The Whole Person Concept and ROTC

The Whole Person Concept is a holistic approach to evaluating candidates for ROTC scholarships. It means that scholarship boards take into consideration not just a scholarship applicant’s academic achievements and physical abilities, but also their character, leadership potential, and overall fit for military service.

This approach recognizes that being successful as a military officer requires more than just intelligence and physical strength, but also traits such as integrity, honesty, and the ability to work well in a team. These are all key factors that are assessed during the admission process.

Consider the Core Values

Each branch of the military has its core values that reflect the qualities they seek in their future officers. Here are the core values:

  • Army core values
    • Loyalty
    • Duty
    • Respect
    • Selfless service
    • Honor
    • Integrity
    • Personal courage
  • Navy and Marine Corps core values
    • Honor
    • Courage
    • Commitment
  • Air Force core values
    • Integrity First
    • Service
    • Excellence

For high school students considering applying for an ROTC scholarship, always remember that you’re striving for what comes after college—to commission as an officer.

The excitement of winning a scholarship to pay for college can keep students from focusing on the endgame: to serve Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Guardians as a leader. This brings up an important point, why are you interested in an ROTC scholarship?

If cost is the primary reason, we challenge you to think past these thoughts and consider the high cost of the minimum four years of your life after college graduation and upon commissioning.

Throughout your high school career, think about the Whole Person Concept. Yes, academics and fitness are important. However, leadership and service to others are critical. Volunteering in your community, participating in team sports or activities, and practicing good decision-making skills can all help demonstrate your ability to embody the Whole Person Concept.

Don’t Just Participate—Lead!

Don’t only participate, find things you’re passionate about, devote yourself to those, and stick with them long enough to lead others. Sports is a great example of this. You join a team freshman or sophomore year, and eventually rise to team captain after showing up for your teammates year after year.

However, students often don’t think about this in other aspects of their extracurriculars. They’re involved in clubs or they volunteer a few hours a week. All of these are a good start, but they don’t necessarily showcase leadership potential. If you’re interested in aviation but flying lessons aren’t within reach financially, why not start an aviation club at your school.

As President, you could set up the charter and start recruiting members. Eventually, you could have guest speakers come in and teach you and your fellow future aviators about the industry. This is just one example.

When volunteering, are you leading others in the service project? Instead of just participating in a local food drive, consider leading a group of volunteers to collect and distribute food to those in need. This demonstrates initiative, working well with others, and embodies the core values of service to others.

Ultimately, the goal of the Whole Person Concept is to ensure that ROTC graduates are not only academically and physically prepared, but also have the personal qualities necessary to lead and serve effectively in the military. Leadership is often learned. Even if you aren’t comfortable leading others, there’s no time like the present to put yourself out there and start learning those critical leadership lessons now.

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.