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ROTC: 3 Things to Know Before You Apply

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Active Military
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May 26, 2021
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The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is one of the main ways our military fills the officer ranks. Many colleges have their own program or liasion. Some have multiple programs depending on what branch you want to join. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what actually goes on there. Here are 3 things to know before considering the program.

Physical Training

PT is a big deal in ROTC. It is always done in the early morning, before classes. For those who participated in sports in high school, it is likely that PT will not be as challenging. For those who didn’t, learning how to work your body (and stay awake in class after) will absolutely be a challenge. The different branches may have different expectations of physical fitness. This can be quite jarring, and quite demanding depending on the size of the school campus, and number of classes a student takes. With demands so different, it can easily affect how a student performs in their academics.


For many, ROTC is a means to affordable college. Scholarships may be awarded in four, three, and two year increments. Depending on what academic year you join. For those who go into ROTC with a scholarship either immediately, from high school, or through enlistment, the stress of obtaining a contract is lowered.

However, not every student is so lucky. Cadets can go to boards twice a year to try to convince cadre they should retain their scholarship and contract. Before being contracted, students attend ROTC events on their own merit, and suffer no actual reprimand if they do not follow orders. They must chose to compete, and the stakes are quite high. Students cannot just walk through ROTC without considerable effort. The competition is tight, with cadets expected to have a high GPA, good PT scores, and be well rounded individuals. On top of that, be able to charm salty cadre members.

ROTC Comes First

ROTC will tell you a lot of things. Specifically, that academics come first. Although, the number one thing that a senior cadet will tell you, is that is not always the case. The expectation of your time is taxing, and is surprisingly like a full time job. Though you will be overwhelmed with other classes, the priority of ROTC will always come first. It is not a matter of scheduling ROTC events later, but whether or not your cadre will let you leave PT early enough to make it only five minutes late to class instead of twenty. Don't assume you can get out of ROTC events. Even if it means you will miss academic priorities. You may have to reschedule tests because that's when your cadre want to do a gear inspection. ROTC is all consuming, and heavily demanding. In the end, it is also, extremely rewarding.

This advice comes from currently serving officers who have graduated from ROTC programs across the country. Sound off in the comments with any questions or advice you may have!To learn about the Navy/Marine Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC) click here.To learn about the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) click here.Also, to learn about the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps (AFROTC) click here.

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