City College was different in that it did not charge tuition. Powell had first planned to study engineering in college however later he felt like geology would be a better fit. While at City College in New York, Powell found his true calling in the Reserve Officer Training Corps or ROTC. In regards to ROTC, Powell has said, “It was only once I was in college, about six months into college when I found something that I liked, and that was ROTC, Reserve Officer Training Corps in the military. And I not only liked it, but I was pretty good at it. That’s what you really have to look for in life, something that you like, and something that you think you’re pretty good at. And if you can put those two things together, then you’re on the right track, and just drive on.” While Colin performed averagely in core subjects, he excelled in ROTC courses. Early into his final year at City College in New York, Colin was promoted to Cadet Colonel, which was the student leader of the whole ROTC unit at City College in New York.
Colin graduated from City College in New York with a BS degree in Geology in 1958. On June 9, 1958, shortly after his graduation, he became a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during a ceremony which was held in the Aronowitz Auditorium at City College. After college and ROTC, he went to the Army infantry training camp at Fort Benning, Georgia. After his second tour in Vietnam, he went on to gain an MBA degree in business administration from George Washington University in 1971.
He won a White House fellowship in 1972 during the Nixon administration. During the fellowship, he was assigned to the Office of Management and Budget through with he made a profound impression on Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci. Powell has admitted that he was a “C” average student while in school.