No scholarship…what are my options

So you are an incoming freshman, you either applied for a scholarship and didn’t get an offer or you didn’t apply.  Army ROTC is still something you can do, you can still complete the program and commission, and you may even still be able to receive a scholarship offer.

recruiting table at the Clarkson activities fair

Have I got a deal for you

First a couple caveats…

  • every ROTC Battalion does things a little differently. When you are reading my blog I am usually telling you how we do things at Clarkson, in the Golden Knight Battalion.
  • Each year is different.  Some years we have more scholarships than we do Cadets, and some years we only get a few scholarships.
  • I don’t usually operate on any type of quotas…even when higher says I am supposed to.  I will always try to get the best options for each Cadet.  I’ve found over the years that the outcomes will balance out in the end and most Cadets in my program are fairly happy with where they end up.

So, if you are starting out as a freshman, or even a sophomore in the fall semester the first step is to enroll in the class.  Some programs may consider you for a scholarship, but in my case, unless you have at least committed to enrolling I’m not going to consider you for anything more than enrollment. If I do have the opportunity to provide additional scholarship offers, I’m going to go to my list of incoming students that have asked to be in the class.

One important thing to remember which new Cadets often fail to understand is that without a scholarship you can’t even contract until your sophomore year, so I am in no hurry and can’t really do anything with you other than get you ready/fully qualified, and have you take the steps to be considered for a scholarship.  If you are participating fully, passing your PT tests, take care of your DODMERB, and maintain your GPA then we are on track to give you some options.

We hold a scholarship board each semester.  Appear before a board and you get on the Order of Merit List (OML).  Once you are on that list I will be working to get as many of the Cadets on the list an offer.  At some point higher will tell me there won’t be any more offers and that is when we talk about other options like SMP or non scholarship contracts.

My advice is always not to worry about what you can’t control.  You or I can’t control how much money and how many scholarships will be offered.  You can’t control what the other Cadets will bring to the table.  What you can control is your fitness level, your work ethic in the class room, and your level of motivation and participation. If you want to serve your country as an Army Officer and earn a 4 year degree chances are good we’ll figure out a pretty good way to allow you to do that.  And like everything in the Army, it may not be the same way you thought you were going to do something, but in the end we’ll accomplish the mission.

The waiting is the hardest part

Every year I get two or three incoming freshmen who contact me, saying they are interested in the program and asking questions about the commitment.  Invariably I get an email like this one I got about a week ago.

after a couple days of thinking I am going to put this on hold. After talking with my parents they said I should focus on my school work first for the first semester and If I can add more after to do so. I appreciate you getting back to me and this is something that I’m not putting aside. I read somewhere that the latest you can join is sophomore year. After the first semester I will re-evaluate and see what I can do. Thank You.

I’m not a high pressure salesman. Army ROTC is not for everyone. I usually let the prospect know we’ll be here if they change their mind, and that it’s never too late, but I think it’s time I push back a little on the idea of waiting.

A cautionary tale

The reason I’m going to push back is because of this year’s graduating class.  One of the top Cadets in the the class waited.  He had  an injury he thought would hinder his participation…despite me telling him otherwise.  He waited until the spring semester to contact me again and enroll in the class.  He was interested in one of our scholarships, and once he enrolled it became apparent he was what we were looking for.  Problem was he was a semester behind his peers and he had already missed one scholarship board.  When he finally came to a campus based scholarship board, we were pretty full on scholarships and he finally had to settle for a non scholarship contract when no more money was allocated to his year group.  Because we held out for a scholarship as long as possible he wasn’t contracted until the fall of his junior year, which means he missed out on any optional training opportunities during those years that requires a Cadet be contracted to attend.  Because of that he wasn’t as competitive during the branching process, and although he had his heart set on Infantry branch, he was assigned to the Ordinance Corps.  He will be a great Officer and will have a successful career, but waiting to give Army ROTC a try cost him.

It can’t hurt to try

There is no obligation to try Army ROTC as a freshman.  If you do find out that it takes too much of your time, or if it’s not the right fit, all you have to do is drop the course.  At Clarkson you can drop the course  just about any time during the semester with no penalty.  I would rather have a freshman try the course and drop it after a couple weeks than to have him or her contact me at the beginning of their junior year when it’s usually too late to try to get them on board.

Help, not hinder

Army ROTC is usually a support system you wouldn’t otherwise have.  We operate much like the athletic coaches, monitoring the grades and academic performance of our Cadets.  We emphasize taking advantage of student services and we expect our Cadets (especially our Cadets in the engineering programs) to take advantage of tutors.  We assign each Cadet a mentor.  That mentor is an upperclassmen, usually in the same or a similar major who can help guide the Cadet through the challenges of being a Cadet and student.  Academic success is going to be your number one priority while you are at school and we are going to remind you of that

Cadets studying together

Cadets studying together in the ERC at Clarkson.  When I want to find some Cadets I always know there will be a groups of them in the ERC.

