Does the Military Pay for College?

When it comes to choosing a college, you don’t want to have to sacrifice the quality of your education due to the cost alone. Luckily, if you have an interest in joining the military, then there are some options to consider. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you figure out how to get a scholarship from the military so you can pay for college, and other great options!

Norwich student commissioning into the Army.

Article Highlights:

  1. Getting Into a Military Academy
  2. How Do ROTC Scholarships Pay for College?
  3. How Do You Apply for an ROTC  Scholarship?
  4. Tips for Receiving Military Tuition Support
  5. Join the National Guard While Going to College
  6. Getting Scholarships as a College Student


The average cost of college in the U.S. is $26,027 per year or $104,108 over four years. This cost can change depending on the type of university you go to and whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student.

When it comes to choosing a college, you don’t want to have to sacrifice the quality of your education due to the cost alone. Luckily, if you have an interest in joining the military, then there are some options to consider.

If you’re a high school student looking to earn your degree but aren’t sure you can offer the high price of college, then you might be asking yourself, “Does the military pay for college?” 

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you figure out how to get a scholarship from the military so you can pay for college, and other great options!

Getting Into a Military Academy

Another option to having your college paid for by the military, is to be accepted into one of five military academies in the U.S. These academies are the 

  • U.S. Military Academy (Army) West Point, NY, 
  • U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, 
  • U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, 
  • U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY, 
  • and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT.

Students who are accepted into one of these academies receive an undergraduate degree, that is paid for by the military. There is also a military obligation after graduation. If you’re unable to complete the degree, you may owe the military money depending on how long you’ve attended.

Female cadet in formation with sabers.
Norwich University is the Birthplace of ROTC and offers all four military branches, along with 6 paths to commissioning.

Also, consider that life at a military academy is completely different than regular college life. There are many restrictions and not much downtime. You’re expected to keep up with physical training and strict regimes. You’re challenged daily by the physical rigors as well as mental and emotional drains of being part of a military lifestyle at an academy.

Not sure if a military academy is the right place for you? Luckily, there are even more options if you’re interested in going into the military.

How Do ROTC Scholarships Pay for College?

If you’re considering the military after graduation, but you’d like to earn your degree first at a regular college, then an ROTC Scholarship is a great option for you. It’s also a good alternative for anyone who doesn’t make it into an academy or decides that an academy isn’t right for them.

ROTC Scholarships from one of the four military branches often pay for your tuition along with a monthly stipend for other college-related expenses. Depending on the scholarship and branch, this could be for all four years of college or for only 2-3 years. 

Accepting an ROTC scholarship means you are contracted to serve in the military after graduation. You’ll enter the military as a commissioned officer, which often means you’ll be earning more than if you enlisted right out of high school.

How Do You Apply for an ROTC Scholarship?

Getting an ROTC Scholarship is highly competitive, and even more so depending on the branch. You’ll need to start the process in the summer of your junior year of high school for the maximum amount of scholarship money.

Start by going to the ROTC branch’s official website. Each branch has its own scholarship application. You’ll need to apply multiple times if you’re considering more than one branch. We recommend applying for multiple branches, as the scholarships are highly competitive. Applying to more than one branch will increase your odds of receiving an ROTC scholarship.

Applying for an ROTC scholarship is in addition to your college applications that the scholarship is going toward. For example, you may apply for an Army ROTC scholarship that you plan to take to ROTC senior military colleges, such as Norwich University. You would need to apply both to the University and to the Army for the scholarship.

What Do You Have to Do?

In addition to completing an application for an ROTC scholarship, which includes submitting an essay and resume, you will also need to schedule a physical and interview. You can usually schedule an interview with an ROTC officer in your area or at the school you wish to attend.

For example, our ROTC department can meet with prospective students during their visit to campus. This can give you a better chance of receiving a scholarship since the officer can put in a good word for you. 

There are specific restrictions and requirements that are necessary to receive a scholarship. You may be disqualified for not meeting these standards. 

Rooks lined up on the UP in summertime.
Norwich University's Corps of Cadets is over 200 years old. It offers a rigorous 24/7 military lifestyle and leadership laboratory.

Tips for Receiving Military Tuition Support

Does the military pay for college? The short answer is yes, but as mentioned earlier, receiving free tuition from the military is limited and therefore very competitive. This means you need to have a strong GPA and test scores to qualify. 

You should also demonstrate examples of athleticism and leadership through community service and extracurricular activities. Attending JROTC during high school can also increase your odds of receiving financial support from the military or getting into one of the academies.

At Norwich University, about 60% of students in our Corps of Cadets military lifestyle go on to commission into the military. If you don’t receive a scholarship in your freshman year of college, you have the option to apply for a commission at the end of your sophomore year. Which leads to yet another option.

Join the National Guard While Going to College

Another option for students looking to join the military now, and also gain free education, is to join the National Guard. The Vermont National Guard has a physical presence on the Norwich University campus, which makes it easy for students.

You can contribute to the defense and security of your country by serving, while also experiencing the leadership-building structure of the Corps of Cadets at Norwich. 

No matter your location in the U.S., joining the National Guard provides you with financial assistance for college, while serving your country at the same time. You attend monthly drills and annual training with your Guard unit. Plus, you’ll have opportunities to apply the learned skills from training in real-world scenarios. 

Consider joining the National Guard’s Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) to participate in both the National Guard and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at your college or university.

Getting Scholarships as a College Student

We’ve mentioned a few times that getting into the military to pay for your college can be competitive. So, what are your options if you don’t receive an ROTC scholarship or get into a Military Academy? Don’t give up on earning your degree. Colleges like Norwich University, the birthplace of ROTC and home to a 24/7 military lifestyle, offer additional scholarship opportunities.

If you apply and are accepted to Norwich University, you’ll receive academic scholarships based on your high school GPA.

Aerial photo of the Kreitzberg Library and Alumni Bridge in the summertime.
Norwich University is located in Northfield, Vermont. In the heart of the Green Mountains, which offers our students plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures on our 1200 acres, including hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding.

 Incoming students can earn up to $30,000 in academic scholarships alone. Plus, need-based scholarships are available based on completing the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), which awards you federal aid based on your individual financial situation. 

Once attending an ROTC college, you can take ROTC classes and apply for commissioning during your student career. This could include scholarships from the military that cover tuition for your remaining years as a student.

Does the Military Pay for College? Learn More Today!

No matter what you’re considering for your future, we can help you figure out the best fit for you. Norwich University’s staff of admissions counselors offer you one-on-one attention to assist you in answering your questions about all the options available to you.

If you’re interested in learning more about everything Norwich has to offer, complete our Request More Information form or schedule a visit today!