ROTC Scholarship Dilemma

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by ulysses, Oct 18, 2010.

  1. ulysses

    ulysses Member

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    My son recently completed his application for a 4-year Army ROTC scholarship. Last week he interviewed with the PMS of a large public university. I spoke with the PMS after the interview and he presented us with a real dilemma. He indicated that my son was highly competitive, so much so that he believed he would be admitted to WP (to which he is seeking a nomination and an appointment). Because of his strong credentials and continued interest in the Academy, the PMS said he would “pass” on my son if he is awarded a ROTC scholarship at the upcoming board. The PMS indicated he did not want to “take a chance on losing the university’s scholarship.” On the other hand, if my son were to demonstrate a “clear commitment” to the university (presumably by failing to gain admission to WP and ranking the PMS’s university as his top choice), then he would gladly “accept” the scholarship. While I understand his logic, I find it troubling. If all PMS’s were to think this way, strong ROTC candidates – who are also applying to the Academies – would be in a real bind. So … (1) Has anyone else encountered this predicament? (2) How do PMS’s tend to make their scholarship choices? (3) What is the best strategy for obtaining the ROTC scholarship to a given set of schools?
     
  2. dunninla

    dunninla Member

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    what you are describing is the ROTC Scholarship award version of the "Tufts Syndrome" described often in College Admissions forums.

    The Tufts Syndrome (whether true of Tufts in particular is a debate) describes a similar dilemma faced by the admissions committees at schools ranked just below the tippy top schools -- let's just say outside the Top 10 (Tufts is ranked around #28 currently). When Tufts adcoms see an application that is "really strong" -- that is, a likely admit to a top 10 college, AND that applicant has not shown in his/her essays or interview or letters of recommendation that Tufts is high on their list and not a "Safety School", they often will deny admission. Why? Because one measure of a school's strength is a statistic called "Yield", which is the % of Tufts admits who choose to enroll at Tufts over other schools to which they were also admitted. A fantastic Yield is 80% (Harvard), whereas an average yiled is about 40%, whereas a poor yield would be under 30%.

    So what does the Tufts admissions committee do to protect its published YIELD? If they feel an applicant is so strong that if Tufts admits him/her they will have little chance of actually landing the applicant vs. a much higher ranked college, they simply don't admit them in the first place... OVERQUALIFIED is another way of looking at it. In this way they don't cause their YIELD to go down with this applicant (and 200-300 others who would be similarly overqualified).

    The solution for an overqualified applicant who really does WANT to go to Tufts and not a Northwestern or MIT or any other higher ranked school is for that applicant to demonstrate that strong desire for Tufts by visiting the school, interviewing, and including that desire in the essay part of the application.

    Similarly, in the AROTC application and interview, if an applicant prefers AROTC to West Point, then the applicant should say so. The AROTC units do not exist as Safety Backups to WP. If the scholarship applicant doesn't say anything, and in fact an AROTC unit will waste their scholarship on an awardee who turns it down, then you could see how AROTC would want to preserve its resources and budget on only highly motivated applicants.

    The answer to this dilemma is for the Army to make it so that an AROTC unit does not lose a cadet spot when an already accepted applicant turns down the Scholarship in favor of WP.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2010
  3. educateme

    educateme Member

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    dunnila provided an excellent primer on the Tufts Syndrome. This is a familiar phenomenon. I learned that this takes place among the Army ROTC battalions also. I am surprised by the candid feedback the PMS who interviewed ulyess's son. It is refreshing that he was so upfront and honest about it. I can't address the WP vs. AROTC issue specifically, but I can share some thoughts on the general issue.


    The issue goes BEYOND the ROTC vs. WP. It happens AMONG the schools that are listed on the school of intent list.

    Note: every PMS can see ALL the schools on the school of intent list of a candidate, NOT just where his/her school was put in. A PMS of a school #2 told my son, "I see, on your list, my school is listed #2 right below XXX school".


    The two primary considerations for the PMS to say yay or nay are both all about "not wasting" a spot by picking candidates who can't or won't come to their battalion. "Can't" because s/he failed to gain admission to the school, and "won't" because s/he found a better option.

    My general conclusion after learning a lot about this process and talking to a lot of officers and PMSs is the following:

    (1) The single most effective "tool" an applicant has in strategizing this whole thing is a carefully put together school of intent list. This is how you signal to the PMSs what if s/he is given a spot, the odds are good that you will come to the battalion.

