The ROTC Option
By Laura Jeanne Hammond
June 04, 2008
If your teen is willing to work hard in return to get someone else to pay for college, he or she can consider enrolling in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC. ROTC cadets are eligible for generous scholarships and upon graduation are commissioned as officers with immediate job opportunities. In fact, ROTC scholarship recipients are obligated to take military jobs.
How do you know if your teen is ROTC material? “Typically, they‘re pretty well-balanced students,” says Lt. Col. Paul Hansen, assistant professor of military science for the Army ROTC program at Rochester Institute of Technology. “They’ve done some athletics, they have some leadership in student government, part-time jobs, scouting or something like that. They’re the best of the best of our nation, quite honestly.”
ROTC students get funding for college, enter the military as officers and serve the country. They also learn leadership and team-building skills that make them sought-after employees.
“You’re training to be a junior manager, a junior executive if you will,” Hansen says. “The experience–being put in charge of millions of dollars of equipment and 40 people–that doesn’t usually happen at age 21 in the private sector.”
Is your teen interested in ROTC, but not sure it‘s for him or her? Students can enroll as freshmen or sophomores to receive leadership training without incurring obligation for military service. Once they accept a scholarship or enroll in advanced ROTC courses, they make a service commitment.
If your teen doesn’t win an ROTC scholarship in high school, be patient. By junior year, it’s likely that he or she will receive funding.
“Fewer cadets enter ROTC with scholarships than the number who will end up with scholarships because of the in-college scholarship program,” says Maj. Aaron Swanier, an Air Force ROTC Unit Admissions Officer (UAO) at Georgia Institute of Technology and assistant professor of aerospace studies. “Approximately half of our freshmen received scholarships out of high school, but eventually most will have some aid if they remain in the program.”
Cadets may also be eligible for money for books and a monthly non-taxed stipend. They can put this money toward room, board, pizza, travel home, whatever. Contracted freshmen in ROTC can receive $250 per month; sophomores, $300; juniors, $350; and seniors, $400.
No matter which branch of the military your teen chooses, ROTC classes include officership, leadership, military history, organization and tactics. ROTC cadets are often required to wear uniforms on ROTC class days, although that’s up to each detachment to decide. Cadets receive college credit for their ROTC classes. They’ll also have to pass regular physical fitness exams and train with peers in “PT” sessions. After commissioning is when they decide on a career field and begin training for specific jobs.
“Some students go directly to the base and learn on the job. Some go on to graduate school, some go to intel school, some go into acquisitions, personnel and other professions,” says Swanier.
After commissioning, graduates are known as second lieutenants or “2nd Lt.” in the Air Force, Army or Marine Corps. In the Navy, the rank is “ensign.” Below are the details on what your family can expect from each of the ROTC branches.
* Scholarship requirements: Apply junior year or by fall of senior year. Deadline is Nov. 15. Scholarship applicants ranked on several factors, including SAT scores, extracurricular activities, grades and athletics. Online application available.
* Scholarship details: Up to $17,000 a year toward tuition plus monthly non-taxed stipend. Students also may be eligible for aid from the college to cover room and board.
* Post-graduation commitment: Eight years (four years active duty, four years Reserves; or eight years in the Reserves) Points of interest: Leadership lab includes classes in land navigation, first aid and weapons training and is available at 270 campuses.
* Scholarship requirements: Apply as a high school senior. Deadline is approximately Dec. 1. Online application available. A board determines scholarship winners based on personal interview and answers to an online application. Students must pass Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) and medical exam.
* Scholarship details: From $9,000 to full tuition; $510 for books; monthly non-taxed stipend.
* Post-graduation commitment: Minimum four years of active duty
* Points of interest: In-college scholarships available for students who did not receive a scholarship freshman year. Express Scholarships available for fully qualified students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic
Serving Institutions and for students majoring in critically needed areas, such as computer and electrical engineering and meteorology.
* Scholarship requirements: Four-year scholarship deadline is Jan. 1. To be eligible, must meet academic and physical standards of the Navy and Marine Corps.
* Scholarship details: Scholarship covers full tuition at any college with an NROTC unit, school fees and textbooks plus monthly non-taxed stipend. Choose from one of three scholarships: Navy, Marine Corps or nursing.
* Post-graduation commitment: Eight years; at least four years of active duty
* Points of interest: NROTC class covers topics such as naval orientation, history, navigation, ship engineering systems and leadership and ship weapons systems. If you’re on scholarship, you could cruise during the summers on surface ships, submarines and aircraft carriers.
Second Lieutenant John Pellegrino:
Details: Business management major; hometown is Colts Neck, N.J.; after graduation in May 2004, joined the 18th
Airborne Corps in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina
Why did you join ROTC? My whole life, I wanted to serve. And I got a scholarship.
What was the best part of ROTC? The best part is your growth–seeing what you become as a leader and as a person compared to what you come in here as.
What was the most challenging aspect? The personal dedication you have to put into it. Regular college life tries to interfere. It needs to be a discipline in yourself when you have to get up at 6 a.m. three days a week.
Second Lieutenant Tom Bonarski:
Details: Mechanical engineering technology major; hometown is Moon, Penn.; after graduation in 2004, joined the 101st Airborne in Ft. Benning, Georgia for three years.
Why did you join ROTC? Coming out of high school, I knew I wanted to go into the military. I got a really nice
scholarship, so it all came into place.
What was the best part of ROTC? The amount of places the Army has sent me to train. (He has jumped out of planes, been to seven states and South Korea and learned to rapell out of helicopters.)
What was the most challenging aspect? It takes some time. You have to be able to balance your work. As you get older, you have increasing demands.
Does war scare you? It’s not something you look forward to, but with all the training I’ve done here, I’m prepared for it. Nobody likes to leave their family behind, but as soldiers, it’s what we’re trained to do.
Article reprinted with permission from Next Step Magazine.