One of the biggest misunderstandings among families is that they assume if a student enrolls in ROTC, he or she will automatically receive a full scholarship.
That’s not the case. We do have scholarships that we offer which cover tuition, fees and other incidentals, but are not a guaranteed. It’s a competitive process like receiving any other scholarship.
The Army ROTC – in addition to the Navy and Air Force ROTC programs – is one of the nation’s biggest scholarship grantors. The Army ROTC alone provides $274 million in scholarship money to more than 13,000 students each year, according to the U.S. Army Cadet Command.
Army ROTC, which provides leadership and military training at colleges and universities across the country, has been around for more than 100 years. Yet students and families often misunderstand how the program and scholarships work. Following are three common misconceptions and clarifications about the ROTC program and awards.
Myth 1: College is automatically paid for.
Some students complete ROTC programs – earning a commission as a second lieutenant – without ever earning a scholarship.
Army ROTC scholarships are awarded in two different ways: Students can compete nationally for a scholarship during their senior year of high school; or they can join ROTC once they get to college and compete for a scholarship at the campus level.
At the national level, about 12,000 high school seniors compete for about 2,000 Army ROTC scholarships. Approximately half of those are three-year scholarships, and half are four-year scholarships. The application process is open for those who have completed their junior year of high school.
The majority of high school scholarship recipients are in the top 25 percent of their class, belong to an honor society, and participate in organizations or sports. ROTC is looking for scholars, athletes and leaders. Students should be working on building a résumé early in their high school careers.
Excel in school. Prepare yourself for the SAT or ACT. Ask to belong to the National Honor Society. Those out there being active, tend to naturally be great candidates for the Army ROTC with the possibility of a full-tuition scholarship.
If a student misses out on the national scholarship contest, there is still an opportunity to join ROTC and compete for a scholarship once he or she is enrolled in college.
If awarded a scholarship, Cadets are allowed to choose between applying the scholarship toward full tuition and fees – no matter the institution – or room and board, up to $5,000 per semester.
Myth 2: Joining ROTC means you’re enlisting.
Students can do a two-year trial period with Army ROTC before making any commitments to the Army.
However, when a student accepts a scholarship, he or she signs a contract with ROTC promising to hit certain academic benchmarks and to serve in the armed forces after graduation. This is called “contracting.”
The scholarship does bind them to service. Not every student walks into that classroom ready to make that commitment.
The service obligation is generally eight years and can be on active duty, National Guard, Army Reserve, IRR or a combination.
If a student does not meet the program’s requirements, gets kicked out of school, or does not commission into the Army, he or she will likely have to pay the scholarship back. The exception is if a medical condition prevents someone from joining.
Myth 3: You could be called up.
An ROTC Cadet is considered non-deployable in the event that the U.S. goes to war. That’s the case even if the Cadet is part of a National Guard unit that deploys.
If a student is in ROTC, he is just a student. Once they are commissioned, then they become a part of the Army. And yes, then they can be mobilized.