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  • Carol Livingston

    To the author: you were not kidding when you admitted to “a slight bias with this selection” in your choice of the number one military school. West Point offers 45 academic majors and though Navy may have 45 Rhodes Scholars, West Point has 87 Rhodes Scholars, ranking fourth behind Harvard, Yale and Princeton. 74 Medal of Honor recipients graduated from West Point. Three graduates went to the moon. West Point also welcomed the first cadet of African American descent, Henry Flipper, in 1873, 72 years before Navy. West Point also boasts three Heisman Trophy recipients to Navy’s two. GO ARMY! BEAT NAVY!

    • Lee Standberry

      @carol – yep, the product of being a Marine I’m afraid. That said, I wouldn’t take anything away from West Point at all – its a very fine institution that produces top notch dog face officers. 🙂

    • RLP_USMA_08

      Carol- You have to have had a son or daughter that went to West Point… USMA parents are always the first to take up for us and defend us. Thank you for everything you (West Point parents) did while we were there. I think Army’s qualifications were slighted a little bit myself- thank you for helping us out with that one.

  • Josh E

    @ Randolph Duke The majority of cadets are enrolled in ROTC because as a SMC all freshman and sophomores must be enrolled. 2016 has 800+, 2015 has 700+, and I personally know that there are 145 cadets from 2014 enrolled in Army ROTC. Im not sure on the numbers from 2013.

    Also those “fake” cadets are still leaders, whether they are enrolled in ROTC or not. They hold leadership positions in the Corps and in student organizations. They are required to take leadership classes and they graduate with a leadership certificate. I know plenty of great cadets that are considered “drill and ceremony” cadets, who are brigade sergeants major and commanders.

    Also when you said that Texas cadets arent fake. Texas has ROTC programs, meaning that the cadets are seeking commissions, however according to the texas army rotc page says that you can join without a scholarship. Also they arent considered a SMC meaning that they dont have a Corps of Cadets. Your argument is flawed because you are trying to compare an ROTC program with a Corps of Cadets. The Corps and ROTC are not the same by any means. Norwich has a Corps of Cadets, but they also have cadets that dont commission.

  • Steve-O

    Why in the hell is A&M in front of USAFA? Are you serious? Is it because it’s older? Older is not better. I can stand the other 2 being in front of USAFA, but A&M? What the hell are you smoking?

    • Lee Standberry

      I wouldn’t exactly consider TAMU ‘better’ than the USAFA, but in relative terms the Air Force Academy is a lot younger. TAMU, as a result has a longer track record of providing armed forces officers, which is something I kept in mind for the criteria for this list. It’s not a slight on USAFA at all – all of these schools offer great educational and leadership training.

      • Gary

        Nothing to do with age… USAFA is getting way to political… and has lost some of it’s focus IMO… private institutions don’t have to deal with the corrupt political appointment process…

  • Annette Walker

    Hi. How do I get in touch with the author, Lee Standberry? I can’t find an email address anywhere on the site.

  • John R

    What about the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech?

  • 2013s

    This list is bs. It says Texas A&M’s ” corps of cadets is the largest in the country (with exception of the service academies), numbering about 1,887 cadets” but clearly states The Citadel has over 2,000 cadets. If the facts can’t line up then this list holds no weight.

    • 2013s

      There is also a copious amount of wrong information presented here.

      • Lee Standberry

        The problem, as i’ve discovered since writing this list is that a lot of the information that i depended on is derived from the institution themselves. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that some institutions are not beyond using terms that are not wholly accurate. That said, I should have double checked some of these facts from secondary sources, so that’s a error on my part. So if you see something that is in error, just point it out. Thanks for reading.

        • 2013s

          “Both of these groups attend evening classes and are separated from the main body of students.” – Only civilians are separated from cadets. Veterans and current enlisted personnel attend classes with the Corps.
          “The Citadel has the distinction of maintaining the largest Corps of Cadets outside of the service academies.” – Both el Cid and Texas A&M cannot hold this title, has to be one or the other.
          “Cadets are expected to stand regular formations and they march to all meals.” – Upperclass do not march to dinner.
          “Cadets are required to live on campus and are only permitted to go out on weekends (though they must return to the campus at specified times). In addition, a cadet be married.” – We are allowed to leave during the week. Seniors have leave on Tuesday and Dean’s List/Gold Stars can leave on Wednesday. Cadets are NOT allowed to be married.
          “Unlike the service academies, however, cadets, while required to participate in seven years of ROTC training, are not required to enter the military upon graduation, though they are offered commissions in the armed forces (and about 40% accept)” – We go through 4 years of ROTC classes. You have to go through a selection process to even be considered for a commission and even then few get one. Most cadets have received a 4 year scholarship before they show up here. Only about 30% go on to the military after graduation.
          Also Valley Forge admitted women into the college around 2007. Cadets do not mostly run the Corps there. I barely had any say so when I was a Battalion Commander there. It is predominately run by the Tacs. They want the Corps to run the Corps but it is just never going to happen with the current mess there. There was only around 598 cadets back in 2010 and over 300 of those were in the college. Now there are barley 400. VF is also not the only junior college to offer ECP. However it still is a great school and I’m proud to be an alumnus.

