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How to get a ROTC scholarship

Bold.org Editorial Team

Top experts in a variety of areas

There are many financial aid options to help make college more affordable for military students. Veterans, military personnel, and families can find many military scholarships to apply for on Bold.org. To find these scholarships, you can use the filters on the Bold.org scholarship page to search the 'Military' category. Or, check out this exclusive list of military scholarships here, with deadlines going into 2023.

Students interested in becoming ROTC cadets can also be eligible to apply for a ROTC scholarship. You've probably heard about how the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) can help you pay for college tuition. Furthermore, joining university ROTC programs can also guarantee you a rewarding career right after graduation as the basic training you receive through ROTC prepares you for commission as a military officer. You will be responsible for the safety of soldiers under your command and tasked with making important decisions. If you're a natural-born leader, this role may be a good fit for you.

Anyone can see that ROTC scholarships provide many scholarship benefits. You can receive ROTC financial assistance and earn a college education with reduced student debt in exchange for military service and active duty obligations. All that's left to do is to show why you're the best candidate for the scholarship.

High school students and current college students who plan on applying can follow this guide on how to increase their chances of getting a ROTC scholarship.

1. Check the eligibility requirements

ROTC programs will each have their own requirements that you'll have to meet. Generally, you must meet these standards to be eligible to apply:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or be able to obtain citizenship within a specified timeframe.
  • Be at least 17, but under 31 years of age in the year of Officer commissioning.
  • Have taken the SAT or ACT.
  • Earned a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Agree to accept a military service commission and active duty service in the Armed Forces.

It's important to note that ROTC scholarships are awarded based on achievements and academic performance, rather than financial need. Being able to showcase your leadership skills can significantly increase your chances of earning the scholarship.

Participation in the Junior ROTC as a high school student can help immensely in preparing high school students in applying for an ROTC scholarship. Current college students interested in the scholarship will further be expected to add ROTC courses to their class schedule, such as military science and the Professional Officer Course in their junior and senior years.

2. Complete the ROTC scholarship application

The ROTC scholarship application can be done online at the website of your interested military branch. Simply create an account and begin the ROTC application as early as your junior year of high school. The deadline to begin the application for high school applicants is January of senior year. Make reminders of all deadlines and important dates. Be aware that the application process requires further action after completing the application.

The ROTC Scholarship Selection Boards meet for a review of applicants in yearly cycles every October, January, and March. ROTC programs rank applicants according to a point scale: Army ROTC ranks on a 1400-point scale and AFROTC ranks on a 1000-point scale.

Your best chance at winning an ROTC scholarship is to score higher than other applicants in these areas of consideration: the interview, your SAT or ACT scores, high school GPA, and Physical Fitness Test. The Army ROTC also scores your leadership skills and Civilian Background Experience Form (CBEF).

3. Submit required materials

The ROTC scholarship application requires you to provide personal records for review by the ROTC scholarship review board. High school applicants must submit official high school transcripts, official SAT/ACT scores, and their results from the ROTC Basic Fitness Test through the ROTC application portal. Your high school counselor can help prepare any other required materials to submit.

Additionally, you must complete a thorough background check as you move to the next steps of the application process.

4. Take the ROTC Basic Physical Fitness Test

The Basic Physical Fitness Test for ROTC consists of pushups, curl-ups, and a timed 1-mile run. It can be administered to you by your school's coach or PE teacher using the ROTC Scholarship Physical Fitness Assessment Card. To be eligible for ROTC scholarships, applicants must pass this test. This includes meeting the weight and height requirements for your physical screening.

Usually, eligibility for any ROTC scholarship only needs you to achieve the minimum score to pass. However, the test gives just a taste of what physical fitness training in the ROTC program and military service has in store for ROTC cadets.

5. Conduct an interview with the ROTC review board

As mentioned before, ROTC programs rank applicants according to a point scale: Army ranks on a 1400-point scale and AFROTC ranks on a 1000-point scale. Your best chance at winning an ROTC scholarship is to score higher than other applicants.

The interview with the selection board is the most important component since it is worth more points than the other areas of consideration. So, make sure to prepare for your interview so you can put your best foot forward!

College students at participating schools can contact their school's ROTC Commander for further instruction.

Does an ROTC scholarship help you get into college?

Choosing which college to attend can be a tough decision. Narrow down your search using the Army ROTC college locator or the AFROTC college locator to find participating schools.

There are more than 1,000 participating schools with Army ROTC programs and over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country offering Air Force ROTC programs. It helps that many of the ROTC scholarships offered are campus-based scholarships, so the college you attend matters, as well as turning in a polished application.

One of the scholarship benefits is being able to increase your chances of getting into a college. Any school with an ROTC detachment is more likely to accept high school applicants with an ROTC scholarship already secured, especially if the ROTC Commander is willing to advocate for them.

Even non-scholarship applicants can get strong leverage by participating in the college's ROTC program. If you are a high school student planning to join ROTC, it makes a great topic to mention in your college admissions and essays. Stay engaged with both your admissions office and the ROTC department.