We don’t ask for a lot of time

As a freshman in the Golden Knight Battalion we are going to ask for 6-7 hours a week from you.  An hour of class, two hours of lab, and PT Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  We are going to give you the opportunity to participate more, but if you have other priorities that is fine.  We usually have 10-15 varsity athletes in the program that are balancing school, a sport or sports, and ROTC and most of them do just fine.  We have fraternity and sorority members who are active in Greek life, we have Cadets in student government, and Cadets who work part time.  If you weren’t giving us 6-7 hours a week, those hours would be filled with something else, probably not academically related. Since PT is not mandatory for non contracted Cadets, if you are having trouble managing your time, not attending some PT sessions is an options.  As long as you are working with us, we will help you figure it out.

So, I fully understand incoming student’s (and their parent’s) concerns, but from now on I’m going to share this blog post when I get an email like the one I got last week. Nothing frustrates me more than trying to figure out how to help the latecomers get caught up, and be competitive for what they want.  Hopefully it will convince one or two it’s better to give it a try up front.

 

Class of 2017 recap

commissioning class 2017.jpg

As we finish up with this year’s commissioning season I thought it might be valuable to recap what we produced with the MS 17 cohort.  Our mission for this class was 15.  We met our mission…no more, no less.  We were helped in this year group by three Cadets who migrated, or didn’t graduate on time.  All three of them were SMP Cadet, serving in the National Guard or Army Reserves, and all three of them continued to serve in the Guard/Reserves.  Of the 12 Cadets who did graduate on time this Spring –

  • 11 earned their degree at Clarkson and one at St Lawrence
  • 6 will serve on Active Duty, and 6 will serve in the Guard or Reserves
  • The Active Duty Cadets were branched into Ordnance (2), Infantry, Field Artillery, Corps of Engineers, and Aviation.
  • 4 of the 12 Graduates were varsity athletes at some point in their college career.
  • 9 of the 12 graduates were in STEM majors, 7 of them earning Engineering degree

Approximately 40 students were enrolled in this year group at one time or another.  Some tried it for a semester or two and decided it wasn’t for them. Some were asked to leave the program for one reason or another.

What are  the takeaways from this roll up? Each graduating class is different. At Clarkson we are known for producing lots of STEM Cadets.  We also work well with the athletic department. Most years we have a good male to female ratio. Most of our Cadets get their component of choice and most get one of their top choices for branch.  About half our Cadets chose to serve part time when they graduated this year.

As is the case every year…the graduates of the Golden Knight Battalion are well trained, well educated, well prepared and ready to do great things.  Good luck to all of them!

 

Stop the madness…Sending in your decision

I’ve written about contacting Cadet Command a few times in the past (here and here) and obviously old posts don’t get read.  Some of this information is dated, but the basic premise is the same. This may become an annual blog post. I have been contacted and I have seen discussion board posts where an applicant is not sure what their status is and wants to know how they can verify that their acceptance had been received. They invariably go on to say that they have emailed and faxed and mailed their response. In response, here is my advice

Do what Cadet Command asks you to do

Here’s what the letter they sent you says:

Mail this form to the address in the return address block OR fax to (502) 624-1120 OR scan and e-mail to usarmy.knox.usacc.mbx.train2lead@mail.mil

It doesn’t say “AND“, it says “OR“.

 

Scan and email

This is the surest way to make sure your response is received.  You’ll have a document in your sent folder in your email, and you don’t have to wonder if there is paper in the fax machine, or if the letter got delivered 5 days from now.

If you send your response multiple times you are just bogging down the system.  The same people that are opening the mail everyday and scanning the responses are also getting responses off  the fax machine, and checking the email and processing responses.  If they get a paper response they still have to scan and upload that response.  If they get a digital copy of your response in an email you just saved them a step.

Check your application status

There are a couple ways you can verify that your decision was received.  If you check your online application your acceptance letter will eventually get uploaded to your documents, the same way your offer letter was.  If you see it uploaded then Cadet Command has received it. I don’t think your status will change from “offer”, so don’t let that bother you.   The ROO at your school of choice should also be able to see that you accepted the offer. Touching base with him or her will also keep that line of communications open with the ROO and let them know you are excited to be joining their program.

Hope that helps…let’s not bog down the system.

Selection Status…What is my status?

This post is going to be short and sweet.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked by an applicant what their status is.  I ping my applicants often to let them know what they are missing, whether they have been boarded or not, and if they have an offer coming or not.  Looking at the online application today I realized all the answers are right there on the application website. If you have started an application, then you can log on to that application here. When you do you can click on the application tab, and then the selection status tab and you will be on this page:

selectionstatus

You selection status can be found in the Application tab

And there is your status.  Your status has a nice pretty color (green is good, red is bad) and it puts a red box around YOUR status…mine is Eligible, and it explains what it means.  This is one of those parts of the application that could put me out of business as a know it all blogger…the information is all right here.

