The ROTC Option
By Laura Jeanne Hammond
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.
For more information on ROTC and joining the Military to help pay for school, visit Fastweb’s Military section.