Reader mail – Where’s the white space

Nothing like being tossed a softball for a lazy blogger.

Got an email today from someone who has been visiting the blog.  Here’s what it said:

I wanted to clarify something because I think the application has changed since your post in 2012. “use all the white space”
Did it in fact change, or am I missing it on the application. I’m only seeing a personal statement. Is there any place to explain achievements like on the college common app?
In fact the application does change from year to year and unfortunately I don’t always go back and update my old blog posts. If you are reading some of my posts pay attention to when they were written. That being said, things don’t change that much, and most of the old advice is still valid.
So, here is what I wrote back.
Questions like these are why I apply for the scholarship every year….If you click on the Selection Status tab in the online application website and scroll all the way down you will see the “white space”.  It’s now called “Additional Remarks”, but it’s essentially the old “Additional SAL Achievements” field.

In the system we use to see an application (CCIMM) that “Additional Remarks” field is displayed as “Additional SAL Achievements”.  I’m seeing plenty of applicants who have found this box and have followed my advice.
I certainly appreciate the question and it gave me a reason to go back into the application and poke around a little bit.  I knew the “white space” was in there, just had to figure out where.  What I have found is that a lot of applicants don’t go all the way through the application and click on all the tabs and links.  There is a ton of information on the application website.  Based on many of the questions I see out there some folks aren’t looking at all of it, and it is not always easy to find. A perfect example is the “Additional Remarks” hidden all the way at the bottom of the last tab.

The Offer Letter…what’s it say, and what’s it mean

So, you have an offer, and you’re dying to know exactly what it entails.  I’m here to help you out. Here is a link to a copy of an offer letter from the first round 2015-16.

Offer letter

Here’s what it means:

The first thing to note is the word “conditional” in the first paragraph. Understand that this offer is still not locked in. You may see your selection status says pending medical qualification and administratively qualified.  What that means is that you still need to pass your DODMERB physical (become medically qualified) and that all other administrative requirements, like being enrolled full time, passing your APFT, and obtaining any waivers are complete before you will receive your benefits.

You may have completed a DODMERB for another branch or service academy. 9 times out of 10 that DODMERB will be reviewed by Army and will will also be good to go for this offer.  It still has to be reviewed, so make sure you let someone know. In my case I like to know that you had a DODMERB done already so that I can prompt DODMERB to expedite the review. If you haven’t started the DODMERB you want to get that started as soon as possible.  No need to panic, but sooner is better.

The scholarship tuition line says “FULL TUITION”.  This was not always the case.  Eleven years ago there was a cap on the tuition benefits. Some other branches (Air Force) have caps or limits on the benefit. With Army ROTC scholarships we pay full tuition and fees. You also have the option of using your scholarship to pay for Room and Board if you would prefer. We don’t pay for both. You may have received an offer to a school that provides Room and Board for Army ROTC scholarship winners, but we are only going to pay for one of those things and the other is between you and the school.

You will see a list of schools and whether you are offered a 4 or 3 year scholarship.  There may be more than one school. The instructions tell you that you need to select one school.  You need to make sure you select one school. That does not mean you can’t ask to change in the future, but for now you need to take your best guess and lock up that scholarship. Along with this letter you will also receive a set of instructions that will outline what you have to do if you want to request a change.  You can’t request a change if you haven’t accepted one of the offers.

The final thing I want to highlight is on page two.  The instructions say you need to accept one offer, sign the letter, and return the form.  You have three options for returning the form.  I can’t say it enough…Scan and email the form!!! I don’t know why anyone relies on the postal service or an old technology like a FAX to communicate important information any more.  The quickest, surest way to let Cadet Command know what you’ve decided is to email them. I would also suggest that you contact your school of choice and let them know what you’ve decided.

 

 

SAT or ACT scores

As the first board finishes it’s work this year I wanted to publish some thoughts on Test Scores, which are a critical part of the application.

