This is the fifth in a series of posts that college finance expert, Laurie Peltier, is writing about her own experience going through the college application and enrollment processes with her kids. Her previous posts focused on how to stay organized during the college search and final decision-making processes, getting to know your school and the Federal Work Study program. Here, she discusses the application process and benefits of the Army ROTC program.
There are many decisions teenagers make that can cause a parent’s heart to stop. Getting a tattoo, driving a motor cycle, and proposing marriage are good examples. When my daughter announced she was applying for an Army ROTC scholarship, my heart stopped. On the one hand, out of my three children I thought she was the most suited for it, but on the other it was not something I was knowledgeable about. While I can now say it was a good decision, it took a while to get to this point.
ROTC stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps, and is available on many college campuses. Each branch of the service has its own Corps, and some colleges offer more than one branch’s program. Today I will focus on the Army ROTC scholarship. If selected, the student commits to joining the Army upon graduation. Commitment levels can vary based on academic major and scholarship level, but most require at least four years of active duty after college, with an additional four years in the reserves. While enrolled, a student in ROTC engages in strenuous physical training three times a week, a lab or classroom twice a week (which will count for college credit), and strict uniform and code of conduct requirements.
In exchange for her commitment, the student can receive free tuition and fees for up to four years of college, a monthly stipend for books and supplies, and most colleges will also waive the room and board charges. Comradery, leadership skills and a guaranteed placement in the Army at the 2nd lieutenant level upon graduation are added benefits. Note that a student can join ROTC without a scholarship but with the same commitment level.
The application for an Army ROTC scholarship should be started in the spring of junior year and submitted around October of the senior year of high school. There are several components to the online application: an essay, interview, physical fitness test, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and test scores. The interview is conducted by a professor of military science at a college that offers ROTC (does not have to be the college the student plans on attending). The physical fitness test can be scored by a coach or gym teacher. The recommendations should be from teachers, coaches, and guidance counselors who can speak to leadership qualities and athletic abilities along with academic standing.
On the application, a student can list up to seven colleges that he is interested in attending, four of which must be public universities. The Army will choose which college the scholarship, if awarded, will be granted for. Some applicants are presented with a choice of several schools, while for others just one school is listed. Notifications come out between November and March of senior year. Receiving a scholarship does not guarantee acceptance to that college, the student must complete the regular college admission process.
ROTC Cadets tend to be focused, disciplined, physically fit, and are often athletes, scouts, or leaders at their high schools. I knew my daughter was a good fit: she follows directions well, loves playing team sports, and is always prepared and on time (without any nudging). She was unsure of what she wanted to do after college, but she wanted to stay out of debt and was interested in travel. She is majoring in international business, though most cadets on her campus are nursing, engineering or political science majors. After her freshman year, I can finally say my heart is beating again and I am confident she made a good decision!