Often when we advise candidates and their parents on ROTC programs, we are asked the question if a particular ROTC is “good” or not? Will one particular ROTC program be a better place to be a cadet or midshipman than another school? 

You can also listen to our podcast that answers this topic at the bottom of this post.

Our first response does not directly answer the question. Since ROTC usually only takes up six hours per week of a typical student’s schedule, we emphasize that a candidate should select a school that he/she fits best at given their academic and personal goals. This is because ROTC is only part of their experience.
In addition, how “good” a particular ROTC program is often is based on the cadre and staff. Cadre in particular are active-duty officers who come and go every two to three years. One particular cadre member may be the key to a successful program. If he or she leaves, the program’s complexion can completely change.

Key Overall Point: Select the School First Without Regard to How “Good” the ROTC Program Is

Having said this, there are some indicators you can use in order to determine if it is likely that over your time in a particular ROTC a program will be better than others. These include:

Additional Incentives a School Provides to ROTC Students

Private schools, in particular, provide such incentives as room and board, first-year tuition for three-year scholarships, and other non-need-based financial aid. This is a good indicator that the school’s administration is supportive of ROTC. They are indeed putting their “money where their mouth is.”

Find Out What Incentives Colleges Provide for ROTC Cadets

We’ve done all the research for you, so you can take advantage free room and board, first year tuition grants for 3-year scholarship winners, and in state tuition for out of state students.

Condition of ROTC Building and Facilities

When you tour the campus, is the ROTC housed in newer buildings or housed in a rundown part of campus away from most students? Some ROTC programs have their own pistol range or workout facilities and are well funded. This is another indicator of how much the administration values ROTC on the campus.

Extra Financial Support to ROTC

Does the university administration provide a budget to ROTC beyond what the particular Service (ie Army, Navy, Air Force) gives its program to operate? Having a healthy budget beyond what the Service provides can make a cadets’ experience more enriched and give more opportunities for extra activities. When you visit an ROTC program, ask how much of a budget they provide to the ROTC program.

Student Body Attitude

Although hard to fully gauge, some student bodies support ROTC and military service more than others. ROTCs conduct on-campus student attitude surveys regarding views of ROTC and the military. Ask your ROTC program about the results of these surveys. A neutral to negative student body attitude can affect whether you enjoy being an ROTC student on campus.

One key indicator when on campus: do ROTC cadets or midshipmen proudly wear their uniform even when not attending ROTC events?
Overall, a candidate should select a school to attend based on best fit aside from ROTC considerations. This is because ROTC is only part of the overall campus experience. Additionally, the ROTC cadre and staff change all the time. However, if two schools are equal in all other areas, using the considerations in this blog post can give the candidate a good idea of which program could be a better experience for ROTC.

Listen to our recent podcast on choosing the best ROTC program below. In this episode, we attempt to answer what makes a program “good” and a good fit for students.

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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.

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