Congratulations! You are thinking about an Army Nursing ROTC scholarship, which is a very admirable and exciting pursuit. Nursing students who are also Army ROTC cadets are exceptionally well trained and benefit from one-on-one mentorship and real-world experience that you may not find in nursing school alone. Additionally, enrolling in Army ROTC not only helps you build your nursing skills, but it also allows you to enhance your personal growth through leadership training and critical thinking exercises.
Depending on which school you attend, you may also qualify for significant financial assistance as a nursing student within the Army ROTC. Choosing the best school for your personal, professional, and financial needs as a prospective Army Nursing ROTC student is critical, and there are multiple different factors you should consider before making a decision. In this article, we detail the five most important things that you should think about before joining an Army Nursing ROTC Program.
1. Consider whether you want to go to a public school or a private school
One of the primary decisions that you will have to make when deciding where to attend school is whether you want to go to private school or public school. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice, and the important thing is having a comprehensive understanding of each so that you can make the decision that is best for you.
One benefit of a private school Army ROTC nursing education is that private schools typically have more freedom to provide you with financial support than public schools. For example, many private schools have ROTC programs that can pay room and board, and in fact, they may also support payment for first year tuition on a three year scholarship. The level of support that each school provides is unique for each institution, and you should talk to both the ROTC program and the financial aid department at your schools of interest to get more information.
Another benefit of private schools is that if you have already received a scholarship from the ROTC program at your school of interest, your ROTC program can advocate for you with the admissions department to help you gain admissions to that college or university. It is rare for public schools to have the same latitude to provide an admissions advantage.
Additionally, private schools generally have a lower student to faculty ratio, which affords you more individualized attention. Given the rigor of many collegiate nursing programs, and the high demands of ROTC, having this extra academic support has the potential to make a huge difference in terms of your academic success.
Lastly, private schools have a vested interest in ensuring that you graduate within the typical four-year college timeline. In public schools, there is generally less concern for making sure that you graduate on time, and this can pose problems for several reasons. The first is that, if you have scholarships that you attend school on, those will typically run out at the conclusion of the traditional four-year college period. Therefore, you may find yourself in a situation where you do not have the financial support that you have previously had. This is a particularly pressing problem for Army ROTC nursing students in particular, as there is potential for ROTC requirements to conflict with required clinical courses. It is important to make sure that your department and college are willing to work with you in scheduling your classes, otherwise you may find yourself delayed by six months or more as you wait to graduate. This can have a cascading effect on your career plan, and may result in you having to take a whole extra year off before you can finally get commissioned after graduating. This issue is differentially prevalent depending on which school you are looking at, so make sure you speak with either other students in your program or admissions and ROTC officers about their experiences with timely graduation.
However, public schools are not all bad, and certainly they offer excellent educational experiences, and typically at a lower price than private schools. They may also afford more competitive athletic experiences if you happen to enjoy either playing or watching sports. Additionally, public schools are typically much larger than private schools, and as a result may have a wider variety of classes and programs to involve yourself in, as well as a generally greater diversity of experiences.
Additionally, many public schools do provide certain financial incentives and benefits for their ROTC students. For example, many schools in the U.S. provide in-state benefits for out-of-state students attending their school, which can significantly lower tuition if you have to pay for the first year. Additionally, if for some reason you have to drop out of ROTC, it will be easier to stay in school at a public college or university rather than stay and pay full tuition at a private school.
2. Determine what types of scholarships you would be eligible for, and what the differences between them are
Another major factor for you to consider when deciding which school to attend is finding out which scholarships that you would be eligible for, and what the differences between them are. Nursing majors compete for 2, 3, or 4-year scholarships, and the criteria for these scholarships are as follows:
- You must be a United States citizen at the time of your application
- You must be a high school graduate with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA
- You must have an SAT score of 1050 or an ACT score of 21
- You must be physically fit and medically qualified to serve
- You must be under 31 years of age on June 30th of the year you graduate from college
- You must have good moral character
Each of these scholarships provides full-tuition, up to $1200 per year for books, a monthly tax-free stipend during the school year of $424.
