Every year I get two or three incoming freshmen who contact me, saying they are interested in the program and asking questions about the commitment. Invariably I get an email like this one I got about a week ago.
after a couple days of thinking I am going to put this on hold. After talking with my parents they said I should focus on my school work first for the first semester and If I can add more after to do so. I appreciate you getting back to me and this is something that I’m not putting aside. I read somewhere that the latest you can join is sophomore year. After the first semester I will re-evaluate and see what I can do. Thank You.
I’m not a high pressure salesman. Army ROTC is not for everyone. I usually let the prospect know we’ll be here if they change their mind, and that it’s never too late, but I think it’s time I push back a little on the idea of waiting.
A cautionary tale
The reason I’m going to push back is because of this year’s graduating class. One of the top Cadets in the the class waited. He had an injury he thought would hinder his participation…despite me telling him otherwise. He waited until the spring semester to contact me again and enroll in the class. He was interested in one of our scholarships, and once he enrolled it became apparent he was what we were looking for. Problem was he was a semester behind his peers and he had already missed one scholarship board. When he finally came to a campus based scholarship board, we were pretty full on scholarships and he finally had to settle for a non scholarship contract when no more money was allocated to his year group. Because we held out for a scholarship as long as possible he wasn’t contracted until the fall of his junior year, which means he missed out on any optional training opportunities during those years that requires a Cadet be contracted to attend. Because of that he wasn’t as competitive during the branching process, and although he had his heart set on Infantry branch, he was assigned to the Ordinance Corps. He will be a great Officer and will have a successful career, but waiting to give Army ROTC a try cost him.
It can’t hurt to try
There is no obligation to try Army ROTC as a freshman. If you do find out that it takes too much of your time, or if it’s not the right fit, all you have to do is drop the course. At Clarkson you can drop the course just about any time during the semester with no penalty. I would rather have a freshman try the course and drop it after a couple weeks than to have him or her contact me at the beginning of their junior year when it’s usually too late to try to get them on board.
Help, not hinder
Army ROTC is usually a support system you wouldn’t otherwise have. We operate much like the athletic coaches, monitoring the grades and academic performance of our Cadets. We emphasize taking advantage of student services and we expect our Cadets (especially our Cadets in the engineering programs) to take advantage of tutors. We assign each Cadet a mentor. That mentor is an upperclassmen, usually in the same or a similar major who can help guide the Cadet through the challenges of being a Cadet and student. Academic success is going to be your number one priority while you are at school and we are going to remind you of that
We don’t ask for a lot of time
As a freshman in the Golden Knight Battalion we are going to ask for 6-7 hours a week from you. An hour of class, two hours of lab, and PT Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We are going to give you the opportunity to participate more, but if you have other priorities that is fine. We usually have 10-15 varsity athletes in the program that are balancing school, a sport or sports, and ROTC and most of them do just fine. We have fraternity and sorority members who are active in Greek life, we have Cadets in student government, and Cadets who work part time. If you weren’t giving us 6-7 hours a week, those hours would be filled with something else, probably not academically related. Since PT is not mandatory for non contracted Cadets, if you are having trouble managing your time, not attending some PT sessions is an options. As long as you are working with us, we will help you figure it out.
So, I fully understand incoming student’s (and their parent’s) concerns, but from now on I’m going to share this blog post when I get an email like the one I got last week. Nothing frustrates me more than trying to figure out how to help the latecomers get caught up, and be competitive for what they want. Hopefully it will convince one or two it’s better to give it a try up front.
At Clarkson, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I thnk the “New Dorms” are still called the “New Dorms”. I was the first class to stay there. 3 years in 108 Wilson. The above advice could have been given to me and it’s still good advice. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it. ROTC was a great start and an additon to an already great Clarkson edcuation. I started ROTC my freshman year, the Army pay for my last two years of school. I paid then back with 28 years total commissioned service, active, Reserve and National Guard. Although I’m retired, i still have my commission. Just do it.