How many of you already knew this?

 

CULP trip – 2016 – Cadet Suski

The CULP assignments for the Summer of 2017 have recently been released, so I thought it would be a good idea to publish my backlog of CULP trip reports from previous years.  Cadet Suski visited Vietnam this past Summer.  We have sent Cadets to Vietnam in the past.  Cadet Suski applied as a freshman and the opportunity to test his leadership capabilities was one of the highlights of his trip.  Here’s his report.

 

suski2.jpgWhen I applied for a CULP slot, I didn’t know what I was getting in to. I was told that if I was selected that I would be sent overseas for a laid back and relaxing trip, and that I would have experiences and make memories to last a lifetime. Arriving to Fort Knox was a shock. Everything we did was strictly regimented, far from the laid back idea that was falsely placed in my mind. Even though the days were long and hot, I was pleasantly surprised to be placed in barracks with a bunch of other cadets that I didn’t know. It pushed me to reach out and gave me the opportunity to learn from others, as every battalion across the nation brings different ideas and concepts to the table. Learning from them and my Cadre continued throughout the entire trip.  In simply making conversation with them, I learned so much about the Army, everything from common courtesies to career paths I may take in the future.

Arriving in Vietnam, my team had very little knowledge about our mission, and we were under prepared for what was ahead. It wasn’t until the third day in country that we understood the purpose of our mission. Vietnamese military doctors are preparing to deploy with United Nations forces into South Sudan. In order for them to deploy, these officers must show a competency in the English language. Our mission in Vietnam was to conduct English language classes to build relations between our nations and to aid in their progress to becoming deployable doctors for the United Nations. This is important because it will make Vietnam a valued force on the global scale. Being a part of a mission that is bigger than me is an honor and a privilege.  Just a year ago I was graduating High School, and a year later I’ve become a positive active member in the global community. Towards the end of our mission, I was given the opportunity to be our team’s Assistant Team Leader. As a freshman I had never had a taste of leadership in this capacity. It was a great developmental experience, pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to make mistakes that I learned from. Opportunities that the Army offers are endless, and I look forward to all that lies ahead of me.

Another part of our mission was to learn about and have firsthand experiences with Vietnamese culture. Before this trip, when I thought of the nation Vietnam, I thought of our war with them not long ago. This country is so much more than that. They are a nationalistic society that takes pride in everything they do. The people strive to be the best that they can be, and they work very hard to develop their nation, and make their home a better place for the future. For example, many students will self-educate beyond their formal schooling. They will often come to United States universities to further their education. When their education is complete, the Vietnamese students’ usually return home. In contrast, many other foreign students from different countries will come to American universities and will stay in the United States to start a new life. The Vietnamese students return home to use their information and knowledge wealth for the benefit of their home country.

Learning from new cultures and learning how to interact with them is a huge advantage for my development as a Soldier. Working with foreign nationals and armed forces is something that I will be doing for the rest of my career. Developing these skills early on will provide me with the tools necessary for being the best that I can be, as a soldier for my nation.

suski1.jpg

Lessons learned from last year’s process

This blog post should have been published back in June, but it’s not too late to share the info.  I like to think I’m pretty helpful with the scholarship process.  We are just through the first round of offers for this year, and I’m hoping I can replicate my stats from last year.

The Army ROTC high school scholarship process is a over for the class of 2020.  It was another good year for me and I’m happy with the way it went for my applicants.  Because my high school campaign is my priority, and it is where I can set the Battalion up for success, I look closely at the statistics to see how we did.  So what did I see this year?

  • 80 applicants started an application and listed one or more of my schools (Clarkson, St Lawrence, SUNY Potsdam, or SUNY Canton)
  • 60 of those applicants provided enough information to be seen on the PMS list in our system and visible to us without having to hunt for them.  That means they were in an interviewee status and were eligible to interview with a PMS
  • 35 of those applicants got an offer.
  • 20 of those offers were to the Golden Knight Battalion
  • 9 accepted their offer to the GKB
  • I was able to offer one additional 3AD offer, which was accepted.

What else did I learn?

It looks like the uploading of offers happened quicker and the release of results was almost instantaneous this year.  For the last round, by the time I could see offers being posted the status in the applicants website was changing.  We (programs) were still instructed not to contact winners until offer letters were mailed, but we got the go ahead quicker.

I also spent some time poking around the application website and realized that if an applicant would spend a little time reading all the information on the website many of the answers to frequently asked questions are right there (go figure). This process is not something that can be explained in a paragraph or two, so careful reading of provided information is always a good practice.