Military stories from past to present, both wars.

NROTC Marine Option Scholarships

January 18th, 2011 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

NROTC Marine Option Scholarships.

Next month, we are holding another board for the Marine Option Scholarships awards.  This is where we offer between $150K to 250 thousand dollar scholarships to H.S. Seniors across the country.  This is both a Leadership and Academic award that takes in account what a young man or woman has accomplished over their four years in High School. 

I am going to give you some insight on how you should prep yourself if you are reading this post and if you follow some simple guidelines, will find your package very competitive in four years.  If you are a H.S. senior reading this, it’s too late. Move on, you have already either made the right choices or sat on your butt the last four years.  You might as well pass this info on to a freshmen and hope he/she listens.

First of all, you have to WANT to become a Marine Officer.  This isn’t something that the faint of heart, lazy or weak should even think about.  Just to be clear.  The Officers sitting on that board reviewing your packages are looking at a couple of things really hard and I will break that down for you here in this post.

Why does this person want to be a Marine Officer?  You might have family who served or been exposed to the Military and this influenced you to pursue this line of work.  You have to think hard about why you have this desire to be a Marine and it will also pay off as you write your essay for the package.  That desire to serve shows in the essay along with what you did all through High School. 

We are looking for leadership…PERIOD.  Well brains too, but Leadership.  I want to see the kid who has participated in Sports all four years and served as Team Captain/Co-Captain.  Student Government, SGA, Class President etc, these don’t take a lot of time and look good ie you were elected by your peers.  Boy Scouts, Explorers, Girl Scouts.  Eagle Scout, weighs a lot with us.  Eagle Scouts, we find are very driven, focused guys.  Young Marines, Civil Air Patrol, Jr ROTC billet positions, the same.  Church youth groups, part time jobs during the school year, maybe full time in the summer with stuff like “Yep, Johnny is the youngest night manager I have ever promoted” from you bosses recommendation.  You need to find that balance or what is good for you, not over extending your life but getting a good mix all four years.

Academics.   Yes, we need some brains out of you!!  You need to be in the top 10% of your class, score over 1100 on the SAT and have over a 3.0 GPA.  To be competitive, you need a 3.5 or higher.  We gave some scholarships to a few folks with a lower GPA but they were off the charts with all the other stuff they were doing and able to maintain a 3.0 while Captain of the Cross Country and Wrestling team  on top of flipping burgers, SgtMaj of the Jr. ROTC and cutting grass!  This is most impressive.  We would rather have a solid GPA knowing that this person can balance out the pressure of College academics along with balancing all the other extracurricular activities there are in school.  

Essay: Now when you apply, you have to fill out an essay on why you want to be a Marine Corps Officer.  We want to know that you were hit in the head at an early age by the Corps and thus you researched on what you needed to do to achieve this.  “It was because of X,Y,Z, that I looked forward in my life to set the ultimate goal of being a Marine Officer, so I dug in and prepared myself physically and mentally to get there…”  You get my drift.  We know everyone would love to have a free ride to college, but are you the type guy/gal that I want as a Lt if my boy joins the Corps and you are his Officer? Personal statements are huge. Spelling errors, grammar (don’t ding me I wasn’t a scholarship guy) and content.

The PFT: This Physical Fitness test counts a lot, the higher the better but the board knows they have four years to improve that score.  Johnny, the semi star athlete will do fine, Bobby the computer nerd won’t.   You have to run three miles, do pull ups and crunches.  Also the kid who works out at the recruiters office with the Pool (shows lots of interest in the Corps) scores big points with us and it also gets him ready for the test, hint hint.
– SAT/ACT :  I’ve seen the Officer’s on the board weigh a lot on the test scores as an indicator on how the student can handle the load. I myself don’t, because I couldn’t take the SAT to save my life and scored a giant 850 both times…combined.  I took them during wrestling season when I had dropped from 158 to 138lbs so I could hold the varsity slot. My brain cells were shot. So, if the kid has crappy test scores ie 1050 SAT’s or 23 ACT (1000/21 min) but taking AP or Honors courses with a plate full of activities then they were voted in.  Some guys say, “I’d rather have a kid that can multi-task and work hard then a brain who I have to baby-sit”

Minus points: Police involvement (tickets, MIP) Drug experimentation, Alcohol events. Please tell them not to get a tattoo, that requires a MCRC/WRR waiver and that equals a giant pain in the rear.  It takes time to get and may result in the package being pulled due to the lack of a waiver.  We had five of these and all good kids that would have received a yes vote but never made it to the board due to lack of a waiver.

Review and closing thoughts.  We are looking at the “Whole Man” concept as future leaders of the Corps. There was a kid, Dad was Air Force academy and had prepped his kid like I’m doing for you. He was in a ton of clubs all four years, class leader-SGA, ran CC to get into shape for Wrestling all four years, worked part time during school year (big bonus points for the members more 20 hrs a week) full time summer job, church, volunteered community service, formed his own lawn care company and would cut the old folks grass from his church for free, 1250 SAT’s, 3.5 GPA, 270 PFT, Top 10% standing in class, Eagle scout, NRA rifle champion etc.

We gave him the scholarship in the first hour of voting, he was in the top five. Then you had the kids applying with a 3.5 to 4.0 GPA, 1300+ SAT’s, no extracurricular activities/leadership positions, weak PFT (below 200) top 1% etc and we turned them down and gave it to the 3.2 GPA/ 1050 SAT/ all American kid who had a package like the one above. Bottom line, if you want your kid to get a free ride for school and I’m sure most of us on here would like that, get them involved early. If they are weak standardized test guys (Like me), make sure their GPA is high, lots of Extracurricular activities, and concentrate on leadership positions through the Sports program, Boy Scouts/CAP/JROTC (billet holders, we know ROTC is a real pain time wise) and work (I was Employee of the month 3x’s/handled the money/youngest manager etc) CPR Cert/swimmer rescue etc.

