Choosing a school is already a difficult decision, making the choice with the ROTC scholarship in mind could make the decision easier… or that much harder. Here are some things to keep in mind that have the potential to make the decision-making process less of a headache.
One important first step is to help your son or daughter to decide on a major, if they have not done so already. This can narrow down the search for the right school.
Military vs. non-military college is another topic to think about. A traditional college is going to offer your son or daughter a traditional college experience for the most part. He or she will still be required to fulfill their ROTC obligations. A military service academy is not going to reflect the traditional college experience, but it will help you son or daughter learn the military culture and help them to be better able to adapt to service life after college. A huge advantage for Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets attending senior military colleges is a guarantee to go on active duty if the professor of military science recommends them. Plus, the ROTC scholarship is one of the most valuable college scholarships in the United States.
Not being sure of your resources can send you down a search engine rabbit hole. To prevent you from getting lost in there, here are some options that will help you understand and navigate the new territory in which you have found yourself. One of your biggest assets are other parents who have been where you are right now. Talk to them! They are usually willing to speak with newcomers, and they are a wonderful source for information. If you are not sure how to find these parents who are full of wisdom, check out the Service Academy Parents forum. Any question you can think of has likely already been asked in this forum. You can choose to simply read what has already been said, or interact with members on the forum. Another great source is the ROTC Consulting podcast.
Just like you need peers and support from people who have been in your shoes, so does your teen. For your son or daughter, some of the best advice can come directly from current cadets, application candidates, and those who have recently completed the process. You can find all these people to help your son or daughter on the Service Academy forum as well. This part of the forum is similar to the one for parents, but it is made up of people who have stood where your son or daughter is standing now.
If your son or daughter is not thrilled about reading through or engaging with a forum, there are other options. Both recruiting officers and active ROTC cadets would be more than willing to answer any questions you may have.
Although it may be difficult to be your child’s teammate during this process, that is what you are, not the coach. You are both figuring this out as you go. Your son or daughter has decided to make a huge commitment that may not line up with exactly what you envisioned for them. Do not fight them on this. Your opposition, in addition to navigating this complex process, will not help. Your support and guidance are needed today so your child may have the future they are dreaming of. Together, you can make this happen!
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kirkland (U.S. Army, Retired) was one of the few officers ever to command two separate Army ROTC programs–Claremont McKenna College from 2006 to 2009 and the University of Southern California from 2010 to 2013. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point and has also earned a MA and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. He served over 25 years on active duty. The author and his team provide in-depth, personal consulting to ROTC scholarship applicants and their parents as well as full support for competitive Service Academy admission. For a deeper understanding of what the ROTC scholarship entails, check out Rob’s thorough explanation of the topic on the Tests and the Rest podcast.