ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) is a common path for students to pay for a college education and to learn new skills.
However, if you don’t know much about the program, you may need help demystifying the application process.
So, how does one join ROTC and gain access to its educational benefits? First, there are three different sectors of the program: Army ROTC, Navy and Marine Corps ROTC, and Air Force ROTC.
Each branch has its own unique offerings and requirements, but standard requirements across all branches include U.S. Citizenship, age of at least 17 years, a GPA of at least 2.50, a high school diploma, and a fitness standard.
To learn more about the specific scholarships, requirements and application processes of different branches of ROTC, read on!
How to Get an ROTC Scholarship: ARMY ROTC
Army ROTC offers a scholarship to fund a four-year college program for graduating high school students.
This scholarship entails an eight-year commitment to the Army, with half of that time in full-time service and the other half with the Individual Ready Reserve.
In order to apply, high school students must meet the following requirements:
- Must be a U.S. citizen or in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
- Applicants must be at least 17 and no older than 26
- Meet the physical fitness requirements of AROTC. These include passing a timed test of push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run.
- Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent educational experience.
- Applicants must have at least a 2.50 high school GPA
- Minimum test scores include 1000 on the SAT and/or a 19 on the ACT
- Applicants must agree to accept either an active duty commission in the Army or a Reserve Component commission (such as the Army Reserve or Army National Guard).
Students who meet the requirements and are able to commit eight years may apply online, by creating a “MY GOARMY” account and using that account to log in to the scholarship application site.
How to Get an ROTC Scholarship: NAVY ROTC
Navy ROTC, or NROTC, offers two and three-year scholarships, with programs in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Nursing. Post-graduate military commitments range from four to five years.
For these scholarships, students must meet the following basic requirements, and apply by May 31:
- Be a U.S. citizen or in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
- No criminal record of any kind.
- Be at least 17 years old and younger than 23 years old, in the fall of the year in which they begin college.
- Must be under 27 years old when graduating and entering active duty.
- Applicants must pass a medical qualification defined by Navy or Marine Corps standards.
- Have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate by August 1 of their year of beginning NROTC.
- Current college students must have a GPA of at least 2.5 out of 4.0.
- Already either admitted or currently applying to a university from which their nomination comes.
- Do not have any moral beliefs or obligations that prevent the bearing of arms required for military service.
- No tattoos or piercings which are against Navy or Marine Corps rules.
- Students may apply for only one of three program options — Navy, Marine Corps or Nurse.
- Further requirements for each of these specific programs can be found here.
Students have to acquire documents and apply via the Navy ROTC unit at the university they are currently or plan to attend.
The application includes an application letter, data record, fitness assessment, college transcripts, letter of admission, degree plan, statement of understanding, drug statement, debarment statement, and optional letters of reference.
These forms can be obtained via the NROTC website and/or through the NROTC unit of the student’s university.
How to Get an ROTC Scholarship: AIR FORCE ROTC
Air Force ROTC also offers college scholarships for graduating high school students, current college students and members in an active duty status.
High school students are eligible to receive 100% of their tuition at any private or public university, and in-college students can apply for three different programs ranging from up to $18,000 per year to full tuition.
Upon graduation, service commitments range from four to ten years based on the career path you choose. AFROTC’s basic requirements include the following:
- Be a U.S. citizen or in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
- Applicants must be commissioned and enter active duty before the age of 39 (To receive a scholarship, applicants must be younger than 31 years old on December 31 of the year they are commissioned).
- Must be recommended for AFROTC by their immediate commander.
- Already be admitted to a school affiliated with AFROTC.
- Pass the AFROTC specific Physical Fitness Test.
- Applicants must have passed the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT). It’s a test that assesses written and mathematical skills (like a college exam) along with other skills, depending on the students’ career specialty.
- Students receiving a scholarship must continually have a 2.5 GPA.
- Complete all undergraduate study requirements in less than but up to two years.
- Must not be reassigned before submission of their application (requests to waiver this rule annually due August 15).
- May need to have one year’s time in service and one year’s time on station, though both requirements are waivable.
