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.

 

How and where to start 2017 edition

When I started this blog 7 years ago now (holy crap! 7 years ago!) some of the first posts were about how to start the scholarship process and how to get started in Army ROTC.  Time to bump that info back to the top of the blog and freshen it up a little. The optimal target audience for this information is a high school junior finishing up their junior year.  That student is considering college and has a desire to serve in the military. If you aren’t a high school junior and are interested we should still talk, there are plenty of ways to become an Army Officer. Here’s what I think my optimal audience should do.

Step one – do your research

Visit www.goarmy.com/rotc …poke around on the site.  Understand that Army ROTC is a program that trains college students to serve as Army Officers when they graduate from college. Look at the requirements.  Don’t be afraid to contact an Army ROTC Battalion and talk to an Enrollment Officer if you have questions.

Along with researching ROTC opportunities you’ll also need to figure out where you want to attend college and what you want to study.  You won’t be majoring in Army ROTC.  The internet is a great source of material.  You can use a search engine to develop a list of schools that offer what you want.  Most University websites will give you a good idea what they offer.  You can also usually find information about Army ROTC battalions too.  In our case we have a wealth of information on the Clarkson University website, and on social media platforms like facebook and instagram.

Step two – apply for the scholarship

Watch this video first.

If you follow the link to http://www.goarmy.com/rotc/high-school-students you will find a link to the four-year High School Scholarships and on that page you can start your application.  It is first going to ask you to create a goarmy.com account.  It is very important that once you create this account you return to the ROTC page and log in here.  I publish the various dates for the scholarship process once they are released each year.  Typically the window to apply opens in June before a high school students senior year.  The first board meets in October and the deadline to start the process is in early January.  Watch this blog for the dates.

A WORD OF CAUTION…If you are on the goarmy.com site you will see an apply online button. That is not the button for applying to Army ROTC.  That button takes you to the Army Career Explorer (ACE) which is focused on enlisted options for the most part.

goarmy.com

goarmy.com

Step three – keep in touch/start a dialogue

As you go through the process make sure you are letting people know you are interested in their program.  Whether it is a school or an Army ROTC battalion, we want to hear from you, and we will keep track of our conversations.  In my case I contact interested applicants often and track all correspondences.  Clarkson also does the same and I can cross reference their system and mine to see if an applicant is showing interest. If I hear from you often then you will get my help.  If you don’t respond to my emails I’m guessing you plan to attend another school.

You have to make sure you are providing good contact information.  If you provide an email address make sure it’s one you check often.  With the advent of mobile devices it should not take days to respond to an email.

I also suggest that scanning and emailing is the best way to respond to requests for forms or documents.  On the application website you can scan and upload documents.  There is no reason why someone would put something in an envelope and mail it or fax a document these days.  Scan and upload when possible.

I also recommend you plan some campus visits once you narrow your list.  If you visit a college ask about meeting with someone from the ROTC program.  In my case, I encourage visitors to schedule their visit through the Admissions office, and ask to meet with Army ROTC.  Admissions does the rest.

Step four – Don’t give up

If you go through the high school process and don’t get an offer you can still attend college, enroll in Army ROTC class, and become an Army Officer.  You may have the opportunity to earn a campus based scholarship or take advantage of another program like the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP).  Not every Cadet is on scholarship.

Board Dates 2017-2018 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 2018, that would be a high school senior in the fall of 2017, these are the dates you should pay attention to.

4-year High School Application Opens for SY 18-19 12-Jun-17
1st High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 17-Sep-17
1st High School Selection Board 2-Oct-17
2nd High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 7-Jan-18
2nd High School Selection Board 22-Jan-18
4-Year High School Application Deadline for SY 18-19 4-Feb-18
Final HS Selection Board Deadline for Docs — Missing Items 4-Mar-18
Final (3rd) High School Selection Board  19-Mar-18

So, what does all this mean.  Same advice as last year…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 17 September 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 again. 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 but don’t rush to be on the first board if you aren’t ready.  I would tell you that you shouldn’t wait to be able to do one or two more push ups on the PFT, but if your SAT/ACT is low retake and wait for the next 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 still a difference.

CULP trip – 2016 – Gabon – Cadet Broderick

Another interesting CULP report from Cadet Broderick who spent part of his Summer in Gabon.

This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Libreville, Gabon to conduct training with the Gabonese military. I was able to obtain this opportunity by applying for a spot in the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program. Fortunately, I was picked to conduct my mission of teaching English and become more culturally diverse. Every weekday there were nine cadets conducting English classes for around 30 Gabonese military members from 0830 to 1130. We were assisted by a member of the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in how to go about instructing our lessons. Along with these regularly scheduled instructions there were times that the cadets were able to visit different schools with ages ranging from 4-24 years old collectively. Typically, the ages were on the younger side but a couple of the schools also had students that were older. The main purpose of visiting these schools was to give basic English instruction and experience the culture of the country, but a very important part of interacting with the students was to give them hope. Other activities that were conducted after our morning English lessons, besides the school visitations, were going to the American embassy and making presentations at a Department of State affiliated location called the American Corner.