What tests and scores are looked at?

if you submit SAT scores Cadet Command will look at your Math and Critical Reading scores. Your writing score will be posted, but it won’t factor into the points generated directly from the score (more on that later). If you take the SAT multiple times Cadet Command will use the highest score you get on each part for your total.   If you take the ACT your composite score is converted into an equivalent SAT score, which then generates points. So an ACT score of 19 correlates to a 920 SAT score and a 29 ACT score correlates to a 1300 SAT score.  You can find the full conversion table in Cadet Command Pamphlet 145-1 if you are really curious

Where do I get points for my application?

The first thing to understand is that your file is given a score by the scholarship process and this score is used to rank order all the applicants. That Order of Merit list is used to make scholarship offers. You SAT or ACT score effects your score in a couple different places. You get a score specifically for your SAT/ACT scores. You will also receive a score for your PMS interview. At least 20 points on that interview can be directly impacted by your test scores. Your test scores will also factor into you SAL score. Finally the board that looks at your file will consider your test scores when they score your file.  Test scores and PFT scores are probably the most quantifiable and least subjective parts of your application and are seen and considered more than any other piece of data.

How should I submit my scores?

You have a couple options. In my experience the least reliable way is to designate Army ROTC to receive your scores when you take them, or request the testing agency to submit send your scores to Cadet Command.  Sometimes they get sent, received, processed, and posted by the testing agency and Cadet Command and sometimes they don’t. In my mind the less hands anything you are trying to submit go though the better.  You can fax the test scores in. Once again, relying on a fax machine, and a person to post that to your application is risky. You can scan and email.  That’s getting better, you are probably only relying on the person that opens that email to post it. My recommendation is you upload your scores to your application right on the application website. You can scan or take a screen shot of your test scores and upload the file. Once you upload the file you will be able to see that it is there, and you won’t have to wonder where your scores are at.

And one last bit of wisdom

SAT and ACT scores are important.  I recommend you prep for them and do your best. The Army offers a free resource at March2success.com that you can use to prepare for the tests. You also need to make sure you are tracking when the tests are given and how that correlates with the deadlines for the scholarship process.  Typically if you wait until your senior year to take your SAT for the first time you won’t have your scores back in time to be seen by the first board.  If you don’t do well and need to retake the test then you may miss the second board too. I recommend taking SAT during your junior year to give yourself time to fix problems if you don’t do well the first time.

CULP trip 2015 – Georgia – Cadet O’Kosky

I’m starting to get my CULPers from this last Summer to get me their trip reports.  As usual we had GKBers traveling the globe doing great work and experiencing new cultures.  Here’s Cadet O’Kosky’s report from the Republic of Georgia and the Sachkhere Mountain School.

I was chosen to attend CULP in order to participate in a military to military mission in the Republic of Georgia. I had the opportunity to work side by side with Georgian soldiers and attend the Sachkhere Mountain School. There I was enrolled in the 19 day Basic Mountain Warfare course, along with 22 other cadets from different battalions from all over the country. Our mission was to interact with the soldiers, immerse ourselves the Georgian Army culture, and successfully complete the course.

descending

Cadet Guilyan O’Kosky and Cadet Alex Mikle prepare to descend a 70m rock face.

The course itself was very demanding both physically and mentally. Our days were filled with long hikes, rock climbing, and rucking through the Georgian countryside. Throughout the course we attended classes, briefings and demonstrations to help us learn as much as we could about the Georgian mountain operations and area we were operating in. During the course we were given small research projects about the Republic of Georgia’s history, the different cities we would visit each Saturday and current relations with its surrounding countries. Each Sunday, a group from each team would brief our class on their research and we would discuss how their relations effect their countries development and culture. Every Friday a group would brief on the city we would travel to the next day. They would cover the itinerary, and a brief history on how the city was developed. Monday through Friday we worked all day out in the sun applying the things we learned during instruction. We climbed natural rock faces, artificial walls, and rappelled at several different heights and faces.   In order to graduate from the course, I had to complete 5 tests during the last week of training. We were tested on knot tying, rock climbing, rappelling, a fixed rope climb, and an obstacle path. We also had complete a 32 mile hike into the Racha Mountains. This long excursion took us a day to reach our base camp 2000m above sea level, which was about 16 miles from our drop off point. The next morning we set out to accend another 250m altitude to the summit of the mountain range, before we packed up camp to head back down the mountain. The Major, who was the head instructor, told us that the hike was used to test soldiers on adapting to the different terrain and altitudes to determine who is qualified to move on to the intermediate course.   All 23 cadets successfully graduated from the basic mountain warfare course, and earned their Georgian mountain badge. I graduated second in my class and was the only female in the top 10.

