If you’re enlisted and want to become an officer, I have a plan for you. Get out when your enlistment is up. Apply to a university with an ROTC program. Use your GI Bill to pay for school while you complete your degree and attend ROTC. BAM! In 2-3 years you’ll be pinning on bars.
GI Bill + ROTC = Commission
A sharp enlisted troop with 1-2 years of college has an outstanding opportunity to earn a commission. The easiest option is to simply get out of the military once your enlistment is up and join ROTC at a university. The next available option would be to apply for a program that lets you out of your enlistment early (more on that below).
Why ROTC? Here’s a secret: many students that try to join ROTC aren’t cut out for the military. Some run two laps around the track and pass out. Others hate the idea of marching or doing anything really military. Because of this, a class of 30 freshmen drops to about to 10 by the senior year.
But you already pass the fitness test. You know how to march and you’ve seen the real military. ROTC will develop your leadership skills and test you in this area. But odds are you will excel when compared to your peers. By using your GI Bill you can comfortably support yourself while going through college and ROTC. You’ll be more mature than many of the other students and should do well in college just by applying yourself rather than binge drinking.
Unlike other commissioning programs, if you make it through an ROTC program you will commission when you graduate. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that being an officer is easy, or that the process will be a piece of cake. But when it comes to getting in the game and following the track to being an officer, joining a college ROTC program is probably the easiest way.
Plan of Action
1. Talk to a counselor at your education center
They can tell you if you qualify for a program that lets you out of your enlistment early. If one is available, then apply. If not, no big deal. If you have the new GI Bill you can simply wait until your enlistment is up and attend ROTC then. There’s really no difference between the new GI Bill and the scholarships that the services offer in terms of money. The major difference is that they will likely let you leave early (I left at 3 out of 4 years for mine).
2. Call an ROTC recruiter for your desired branch
For a while, students could join ROTC during their third or fourth year of college. From what I’ve heard this is no longer the case. You need to find out at what point you can no longer attend ROTC. For instance, can I join ROTC if I’ve completed 60 credits and am transferring to a university as a junior? Do I need to be a certain major to join? For most services you need to have 2 years of college remaining to join ROTC. Your major should not matter. But check to be sure.
3. Choose a nearby school with an ROTC program
You can either go to a school with a program, or attend via “cross-town” which means you drive to that school for your ROTC courses.
4. Work out a degree plan with your college counselor
Don’t give up, you can do this! So many enlisted troops I talk to think that becoming an officer is some crazy process that is out of their reach. ROTC is an opportunity to jump right into the track towards your commission.
Already have your degree and want to become an officer? Stay tuned for an upcoming article on that topic.
Navy ROTC (also for Marines)