded in 1842, this prestigious privately owned military college has long been thought of as the “West Point of the South”, a title that dates all the way back to its pre-Civil War heritage. This is another of the six recognized Senior Military Colleges in the USA. ROTC participation for the students is 100% mandatory. The school boasts producing a total of 278 Generals and Flag Officers in the United States Armed Forces. Of interest to note: seven of its alumni have gone on to join the well-known Navy Blue Angels or Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration teams. Among its notable graduates is General William Westmoreland, commander of the American Forces in Vietnam.
The bottom line is that there are many great Army ROTC programs to choose from. At the end of the day, I think the college you pick is more important than the ROTC program itself. Pick a college that has a good academic program AND a ROTC program. Put your academics first and everything else should fall into place.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below to let me know what your favorite ROTC program is. I look forward to hearing from you. Here’s a list I found online on the Army’s website about the top ROTC programs of 2012.