If you receive an Army ROTC Nurse Scholarship, you will also receive extensive benefits, including: free access to NCLEX-RN review courses, prepaid NCLEX-RN exam fees, guaranteed nursing position upon graduation, prepaid malpractice insurance, prepaid immunizations, and finally prepaid nursing and uniform supplies. However, there a multitude of different types of scholarships available for nursing students in Army ROTC, which vary in terms of their level of support.
3. Understand what the daily life of a nursing student in ROTC is like and visit the school to get a sense for the service atmosphere in your prospective cadre
In addition to considering schools based on whether they are public or private, and with respect to their available financial support and scholarship funds, it is also critical to make sure that you understand what the daily life of a nursing student at your prospective school is like. Specifically, it is important to visit the school and get a sense for the service atmosphere within your prospective cadre, and throughout the university as a whole. For example, some schools may be more receptive and supportive of their ROTC students, and will accommodate your needs more readily than others. It is important to be aware of this, as you will likely encounter conflicts between your ROTC demands and your nursing program demands as you progress through school.
This is particularly relevant in your MS-3 and MS-4 years, which tend to have heightened ROTC demands that arise concurrently with an increase in nursing clinicals that you must attend. Making sure that you speak directly with both your ROTC program leaders and department heads within the nursing program can help you mitigate potential conflict, but you should reach out prior to making your decision to assess how likely it is that the school will be able to support you in your goal of a timely graduation as you manage the competing demands of ROTC and nursing.
Another excellent resource you may consider is current nursing students at your school of interest who are already undergoing the challenges of managing both programs. They will provide you with a realistic understanding of what balancing the two is actually like, and will likely be able to provide you with insider knowledge that you wouldn’t get from merely speaking to the department. Speaking to current Army ROTC nursing students is also important if you would like to be at a school where there are many students who are in the same boat as you, that is, if you want to make sure that you are not the only one in your program trying to do both.
4. Be prepared to make the most of your summers
As an Army ROTC nursing student, you should be prepared to be very busy for much of the academic year. Often, you will probably feel like there is not enough time to do everything that you want to, or even everything that you need to. This applies to both ROTC demands, schoolwork demands, and physical and personal demands. Therefore, you should be prepared to strongly consider using your summers as a time to catch up and get ahead- this will help lighten your load during the school year and make it more likely that you can graduate on time.
There are several popular ways that current nursing students have utilized their summers, and you should be prepared to at least consider these paths. The first method is using your summer to do the Nurse Summer Training Program offered through the ROTC. This program is a 3-4 week clinical elective that is popular among nurse cadets. While it is entirely voluntary, it provides valuable hands on experience under the direct supervision of a preceptor- an Army Nurse Corps officer who works with you one-on-one. This elective is conducted at Army hospitals across the U.S, Germany, and Korea, and you could be stationed in any of these locations. Typically, nursing students who are between their junior and senior years of college will attend this camp.
For younger students, the summer can be a great time to knock out some basic general education courses that are a required component of the major. For example, you may take microbiology or human anatomy during the summer to free up some of your schedule space during the school year for other necessary classes, or to create more time to attend to your ROTC or personal demands.
Lastly, as physical fitness is a required component of being part of the Army ROTC, you should be perennially prepared to maintain your physical training during the summer period, not just when you are with your cadre at school. This will help promote well-being of the mind and body, while also ensuring that you arrive back at school in great shape for the fall.
5. Ensure that you like the school as a whole entity
Lastly, as with any college search, make sure that you like the school as a whole. While it is unlikely, there are potential scenarios where you may not be able or willing to complete your ROTC or nursing training. Whether through injury, illness, or because your interests or passions have changed, you may find that you are taking a different path than you previously planned.
Life is anything but straightforward, and you should make sure to account for this reality by choosing a school that you will like and enjoy attending, whether you decide to continue with ROTC and nursing or not.
Again, congratulations on considering the Army ROTC Nursing Option
Being an Army nurse has many benefits associated with it, including competitive initial annual pay and excellent benefits packages. More importantly, being an Army nurse offers you the opportunity to make a powerful positive impact on the world, and have a lifechanging effect on the lives of those you serve.
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