There are quite a few commissioning options for those who are looking to join the ranks of Marine Officers. I would like to provide a 100% completely biased opinion about the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program. My disclaimer is that I commissioned through the 4 year NROTC program as a Marine Option Midshipman; therefore, I do not have the experiences of a Naval Academy, PLC, or OCC graduate (contact me if you have other experiences to share).
Might as well start with the good stuff, right? If you don’t already know, NROTC affords you the opportunity to have your tuition completely paid for. Not every Marine Option midshipman has the NROTC Scholarship, but the vast majority do. Those who join as a “College Program” (no scholarship) midshipman will be given the chance to compete nationwide for available scholarships. In addition, you will receive a monthly tax-free stipend that may be used as you please. Don’t forget you also get some extra cash to pay for books, and if you don’t end up using it all it can get pocketed! Believe me when I say that the monthly/book stipends are a huge help when it comes to getting through college financially. I will admit that sometimes the stipend money ends up getting used for NROTC related expenses (transportation, lost uniform items, etc.), but usually it’s going to end up helping you pay rent.
The Friendships Built Through NROTC
When I got married who do you think was on my “must invite” list? For one, my entire commissioning class. Secondly, there were several people from other graduating classes that I really wanted to be there. I made a conscious decision to invite friends from NROTC in lieu of parts of my (and my wifes) family. The relationships you make are unbelievable. There is a deep level of trust that you will develop with your classmates and I believe it is the first step to understanding the cohesiveness of the military itself. Naval Academy midshipman will likely experience this as well, but with NROTC there is a lot more freedom to do things unrelated to the military with your classmates. I went snowboarding with them, camping, blackjack at the casino, drinks every Thursday night, and so much more. It really is significant to be a part of such an exciting new community.
The True College Life
PLC and OCC Marines will actually get this a little bit more than midshipman. Simply because they do not have the same responsibilities while in college. With Platoon Leaders Class and Officer Candidates Courses you will essentially do college like a regular student. Midshipman are going to have to wear uniforms on occasion, attend specific classes, show up in the morning for physical training, etc. This part is mainly directed towards the Naval Academy. With NROTC, you are able to develop yourself as an officer while being afforded the chance to engage in college like everyone else. If you want to join the anime club you can do it. If you want to skip a class once in a while there won’t be anyone stopping you. The Naval Academy is it’s own community and going there will inevitably teach you in ways that NROTC never could. I just prefer to be able to live college life normally for the majority of my time.
The Experiences Unique to NROTC Midshipman
I will simply say that there are more than a few great experiences NROTC gave me. I am from California. I went to school in California. I never did much traveling. In my 4 years of NROTC here are some of my highlighted experiences:
- Weekend trip to the University of Notre Dame for a leadership conference
- Trips to Memphis, Tennessee for a drill competition
- A SECOND trip to Memphis, Tennessee for another drill competition
I’m sure the Naval Academy does a bunch of cool stuff also, but I think I’ve had my fair share of good times.
6 Week OCS!
If you have read or heard anything about Marine OCS you know that it is not a place you want to be at for very long. Those who do PLC go through two 6-week sessions of Officer Candidates School. Could you imagine finishing such an endeavor as OCS and then having to go back a year later? I would prefer not to have to think about it. With NROTC, the idea is that the material that PLC Juniors learn is taught to you throughout your first 3 years in NROTC which is why Marine Options only do a single 6-week session. OCC does a single 10-week session which if you think about it is the exact same as PLC minus the additional first week of in-processing and last week of out-procession. The Naval Academy does not attend OCS. I won’t comment on that, but I would enjoy hearing how some of you Naval Academy graduates out there feel about this.
If you made it through my list reasons why I would recommend NROTC over other programs, you probably can see that I am biased. However, I will reiterate my desire to have those with different experiences write for this site!
Hi Marine Officer,
I’m a junior in high school in the state of Washington. There’s a program here that I’m in, where you can go to community college instead of high school for your junior and senior years (3 classes/quarter = 90 credits by the time you graduate), so when I graduate I’ll have my associates of science and my high school diploma. I was wondering if you had any knowledge on if I could do NROTC for 2-3 years instead of the usual 4? Also, to be awarded the scholarship, what tips could you give me? My GPA from highschool was terrible in freshman year, and in sophmore year I really stepped it up (2.9 in freshman to a steady 3.8~4.0 in sophmore) and my GPA in college so far is at a 3.86. I only have a couple volunteer hours and events, and I do not participate in school sports. Any and all advice/tips would be appreciated!.
Here are the 2-3 year scholarship requirements from the official navy website: http://www.nrotc.navy.mil/scholarships.aspx
Same basic requirements as the Four-Year scholarship with the following additional requirements;
Must have at least 30 semester hours (45 quarter hours) but no more than 90 semester hours (135 quarter hours).