Start by creating an online account with the AFROTC, and apply through the “My Profile” page. The application involves transcripts, activity lists, a counselor certification form, physical fitness assessment, GPA and test scores, and is due on January 17.
What is ROTC, and why join?
ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps, a program offering college scholarships in exchange for post-graduation military service.
Each branch of the military has its own program, with its own application process and activities, including Army ROTC, Navy and Marine Corps ROTC, and Air Force ROTC.
Programs offer a mix of field training and normal academic study and range from two to four-year scholarships. Postgraduate military commitments range from four to ten years.
ROTC programs began with the National Defense Act of 1916 and have fostered a legacy of leadership skills and discipline ever since.
ROTC has since become the largest commissioning source of the US Armed Forces, with over 28,000 students currently enrolled nationwide.
In addition to traditional academics, ROTC students study subjects such as military tactics, combat survival training, cruise training, maritime self-defense, international security, and aerospace studies.
However, ROTC also trains students in transferable skills such as leadership, teamwork, and self-discipline. The program offers the opportunity to graduate debt-free, at a time when the average college student graduates with over $35,000 of loan debt.
ROTC students also graduate with a guaranteed job to establish their careers.
Careers after ROTC
ROTC students go on to serve as officers in the military, and after their service commitment, some advance and continue to lead across the Army, Airforce, Navy, Marines and medical fields.
Military career paths can include many different fields, some of which are lesser-known than others:
- Active Military Service: includes many subfields across the Army, Navy, and Airforce.
- Army Linguistics: assisting with translations and communication
- Intelligence: handling cybersecurity, data management, cyber warfare, programming and developing
- Engineering and Construction include civil engineers, construction management, electricians, mechanics, surveying and mapping, maintenance and plumbing.
- Medical: includes doctors, nurses, dental hygienists, pharmacists, psychologists and more.
- Education: includes training future members and instructing classes on language and military subjects.
- Communications and Marketing: handling public affairs, attracting new recruits, managing the public image of the military.
- Financial: accountants, account managers, and other economic roles.
After the required military service, former ROTC members can also transfer their leadership skills to other career fields. There’s a wide network of ROTC alumni upon which to call, with notable graduates including:
- Former US Senators Jake Garn, Charles Robb, Thad Cochran, Tom Harkin, and Tom Carper
- CEOs Samuel Moore Walton (Wal-Mart), Thomas G. Lebrecque (Chase Bank), and Willard J. Marriott (Marriott Corporation)
- Former astronauts Nancy Sherlock Currie, Catherine Coleman, John W. Young, Alan Bean, and Donald Williams
- Supreme Court Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.
- Former Director of the CIA Michael Hayden
- Warren Christopher, former Secretary of State
- Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
- Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- First African-American U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds pilot Lloyd W. Newton
- Football coach, announcer and motivational speaker Louis Leo “Lou” Holtz
- Basketball Hall of Famer Leonard Randolph “Lenny” Wilkens
- Vice President of Proctor and Gamble Robert E. Cannon
- Black Enterprise Magazine publisher Earl Gilbert Graves Sr.
- Actor Jackie Cooper
To learn more, check out the Army ROTC online resource to explore post-ROTC success stories across many different career paths.
Does an ROTC scholarship cover room and board too, or just tuition?
Each branch has different offerings, and each branch offers multiple scholarship types. Each branch has an option for applying high school students that also includes a fixed stipend for living expenses and other options that do not.
How competitive are ROTC scholarships?
Like any high-quality scholarship, ROTC programs are competitive. Nationally, about 12,000 students apply each year for 2,000 slots. However, students who are not accepted the first time are encouraged to continue applying even after enrolling at their institution.
How to Get an ROTC Scholarship: Conclusion
ROTC is a great way to avoid many of the risks of higher education today, such as student loan debt and post-graduate unemployment.
If you fit the basic requirements, think about which branch would be the best fit for you and look into their specific scholarships and eligibility rules.
Do you or someone you know want to know how to mentally prepare for college? Read our article here.
While the amount of information may seem overwhelming at first, there are plenty of resources and alumni to help guide you through the process. Good luck!