Life in the Corps of Cadets

A VMI cadet’s life balances academic, military, and athletic activities to build discipline, structure, and clarity.

Leaders of the VMI Corps of Cadets pass flags during ceremony with superintendent, representing the change in cadet leadership.

Events and Traditions

From matriculation to graduation, members of the Corps of Cadets immerse themselves in tradition. Weekly and regular parades showcase cadets' professionalism. Other traditions prepare cadets for a life of service and include breaking out of the Rat Line, earning privileges, wearing the uniform, taking on responsibilities through the Class System, earning a class ring, serving the community, and supporting "brother rats" from all backgrounds to succeed at VMI and beyond.

Members of the VMI Corps of Cadets participate in ceremony outside barracks, the VMI dorm where each cadet lives, led by the Commandant of Cadets.

Cadet Leadership and Development

Now more than ever, our society needs leaders who can take on 21st Century challenges. VMI produces the types of leaders highly sought after in military, government, medical, legal, and private and public industry. The VMI leadership system provides cadets from all backgrounds with the highest standards of honor, respect, civility, self-discipline, and professionalism. The system includes the VMI Honor Code, Class System, Regimental System, Center for Leadership and EthicsLeader-in-Residence program, and other leadership programs and activities.

Daily life at VMI challenges the Corps of Cadets physically, mentally, and academically while instilling character traits built on honor, integrity, civility, personal conduct, self- discipline, and lifelong bonds through the “brother rat” spirit.

Students in the VMI Corps of Cadets pose before classes. Each cadet wears the official VMI uniform whether in barracks, class, or attending events on post.

Daily Life

The way cadets live together and work together while at VMI lays the foundation for the way they will live and work throughout their lives. Cadets take responsibility for themselves and their “brother rats” in every aspect of daily life at VMI, including keeping their sparingly-furnished barracks rooms clean and orderly. Daily life at VMI centers on improving the health, welfare, and resiliency of the Corps of Cadets through demanding academic, athletic, and military skills training, engaging extracurricular activities, and a proven system of leadership development.

Graduating students, members of the Corps of Cadets at VMI, a military college in Lexington, VA, pose in Foster Stadium as they prepare to transition from cadet to alumnus.


VMI cadets progress from matriculation and the Rat Line, develop rat-dyke mentorships, break out of the Rat Line to become 4th Class cadets, become part of the upper class cadre, earn a class ring during Ring Figure, apply for and may be awarded rank, serve on the General Committee to help monitor every facet of cadet life, and finally graduate to serve in a wide variety of civilian professions, pursue graduate studies, or commission as new officers in military service.

The distinctive VMI approach to higher education, which is the result of over 170 years of development, continues to prove its effectiveness in providing young men and women an environment that fosters intellectual, physical, and character development.

Uniformed members of the VMI Corps of Cadets prepare to march out of barracks, what VMI uses as a dorm for each cadet.

Academics, Athletics, Military Life

High-quality undergraduate academic programs in engineering, science, and the arts, opportunities in NCAA team and club sport athletics, and military training and the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program carefully and deliberately build future leaders. These individuals possess unwavering character, demonstrate sound reasoning, make ethical decisions, engage in societal problem-solving, deliver results, lead honorably, and serve selflessly.

Members of the EMT team in the VMI Corps of Cadets watch during Breakout, ready to serve and assist any cadet needing medical attention.

Embracing a Life of Service

VMI cadets work with members of their local and global communities in civic engagement programs through academic departments, NCAA athletics programs, ROTC branches, VMI's Alumni Association, and other organizations in Rockbridge County and beyond to benefit others, and to provide cadets with opportunities to serve, compete, explore diverse interests, and master new skills.

Ready to start your VMI journey?


VMI: Forging 21st Century Leaders