3 Myths About Army ROTC Scholarships


One of the biggest misunderstandings among families is that they assume if a student enrolls in ROTC, he or she will automatically receive a full scholarship.

That’s not the case. We do have scholarships that we offer out and those cover tuition and fees and some other things, but that is not a guarantee. It’s a competitive process just like receiving any other scholarship.

Army ROTC – in addition to Navy and Air Force ROTC – is one of the nation’s biggest scholarship grantors. Army ROTC alone provides $274 million in scholarship money to more than 13,000 students each year, according to the U.S. Army Cadet Command.

Army ROTC, which provides leadership and military training at colleges and universities across the country, has been around for more than100 years. Yet students and families often misunderstand how the program and scholarships work. Here are three common misconceptions and clarifications about the ROTC program and awards.

Myth 1: College is automatically paid for

Some students complete ROTC programs – earning a commission as second lieutenant – without ever earning a scholarship.

Army ROTC scholarships are awarded in two different ways: Students can compete nationally for a scholarship during their senior year of high school or they can join ROTC once they get to college and compete for a scholarship at the campus level.

At the national level, about 12,000 high school seniors compete for about 2,000 Army ROTC scholarships. About half of those are three-year scholarships, and the other half are four-year scholarships. The application process is already open for those who just completed their junior year of high school.

The majority of high school scholarship recipients are in the top 25 percent of their class, belong to an honor society and participate in organizations or sports. ROTC is looking for Scholar, Athlete, and Leaders.  Students should be working on building a resume early in their high school career.

Excel in school. Prepare yourself for the SAT or ACT. Ask to belong to the National Honor Society. When you look at a kid out there being active, they’re naturally a great candidate for the Army ROTC and the possibility of a full-tuition scholarship.

If a student misses out on the national scholarship contest, there’s still opportunity to join ROTC and compete for a scholarship once he or she is enrolled in college.

This is the case for a number of our Cadets here at Bloomsburg University.  Some don’t know anything about ROTC in high school or weren’t sure about joining a program until right before they started college.

Some join because they wanted to serve as an Army officer, adding that the scholarship did not play a big role in his decision. If awarded a scholarship Cadets are allowed to choose between applying the scholarship toward full tuition and fees – no matter the institution – or room and board, up to $5,000 per semester.

Myth 2: Joining ROTC means you’re enlisting

Students can do a two-year trial period with Army ROTC before making any commitments to the Army.

However, when a student accepts a scholarship, he or she signs a contract with ROTC promising to hit certain academic benchmarks and to serve in the armed forces after graduation. This is called “contracting”.

The scholarship does bind them to service. Not every student walks into that classroom ready to make that commitment.

The service obligation is generally eight years and can be on active duty, National Guard, Army Reserve, IRR or a combination.

If a student doesn’t meet the program’s requirements, gets kicked out of school or doesn’t commission into the Army, he or she will likely have to pay the scholarship back. The exception is if a medical condition prevents someone from joining.

Myth 3: You could be called up

An ROTC Cadet is considered non-deployable in the event that the U.S. goes to war. That’s the case even if the Cadet is part of a National Guard unit that deploys.

If a student is in ROTC, he is just a student. Once they are commissioned, then they belong to Army, and yes, then he can be mobilized.