Must have a minimum college GPA of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale).
Must be admitted to or in process of gaining admittance to school affiliated with the NROTC Unit from which they are being nominated.
Students may apply for only one of two programs options; Navy or Nurse (not open to Marine Option applicants).
You can’t really do anything with your GPA or extracurricular activities at this point. I would suggest trying to get some good recommendations and work on your physical fitness so that you will have a high score on your PRT/PFT for the application.
I want to thank you for writing this article. I have been unable to find many online resources to help me in regards to NROTC. I have been blessed enough to have been accepted into the College Program at the University of Missouri (Mizzou) for this next Fall and I am ecstatic. I am going into my first year as a sophomore (I took a large number of college courses in high school) however I still plan on attending the university for 4 years to hopefully attain 2 bachelor’s degrees (I am majoring in Biological Sciences in addition to Chemistry to pursue Medical School down the road). I am extremely excited to embark on this journey, and I have been working extremely hard to be the very best I can. Academically, I have a 4.0 cumulative GPA in my college courses so far and I believe that once I acclimate to the sheer amount of studying required, I believe (and pray) that I will be able to continue my success. Physically I am in pretty great shape so far, as I just finished my Track season and running is pretty natural to me. I have been working out every week at my local Marine Corps Recruiting station Tuesday’s, Thursday’s, and at Poolee functions on some Saturday’s.
The reason I wrote this extremely long comment, was because I was wondering if you have any pieces of advice on how to succeed in the program, how to prepare myself for the rigor of my academics, how to balance a healthy social life, or any other possible suggestions you may have to offer. I want to thank you for your time, and for any knowledge or wisdom you could spare.
Thank you again.
You already seem to have your priorities in order, and college/NROTC is all about managing priorities.
How to succeed in the program?
ROTC programs vary throughout the country. You may be PTing once a week, or 5 days a week. The same goes for drill, social events, etc. Adjust to the schedule as best as you can. As a new midshipman, your likely to be given a lot of annoying/frustrating/meaningless responsibilities. Don’t let that get to you, just be glad you didn’t go to the Naval Academy. I recently learned freshmen at the Naval Academy are required to run between classes, can’t have any civilian clothes, and have a say “Go Navy, Sir” when turning corners. Not my idea of a good time. Treat the program as a part-time job. They are giving you a monthly stipend and paying for your tuition, so there’s not much to complain about.
Forget the haters that will say a double major in a difficult field isn’t worth the effort. I was told an engineering major would be impossible. I got my degree barely breaking a sweat. Not because I was a genius, rather I loved the stuff I was learning. Stick to what you love learning.
There’s time for it. It’s not easy, but you can join a club/intramural sports team and make it work. Plenty of people are able to balance in Greek life with academics/NROTC. My one regret is that I didn’t embrace all of the opportunities available to me while I was in college.
One great thing about NROTC is that you will make lots of friends and mentors very quickly. Utilize that support group and help out your peers. The NROTC staff are there to help you balance family, academics, physical fitness, and military life. Use them if your struggling. They have the power to give you time off from the program, or even pay for tutors.
Thank you for your time with this blog. It is a treasure trove of information for those preparing to head to OCS and TBS, and those who are still deciding whether or not to be Marine Officers.
I am the latter case, and am thinking of applying to the Marines as a Judge Advocate (I know the Marines aren’t accepting JA’s right now, but I’m not even in law school yet). If I’m remembering correctly, law candidates go through a 10 week PLC course, but can law candidates take the NROTC option and still get the 4402 MOS? Thank you again sir!
I’ve never heard of anyone getting a law contract through NROTC. Usually, they go through OCC and have a law contract already in place. After they commission they go to law school and after law school they go to TBS. That’s why you will see some 1stLts and Captains that are in your TBS class.
Good Morning Sir,
Does college gpa matter for MOS selection at TBS?
Not at all. They won’t even know what your GPA was.
I’m currently a sophomore in high school and have always been looking at the Marine Corps for a career. My dad was a Marine so I’m sure that is where part of my interest in the Corps came from. I’d just like to thank you for your time in the Corps and for this blog. I’ve been looking for information about just a Marine Corps career in general and this site is by far the most helpful overall. If you have any suggestions for me as far as NROTC preparation goes that would be greatly appreciated. And I definitely don’t want any kind of desk job so if you have any suggestions as far as MOS’s go that would be awesome also. Thanks again.
The best advice I can give you is to focus on one step at a time. MOS selection is about 6-7 years away from where you’re at now. By then so much will have changed that it’s not worth thinking about now.
Focus on what’s going to matter for an NROTC application.
-A great GPA. Take advanced courses and do well in school
-Running, pull-ups, and crunches
-Get involved in the community and have some other activities to add (sports, clubs, etc.)