However, take note that not all colleges give preference to ROTC scholarship recipients. Ivy League schools and universities without an ROTC detachment are unlikely to make exceptions. High school seniors should check with the ROTC program at their interested school about the chances of that college giving preference to ROTC students.

ROTC Scholarships

ROTC programs give their cadets a world-class education in leadership to become an officer. While many college scholarships exist to provide financial aid, there are also many types of ROTC scholarships that are financial aid only available to ROTC cadets.

Let the ROTC pay for college through these many options for well-earned scholarship money.

To learn more in-depth information about the types of ROTC scholarships and what they cover, check out the ROTC scholarship guide here.

Army ROTC Scholarship

Army ROTC scholarships provide financial assistance to cover your choice of either tuition and student fees or room and board at any college with an Army ROTC program. An Army ROTC scholarship also includes a monthly stipend to cover living costs and book expenses for the academic year. Accepting Army ROTC scholarships comes with active duty service obligations in either the Army Reserve or Army National Guard.

The Army ROTC National Scholarship for high school seniors covers full tuition for four years. Scholarships awarded to college students from the Army ROTC program can cover anywhere from two to four years of tuition, all while preparing to be commissioned as an Army Officer.

Air Force ROTC Scholarship

The Air Force ROTC program offers unique types of scholarships at any public or private institution with an Air Force ROTC detachment.

The Air Force ROTC High School Scholarship Program (HSSP) offers a Type 1 scholarship, which pays 100% of college tuition and fees, with an additional annual book stipend and a monthly living stipend.

If you're already in college, joining the Air Force ROTC still comes with its benefits. Students in their freshman and sophomore years of college may be eligible for the In-College Scholarship Program (ICSP), which offers three types of ROTC scholarships.

A Type 1 Air Force ROTC scholarship is for ROTC cadets pursuing a technical major. Full tuition and fees are covered, along with a monthly living expense stipend and an annual book stipend.

The Type 2 Air Force ROTC scholarship pays up to $18,000 per academic year for tuition at any public or private institution with an Air Force ROTC detachment.

There is another scholarship option where students interested in becoming a nurse can get financial aid through the Nursing Scholarship Program. This competitive ROTC program awards Nursing scholarships to undergraduate sophomores and juniors accepted to a nursing program that is NLNAC or CCNE accredited.

ROTC scholarships on Bold.org

Although there is a limit to how many ROTC scholarships are awarded every year, there is no limit to how many college scholarships ROTC cadets can apply for on Bold.org. While there currently are no exclusive ROTC scholarships, you can find many military scholarships for veterans, military personnel, and military families on Bold.org.

Whether the scholarships are more general or more niche, Bold.org has scholarships that seek to support those who are active duty military to cover their college expenses, such as those below.

  1. Ben Brock Memorial Scholarship
  2. Veterans' Writing Group of San Diego Ernie Pyle Award
  3. Boatswain’s Mate Third Class Antonie Bernard Thomas Memorial Scholarship

Veterans that are former ROTC cadets should consider applying for scholarships such as the Veterans of Hawaii Scholarship, or the Veterans Next Generation Scholarship.

To find more scholarships like these, you can use the filters on the Bold.org scholarship page to search the 'Military' category. Or, check out this exclusive list of military scholarships here, with deadlines going into 2023.

Frequently asked questions about ROTC scholarships

Is the ROTC scholarship hard to get?

All college scholarships, including ROTC scholarships, can be very competitive. Of the 9,300 high school students who applied in 2021, 2,500 were awarded an Army ROTC scholarship. Of these winners, 25% received the Army's four-year ROTC National Scholarship, while the rest were awarded three-year scholarships.

Scholarships given by the AFROTC will soon become even more competitive. The Air Force ROTC High School Scholarship Program (HSSP) is significantly decreasing the number of scholarships it will give out every year.

In the 2021-22 school year, over 5,000 high school student applications were reviewed, and 1,000 were awarded. However, in 2023, there will likely be less than 500 scholarships awarded. This means that the same amount of applicants will be competing but even fewer scholarship recipients are chosen for the ROTC program.

Usually, ROTC scholarships are merit-based rather than awarded based on financial need, so keep this in mind when applying!

What GPA do you need for ROTC?

The minimum GPA score accepted differs by ROTC scholarship. You must graduate high school with at least a 2.5 GPA to be eligible for an Army ROTC scholarship (unweighted if you apply while still in high school), and a cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.0 or higher for an AFROTC scholarship.

High school GPA is a major area of consideration for high school students applying for ROTC scholarships. High school students should focus on maintaining high academic performance leading up to graduation.

How long is ROTC?

The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a four-year program divided into two phases: the basic course and the advanced course. These phases coincide with the degree pathway of a four-year college education.

High school students interested in applying for the ROTC scholarship are encouraged to enroll in their school's Junior ROTC to get an early experience of military training. While all military branches have their own ROTC program, not all of them offer scholarships to help pay for college. Be sure that your college of interest is a participating school with the military branch you're interested in, and that the ROTC program provides financial assistance.

However, some ROTC scholarship recipients may find that this military training program is not the best fit for them after all. All ROTCs will allow ROTC cadets to withdraw from the ROTC program without active duty/military service obligation at the end of their freshman year of college.