Buddy Carry

The US cadets had an opportunity to learn rescue carries and techniques This type of buddy carry is used to evacuate injured personal while descending the mountain.

During this mission I learned a lot about how important it is to know how to work with different types of people, and how no matter how much you know there is always room to learn more. Yes, I have rappelled and climbed before, but I have never had an instructor who didn’t really speak English. Not everyone has had the same experience I had, so I was the motivator and tried to be as helpful as I could be to my buddies when they got frustrated. I learned so much about climbing techniques and different mountain movements while we were at the school. My overall experience was incredible. The people I met on the trip are some of the best individuals I have ever worked with so far. I learned that the best way to deal with a language barrier besides using an interpreter, is to point to objects. A lot of the time when we were climbing and the instructors were trying to help us, they would find these big sticks and point to a new hand hold or point to the best lane of travel. I learned that it is so important to listen to others ideas and advice even if you are in a leadership position. The Cadre that were with us, participated in the course as well, and even though they have done some of the stuff we were doing throughout their careers they looked to us for little tips about things like climbing because we could see things from different points of view. I think that goes hand in hand with any type of leadership situation, we all see things from a different point of view, and even though I may be the one in charge doesn’t mean my way is the best way. I learned that sometimes in order to find the best way to do something, you have to look to others for guidance or to bounce ideas off of.

Good report from Cadet O’Kosky.  I’m a little jealous.  Having the opportunity to attend a school like that as a Cadet is a once in a lifetime experience and I’m glad she had the opportunity and was able to share it with us..

Board dates 2015-2016 scholarship boards

Here they are, the dates for this fall/winter’s board dates. If you are applying for a four year high school Army ROTC scholarship that will start in the fall of 2016, that would be a high school senior in the fall of 2015, these are the dates you should pay attention to.  I post these every year, and the biggest change I see this year is the second board is pushed back a month.

4-year High School Application Opens for SY 16-17 12-Jun-15
1st High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 2-Oct-15
1st High School Board-Ready List PMS Deadline 16-Oct-15
1st High School Selection Board 19-Oct-15
2nd High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 5-Jan-16
2nd High School Board-Ready List PMS Deadline 22-Jan-16
2nd High School Selection Board 25-Jan-16
4-Year High School Application Deadline for SY 15-16 10-Jan-16
Final (3rd) HS Selection Board Deadline for Docs — Missing Items 29-Feb-16
3rd High School Board-Ready List PMS Deadline 4-Mar-16
Final (3rd) High School Selection Board  7-Mar-16

So, what does all this mean.  You should complete your application before the board that makes you the most competitive.  I would recommend you try to get in on one of the first two boards.  Waiting till the deadline and being seen by just one board is never the best course of action.  If you have a strong file you should be shooting to have your file complete by 2 October and reviewed by the first board.

Look at SAT/ACT dates. If you don’t do so well the first time you take those tests your second shot is usually some time shortly after the October board, so you should be shooting for the second board and submitting improved scores if your file isn’t strong. Here’s where you can get some help with those tests, use it.

If you wait until the second or third board your chances are diminished because there will obviously be less allocations available after each board.

As you go through the process make sure you read about all the components (this blog is a good source of information, if I do say so myself) and stay in touch with at least one of the recruiting officers at one of the schools on your list. Notice I said recruiting Officer, and not recruiter…there is a difference.