Thanks for the information. I’ll make sure to use the advice.
How would life be like as an Intelligence Officer and what does it take to become one? Is there a specific degree plan or a recommended degree plan to follow?
No degree plan. Doing well at The Basic School and ranking high among your peers is key to getting an Intel MOS. They are low density, high demand jobs.
Most intelligence officers spend their time researching enemy capabilities and preparing briefs. At least that’s been my experience working with them.
Greetings and Thank you!
Hi Marine Officer,
I am currently a rising junior in Virginia, and i am extremely interested in the NROTC Marine Option and ROTC in general, I have good grades (4.1 GPA), and lots of leadership experience. I am drawn to the Marines over other branches for their ability, honor, and commitment to their communities, but the college that i am looking at (Washington & Lee University) only has Army ROTC, and that is through VMI which is next door. I am also particularly worried about not obtaining a scholarship, as well as the attrition rate at OCS. What are your thoughts on what I can do to remedy these worries?
Don’t dwell on attrition rates. There is plenty of time to prepare.
Worrying is only natural. My best advice is to take things one step at a time. I am assuming you are graduating High School. Focus on getting accepted into Washington & Lee University. If becoming an Army officer is not your desired path, start looking at other scholarship opportunities and look at applying for the PLC program instead. I have met several Marine officers that originally went to VMI, but decided to join the Marine Corps instead. There are options in front of you. Look at the nearest decision focus on getting to your desired end state.
Hi Marine Officer,
I’m currently in MCJROTC and I’m trying to get a scholarship for NROTC, any advice?
What year are you? General advice below.
1. Practice for the PFT.
2. Keep up on Academics.
3. MCJROTC will help fill the extra-curricular portion of the application. If you can spare the time, try to participate in other school activities.
Hello Marine Officer,
I recently received the NROTC marine option scholarship and am heading to penn state in August. I heard from a friend who was in NROTC, but got kicked out because of his failing classes, that double majoring is very difficult and part of the reason he failed his classes. I wanted to know how busy does NROTC get especially when you want to do other things in college?
Christian, great questions which I will look at writing an article for. Every NROTC unit operates differently, so I can’t comment on Penn State specifically. However, NROTC units need you to pass your classes. They want you to succeed and often offer resources to get you through school. My unit would pay for private tutoring and other Midshipman would give tutoring sessions for classes they’ve taken already. If your friend failed out of NROTC, they probably weren’t prioritizing correctly, or getting the help they needed. I would cautions against double majoring unless they are similar. For instance, I have friends who did Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering while in NROTC, but the dual degree only required a handful of additional classes.
As far as outside activities go, it’s going to be heavily dependent on how much your struggling with school. But, I know people that did fraternities/sororities, intramural/club sports, or worked part-time (including myself) all while being in NROTC. It’s a life balance you will learn.
James — Students at W&L can join the VMI NROTC unit. (As of June 2018, my son is applying to VMI and NROTC-Marine option right now and W&L cross-enrolled to VMI is one of the options you can choose in the application.). Best of luck! Steve (NROTC / Naval Officer, long long ago)
I have been looking into the NROTC-Marine Option as well as the Naval Academy for a long time now and I truly appreciate all the information you presented here as it is not that easy to find information on the Marine option for NROTC.
A question that I have been unable to find the answer to for a while now is what happens to NROTC Marine officer candidates who received a scholarship but fail to complete OCS.
Are they given another chance, forced to pay back their scholarship, or to enlist?
Great question Brian. It depends on why the candidate failed out of OCS. If it’s because of an injury, the candidate will be able to come back the following summer after they’ve graduated. An integrity violation (cheating or lying) will get you dismissed with no option to come back. If this is the case, or you choose not to try again, you may apply to commission in the Navy instead (no Navy OCS for NROTC midshipman), pay back the scholarship, or enlist. In most cases, the people I’ve seen not be able to physically make it through OCS end up commissioning in the U.S. Navy. Remember, the NROTC program is joint and midshipman are well versed in both services so it’s not a dramatic change.
I recently completed my last of three competitions for the Marine NROTC scholarship within the Houston, TX area. My academics were high performance, my interview went great, and I placed 1st or 2nd every single time in terms of my PT score. Additionally, my application was turned in extremely early during November. I was wondering if you could give me insight into my potential probability of being awarded the full ride scholarship.
Furthermore, I’m in the Delayed Entry Program and was wondering – during the event of me failing to obtain the scholarship, could I compete for it again while being an active duty marine?
Finally, I’m not an official poolee yet due to me having to retrieve medical records. Would this negatively impact me? I am to be notified of whether or not I received the scholarship in late April.
I can’t comment on your chances. You can definitely reapply later on.