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The American Corner was a place where people would go that were looking to come to the United States or wanting to know more about it and learn English. Cadets prepared two presentations each, one on their university and another on a US based interest item. After presenting information on our universities it was made apparent that the Gabonese only wanted to know about how to get to the United States. A smaller group of cadets was put together to compile this information and brief it to the Gabonese who were present at the American Corner. Information on visas, exams, different universities, and the process itself was given to the Gabonese in the hopes of them taking the initiative to try their hardest and come to the US. There were also two Saturdays at the American Corner where the cadets interacted with children and a member of the Department of State in order to teach English.

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Gabon Team 1 CULP American Corner

At the embassy, the cadets learned about the Department of State. Presentations were given by the Regional Security Officer, Defense Attaché, a nurse, a member of the Marine Security Guard, the Deputy Chief of Mission, and the Ambassador. These people gave us a wealth of knowledge and a great amount of insight into their world. We also ran a 5K with employees from the embassy for a fundraiser. The cadets were also invited to a lunch with members of the Young African Leaders Initiative from Gabon at the ambassador’s residence by the ambassador herself. There was also a barbecue that we attended held by employees from the embassy.

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Another very enlightening experience was being able to visit part of Central Accord 16 and meet other members of the United States Army that were in Gabon at the same time we were. BG Moore, Deputy Commanding General United States Army Africa/ Army, was able to sit down with us for about an hour at breakfast one morning and talk to us about his career and answer any questions we had. LTC LaMotte, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was able to show us around the Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Libreville. At this location we were able to meet many different people and see exactly how a joint operation like this functions as well as talk to many 2LT’s about their careers so far and ask for any advice they may have for us.

3rdid

Traveling to Gabon to teach the military English, as well as being fully immersed in the culture of the country, was a very enlightening experience. Starting out there were some assumptions made but these were easily cleared up once in country. Getting to see the similarities and differences in the ways of life of the people of Gabon and comparing them to those of the United States provided for development which better prepared individuals to be suited in handling situations where a difference in culture can easily affect an outcome. There are a few major topics that differ between the United States and Gabon. Two of these are the concepts of time and relationships. The Gabonese do not feel any obligation to being prompt and punctual. An appointment can be made but not actually taken care until several hours later. The pace of life in Gabon is much slower as the Gabonese are looking to build relationships with others whenever they can. Laziness is another big factor that contributes to the effectiveness of the Gabonese. Many do not want to take the initiative but want the results that would come with the initiative. The most interesting part of this laziness is that many Gabonese recognize the laziness in themselves and others. This is why places with little European influence run much slower, while places that have been influenced by Europe have somewhat of a faster pace. Exchanges of money are not seen as an item for money but rather as something being given and in return receiving help in the form of money. Bartering is an example of how this applies as no set standard is made because this provides a means for building up a relationship. Another peculiar aspect of the culture of Gabon is their opinion of other Africans and the French. They tend to dislike people from other African countries besides Gabon and like the French, trying to be increasingly French. Many citizens of Gabon are getting away from their roots and forgetting their mother tongues since they are learning languages like English and French. A large amount of people would like to come to the Unites States and study as well as improve their English. Overall the people of Gabon are not that different from the population of the United States.

The window to apply for next year’s CULP missions has just opened up and I am hoping we will have plenty more adventures to share next Summer.  Still waiting on a few more reports from this past Summer.

Airborne

Mark Rosenthal, GKB alumni, class of ’78 has shared his thoughts with me in the past, and a couple weeks ago (22 August to be exact) he contacted me again with some thoughts about history, tradition, and being Airborne.  As  a basic training XO I taught the history and tradition class to new soldiers. I can certainly relate to what he had to say. I value Army history and  tradition and think it is what makes being a soldier so special.  I have also worked  in the civilian world for a company (US Steel) with a proud history that made working in the mill special. Being part of something bigger than yourself has value.

40 years ago *this month* I was experiencing my first exposure to the “real Army” attending Jump School between my Sophomore and Junior years at Clarkson.

I returned to school with “the haircut” and shiny new jump wings.

Right now I am cruising at Flight Level 380 over Montana on my way home from a consulting gig.

Under the seat in front of me is my computer bag. Proudly displayed on it is the “AA” “Airborne” patch that I wore on my sleeve in 1980-82.

During my time on active duty, I wore a lot of patches on my left sleeve.
The Artillery School
2nd Infantry Division
82nd Airborne Division
XVIII Airborne Corps
3rd Armored Division
TRADOC

but it’s the 82nd patch that I display today. But had I not attended jump school at a Clarkson cadet, I likely would have taken a different path.

