Applying for ROTC Scholarships
For incoming college freshmen who want to join ROTC right away, the scholarship application process occurs during the senior year of high school. As with other college application tasks, if you’re interested in applying for an ROTC scholarship, it pays to get started early. You’ll need to choose which military branch to apply to, and make sure ROTC meshes with your other plans for college.
Even if you are offered an ROTC scholarship and choose to accept that offer, keeping your scholarship through all four years of college is not a given. Each branch of the Armed Forces has slightly different standards that you’ll have to meet in order to remain enrolled in ROTC and continue receiving scholarship funds.
As with many other scholarships, if you receive an ROTC scholarship, you’ll be required to maintain a certain level of academic performance, and to continue making appropriate progress toward your bachelor’s degree. In most cases, ROTC programs require that you finish your degree within four years.
Where ROTC scholarships differ from other scholarships is that you’ll also have to meet requirements that are specific to your suitability for military service. In order to continue receiving your scholarship, you’ll have to adhere to military standards of physical fitness and maintain a certain level of performance in your ROTC training.
Students who join ROTC are also expected to follow certain rules regarding their behavior, even when they’re not actively engaged in training. Dishonesty, cheating, failing a drug test, or otherwise getting into trouble can lead to disciplinary action and jeopardize your ROTC scholarship. (You’ll also need to be careful about what pictures of you end up on social media.)
If you don’t continue to meet these standards, you risk receiving disciplinary action, being placed on probation, or even being “disenrolled,” or removed from the ROTC program. As we’ll discuss in the next section, whether you leave ROTC by choice or are disenrolled, the consequences of ending your participation in ROTC are quite significant.
Making a Commitment to ROTC
As we’ve mentioned, participating in ROTC requires that you sign a contract agreeing to serve in the U.S. military in a particular role, for a particular period of time. Depending on your service branch and other factors, this commitment may last up to twelve years and may include a varying amount of active-duty service.
Since contracts are signed when you enter ROTC or accept an ROTC scholarship, rather than after you’ve received your training, it’s important that you plan carefully when deciding whether to sign an ROTC contract. That contract will determine your lifestyle and career options for the foreseeable future.
Signing an ROTC contract represents an extremely serious — and legally binding — commitment to serving in the armed forces, and it’s quite difficult to get out of this commitment. In certain cases — for example, if you encounter an unexpected physical health issue — you may be able to drop out of ROTC without significant repercussions, but this is not guaranteed.
If you fail to meet the program’s requirements and are disenrolled, or if you leave the program by choice, you can expect to face major consequences. Leaving ROTC, willingly or not, is a complicated legal process which can involve a formal investigation and a hearing in front of officials from your military branch. You may even need to hire a lawyer to help you prepare your case.
Typically, through this process, you’ll be asked to pay back any scholarship funds you’ve received, which can add up to a substantial amount of money. You might also be asked to repay your debt in military service, but without the officer status conferred upon those who successfully complete the ROTC program. Some students are given a choice; others have that choice made for them.
Clearly, joining ROTC is definitely something that you should not do just for financial assistance with college, especially with the intention of dropping out of the program later. Getting out of ROTC is not easy, and on the other hand, going ahead with military service when you aren’t really committed to being there does a disservice to your fellow military members.
So should you join ROTC? That’s a question you’ll have to ponder deeply before you sign any contracts. Military life is obviously not for everyone, and its demands are high. However, some people certainly find that they flourish in the structured military environment and take great pride in serving their country in this way.
If you’re considering joining ROTC, gather information and seek out advice wherever you can in order to make an informed decision. Talk to your parents about whether they think you would succeed in a military setting. Talk to current members of the military and to veterans about their experiences. In the end, however, it’s you who has to decide if enrolling in ROTC is the best path for you.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t join ROTC or accept an ROTC scholarship unless you are sure you want to pursue a military career, with or without that scholarship. If you’re informed about and prepared for the commitment, however, enrolling in ROTC and seeking out ROTC scholarships can significantly help with your college costs while also giving you a head start in your chosen career.
Here are some resources for learning more:
Naval Historical Foundation (NHF), founded in 1926, is a non-profit organization dedicated to naval history preservation, commemoration and education. Through a memorandum of understanding with the United States Navy, NHF provides numerous support functions for official Navy history and heritage programs. Co-located with the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard, NHF has long cooperated and assisted the Navy in the encouragement and recognition of naval history scholarship.
Annually, NHF offers the Captain Kenneth Coskey Prize at National History Day to high and middle school students whose projects best depict a naval historical event or biographical treatment. Likewise, the Captain Edward Beach Prize is awarded to the Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, selected by the History Department faculty, who wrote the best thesis on a naval history topic. This award is presented at an annual end-of-Spring semester award ceremony as one of many recognition presentations made by numerous support organizations to worthy midshipmen chosen through internal USNA faculty selection processes.
While NHF has long facilitated an opportunity for the U.S. Naval Academy to bestow an honor for one of our future naval officers, it has not done so for NROTC units, which collectively constitute the largest commissioning source for naval officers. The Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn Prizes are intended to rectify that situation through facilitating an opportunity for Professors of Naval Science (PNS) to assert command perogative to recognize and reward midshipmen who show future promise as naval officers and encourage all midshipmen to value their history and heritage as part of their ethos.
It is fitting that the prizes are named for Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, USN, who retired in 2012 following fourteen years of service as President of NHF. With former duties that included the Chief of Naval Reserve and the DCNO for Naval Aviation, VADM Dunn has a reputation in the Navy’s intellectual community as a thoughtful writer in publications such as the Naval Institute Proceedings. In 2017 he published Gear Up, Mishaps Down: The Evolution of Naval Aviation Safety, 1950-2000 with the Naval Institute Press.
