As a Professor of Military Science at the University of Southern California, I had the opportunity a few years back to sit a scholarship board for Army ROTC at Fort Knox, Kentucky. I wanted to give you my observations about the board in order to understand from one member’s perspective what we are looking for
The Army ROTC board counts for 350 out of 1400 points or about 25% of the overall candidate score. Each board members looks at hundreds of files of candidates on a computer where we see the person’s SAT/ACT scores, interview score and narrative from the Professor of Military Science (or other officer/ROO who interviewed the candidate), GPA and high school transcripts, Civilian Background Experience Form (CBEF) score, physical fitness test scores, and personal essays.
We only have a couple of minutes to look at each candidate file so we didn’t have a great deal of time to spend on each candidate. We were then asked to rank the candidates on a numerical scale.
Here is what I keyed in on when I rated candidates (my observations here are generally in line with my fellow officers who sat these boards with some variation):
ROTC interview narrative. This is the most important element in my opinion. If the interviewing officer gave a strong, well written narrative that recommended a scholarship, I gave this a heavy weighting in my overall rating. I also gave more weight if I knew the interviewer was a PMS. I also looked at the overall interview score.
SAT/ACT. Was (fortunately or unfortunately) a quick way to separate candidates and rank them. Higher the score, the better. Mentally for me, if the candidate had a super score over 1300 it made an impression on me. Same if a candidate could push into the 30s on some ACT sections with a super score of 28 or higher. Obviously, 1400 SAT/30 ACT or higher composite made an even greater impression on me.
Unweighted GPA. Higher the better and another way for me to rank candidates. I took a quick look at the rigor the courses to make sure it was a “legitimate GPA.” I didn’t weight GPA as much as SAT/ACT because of the vast number of different high schools and their differing grading standards.
Athlete, Leader Activities. Quick check of all activities. Tended to look for “vigorous” high school varsity sports that would indicate success in the athletic demands of Army ROTC and significant outstanding leadership accomplishments such as class president and Eagle Scout/Gold Award. I also paid attention if the person had done activities like JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, or Sea Cadets that indicated military propensity. I also noted if the candidate’s parents served in the military (again military propensity).
CBEF and PT Score. Checked briefly to see if it was out of tolerance or there was anything out of the ordinary.
Candidate Essay. Briefly looked at it.
Takeaways for you:
The interview is the most important thing to do well on. Prepare for the interview and see my previous advice (andothers on this forum) on what to do to get ready for it: https://www.serviceacademyforums.com/index.php?threads/interview-observation-from-a-former-army-rotc-professor-of-military-science.67205/
A good SAT/ACT score is a way to separate yourself from other candidates. Since the Army ROTC super scores your SAT/ACT, there is nothing to lose to retake the test if you think you can realistically raise the score.
Try to get as high a GPA as you can while ensuring sufficient (but not necessarily extreme) rigor.
Work to make a significant leadership accomplishment in high school that would draw the board members attention away from the “static” of a laundry list of activities. Look to participate in activities like Civil Air Patrol which show a propensity for the military.
Athletics. Participate in a “vigorous” varsity sport and do your best on the PT test.
I wish you all the best of luck as you prepare for the 2019-2020 application year and future years.