ROTC scholarships will cover most of your college expenses in exchange for military training during school and military service after you graduate. Here's what you need to know to get started.
What Is ROTC?
The Reserve Officers' Training Corps is an officer training program for college students who commit to serve in the U.S. military after college. You can find schools that host and participate in an ROTC program on the recruitment websites of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, or by talking to your academic advisor. (Marine Corps cadets participate in the Navy ROTC. The U.S. Coast Guard does not offer ROTC.)
How Can the ROTC Help Pay for College?
ROTC cadets committed to serving in the military after college are eligible for scholarships covering the costs for tuition, fees, and textbooks for four years, plus a monthly stipend for personal expenses. If you have additional financial need, you are free to apply for regular financial aid and non-ROTC scholarships. If you leave the ROTC at the end of your freshman year, the ROTC will cover its share of your freshman expenses with no further obligation on your part.
What Are the ROTC Requirements During College?
You will take elective ROTC courses along with your regular courses. ROTC classes include the history, structure, and function of the military branch providing the scholarship, instruction in leadership and military operations, and rigorous physical training.
You will take part in ROTC training on campus or at other colleges in the region. In fact, some ROTC cadets must commute to other campuses daily to attend required classes or training.
You will be required to take part in special programs, camps, and competitive "challenge" courses throughout the year, including the summer.
What Is the Service Commitment After Graduation?
The Army requires ROTC scholarship holders to serve eight years (four years of active duty and four years in the reserves.) The Navy requires four to five years of active duty. The Air Force requires four to six years of active duty and ten years for cadets trained as pilots.
How Can You Qualify for an ROTC Scholarship?
The scholarship requirements vary slightly between the military branches, but basically you must meet the following criteria:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be at least 17 years of age
- Meet GPA requirements
- Meet SAT and/or ACT requirements
- Have a high school diploma
- Meet physical fitness standards
How Can You Apply for and Win an ROTC Scholarship?
Show your interest to your local military recruitment office as early as possible, preferably during your junior year of high school. Scholarships often go to students majoring in subjects that will be of value to the military, such as engineering, computer science, specific foreign languages, or nursing.
You can apply online at military branch websites, or at your local Army, Navy, or Air Force recruiting offices. Students interested in Marine Corps ROTC scholarships must apply through the Navy ROTC. Scholarship application deadlines differ by military branch, but may fall anywhere between December 1 and January 31 of your senior year. If you receive a scholarship, it will be restricted to one of the colleges and majors you provided on your ROTC application.
Do You Have What It Takes?
Graduates enter military service as officers, and with this comes considerable responsibility for the lives of other soldiers, for missions critical to national security, and for millions of dollars in equipment. Success in such a position requires academic aptitude, physical fitness, leadership, management skills, political acumen, courage, and patriotism.
Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.