      • Lee Standberry

        And, I should point, some info has just changed over time.

    • Lee Standberry

      Texas A&M’s corp of cadet currently numbers over 2300

    • I assume you like to throw your babies out with the bath water, yes?

      • 2013s

        Oh clearly….

  • 2013s

    “Life for the Corps of Cadets is pretty similar to cadet life elsewhere. Typically, cadets have physical training twice a day, along with drills, leadership training and, of course, their normal academic classes. Cadets are expected to stand regular formations and they march to all meals. Cadets are required to live on campus and are only permitted to go out on weekends (though they must return to the campus at specified times). In addition, a cadet be married.

    Unlike the service academies, however, cadets, while required to participate in seven years of ROTC training, are not required to enter the military upon graduation, though they are offered commissions in the armed forces (and about 40% accept). ”

    We only go through 4 years of ROTC classes. Upperclass only march to breakfast and dinner. Cadets cannot be married. You have to go through a tough selection process to even be considered eligible for a commission. Only about 30% go into the military after graduation.

    Valley Forge is not the only military junior college to offer ECP. They have allowed women into the college since around 2007. The cadets do NOT run the Corps. It is mostly Tac run. I barely had any say when I was Battalion Commander. The size of the Corps has not been 600 since 2010-2011. There are barely 400 now.

    And Texas A&M has a little over 2250 not over 2300. I just checked.

    • Lee Standberry

      Brig. General Ramirez stated to me “The Corps at Texas A&M is now comprised of almost 2,300 cadets.” Which i quoted as “over 2300”. To be absolutely accurate, he said ‘almost’ which would account for the exact number of 2250. But who’s being picky, right?

      The “in addition, a cadet be married” is a typo as the word ‘cannot’ should have been included. The rest of the information that i listed – again – came from the institution in question. I didn’t just make the stuff up off the top of my head. Valley Forge, for example, characterizes its Corp of Cadets as an autonomous student body (whether that’s actually the case or not). Still, thanks for the time to point this stuff out.

      • 2013s

        I’m just a stickler for specifics. I wouldn’t just take the administration’s word for it next time. I would like to ask where you got 7 years of ROTC from?

        • Lee Standberry

          I have to hang my head on that one – that doesn’t even make sense on the face of it and i just checked my original draft and its there too (so i can’t blame it on the editor or something – 🙂 ) Its just a typo – should be 4 years. Surprised I missed that one. its pretty obviously a mistake.

  • 2013s

    Also Valley Forge admitted women into the college around 2007. Cadets do not mostly run the Corps there. I barely had any say so when I was a Battalion Commander there. It is predominately run by the Tacs. They want the Corps to run the Corps but it is just never going to happen with the current mess there. There was only around 598 cadets back in 2010 and over 300 of those were in the college. Now there are barley 400. VF is also not the only junior college to offer ECP. However it still is a great school and I’m proud to be an alumnus.

    • PJH

      Hey, I have news for you, VFMA has been admitting women to the college alot long than 2007. The first in the college was in 1975 the year before I graduated.

      • 2013s

        Hate to break it to you but here is an excerpt from a news article about females and VF. Also I was in the 2009-2010 class of females that entered VF.

        “First-Ever Female Cadets Graduate From Valley Forge
        Fox News (Philadelphia) ^ | 05/18/2008 | Bruce Gordon
        Posted on Sun May 18 2008 08:43:49 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time) by Kid Shelleen

        Women at war. That’s the headline from Valley Forge Military College, where Friday, the 73-year-old institution graduated its first-ever female cadets. Among them-the first woman at Valley Forge to earn her commission as a Second Lieutenant.

        Glance briefly at the 57 cadets graduating from Valley Forge and you might have missed them–seven young women- the first females ever to earn their associates degrees from this venerable institution

        (Excerpt) Read more at …”

        • pjh

          Stefani: the first females at VFMA were Susan I. Briggs from Havertown, PA 1975 year book and June Robins of King of Prussia, PA same year.
          They were truely the first females enrolled at VF. They didn’t have uniforms nor were they commissioned.