 

5 Tips to Survive BOLC

 

 

It’s the time of year when we commission our new Lieutenants and they take the next step in their Army journey.  2LT Andrew Nelden was one of our graduates last year.  When he returned over the new year for as stint as a home town recruiter before reporting to his first duty station I asked him to give me some lessons learned from his Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC).  Here are his thoughts.
Cadet NeldenI recently graduated Ordnance BOLC in Fort Lee, Virginia and wanted to pass along a few tips to MSIVs and other new LTs headed there.  BOLC is an excellent learning experience and prepares you to head to your first duty station.  You have the chance to meet other LTs from around the country and have the opportunity to learn from them as well.  A Captain will be assigned as your TAC officer and assist you in learning your branch so you have the most current information the school house has to offer.  To maximize your experience there, here are a few tips to get you through there.

1) Take detailed notes on the topics you cover in the order you cover them.  Every BOLC is broken down into phases where you will learn different pieces of your branch.  By taking detailed notes throughout the course you will set yourself up for success and give you references to look back on.

2) Network. Network. Network.  The other LTs you will have the opportunity to work with will supply you with knowledge at the course and throughout your career.  Make good friends and contacts there because you will see them again!

GKB class of 20143) Ensure your uniforms are correct and to standard.  As an Officer you set the standard for the uniform and it helps show your TAC that you are a professional and ready to lead your platoon.

4) Ask questions!  This is the best time to ask questions from the experts in your field.  If you have any question, you need to ask it.  You go to your unit after this!

5) Have thick skin.  When you get to BOLC, you need to be able to take constructive criticism well and learn from your mistakes.  The delivery may be a bit harsh, so be ready.

LT NeldenAs always, reach out to alumni and classmates from your schools that have gone through BOLC.  They will be able to answer some of you questions and be able to supply you with products and other course materials you may need.

Why didn’t my status change?

I’ve been getting a lot of comment posts, emails, and discussion board inquires about the board process and changes in scholarship application statuses (or lack thereof).   Here are some of the questions and the answers:

The board met today and my status hasn’t changed yet???

The board date is just the start date.  Each board takes about a week to review and score thousands of files. Think about the numbers…each year there are about 10K applicants that complete their file and are boarded.  That means each board is going to be looking at somewhere between 2 and 4 thousand files.  To the best of my knowledge a board is made up of 4-5 Lieutenant Colonels that go to Fort Knox and sit on the board.  They are locked in a room and review files all day.

The answer is…be patient.

My status changed to “boarded”, is an offer imminent???

The board has nothing to do with the offers.  The offer process is separate from the board process.  Once the board is released from that locked room the next step is to take all those file scores, add them to the scores from the previous boards that didn’t get offers and then start working down the list to make offers.  So, essentially someone takes the file with the highest score and looks at the list of schools.  If the first school on the list has allocations left then an offer is made.  If not then we look at the second school on the list and they work down the list of schools.  Some of those offers may be 4 year and some may be three year offers.

The answer is…No…be patient.

Will my status change once the process is over with if I don’t get an offer???

This one is a tough one, because I don’t have visibility of applicant end results.  To the best of my knowledge statuses probably won’t change.  I have seen applicants who didn’t get an offer receive an email in the past encouraging them to enroll in Army ROTC if they still want to become an Army Officer.  I usually send out a similar email to my applicants that don’t get offers, especially the ones I know are still coming to my school.  The bottom line is the scholarship processors at Cadet Command are probably shifting fire to the next project (prepping winners for the following fall, starting to look at next year’s early applicants, dealing with DODMERB issues) and they don’t have time to close the loop with the applicants that didn’t get an offer.

The answer is…probably not.

Here’s the last piece of advice.  Keep in mind that the scholarship processors are a small group of people who do a Herculean task each year.  They just don’t have time to give individual, full service to each and every applicant.  Don’t get frustrated if you status doesn’t change frequently or if your email goes unanswered for a day or two.  I’m a small school ROO who pays close attention to the 100 +/- applicants who list my school each year.  It’s a lot easier for me to answer questions and check statuses then for the folks at CC.  Hopefully the ROO at your school of choice is helpful.

 

 

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