The time between getting an ROTC scholarship and starting your program in the fall should be used productively to get off to a good start when you arrive on campus. Particularly for those with a three-year Army ROTC scholarship, preparing now and hitting the ground running once you start ROTC will impress your cadre and can result in a scholarship upgrade to a 3.5 or a 4-year scholarship.

There are the five things you should do now to be best prepared to come to campus as an ROTC cadet:

1. Keep in Contact with your ROTC program

Once you know what ROTC program you will be attending in the fall, reach out to the recruiting officer at that program. Introduce yourself and ask if there is anything you can do between now and when you arrive on campus to be better prepared to start the program. Give him or her your contact information.

In doing this you show initiative and excitement about starting ROTC and wanting to be prepared.

2. Keep in Good Physical Condition and Prepare for the Physical Fitness test

It is important to keep in good physical shape. A scholarship recipient cannot contract and start receiving scholarship benefits until she is able to pass the fitness test. However, the goal should not just be to pass the test but to excel and possibly max the test. Maxing the test shows ROTC cadre that you are committed to and have the potential to be a top midshipmen/cadet.

Here is the fitness test for each Service:

Air Force ROTC Fitness Test

The Air Force Physical Fitness Test (PFT) consists of 1 minute of push-ups, 1 minute of sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run. The standards for the test can be found here.

Army ROTC Fitness Test

The Army ROTC test for record in the Fall of 2021 will be the Cadet Command Fitness Assessment (CCFA). The CCFA consist of 1 minute of push-ups, 1 minute of sit-ups and a 1-mile run. There is no scoring table for the CCFA but there are minimums to pass. The standards can be found here. Once a cadet gets to campus and passes the CCFA and contracts, the test of record will the new Army Combat Fitness Assessment (ACFT). To be fully prepared on campus, candidates should work to excel at both the CCFA and the ACFT.

Marine Corps ROTC Fitness Test

The Marine Corps Fitness Test. Candidates will perform “dead-hang” pull-ups to exhaustion, plank, and a three-mile run. In order to calculate your score, you can use the Marine Corps PFT Calculator. Marines should also practice the Marine Combat Fitness Test which consists of Movement to Contact (880-yard run), 30 Pound Ammo Can Lift (max reps in 2-minutes), Maneuver Under Fire– a timed 300-yard shuttle run in which Marines are paired up by size and perform the following tasks: sprints, agility course, high crawl, low crawl, body drag, fireman carry, ammo can carry, push-ups and grenade throw. Here is the CFT Calculator for your reference.

Navy ROTC Fitness Test

The Navy Physical Readiness Test (PRT) consists of 2 minutes of push-ups, plank and a 1.5-mile run. The standards for the test can be found here.

To do the best on these tests, you should have a workout plan. Get a personal trainer who can put together a plan to work with you on the specific exercises that are tested. We also recommend the fitness books by Stew Smith.

3. Purchase Study Books to learn about Military Ranks, Customs and Courtesies, and Drill and Ceremony

Each military service has its own rank structure, how you demonstrate respect to senior enlisted and officers, particulars about marching movements and other traditions of the Service. There are excellent books each put out in order to ground you before you show up to the ROTC program in the fall. Here are the ones we recommend for each Service:

Air Force: The Airman’s Handbook. Free from the Air Force.

Army: The Enlisted Soldier’s Guide

Marine Corps: Guidebook For Marines

Navy: BlueJacket’s Manual

4. Download these ROTC Program Handbooks

The ROTCs have handbooks that they issue in hardcopy or PDF to each student. Get ahead and read the handbook before you arrive on campus. Ask the ROTC program to send or email you one. Here are some examples which you can reference if your program does not have a handbook.

Air Force: University of Virginia Cadet Handbook

Army: Florida International University Cadet Handbook

Navy: SUNY Maritime College Midshipman Guide

5. Visit and Spend Time with Local Guard or Reserve Units

You can become more familiar with life in the military by visiting local guard and reserve units and spending time talking with officers and enlisted about life in the military. They can also introduce you to some of the equipment they use and terms and concepts that you should be familiar with before you arrive on campus. The best way to find these units is through a simple Google search. These links you might also find helpful. They will be happy that you reached out to them.

Air Force Reserve

Air National Guard

Army Reserve: Type “Army Reserve Centers Near Me” in Google

Army National Guard: Type “Army National Guard armory near me” in Google

Marine Reserves: Type “Marine Corps Reserve near me” in Google

Navy Reserve: Navy Operational Support Centers

Final Thoughts on Preparing for ROTC

Make the best use of your time now before you come onto campus in the fall to be the best ROTC cadet or midshipman you can be. Your foundation is staying in contact with your ROTC program and keeping up your physical fitness so you can contract and start receiving scholarship benefits. You can also study to become more familiar with life in ROTC as well as in your particular Service from the books listed above as well as visiting local reserve or guard locations.

We will leave you with a quote from the inventor Alexander Graham Bell:

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”

We at ROTC Scholarship Consulting wish you the best as you prepare for your future role as officers in the U.S. military.

Want to maximize your potential of earning an ROTC Scholarship?

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LTC Robert Kirkland

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kirkland (USA, Ret.) is an expert on military admissions and leadership. He served for over 25 years in the United States Army, including stints as an instructor at West Point and as a commander of two Army ROTC programs. He has helped students win ROTC scholarships for 8 years.

Want to maximize your potential of earning an ROTC Scholarship?