    (2) ROTC scholarship in hand can be an amazing "hook" for schools outside of top 20, just like an URM, unusual geography (a student from Alaska applying to Tulane University, for example). Normally, my son with no hook would have to be top 15-20 % of the applicant to be a competitive applicant in the top 30-70 range schools. If he gets a scholarship, he can now shoot for schools where his stats put him in the mid range of the admitted student pool, which, normally would have been reach schools given that he has no admissions hooks.

    (3) Even so, if a PMS decides that the school is such a reach that s/he won't get admitted, he won't bother allocating a spot for this candidate. By the way, most PMS/recruiting/scholarship officers maintain a clear channel of communication with the admissions officer to "gauge" the admissibility, I am told. Unlike applying to college, where you can apply to as many as you want and see whether you hit a jackpot (unlikely admission into a reach school), you can't play that strategy for ROTC scholarship. I say, save your unjustified optimism for the next time you buy a $1 lottery ticket. My son did NOT put any school on the list where his stats fall below the median range of the admitted student (actually, in all the schools he put in, his stats put him well above the median point: more like top 10-30% range).

    (4) If a candidate has a safety school, and puts it at the bottom of the school of intent list, it is very likely that the PMS of that school will pass on the candidate. Two PMSs point blank told me that if the see a very strong candidate who put highly competitive colleges that seem like a match among the top 3 schools, and their school at the bottom of the list, they all know that their schools are simply safeties and will pass on this candidate in favor of a more "serious" candidate.

    (5) we all know that in the college admissions process, kids need a few safety schools on their list. So how do we do it in conjunction with the Army ROTC scholarship application? This is what my son did.

    He has 2 safety schools. He put one of them as his #2 school on the list. The other one is #6. I fully expect that even if he is awarded a scholarship after the upcoming board, the # 6 school will pass on him. Who knows even the #2 school may pass on him, seeing that #1 school is a reasonable option, as in, if my son gets the scholarship, he is likely to get in, and as such, the PMS of that school will pick him.

    **************
    As for the Ulysess's son, my 2 cents input is as follows.

    A couple of PMS I talked to said last year, 1-3 spots opened up in May since some of his scholarship candidates went to service academies instead. I doubt that the PMS did NOT know that these candidates were also applying to the service academies. What this tells me is, the "zeal" with which each PMS practices the famed Tufts Syndrome varies. The PMS who interviewed your son may be more of a hardliner, while some other PMSs may not be so uptight. If it is not too late (the file closes tonight, I hear), you might want to take a look at #2 or #3 schools on his school of intent list and see whether these schools are a good match for you son, and hope that the PMSs of these schools will pick him.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2010
  4. dpt135

    dpt135 Member

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    When you all talk about "top schools", do you mean top ROTC schools or top schools in general? Are the ROTC schools ranked? I am applying to NROTC.
     
  5. educateme

    educateme Member

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    I am talking about ranking of the schools, not the ROTC battalions. I have never seen ROTC battalion rankings. I heard that they used to rank battalions in the past, but they don't do that anymore.

    One can still get some feel for how they are regarded both by the students and by CC, and the easiest indicator for that is the # of the scholarship available in that battalion. Among the battalions my son is interested in, one stands in that it have 2-3 times more 4 year national scholarships as the others of comparable applicant pools, schools, etc. When I casually asked one of the officers there why s/he think they get so much higher quota, the answer was "the CC likes what we do here, and they give us more to work with". I don't know how to interpret this, but this was the answer.

    By the way, I am only talking about AROTC. I can't say what's going on with NROTC or AFROTC.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2010
  6. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    I think you have a very good strategy here with the safety at #2.

    If #2 school is a place that doesn't get a whole lot of interest from candidates selected at the early board and mostly fill their scholarship quota from later board candidates, they have little to risk in giving your son the :thumb: and offering him a scholarship. If he declines, the scholarship will be recycled through the next board, so they won't lose the scholarship. If he says yes to the safety school (perhaps #1 had too many great candidates and didn't give your son an offer), they've got themselves a superior scholar (at least on paper - the real test comes on campus) that they wouldn't ordinarily get.

    Don't underestimate these PMS'. There is a high-stakes game being played here trying to get the best candidates they can, risking the candidate who turns in his/her scholarship at the end for a WP appointment (at least in the case of the OP). They want to say yes to the list of candidates who are most likely to say yes in any board (I believe they can change their yes/no decision between boards).