          In 1976 Jo Ann Dattalo from Meadowbrook, PA was the “First girl to be enrolled in ROTC program.”

        • pjh


          The article may say the First women to graduate from VF may be true, but reread my statement. The first women to enroll at VF was in 1975. The first woman to enroll in VF ROTC program was in 1976.

      • 2013s

        Here is another article. And it was 2006 when they entered instead of 2007. (had to correct myself there)

      • Stefani

        VFMAC has three different categories for students
        1. Prep / Boarding School, grades 7-12
        2. College/ROTC Fast Track
        3. U.S. Services Academy Preparation known as Civil Prep.

        Females attending VFMAC as Civil Prep began four years ago. The first female to attend as a Prep went to the Air Force Academy, 2008. The second female to attend as a Prep went to the Naval Academy 2009. The third female to attend as a Prep went to West Point 2010. Once the third female signed on, three others followed for 2010 and three are still at West Point.

        • Dave

          Well I hate to burst your bubble about woman at VFMA, but two young women were enrolled in the Jr college in the fall of 1973 and graduated around 1975. They didn’t wear uniforms or live on campus, as they were called “day students” Their pictures are shown along with their names in the Fall 1973 “The Forge”, the schools alumni magazine.

          • Stefani

            Good news! My bubble did not burst.

            You are correct about the women at Valley Forge enrolled in the Junior College.
            However, there is a separate program that did not exist in 1973 or 1975.

            The Junior College as you know it is now what I stated as option 2: “Fast Track”, where an individual stays at Valley Forge until graduation and is commissioned.

            Option 3 the Prepster program is for young men and women who live and study at Valley Forge for one year and then enter the academy. The prepsters have Congressional nominations and appointments to a service academy. The fast track / Junior College students do not proceed to an academy for four years.

            Women did not enter West Point until 1976, with the first female graduating in 1980. Valley Forge did not accept female prepsters for the academies until 2008.

            I hope this is a clearer understanding.

  • Molly

    Under Norwich University it says that “the majority of the student body comprises the schools corps of cadets.” However, as a current senior civilian student at Norwich I know for a fact that this is false. True, 10 years ago, or maybe even my freshman year this was true, but as time has gone on, they keep admitting more and more students (both corps and civilian) and the school is now basically tied for the number of enrolled students within the two life styles.

    • Paul

      School year 2011/2012 finds the following number of students, approximately 2,300 cadets, civilian residents, and commuters attend Norwich University, along with about 1,200 online graduate students.
      Of those students, the total size of the “Corps of Cadets” now stands at just over 1,500!
      Corps of Cadets = 1500
      civilian residents, and commuters = 800
      Norwich University, (The Military College of Vermont), still is, (and will always remain), a Military School!
      Alumnus, N.U.C.C. Class of 1987

      • al gore

        They tried ESSAYONS but the French speakers scoffed the silly translations for cultural reasons among others. Try to sound fancy and fail.

  • Paul

    On a personal note, I wish a more appropriate photo could have been used for Norwich University! The photo used is of the new “Wise Campus Center”, which replaced the old Mess Hall, “Harmon Hall”.
    A more appropriate photo would have been one of “Jackman Hall”, the main administration building on the upper parade ground!
    Norwich Forever!

  • Ron Mexico

    FYI…Larry Fitzgerald only graduated from the Academy (high school), not the College. And since your list is more geared towards the college aspect of Valley Forge, he probably shouldn’t be considered college alumni.

    A noteworthy alumni is Wes Moore (graduated from the Academy and College, actually) who is a Rhodes Scholar, Author and more.

    Your write up about the school was fine (the entire article was a nice read) but I just wanted to point out a minor flaw in your alumni selections.

    Semper Fi!

    • Stefani

      I believe VFMAC refers to their graduated students as “alumni”.
      No reference to College, Academy or Prep.
      Just alumni.
      It covers all of the categories.

  • Dear Mr. Standberry:

    Interesting fact about military school graduates—they tend to be combative. You’re a brave man for stirring this pot and your interest in the heritage and tradition of military institutions is sincerely appreciated.

    Christopher M. Halleron
    Norwich University ’96

    • Lee Standberry

      There is certainly a lot of passion from many graduates/alumni concerning their respective schools. I can only imagine the comments i’ll receive from veterans whenever my ‘toughest military specialty schools’ is published. Semper Fi Marine Force Recon!

