The ROTC Option

If you have contemplated applying to a service academy such as West Point or Annapolis, or if you are applying to one of them, you might want to also consider applying for an ROTC scholarship at one of the more than 1100 colleges that are part of the ROTC program.

The Reserved Officer Training Corp (ROTC) originated with the National Defense Act of 1916. Along with its high school counterpart program, JROTC (with programs at Long Beach Poly or Lakewood HS-Naval), ROTC programs are offered by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines (the Coast Guard has its own separate officer’s training program outside the scope of the ROTC). Each branch has its own unique requirements, service obligations, and availability. If you wish to get a better sense of the workings of the various programs, take a look at the ‘Guide to Understanding ROTC Programs here.

To best explain the process, this column is going to focus strictly on the workings of the army ROTC (AROTC) scholarship program.

As a preface, you can enroll as an ROTC cadet, without a scholarship, and take a series of electives during your first two years to gain a sense of basic operations: history, organization and structure of the Army.  If you elect to not go on with your ROTC training, you can then leave the program without any service obligation. Or, of course, you can continue with the program, gain a 2-year scholarship, and graduate as a 2nd Lieutenant. 

An AROTC 4-year scholarship is probably the most valuable college scholarship in the country. Recipients gain full tuition (at USC, which has an AROTC program, this is over $48,000), room and board (again, at USC, $13,000), books (up to $1,200), and a monthly stipend (beginning freshman year at $300 monthly and rising to $500 by senior year).  

Before beginning your AROTC Scholarship efforts it’s a good idea to research various AROTC programs while considering which major might best match your aptitudes and the needs of the army.  Among the disciplined-targeted scholarships,  85% of the scholarships are given for students in the engineering, natural sciences and technical majors, leaving 15% for ‘generalists’. There are also scholarships for those studying key foreign languages (Russian, Urdu…), nursing, or those attending historically black or urban state schools.

After reviewing schools at AROTC School list, let’s assume you’ve decided to apply for an AROTC 4-year scholarship to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, in computer engineering.

 Go to the online scholarship site, Go Army.  Next submit your cumulative GPA, ACT/SAT score, age and citizenship, submit, and await a letter of instruction for a mandatory interview from Cadet Command. Interview at your target school, Cal Poly SLO,  with its professor of military science(PMS) who, you hope, will be your eventual instructor, and  will be able to talk knowledgeably about your application should he/she be a part of the Board of Army Officers.

Your application and interview are scored with points allocated for SAT-ACT score, leadership, your interview, and determination by the Board of Army Officers. 

If awarded, you will receive notification from Cadet Command. Then you might have to knock on the door of the Admissions office at Cal Poly SLO and see if this will help them to a favorable decision on your candidacy.  If yes, all you need to do is complete the DOD MERB-Medical Review Board, and pass the APFT-Army Physical Fitness test. If not, you have till May 1st to change your AROTC school-of-attendance.

Though this might not be the most elegant means of getting a full scholarship at a college of interest, it might well be worth the effort. In any case, jumping through some of the AROTC hoops are insignificant when compared to being in a theater of war. Be prepared for both.