The interview 2017 edition

This is an update on information I wrote about here and here

The interview

At Clarkson we like to spend some time with our interviewees. We invite them to visit our lab or tour our campus while they are here

One of the 4 requirements to get your file board ready after you start your application for the 4 year Army ROTC Scholarship is to conduct an interview with a Professor of Military Science (PMS). It is usually one of the last tasks an applicant will accomplish, because it usually involves traveling to meet with a PMS or his/her representative to conduct a face to face interview. The interview is one of the most important steps in the process because not only is it worth 200 of the points in your whole person score it is also one of the most important pieces of information the board will use to score you, if it is done right.

Here is what Cadet Command has to say about the interview, right from the additional information tab on the applications website.  If you aren’t familiar with that tab, you should be:

PMS Scholarship Interviews

 Administrative

The purpose of the Interview is for the Professor of Military Science (PMS) to have a face-to-face evaluation of the applicant.  The interview is conducted by an active PMS who will ask you questions and will answer any questions you may have about Army ROTC and the pursuit of an Army commission.

You won’t be eligible to conduct your interview until you have provided qualifying SAT/ACT scores and a copy of your high school transcript. Once you have done that, you will receive a message through the application identifying the five closest ROTC host programs to your home address. You don’t have to use these five schools but the interview needs to be conducted face-to-face.

The interview can be telephonic as a last resort, depending on distances involved. This doesn’t mean you can do a telephonic interview if you live near Washington, D.C. but want to go to school in California. Where you want to go to school doesn’t matter to the PMS conducting the interview.

Any cost incurred for transportation, food and lodging for the interview are your responsibility.

Overseas applicants must contact a stateside Professor of Military Science to arrange a virtual meeting via Skype or other similar services to conduct the interview.

 Tips

  1. Be prepared. This doesn’t mean practicing your scripted responses to standard questions; expect a good interviewer to maneuver around those types of questions. You should still be able to speak intelligibly about standard questions such as ‘tell us about yourself.’

Review your application packet again and bring along extra copies of your resume, as well. Be sure to write down a few questions for the interviewer or panel, too. The typical interview can last anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes.

  1. No flip-flops. While you may wear board shorts and a tank top to the beach or school, this is not the appropriate time to dress down. You need to demonstrate to the interviewer that you are a serious. No one expects you to go buy a business suit or fancy dress but you should take it serious. More appropriate attire includes items such as slacks and a buttoned-down collared shirt, or a knee-length skirt or a JROTC uniform. Hair should be neat and out of your face, and don’t forget to wear shoes that are in good condition.
  1. Be on time. Give yourself plenty of extra time to deal with unexpected situations, such as traffic or parking issues, to ensure you do not arrive late. You should also jot down the name of your interviewer and ask for him/her by name when you arrive. Nothing screams “unprepared” like showing up for a meeting and not remembering who you are supposed to meet. If you are running behind, please call ahead and let them know you will be late. This will give the interviewer the option of pushing back your interview or rescheduling it, if necessary. It’s never good to show up late, but it’s even worse to do so without giving fair warning.
  1. Listen, Think, Speak. It’s important to listen during your interview and not anticipate questions. Once a question has been asked, respond in a clear and concise manner. Stay on topic, don’t try to steer the question back to a practiced answer, and don’t ramble. Make eye contact and enunciate! Above all else, answer all questions honestly. Interviewers can tell when you are embellishing or making up answers to impress them.
  1. Be yourself. If selected for the scholarship, that’s what you’ll give every day anyway. Walk into your interview with confidence, smile, and be yourself. Most interviewers will keep a stoic face. Don’t let this influence your responses or behavior during the interview. Always conduct yourself professionally and as though you are the best applicant.

Here is my advice

Where should I interview?

Conduct your interview at a school you are interested in, and preferably one that is listed on your application. If it is just not feasible to get to one of the schools on your list do it at one of the schools close to your home, but be aware that the interviewer has less invested in you if you don’t plan to attend their school, and you will probably spend some of that visit hearing about the school and program you are interviewing at. If you interview at a school that is likely to be your destination that interviewer will go the extra mile to make sure you have a successful interview. Additionally if you don’t receive a scholarship offer you will still be on that PMS’s radar, and may be considered for any campus based scholarships that become available.

What will they be looking for?

Here is the checklist that the PMS will use when she/he conducts the interview. The PMS is looking at your Scholar/Athlete/Leader attributes and is awarding points based on what you tell them. Obviously you won’t be lying to pad your points, but make sure you account for all your accomplishments, and make sure you get credit. If you are short in one of the SAL areas, make sure on the back of the form the PMS can give you extra points for something else. For example, you’ve never played team sports because you have had to have a part time job throughout high school to help the family make ends meet. You won’t get points for athlete, but on the back the PMS can annotate your circumstances and give you full points for personal qualities and potential.  This is your opportunity to tell your story and make your case.

What should I wear to the interview?

Use your common sense. Suit and tie is not normally required. Collared shirt, Khakis, and nice shoes will work. It might be good to ask the person that arranges the interview what to wear. We have conducted interviews in the field before, so a suit and tie would have been inappropriate. We have also had JROTC cadets wear their uniform to the interview (nice touch, but not necessary). Just don’t show up in ripped jeans and a grubby tshirt, and you’ll be fine.

Should you bring a resume?

Again, a nice touch but not necessary. You should have submitted all the information that we need prior to the interview. I have had applicants bring resumes, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and scrap books complete with gym club card and handgun licence. Don’t need all that stuff. Again, ask because some schools might want to see a resume.

What type of questions will be asked?

Depends on the PMS. Some PMS’s may be more formal than others. Some may want to have a discussion and answer your questions. Some may want to hear what is motivating you. Some may get off on a tangent and talk about something you both have in common. You should have a short concise answer prepared to the question “tell me a bit about yourself” and you should be able to explain why you want to be an Army Officer. Take a look at this post for some ideas regarding themes you can talk about such as Army Values or Soldiers Creed. Remember that no matter how informal the conversation appears to be, you are still being watched and evaluated. If you call him dude, and spent 20 minutes discussing the best band at this year’s Warped Tour you may think you hit it out of the park, and the PMS may be checking the “no scholarship for this guy” block.

Who and where

There is some debate among my peers whether the PMS or ROO (or someone else) should conduct the interview.  My belief is that it’s called a PMS interview for a reason, and every after action review of a scholarship board I have ever seen said that the board favors a PMS interview over interviews done by surrogates like ROOs or Executive Officers.  My advice is to be wary if you are told you will be interviewed by someone other than the PMS.  Also be aware that if you are interviewing at a popular school in a densely populated area you will probably get a little different result and attitude from your interviewer than if you travel to a small, remote school (like Clarkson University) and interview with a PMS who only does a handful of interviews each year.  I would also caution about doing an interview at an Senior Military College.  Even if you think you want to attend an SMC, interviewing at an SMC is going to put you into a different pool of applicants, and your interviewer may have a different perception of what is the best candidate for a scholarship.  I’m not saying don’t interview at a popular school or an SMC.  Just be aware that the results of your interview may be effected by those environments.

Remember your manners

Yes sir, No sir or Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am will definitely score some points. Yeah, bro, and dude will loose you some points. It is also a good idea to drop the PMS a note or email after the interview thanking them for their time.

That’s my updated take on the interview. Hope it helps. Make sure you drop us a comment and let us know how it goes.

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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.

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 – Viet Nam – 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