    • Lee Standberry


  • Greg Straessle

    1.Thanks for your service.
    2.As a ’73 grad and retiree from the top institution I applaud your bias.
    3.I agree that the Army Mule is an more or less equal competitor.
    4.What other school commissions directly into Marine Corps, Seal, Navy Line, Naval/Marine Aviation,
    Nuclear Power, Surface and Submarine, USNA grads have options for which others only dream.
    5.Semper Fi from my Marine Son ’04 and BZ from my Navy son ’01.

    • Stefani

      West Point is tougher than any school on the list.
      I have never seen any cadets at Navy undergo the intense training that a West Point cadet undergoes.
      What other school has Rangers, Black Ops, Army Aviation, Stryker and the list goes on…

      Navy grads keep dreaming!

      HOOAH Go Army!

  • Stefani

    TAMU is the only university outside of the U.S. Service Academies that holds the honor of having a U.S. President (Roosevelt) review officers on Simpson Drill Field for selection into duty.

    TAMU in the #3 slot on this list is just about perfect. However, West Point should be #1.

    My family has graduates from TAMU and VFMAC and one at West Point. Whoop! and HOOAH!

  • Devil Dog

    Did you consider the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets in your analysis? ESPN did some great work last night sharing all of their military tradition during the VT/FSU game in honor of Veteran’s Day weekend. (great game, btw) They said their Corps has over 1,000 cadets. Maybe they did not hit the minimum military institution enrollment for your consideration with their great academic reputation. Just checking… Great list!

  • VMIlover

    For years, VMI has been seen as the racist, sexist school. It. Is. Not. My family has gone their for generations, and all have served, except for one. My dad. He went, and he blew out his knee, and tore his ACL. 8 times. So, he was deemed unable to go to war. Now, he is a millionaire defense contractor with the government. While it takes people to their limits, it benefits them in the long run. You swim in a pit, full of sewage, and dead pig entrails, and gutted animals, or you did in his time at least. So, you may think I’m crazy wanting to go there, considering the fact I’m a girl. Yes, I wear makeup, and wear heels, and straighten my hair, but it doesnt change the fact that I plan on carrying my family legacy. I’ve been a spoiled brat, and I may not last a day, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to try.

  • David

    Maybe I’m incorrect, but I think Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnical Institute) has a cadet corps of less than 800…and is a lot younger than most of the schools on the list (1950’s?).

    As for Randolph…did you ever think that the reason that schools like A&M, The Citadel, VMI, North Georgia (all SMC’s), etc. can’t commission every cadet is that they’re capped by law?

    Each school has a cap set by the respective services Cadet Commands (ALL ROTC programs) which cumulatively adds up to the total accession numbers given by DoD per branch.

    • hokiesg

      @David, Yes you would be incorrect. The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets had over 1000 cadets this year. The university itself was a military school (all Corps) that opened in 1872.
      I believe 1872 is far before your stated 1950. Like Texas A&M it went optional in 1964.
      The VTCC has 7 Medal of Honor recipients (because we learned in the Corps that you don’t WIN a Medal of Honor, it is something you earn due to service and sacrifice)
      Their awards run from the Philippine Insurrection and Spanish-American war, WWI and WWII to Korea.
      Our Corps admitted women in 1973, had the first female company commander of an integrated company by 1979 and first regimental CO by 1987.
      Our graduates have been Generals, Business leaders, authors, put men on the moon and taught children to read.
      Despite being smaller in size, this year VT commissioned over 125 of its senior graduating class. It looked like Texas A&M commissioned 80 graduates.
      Over all I would say the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets has a pretty good program.

  • Tobi

    I have read through all the comments and I find the readers responses interesting. I applaud the passion people have for their respective universities and branch of service, and their drive for accuracy, being heard, wanting more, etc.

    I want to say, “Thank you” for the time and effort you put into this article. I can imagine the time it took to research the history of each Institution was demanding, ordering the schools difficult, and trying to personal bias overwhelming. I have no doubt there are many Institutions or programs that offer the traditional military atmosphere that are solid, produce very successful alumni, and have extremely rich traditions. However, it sounds as though you were tasked to identify the “Top 10 Military Schools in America,” not the top 10 ROTC programs or top 10 divisions, etc. but Schools, Institutions, etc. No doubt the challenge this offered you. So, kudos. Nicely done.

