Last Updated on January 20, 2022

Are you in ROTC and want to apply to a Service Academy? Army ROTC to West Point, Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) to the Air Force Academy, and Navy ROTC to the Naval Academy are all options! You can even cross apply to a different branch’s service academy (ie: Air Force ROTC to West Point). This post will discuss the ROTC to Service Academy route.

There are many different ways to commission as an Officer into the military. Many students will pursue several different ways at the same time to make sure they are successful. 

Students can attend ROTC or a Service Academy and commission directly into the Armed Forces. They can also attend a shorter commissioning process known as Officer Training School (for the Air Force) or Officer Candidate School (for the Army or Navy) after serving as a prior-enlisted service member or college graduate. 

We recommend students pursue both options – ROTC and Service Academies. Applying for both also demonstrates dedication and perseverance towards achieving goals. 

Today we are going to focus on the ROTC and Service Academy routes since many high school students have to make this decision when thinking about and applying to college.

ROTC Versus Service Academies

There are a few different pros and cons of both of these paths, although there is no right or wrong answer. Each student’s situation is different and the best option for them will also be different.

First, let’s talk about the fact that students can and often do, apply to both. Especially when students know the branch of service they are interested in, they will often pursue that specific Service Academy as well as ROTC programs at their college of choice. 

Let’s say that a student really wants to commission as a Navy Officer. 

We’ve broken down the deadlines and paths for application to both Navy ROTC programs as well as the Naval Academy, which you can read here. 

Looking at the overall flow of the application timeline, many students will find out if they are offered an ROTC scholarship before they find out whether they will receive an offer of appointment from a Service Academy. This holds true for the Naval Academy. 

Navy ROTC boards are typically held from October – April, with board results announced 2-4 weeks after. That means your student could find out as early as November (the fall of their senior year of high school) if they will be offered a Navy ROTC scholarship. 

On the other hand, many candidates wait to hear back from Naval Academy admissions as late as April 15th (the spring of their senior year of high school). 

This leaves students in limbo for several months. The good news is that ROTC programs are used to this! Since so many students apply to both, they maintain a waiting list of scholarship candidates. Your student is able to accept the ROTC scholarship and then back out if they receive an appointment to a Service Academy. The next student on the list will be offered the ROTC scholarship in their place. 

Attending a Service Academy From ROTC

If your student’s heart is set on attending a Service Academy but they don’t get accepted, they shouldn’t give up!

ROTC is an additional nominating source for Service Academies. There are slots available in each freshman class in the Service Academies for ROTC students.

ROTC is considered a service-connected nomination. This means that students do not need to receive a Congressional nomination if they receive one of the ROTC nominations. 

Here is what a typical situation may look like:

A student has applied to both Navy ROTC and Annapolis. This student is set on attending Annapolis, but doesn’t quite have the SAT scores to make them the most competitive nomination for their Member of Congress, so they don’t receive the principal nomination. 

Their SAT scores are still very good; they just live in a competitive district. They also apply to a Navy ROTC program and receive a 4-year Navy scholarship. 

The student is bummed, but is committed to the Navy and accepts the 4-year Navy scholarship through Navy ROTC. The student shows up to the ROTC program and is committed to excellence. They are one of the strongest performers in the program freshman year. 

What NOT to Do

What the student probably shouldn’t do is to show up to the ROTC program and immediately announce their intent to re-apply to Annapolis. Instead, demonstrating competency and excellence and when the opportunity presents itself, make it known that they would like to reapply. 

The student will need their ROTC cadre on their side to be successful in the reapplication process!

Army ROTC to West Point

The student’s Professor of Military Science is required to submit the student for application to West Point. Here is the sample interview form for ROTC cadets applying to West Point. The form discusses the following and follows the Whole Candidate Score closely. Here’s what students should strive for (recognizing these are subjective):

  • Academic Ability – Exceptionally promising
  • Extracurricular Activity – Outstanding leader in “top” activities
  • Athletic Ability – Outstanding college varsity prospect
  • Personal Qualities –  Outstanding person. Tops in all respects
  • Overall Rating – Tops for admission

Find out more about West Point’s ROTC nominations here. 

Navy ROTC to The Naval Academy

All Navy ROTC units can nominate three candidates each year. Instead of a standard form, the commanding officer of the unit will submit a letter of recommendation for the student’s application. 

Applications must be submitted to Annapolis between September 1st and January 31st of the year entering the Naval Academy.

Here is the page for the Naval Academy’s Navy ROTC application.

Here is a sample of the ROTC nomination form to USNA.

AFROTC to The Air Force Academy

Each year the Air Force Academy has 20 appointments nationwide from AFROTC programs. 

Each AFROTC detachment can nominate up to five students to compete for these 20 spots. Students apply through their aerospace studies instructor. Instructors must nominate the USAFA applicant on this form, but they can also write a letter of recommendation.  

Here is the page for the Air Force Academy’s AFROTC application.

How to Strategize Your ROTC to Service Academy Application

Understanding where the nomination comes from in each branch of service is important! When you start your freshman year in ROTC get to know your Professor of Military Science (Army ROTC), Aerospace Studies Instructor (AFROTC), or Commanding Officer of the NROTC unit (Navy ROTC). 

Our best advice we can give is to bloom where planted! Don’t give up on your dreams of commissioning as an Officer in the U.S. military and we wish you the best in your future endeavors!

Listen to our podcast episode on ROTC to Service Academies! If a Service Academy candidate fails to obtain an appointment as a senior in high school or did not apply, doing a year of ROTC in college can give an applicant a significant advantage over other applicants.  In this episode, we talk about the reasons for this and why.

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Interested in ROTC programs too?

Did you know we also help students win ROTC scholarships? Check out our sister site: ROTC Consulting

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