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.

 

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What can a ROO see?

As an applicant, sometimes this process must seem hard to understand.  Some applicants receive a ton of coaching and feedback and others seem to be in the dark, always wondering where they stand and what the next step is.  So to shine a light on the subject…All ROOs aren’t the same. Some are more tech savy and some less. Some are capable of doing querys and extracting lists from our system, and some aren’t. Some are willing to help and some are at schools where they can sit back and let the prospects come to them (I’m looking at you SMCs).

The one thing we do all have in common is our main tool. The system we use is called the Cadet Command Information Management Module

CCIMM

Here is what we can see and what we might do with it:

We have access to a screen called the high school applicant contact list. It gives us a name, mailing address, phone number, and status. There are 5 statuses an applicant can be in Disqualified, Ineligible, Interviewee, Offer, and Alt Offer. What a ROO could do with this list is extract all the applicants into a spreadsheet and do a mail merge. Unless they wanted to spam the whole list they could filter out the disqualified or maybe the ones who already have offers. I’m hoping there aren’t any ROOs who would try to poach someone who already has an offer.  If the school is a regional draw they might want to use the contact information for a certain state or group of states.  I personally take this list and filter it for New York.  I’ll then look at that list and see if I see local applicants, or applicants from the Fort Drum region.  Then I might look up their information and offer my help.

We also have a screen called the high school applicant list. This screen shows us everyone who has applied, has one of our schools, and is in at least interviewee status. To be in interviewee status you have to at least submit transcripts and SAT/ACT test grades. This is the list I rely on. Each name is linked to their application, so if I need to see more I just click on their name. I use this information to determine where Clarkson ranks, how competitive they will be, and the screen allows me to give some feedback on things like the essay or an applicants list of extra curricular activities.  I’ll also print this off for my PMS when he does an interview with an applicant.

I can also get my Brigade to run a query of all applicants with one of my schools on their list, but I had to know to ask for it. About a month ago I asked Cadet Command for access to the applicant records in the data base, so I could run my own querys.  They told me I couldn’t have access to to those records, but my Brigade could provide the list. This list allows me see the applicants still in ineligible or qualified status. This allows me to reach out to them and let them know what they are still missing or what they need to do to be competitive. This list and the applicant list can be what sets a helpful ROO apart from the ROO that just sits back and hopes for the best. It also sets the helpful ROO apart from the ROO who just spams 1200 applicants.

I wanted to share this information, so you all know that if ROOs are creative they can see alot. Just because you got an email from ECU or Wentworth or any other school doesn’t mean your chances just went up or down. You are still on the list, you still may be competitive, and still need to have a backup plan.

 

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.

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.

 

 

And the Oscar goes to…

This one is hot off the press…Cadet Command just posted an incredibly useful video on Youtube that explains how to apply for an Army ROTC scholarship.  Captain Howard does a great job of explaining how to navigate the website and touches on all the important features, especially that additional information tab.

I wish I had produced this video.  It is just about how I would have conveyed this information.  Kudos to Cadet Command!