    I can tell you that with goaliegirl's situation last year, we had to coordinate ROTC priorities with hockey recruiting priorities, so explaining that the list originally submitted in September were based upon the potential playing opportunities along with the desirability of the school. When school #1 went dark on the communications from coaches (and the unit for that matter) along the way, that was clearly communicated down the list. I believe that had a lot to do with the scholarship offer she received and accepted.

    In the end, everything has worked out very well. Goaliegirl has made the hockey team (tryouts last weekend) and has excellent prospects for playing time as a freshman (unusual for frosh goalies). She is in a ROTC unit that has been very supportive of her athletic endeavor and is having a great all around experience at the school so far. My wife and MIL just returned from parent weekend (neither had been to the school before whereas goaliegirl and I had been there 3 times before enrollment) and can confirm that she made an excellent choice.

    Message to OP - You can balance potentially conflicting goals if you have a clearly thought out plan and communicate it honestly and effectively to the units. If OP's son has applied to WP and isn't entirely 100% committed to the academy experience, he needs to define the decision process (what steps and when?) and communicate that to the units on his list. The candor will earn you some points even with the most competitive of PMS'. They would rather deal with a certainty than a game of chance. Definitive dates and priorities help reduce the uncertainty in their minds.

    I think the PMS' message was a check to see if your son has a clear decision tree. He is working under the assumption that WP is a strong #1 in your son's mind. That is probably the case for most WP applicants, but not all. Whichever way he leans, it should be made entirely clear to the #1 school PMS. Even if WP is #1, it should be made clear. You will get the PMS's respect. And if WP doesn't come through (these guys aren't perfect at predicting success) and you want to transfer a scholarship from another school that gave you a chance, you might be at the top of the transfer list in April.

    Make his intentions clear, but if they are not clear, at least make his decision process clear. It will serve him well now and throughout his career.

    Best of luck.
     
  7. educateme

    educateme Member

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    Goaliedad,

    If I remember correctly, wasn't the case that for your daughter, a battalion which was not on the original list of scholarship schools later was added after the initial board results came out and before the 30 day decision period was up?

    If so, do you have any insight on what made them change their "no" to "yes"???

    By the way, I believe this whole ROTC scholarship selection process provides the perfect platform for the famous Game Theory - multiple parties trying to come up with a joint outcome everyone has to agree on, but yet trying to maximize payout for them individually within this context. Strategy matters and matters a lot.
     
  8. mtnman17

    mtnman17 USMA Appointee 2015

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    I said something similar to my parents the other day! It's like we're pawns in a game that decides our future.... Not gonna lie though it is a very exciting process and in my eyes well worth the strategy it may require. This has probably been one of the most stressful first few months of school I've had so far with these scholarships but doing the interviews and talking with the PMS' who tell you about things such as their leverage with admissions makes it very fun and fickle. Mom said it was good practice for life :rolleyes:
     
  9. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    The battalion where she is was on her original list, but very far down. We toured the school in July (missed the coach on that trip) while seeing schools in the region. Made a second trip on a fall break trip in October (while seeing other schools in the region) where she finally got to meet the coach and got on his radar. That is when the school moved to #2 on the list. That is when the more intensive communication with the unit began as well as I recall.

    Had to wait for another coach to get him a scouting report (goaliegirl was playing prep hockey in NE - 1000 miles from this school) before we had an indication of where she stood hockeywise. Fortunately, in our case, we didn't have to make a ROTC decision until that point. With the hockey situation becoming clear she could communicate her updated priorities in time to get a scholarship offer. That update clearly set the yes flag on.

    As to the "Game Theory" comment, yes, to some degree we all (applicant families and units) enter a year with objectives and a plan of how to achieve the objective. Understanding that it is a dynamic flow of events requiring a series of decisions (not just dropping the application and waiting for the results) that feed each other is important. The idea that strategy can ensure a result or even greatly improve the odds of success is underestimating the complexity of the situation in many cases.

    And in the end, it isn't a game to be won or lost, but an audition for an opportunity to be a contributor to the greatest team on earth. You bring what you are and try to find a the best place you fit, if you fit at all. And if it all works out, you come to realize how lucky you really are.

    And I can honestly say that goaliegirl was very lucky. I can also say that the harder you work, the luckier you get.
     
  10. educateme

    educateme Member

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    goaliedad,

    to clarify, is this what happened:

    originally CC sent a letter telling your D that she has a scholarship to schools A, B, and C, and she need to pick one within 30 days.

