Junior Military Colleges and the Army Early Commissioning Program
Junior Military Colleges and the Army Early Commissioning Program
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Junior military colleges offer students the option to commission as a second lieutenant in the Army after completing only two years of higher education. After commissioning, students will receive pay and benefits associated with their rank and position. After transferring and completing their bachelor's degrees at another institution, they are eligible to serve on active duty. Attending a junior military college is a faster way to commission than participating in a traditional ROTC program, but students must be interested in joining the Army or Air Force.

Junior Military Colleges

Junior military colleges offer two-year associate’s degree programs in a fully immersive military setting, similar to attending a service academy or being in the Corps of Cadets at a senior military college. They are thus much more rigorous than traditional ROTC programs. Students at these colleges mainly participate in Army Early Commissioning Programs, which allow cadets to commission as officers in the Army Reserves in two years. The new officers then receive all the benefits associated with being an officer in the Army while completing their bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution. Students who choose this route incur an eight-year service commitment. Marion Military Institute (MMI) is alone among junior military colleges in that it offers the first two years of an Air Force ROTC program in addition to an Army ROTC program. Cadets will not incur a service commitment for participating in Air Force ROTC at MMI, provided they have not received an Air Force ROTC scholarship.

Junior military colleges also offer Service Academy Programs, in which cadets spend a year preparing to attend a service academy. These programs are intended to increase a cadet’s physical fortitude and academic performance to ensure that they will be successful at a service academy. Often, service academies will agree ahead of time to accept a prospective student who spends a year in a Service Academy Program, but applying to a service academy before attending the program is not necessary.

There are four junior military colleges:

As of spring 2017, Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri, permanently closed due to declining enrollment and financial difficulties.

Junior military colleges are not to be confused with military preparatory schools, though they do serve some of the same functions. There are two types of military preparatory schools: those directly affiliated with a specific service academy (e.g., the Naval Academy Preparatory School) and those that are not directly affiliated with the military. As mentioned above, if a student were to be denied admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, they could be referred to either the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School or the Service Academy Program at a junior military college to prepare for admission during the next application cycle. Students who are deferred to a junior military college must redo their entire service academy application during the next cycle, including obtaining a new Congressional, Vice Presidential, or Presidential nomination.

Students may also choose to go to a military preparatory school that’s not affiliated with a service academy following high school graduation without being instructed to do so. During this year, students can work on their academics to enhance their application compared to students who apply to attend military service academies immediately after high school. This can make them a more competitive applicant.

To gain admission to a service academy’s preparatory school, you must be referred by the service academy; this happens when an academy acknowledges that you would be a good fit at their school but believes you will be a stronger student if you take one more year to prepare. Admission to the academy is practically guaranteed if you have been directed to attend its preparatory school. While at a service academy’s preparatory school, you will receive military pay; when you attend the service academy and later commission, you will be paid a higher base salary because you have an additional year of service.

Army Early Commissioning Program

The Early Commissioning Program (ECP) offers students wishing to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army a chance to do so in two years, while completing college classes. This is faster than through a traditional ROTC program, which takes four years. Students who finish the ROTC-ECP program with an associate’s degree at one of four junior military colleges will commission as second lieutenants in the Reserves. They must complete their bachelor’s degrees before they can serve as officers on active duty. While students are completing their bachelor’s degrees, they will not be deployable.

Each of the four junior military colleges offers the Army ROTC-ECP program for eligible students. Students are required to complete their bachelor’s degrees within three years of graduating from the junior military college and will owe an eight-year service commitment to the Army from the date of commission. Students can fulfill their service commitment through a combination of active duty service and service with the Army Reserve or National Guard.

  • ROTC-ECP Scholarships: Merit-based ROTC scholarships pay up to $450 a month for the first year of school and $500 a month for the second year. They may also provide a $600 book allowance each semester and a $1,200 uniform allowance. ROTC scholarships for these programs also cover either tuition and fees or room and board for qualified students. For students who participate in the Simultaneous Membership Program (attending classes while serving concurrently in the National Guard), there is an additional monthly payment of about $240. Other scholarships may also be available. More information for each college is available at the following links:
  • Eligibility: The eligibility requirements vary among the institutes, but all require you to possess a high school diploma or the equivalent, be at least 17 years old, pass a medical exam, fit into Army height and weight restrictions, and pass an Army Physical Fitness Test.
    • Among all the schools, the absolute minimum acceptable cumulative GPA is 2.5, overall score on the ACT is 19, and combined score on the SAT is 920.
    • Students must also have an appropriate military background. This involves attending five weeks of ROTC Cadet Initial Entry Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, following high school graduation; completing three years of Junior ROTC during high school; having honorable past military service; or attending Basic Combat Training.

Page last updated: 08/2018