How The Citadel Works

Citadel History and How-to

Aerial view of The Citadel's campus today after it moved from its original digs in Marion Square
Aerial view of The Citadel's campus today after it moved from its original digs in Marion Square
Photo courtesy Russell K. Pace/The Citadel

­Back when the memory of the British and the American Revolution still lingered, the South Carolina legislature established a municipal guard in 1822 to protect the city of Charleston and the surrounding area. The newly formed military force was given land both for the storage of weapons and for a guard house. In 1829, a building called the Citadel was built in Charleston's Marion Square. A similar building called the Arsenal sprang up to the north in the state capital of Columbia in 1833.

But it wasn't until the governor of South Carolina decided that the troop's guard duties should be combined with education that The Citadel began to take shape. State lawmakers established the South Carolina Military Academy in 1842. Troops in both the Citadel and the Arsenal were replaced by students, who were then and now called the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. The military training program resembled that of another U.S. military academy you've probably heard of: West Point. Initially, the Arsenal and the Citadel operated independently, but later were combined for economic reasons.

Citadel cadets have fought in every U.S. war starting with the Mexican War of 1846, which established the fledgling academy's reputation for military instruction. During the Civil War, the Corps of Cadets became part of the state troops and fought in several battles defending Charleston. In 1865, Union troops burned down the Arsenal, and they also set up camp in the Citadel, forcing it to close temporarily.

Seventeen years later, the Citadel reopened, sticking with its military education program. In 1910, the name was changed from the South Carolina Military Academy to The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. In 1922, the growing college moved to its current campus along the Ashley River. In 1966, The Citadel Graduate College opened and began offering evening programs to men and women and now grants graduate degrees in computer science, education, English, history, business and psychology, in addition to evening undergraduate degrees.

­The Citadel is a public, state-supported, senior military college. Its undergraduate student body numbers more than 2,000. The Corps consists of men and women of many races and ethnic backgrounds (6.4 percent women; 15 percent minorities) [source: The Citadel]. The school offers bachelor's degrees in sciences, mathematics, English, modern languages, computer science, engineering and many other fields of study.

All cadets enroll in Reserved Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) instruction in the. military branch of their choice, such as the Marines. Unlike West Point or other federal services academies at which the U.S. government pays for students' tuition in exchange for military service, Citadel cadets aren't required to join the military upon graduation. But about 30 percent of Citadel grads do choose to receive an officer's commission and join the military each year. Since 2001, more than 1,300 Citadel alumni have served. A small number of cadets in the National Guard and Reserves have been called to serve while enrolled in college, but that doesn't happen often, except say, in 1944, when the entire class of 1944 was called to fight in World War II.

Citadel cadets must meet the same height and weight requirements used by the U.S. Army. Once enrolled, potential cadets must pass a physical test of push-up repetitions, sit-up repetitions and a timed 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) run. (The Citadel lists exactly what those fitness standards are on its Web site.)

So you're in. What can you expect?