The Foundation recognizes that NROTC Midshipmen are encouraged to think and write about naval, maritime, Marine Corps and military history as part of their academic work in the Sea Power and Maritime Affairs course that is typically offered in the Spring semester for underclass midshipmen.
Eligibility: Recognition opportunities will be made available to NROTC Midshipmen enrolled as students in good standing at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Awards: Professors of Naval Sciencewill have the option of recognizing outstanding midshipman scholarship through the presentation of Cash Prizes and/or Achievement Certificates.
Selection for Achievement Certificates: Instructors of Sea Power and Maritime Affairs courses may participate in the Dunn Prize recognition program by nominating midshipmen for recognition through the PNS who demonstrated the most mastery of the subject matter. Instructors may consider test scores, class participation, and writing abilities in deciding on a nominee. This process should not create any additional burdens on NROTC faculty, given the need to evaluate coursework as part of instructor duties.
If an NROTC unit or consortium hosts multiple Sea Power and Maritime Affairs courses, the PNS can forward multiple nominees to NHF to receive NHF Dunn Prize Achievement Certificates that ideally would be awarded during the following Fall semester. In addition to receiving a prize certificate, selected midshipmen will be offered a one-year free student membership (value $20) with NHF and will be encouraged to participate in such NHF academic activities such as the Naval History Book Review program.
Submission Requirements: There are no deadline requirements for Achievement Certificates. The NROTC Unit needs only to submit the name of the Midshipman and the institution he or she is attending to NHF Director of Programs, Dr. David F. Winkler, email@example.com. The names of the Midshipmen and institution will be printed on a certificate template and a congratulatory memorandum and sent back to the unit as an e-mail attachment for printing out and presentation at a time as deemed appropriate by the PNS.
Selection for Cash Prizes: Instructors of Sea Power and Maritime Affairs courses, recognizing that NROTC midshipmen still incur financial costs in attending college, may take the further step of forwarding an outstanding term or essay paper that may have been prepared by one his or her Prize certificate nominees as part of the course curriculum for additional consideration to receive a cash prize. NHF has budgeted $5,000 for the cash prize program with the intent of awarding.
First-place papers submitted from each of the six NROTC university regions will receive a $500 prize. Second-place papers will receive $250. In addition, once selected, these six papers would be re-judged for consideration of an additional $1,000 grand prize.
Term/Essay Paper Considerations: Text length, which does not include any preliminaries, title page, end notes or footnotes, should be a minimum of 500 and maximum of 5,000 words. In other words, the paper must be long enough to complete a thorough argument, but short enough to rivet the attention of a broad audience.
Submission. Term Paper entries will be submitted through the appropriate PNS or Commanding Officer of the respective NROTC Units. The PNS for each participating NROTC Unit may forward one paper for each university or consortium university in his/her unit. For purposes of this competition, students enrolled at crosstown schools shall be considered as attached to either the primary or consortium university. Obviously, if there are more than one Sea Power and Maritime Affairs courses occurring at an NROTC unit or consortium, a vetting process with class instructors may need to occur.
Submission Format. A paper submission will consist of a Contact Page, Title Page, and the text proper.
- The Contact Page should include the title of the paper, author, current college or university, Class instructor name and contact information for that instructor as well as PNS contact information. During judging, the Contact Page is removed and a code will be assigned to make papers completely anonymous.
- The Title page should contain the paper title only – no name, rank, or college affiliation.
- The term/essay paper proper begins after the POC information page. Title page, table of contents (if any), tables, illustrations, endnotes/footnotes, appendices and bibliographies will not be included in the recommended word count.
- Endnotes are preferred but footnotes are acceptable. Explanatory endnotes/footnotes are discouraged. Main points should be made in the text of the paper.
- The text should follow the format of a scholarly research paper (not a bullet paper, talking paper, PowerPoint briefing, etc. If possible, use the Chicago Manual of Style or Turabian, A Manual for Writers, for overall style and format.
- Papers must be submitted in electronic MS Word format. Files should not contain desktop-publishing embellishments. Please limit formatting to italics, bold, underline, bullets, or numbered lists.
Judging Criteria. Judges will evaluate essays using the standards of quality that they apply to traditional academic writing, with emphasis on the following:
- Innovation – Does the essay demonstrate innovative thinking or understanding? Does the essay take new lessons from history?
- Clarity of Thought and Purpose – Does the essay clearly define an historical issue or problem? Does it show thoughtful analysis?
- Persuasiveness – Is the essay logically organized, well written, and intellectually persuasive?
Submission of Entries/Deadline. Each PNS submits electronic copies of nominated essays to directly to the Naval Historical Foundation, Attention Dunn Prize Coordinator, e-mail care of: DWinkler@navyhistory.org. Deadline for annual submissions is 30 June.
Coordinators and Judges. The President of the NHF will appoint independent judging panels drawn from distinguished Naval Historians, Academicians, and members of the NHF. Judges will select winning and runner up winning papers, first at a regional level and then amongst the regional winners for a national prize.
Notification of Winners:The NHF will complete the selection process by 30 August and notify NROTC PNSs after Labor Day. NROTC PNSs will alert NHF of any midshipmen disenrollments that may have occurred immediately thereafter so that runner-up candidates may receive an award. NHF will then prepare Dunn Prize certificates and checks made out to the winning midshipmen for mailing and presentation as determined by PNS. For papers that were not awarded a cash prize, Certificates of Achievement recognizing the midshipman’s scholastic accomplishment will be prepared and e-mailed back to the submitting NROTC unit PNS for presentation as appropriate.