    Then, your D communicated to the officers of the school X (the school she is at now) that now with the hockey issue all set, she REALLY wants to go to school X. And, this resulted in the officers of the school X to "add" their school to the list of schools she can take the scholarship to. AND, this was possible before all this took place before the next board met?

    Did I get this right?
     
  11. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    Sorry for the misunderstanding. She actually received (and accepted) a campus scholarship (yes, they actually had these last year) before her number came up for the national scholarship (when a campus scholarship is accepted, CC takes you off the list). Communicating the hockey status to the unit definitely had a lot to do with the offer that shortly followed. :wink: She got the scholarship to the school that was right for her. :thumb:

    While I doubt many units have campus scholarships this year, the units do have a degree of yes/no control over whether an applicant will get the green light at X unit. If your communication as to your intentions (or at least decision path) are clear to a unit, it removes doubt as to whether turning on the green light (either to CC or through a campus scholarship) will yield a cadet they like in the Fall.

    IIRC, the numbers last year indicated that more candidates did not recieve scholarships than did. And even then, many of the offers I remember being posted here were for 3 or fewer schools, even in the early boards which tells me that many units turned on the red light for even highly qualified candidates probably because they didn't have a degree of certainty that they were likely to be accepted. Point here is that it is difficult to get the offer you really want, even if well qualified, if the unit doesn't believe that you will be there in the Fall as there are plenty of well qualified candidates in the pool who they do know will use the scholarship if offered.
     
  12. ulysses

    ulysses Member

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    Dunninla, educateme & goaliedad

    Thanks for your responses! You've given me a much better idea of what's going on behind the scenes. I think the placement of schools strategy makes a lot of sense. My son and I will revisit his list (if it's not too late). Now that I understand the gaming aspect of this process, we should be in a better position. But I still contend that this whole process of admitting our sons and daughters to the military ranks needs revisiting!
     
  13. educateme

    educateme Member

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    I completely agree. To start, it would be great if they just lay out the process clearly and transparently. Not intricate detail of what really happens during the board. Nobody would/should publish anything like it, but there is no reason not to clearly indicate on the web site more obvious stuff like how many times the board meet and when, when is the deadline for submission for each board, and how the "rolling" board works, and when and how the scholarship transfer should be done (april/may).

    The official web site still says things like the deadline is Jan XX/2011 - this is hugely misleading since many popular battalions (in the case of Army) may have no spots left for those applicants who thought they were beating the deadline by submitting their apps by the official deadline of Jan/2011.

    Many excellent candidates who did not realize all the intricacies are getting a short end of the stick? It so happens that I found this forum so I was able to help my son. But, what about other students and parents who did not even realize how much they were disadvantaged because they did not have this information that is only available unofficially?

    If anybody is reading this from CC, I hope they consider making the process more transparent to the degree possible.
     
  14. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    The process you and your child are undertaking is to secure a SCHOLARSHIP for the Army to pay for the tuition. It is not to admit him to the military ranks.
    He does NOT need a scholarship to join ROTC and commission as a 1LT.

    While the process is competitive, try not to think too much into it. The "Tufts Syndrome" is more fallacy than reality.

    The PMS reaction to your son's application is not universal. Several years ago, when the PMS's actually made the awards - my daughter did not have any difficulty securing an early (October) scholarship. The PMS who interviewed her, wished her good luck on her West Point application and was very supportive.
    If your son is concerned about the response/reaction to the PMS who interviewed him - he should revisit those concerns in a follow up conversation.
     
  15. educateme

    educateme Member

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    So, this is VERY interesting. I did not realize that you could get a campus scholarship BEFORE the ROTC scholarship selection process presided by CC is over. I did not realize that this is even possible. This means that you bypassed the whole board process led by CC. Did I get this right?

    Actually, I heard that 20% of the scholarship quote allocation this year will be funneled through the campus scholarship. I heard this from one active duty PMS who sounded almost salivating over this (meaning, they can really exercise some local control), and another PMS who just retired at the end of the summer.

    This opens the door for some really qualified candidate who for whatever reason did not get selected/ready for selection during the "regular" season.
     
  16. educateme

    educateme Member

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    JAM, I read your posts in the past, and benefited from your wisdom greatly. I have to disagree with you on this though. If your experience is back in the days when the scholarship decision was made at local battalion, that was a very different ball game.