It’s not about “jumping out of airplanes.” (Key point: There are *no* “perfectly good airplanes” in the Air Force). Rather, it was / is about being a part of something bigger – a tradition that extends back to 1940, and to 1944. When I was in the division, our CG, MG Malloy pointed out that nobody says “Boy, I wish we were as good as the 4th Mech.”

In some previous email, I sent a photo of my wings under a Clarkson unit crest on a black background. Those pins are on my Clarkson Ranger beret. Those wings are the ones I got at graduation, and are engraved “Aug 27, 1976” on the back – the day I got them. I carried that beret in my cargo pocket on my first jump with the 82nd as well, because, well, I wanted to connect my Clarkson Ranger experience with that one.

So… “Congratulations” to any cadets who have pinned on new jump wings over the summer. My message is this – those three weeks can change your life in subtle ways you don’t realize. Those wings aren’t a merit badge. They are a tradition.

PS – Our pilot for the flight out of BWI was also waiting for the plane this afternoon. I noticed his tie tack was a small jump wings pin. I approached him and said I liked his tie tack, and pointed to the patch on my bag. He had attended jump school as an Air Force cadet in 1979. He went on to be a transport pilot, and now flies Airbus A320’s for Delta. He never went on jump status, yet all of these years later, THAT is what he wears as a tie tack. Pretty cool.

“All The Way!”

This Summer 9 Cadets completed Air Assault training and one Cadet attended Airborne school and earned jump wings.  Clarkson Army ROTC continues the tradition of Cadets taking on the challenges offered over the summer.

 

CULP trip – 2016 – Rwanda – Cadet Sadler

When I heard Cadet Sadler was going to Rwanda the first thing that came to mind was the Rwandan genocide and we are sending a young Cadet who just finished her freshman year to “that” African country. Needless to say I was very interested to see what she had to say about her adventure, and she didn’t disappoint.

Here is what she says her mission was:

My main mission was to improve relations with the Rwandans and help the Rwandan cadets improve their conversational skills. In addition to being implanted into a platoon at the Rwandan Military Academy, my team also helped paint classrooms for an underfunded primary school. Lastly, we went on a variety of cultural field trips in order to fully understand the country and it’s unique history.

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Here are her impressions:

The Lessons of the Rwandan People

June 22nd the day that changed my life forever. I have never been out of the country before and now I was being thrown head first into not only a culture very different from ours but more importantly I was being thrown way out of my comfort zone. The main thing I remember that helped get me through the first Rwandan drill and ceremony practice was all of the smiling faces.

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In among the hitting, pushing, and yelling these random new people took me in as one of their own. In the beginning the cadets would correct me and help me understand what was going on at their own expenses. The cadets would be hit or made to do push-ups because they were not in position due to the fact that they were guiding me. The harsh way the cadre hit, punched, shoved and yelled at the cadets is a part of their culture.

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My buddy, buddy Erica told me this was normal, they grew up with physical punishments. These actions were frightening at first but the more I thought about it I understood the background behind their use. In order to command a platoon one needs to be strict and strive for perfection. Another aspect that was brought into perspective due to spending so much time with the Rwandan cadets is to always appreciate the little things. Even thou one can’t change events you can change your attitude. The cadets always had a way to make even the worst situation better with smiles on their faces.

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One of my fellow cadets and friends enjoying the Army presents I gave her.

During the early morning ruck march I got to talk to another girl in my platoon. I wasn’t really getting into the conversation because I didn’t get much sleep the night before. A few minutes later we are both laughing and joking. She had gotten even less sleep then I had and still managed to bring me out of a slump while walking miles upon miles all with a smile on her face. I will never forget that conversation. The strength to push through any obstacle is a big part of the culture. I think that is amazing because here in America people have gotten lazy and just take the easy way out or give up. In order to be a strong leader one needs to lead by example and when things get challenging be the person to pull your soldiers out of their slump. One positive action can act like a catalyst. The way Rwandans have made it their mission to forgive and grow after such an earth shattering event can’t even be explained by words. The strength and faith it takes for a person to forgive their families killer is unfathomable. The things I learned from this example the Rwandan people set is to be able to move on and have the strength to admit your mistakes and learn from them. This lesson is what I think is the most important thing a leader needs to know. Only a great leader can look back at their mistakes, learn from them, and move forward while trying to never making the same mistake again. This resilience and hindsight is essential for one to lead effectively.

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Every experience I had over in Rwanda has changed the way I think about everything I do. I will never forget the people I met over there for they have touched my heart and changed me in ways even I don’t know. I will forever remember this trip to Rwanda and more importantly I will remember the strength, selflessness, and smiles of my fellow cadets, Rwanda Military Academy Intake 06/16 B-Company Platoon 1.

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Group picture of my team and the Marines stationed at the Rwandan embassy after a group PT session