I forgot to add something about the schools just in case your kid is putting an app in. They give them space to add their five choices that have NROTC. Once the boards are complete, each district will submit the names and rankings (1-83) to Pensacola. They will look down the list and go “We have 35 slots for Texas A&M, so all #1 guys that have A&M listed will get A and M” and assign them their first choice until they run out of A&M slots, then UT etc, etc, etc. The rub comes in where a kid has some really hard schools (dream shots) in there on all five. Say he gets his fifth choice as assigned by MCRC and told to he’s going to UT but he didn’t get into Univ Tex, only A&M, then he loses his scholarship. Pensacola will assign the slots, based off your ranking overall, then the number of slots available. If he is around the bottom 30% then he is pretty much directed where he’ll go. So make sure that he/she can get into all the schools they put on the dream sheet or it’s a no go, i.e. was awarded a scholarship for UVA but didn’t get in and he shows up at VA Tech where there is a NROTC thinking he can walk on there. Not going to happen.

I hope this helps and if you have any questions, feel free to email me at TheSandgram at

Semper Fi,Taco

Here is some great advice from a buddy of mine whose son was just awarded a free ride.

The short answer to your ROTC question about how much money they pay and where he can go…….. they don’t care which school or which state your son wants to go to. I haven’t seen any limits on cost. My son got awarded a scholarship from the USMC. They associate the scholarship with a school – he had UVA listed first on his list of 5 schools. He was awarded the scholarship to UVA. Our problem right now is that he didn’t get into UVA. We’ve put in for a school change, but the Marine Corps has to buy off on it…….. we’ll see what happens.

Learned a lot about placements today. The district boards choose which candidates get the scholarships, then Placements (P’cola) decides which school each student will get. This is based on board ranking and school availability. Those students who are picked on the early boards stand a much greater chance of getting their first or second choices. Those who are chosen on the regular boards have less of a chance at their first or second choices due to 1) billet availability – some have been taken by the first board selectees; and 2) in-state and out-of-state ratios. The in/out of state requirement is new this year. I’m sure this new requirement was enacted due to fiscal restraints. Example: 10 kids are selected for the scholarship. They all want to go to XXX University. All but one are from out-of-state and the one in-stater is last on the list. There is an 80% in-state requirement for XXX. #1 and #2 both get XXX. #10 also gets XXX because he is from in-state. #3-9 move on to their second, third, fourth, or fifth choices. Now all of the selectees are offered the scholarship at their “placed” school. The school applications go out and each student is either accepted or declined admission at each school. If accepted, no worries. If not accepted at their “placed” school, but accepted at another school(s) on their list, the decision process goes back to placement. Now everything must be re-evaluated – billets that have come open due to declined admissions, in/out-of-state ratios, scholarship board rankings, etc. How all of this falls out is anyone’s guess.

My take aways:
1) Visit all prospective campuses early – make sure you know your order of personal ranking before filling out the scholarship.
2) Apply early (to both the ROTC scholarship board and each university on the list).
3) Try to be realistic in your expectations of getting into the schools. If you choose 4 ivy league schools and one in-state safety school and you’re not competitive at the ivies, you may be able to get the scholarship at your safety school if all of the billets haven’t filled up yet. If they have, you will be out of luck and out of the scholarship.
4) You will greatly increase your chances of keeping your scholarship if you are realistic in your choices and choose at least one in-state school. Having 5 acceptance letters allows placement the greatest flexibility in assigning a school and keeping the scholarship.
5) Keep an email record of all of your communications with your local board coordinator.

Take-aways 1-4 are self-explanatory. #5 is what made a big difference in my case. Chis’s list of schools: UVA, Vandy, Tulane, Embry-Riddle, and USF (South Florida) – All of which were realistic. We visited most of the schools early. The only ones we missed were Tulane and USF. Chris applied to UVA, Tulane, and USF early (the others don’t take early apps). He was accepted to Tulane and USF. As soon as Tulane accepted him, he and Mom went over for a campus tour. This was just after the board met. He fell in love with Tulane and found it to be a great fit. Chris emailed his local coordinator requesting to change the order of his list. His coordinator dismissed his request as the board had already met (but placement hadn’t occurred). His coordinator is a 1st Lt who just took over the job, so he may not have been up to speed on all of the processes, but instead of asking the questions, he just said no and left it at that. A week or two later, placements made their decisions and posted them on the web. Chris emailed placements and they put him on a waiting list for Tulane. The whole process didn’t sit quite right with me, so I did a little digging with the help of Taco and the MOI at Tulane. They provided me with some names and numbers at MCRC and P’cola. After getting a little run around, I finally got hold of the right folks. I explained to them what had happened and was told that if I could prove that Cody tried to change schools before placement had occurred, they would consider his transfer now instead of having to wait until after next board and all of the processes explained above. Good thing I had Cody print out his emails to his coordinator! A scan, email, and two hours later, Cody was reassigned to Tulane. Talk about a load of stress taken off………. whew!

I know this is a lot of info to digest, but it’s all something I wish I was aware of before the process started. I also know that it’s not all-inclusive, so if you have any questions, please feel free to post or PM. I’ll do my best to answer your questions and if I don’t have the answer, I may have a name and/or number that I can share with you. Best of luck!

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