    These days, the decision is a combination of the CC selection and local PMS "veto right" (for the lack of better words) with the scholarship winners in a position to choose one school among up to 5. In this process, PMSs are rightfully concerned about allocating precious commodity (billet at his/her battalion) only to have the candidates walk away and choose other schools/battalion. Granted, they can fill they spots later when the great scholarship transfer dance starts, but that's not a desirable scenario for them.

    I have been told point blank by several PMS and recruiting officers that they do NOT want to pick candidates who are likely to go on to choose another school/battalion. One of them even said my son should put his school way up in the priority list if he were to be seriously considered.

    Tufts Syndrome is very much alive and well.

    I can't blame the battalion officers for this. They are doing their best for their battalion under the rules and systems set up. Likewise, the candidates and their parents (yes, parents matter since the scholarship has a huge financial implication for us) have do what they can to maximize the odds for successful outcome. Some call it gaming, but I call it necessary strategizing given the circumstance. None of us is doing anything unethical, but together, all of our actions (PMS, CC, candidates, parents, and even the school admission officers) combined are creating a reality that falls short of becoming a paragon of transparent and fair play for all those involved. The folks who are shortchanged are the candidates who did not know what really goes on and how the whole thing is played out.

    If any of behavior of those involved in this process is to be discouraged, the systems and rule of selecting scholarship winners have to change. Asking individuals to adhere to a lofty, higher level standard (for instance, not playing tufts game) potentially to their detriment while the whole system stays the same is not going to work. This reminds me of the "tragedy of commons" phenomenon.
     
  17. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    She didn't bypass the board process, as she put in an application like anyone else here on the forum. It is just that when her level of interest was at a level where the PMS thought was right, he brought up the fact that he had a campus scholarship to award. When she accepted the scholarship, CC was notified and her application was marked accordingly.

    As to the timing of the campus scholarships, I cannot speak to the general rules of engagement. Her offer did come well before the final board though.

    I think campus scholarships are a good way for units to take care of situations that might not fit the typical applicant and a way for units to select applicants who complement their other incoming freshmen.

    From feedback that goaliegirl has gotten from the seargant who runs the day to day stuff in her unit, she gets the feeling that units try to recruit students who enhance their overall unit score (they get evaluated on how their students do as Student Athlete Leader). I get the feeling that her situation with varsity athletics was probably key in the overall scholarship decision.

    As to your desire that the process be more transparent, I think that they intentionally keep it under covers as they would find many enterprising folks who would try to game the system, presenting themselves on paper as what they think the Army wants. It would make it harder for the ones who currently go the extra mile to demonstrate their committment to succeed in ROTC.

    You are getting lots of "single points of data" here. In the end, the best way you can help your son is to help him to understand that this is something "he" has to work for - contacting units, talking about his achievements and how he plans to leverage them into success at college.

    Don't worry about the transparency. Get him out there and in the public eye.
     
  18. educateme

    educateme Member

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    excellent point and suggestion. My son has been getting excellent feedback for his "communication" with the battalion officers on his school of intent list. My role has been giving him advice on what might be going behind the closed doors so that he can put his best foot forward with the understanding of how the process works.
     
  19. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    The "Tufts Syndrome" has never been proven to exist in college admissions at Tufts or any where else. It was made up by some folks out of pure speculation and took on a life of it's own on a college forum.

    What you are seeing is a increase in competition and interest for scholarships. Showing the love always helps for sure.
    However, Professors of Military Science are all human beings who bring their own experiences and attitudes with them. Their thinking is not all universal.

    There are tons of kids out there who are putting their best foot forward; applying to colleges and scholarships and getting accepted, winning scholarships without attempting to dissect every single facet of the system.
     
  20. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    I think the military is very up front about what they want in successful ROTC candidates (affirmative action aside). All candidates "game" the system by presenting an application that honestly reflects themselves in their best light. Taking and retaking SAT/ACT test, pursuing varsity athletics and leadership roles, preparing and retaking (if necessary) PT tests.

    Transparency of how the system works, and how the various ROTC programs assign/approve college selections wouldn't provide any more opportunities to "game" the system It would just make it clear to applicants how their choices would affect their chance of being approved for certain colleges. The military doesn't seem to mind whether candidates know and understand how their intended majors might affect the chances, why should the college selection process be secret or more prone to "gaming" the system?

    BTW - how could knowing when the scholarship boards meet help to "game" the system?
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2010

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