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When researching higher education, you certainly see a lot of acronyms thrown around. And one such acronym you’ll encounter from time to time is ROTC. So, what does this particular grouping of capital letters actually mean? Well, ROTC stands for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. And yes, as you’ve probably deduced, it’s affiliated with the armed forces. Indeed, ROTC is a college-based program which trains commissioned officers.

Unlike undergraduates who attend a military academy, students who pursue ROTC are still able to enjoy the regular trappings of college life. They live in dorms (not barracks), they’re free to attend frat parties, etc. Of course, they’ll also have to fulfill certain military requirements. Indeed, they are expected to participate in various training exercises and regular drills throughout the academic year. These exercises take place in both the classroom and in the field. Classroom courses are considered to be electives in your academic schedule. ROTC students also must partake in longer exercises during the summer months. Further, upon graduation, undergraduates are expected to join the military as commissioned officers. The length of commitment varies depending on whether or not a soldier serves on active duty or in the reserves.    

Many students who consider ROTC are drawn to the program by the numerous benefits it offers. To begin with, those who participate are offered financial assistance with their college educations. They can receive scholarships to help cover tuition as well as monthly stipends which can be put towards miscellaneous school and living expenses (note: if you do not fulfill your commitment/contract to the armed forces, you will be required to pay this money back).    

Additionally, through their myriad of classes and commitments, ROTC students receive invaluable leadership training. They learn how to manage and motivate people and how to take control in stressful situations. Moreover, they can also participate in career training and even have a guaranteed job upon graduation. And, of course, they’ll emerge in top-notch physical condition.

There are ROTC options affiliated with four of the five branches of the military. You can apply for ROTC scholarships with the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force. While the Coast Guard does not offer this program, it does provide a similar alternative known as the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI).   

Though it varies slightly between branches, to qualify for ROTC, you’ll need to be a U.S. Citizen who is at least 17 years of age (note: there are also age maximums). You will be required to meet certain GPA and standardized test minimums (the Air Force has the highest, followed by the Navy and Marines and then the Army). Further, you’ll need to have earned a high school diploma (or equivalent) before the September of the year in which you enter college. It is also imperative that you not have any moral or personal convictions that will prevent you from bearing arms and defending the Constitution. And you will need to meet certain standards of physical fitness.  

ROTC certainly isn’t for everyone. And it’s definitely not a program you can jump into lightly, with little consideration. It requires commitment, dedication, strength and maturity. We should probably reiterate the part about commitment. After all, your years immediately following college will be given over to the military. And while that’s certainly not a bad thing, it’s something you definitely need to consider. However, if you’ve taken the time to reflect and feel you’d be well suited, ROTC is a fantastic option. Indeed, it’s hard to beat the financial, personal and career growth incentives it provides. And let’s be honest, doesn’t this sound a little snazzier than stacking books in the college library?



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Don Munce