    I am a proud 1990 Norwich University, Military College of Vermont alumni and the virtues and lessons I gained while a member of the Corps of Cadets are incorporated into my way of life. The training I received (mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually) is unmatched and thus far prepared me well for many of life’s most unpredictable challenges. Virtues such as honesty, loyalty, integrity, etc. are the benchmarks for which I place great value and I own. Norwich strengthened those characteristics in me and taught me to honor and foster those qualities, and to impart and grow them in others. Moreover, I imagine the other 9 American academies you chose for your top 10 list fosters that same approach.

    In summary, great job and great article. Thank you for a wonderful overview of the TOP 10 most PRESTIGIOUS MILITARY ACADEMIES and INSTITUTIONS in AMERICA.


    • Paul

      Class of 1987

    • Gary

      Well said Tobi…. NU82

  • hokiesg

    As a proud Hokie and graduate of the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech I must say I am a little disappointed that the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets was not listed.
    The Corps at Virginia Tech started in 1872 and though it did lose numbers after Vietnam, has seen a resurgence in the last 10 years. Today they have over 1000 cadets. A majority of these cadets will go on to commission into one of the 4 branches of service (I believe they commission somewhere around 74% of their senior class) Those who don’t commission go on to serve their communities as business leaders, government employees, teachers, police officers and entrepreneurs, etc.
    The ROTC’s at VT are consistently rated top in their branches.
    We have had generals, business leaders,a Nobel prize winner, and some of our graduates helped put men on the moon (Chris Craft and Homer Hickom to name two).
    Academically the cadets must qualify to get into Virginia Tech before they even come to the Corps and many graduate with a degree from the competitive Engineering program. The Corps always had high academic standards and the cadets (when I was there) were always slightly ahead of our across campus counterparts when it came to GPAs.
    I mean it says something when the United States Army chooses to highlight your organization on their ROTC information website doesn’t it?
    Thanks for this article though!

    • Rod

      The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets (VTCC) commissions a higher percentage of officers than any other senior military college. It also has the highest admission standards of the senior military colleges. The University itself. along with TX A&M, are the only Public Universities with a Senior Military College ranked in the top 25 of National Public Universities by US NEWS & WORLD REPORT. Indeed, the VTCC has over 1k cadets. was founded in 1872, and has 7 medal of honor winners.

      • Amen! I was just going to mention that we were left out of the rankings…and we are definitely solid competition to the service academies and Texas A&M…

        @Lee Standberry – if you rank Military colleges again and want info on the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets – please contact me- I’m the Asst. Commandant for Recruiting at Virginia Tech – I’d be happy to give you some information.

  • Charles Gardner

    Based on the Forbes listing I would have put VMI ahead of Norwich and Texas A&M

  • Alboreno

    can a student from albania join any of these schools??

  • ekundina idowu

    i will be happy if i can join the military

  • faith

    I cannot wait till I am able to apply.

  • adewale

    I want my son to a be a military personnel, he is just 3 years now and I need him to be built up from young age in a good US military school. What & how can I go about it.

  • Fred Bothwell

    I’ve got several dogs in this fight so I’d like to try to shed some additional light on the topic. First, I’m a 1956 graduate of Valley Forge’s secondary school (12th grade) and I was very pleased to see VFMAJC, a two year school, make the list of top American Academies. I think it’s well deserved. Visit the campus some time to verify it. I spent a year in a private university ROTC program before entering West Point; graduating in 1962. As a West Point Cadet I made exchange visits to both Annapolis and Texas A&M. During my senior (First Class) year I was mentored by a brilliant Major on the faculty who was a Norwich grad. I have since visited VMI and on active duty I served with some outstanding VMI graduates and a number of fine officers from other sources. My conclusion: all of the institutions of which I have personal knowledge are fine schools and capable of producing outstanding leaders of character, even, despite our sports rivalry, the Naval Academy. That said, there is one aspect of this discussion that I find troublesome and worthy of criticism. That is, the extreme hostility towards Texas A&M and its student body exhibited by some rabid University of Texas students and alumni. For 20 years I’ve lived on the outskirts of Austin, home of UT. There is a very unhealthy strain of animosity between the schools, more notably on the part of UT, where the assertion “I hate Aggies!” is commonly expressed. It’s troublesome that school spirit can take such a nasty turn – and that’s one thing that all the military academies seem able to avoid. Our rivalries are intense, but we all respect and honor one another.
    As a final note, The UT Army ROTC Ranger Challenge team recently won the regional Brigade Ranger Challenge competition, defeating Texas A&M, and will travel to West Point later this year to compete in an international event.
    Hook ’em Horns!
    (But stop the hate!)