Just as each branch of the United States military differs according to where and how they serve, there are also slight differences in how they administer financial aid for college students.
Army ROTC is the most common program, with more than 32,000 cadets enrolled in programs across the United States in 2010 [source: Fox News]. In fact, more than half a million officers have been commissioned through Army ROTC [source: U.S. Army: Legacy]. It is also generally regarded as the broadest program, offering the widest scope of training in the most careers.
The Army offers four-year scholarships for high school students planning on attending college, as well as three-year and two-year scholarships for students who are already working toward their degrees. The scholarships cover tuition and include additional allowances for books and fees. High school students can apply for Army ROTC scholarships beginning in March of their junior year and until January of their senior year.
Some of the eligibility requirements for Army ROTC scholarships are:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be between the ages of 17 and 26
- Have a high school GPA of at least 2.50
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Score a minimum of 920 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT
- Meet physical standards
[source: U.S. Army: Scholarship]
The Navy and Marine Corps share the NROTC program, which manages units on about 160 campuses nationwide [source: Today's Military]. The eligibility requirements and the application process are the same regardless of which branch a student is interested in. The scholarships offered and eligibility requirements are comparable to those of Army ROTC, but slightly higher SAT and ACT test scores are needed. Navy and Navy Nurse Corps scholarship candidates must have an SAT verbal score of 530 and math score of 520, or an ACT English score of 22 and math score of 21; the Marine Corps requires a total SAT score of 1000 or an ACT score of 22 [source: U.S. NROTC: Scholarship]. Applicants may apply online or with a Navy or Marine Corps recruiting office during the spring semester of their junior year of high school.
The Air Force, which has more than 140 units in college campuses, is the most selective ROTC program, requiring at least an 1100 SAT score or an ACT score of 24 or higher [source: Today's Military, U.S. AFROTC: Scholarships]. Although the citizenship, age and physical requirements are similar to the Army program, AFROTC scholarship applicants should also be in the top 40 percent of their graduating class with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. The types of scholarships offered are also similar to those of other branches. Once the applicant has applied and met these initial qualifications, an interview is scheduled with an Air Force officer before a selection board makes a final decision.
Of course, qualifying for an ROTC scholarship is only the beginning of the process. In the next section, we'll discuss the post-graduate commitments required of recipients.