Advice for Future Marine Option Applicants

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by Prospective USMC, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. Prospective USMC

    Prospective USMC Member

    Apr 29, 2013
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    Hello all-

    Looking back on the application process, I realized that one of the few guiding sources I had was this forum. People like kinnem are incredibly valuable; use them as fountains of advice.

    There is intense competition for these scholarships. Given that the Marine Corps is already one of the smaller branches, and its forces are downsizing, it can only get more so.

    That being said, I am going to try to impart some wisdom on those to come. It may not be helpful for everyone (after all, each and every applicant is unique; it's a cliche for a reason, people), but my hope is that if I can reach just a few of you, it will have been worth it. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, or brag about my accomplishments, but rather give a concrete example that happened to work for the best.

    1) Get involved early, and take the lead

    As soon as possible, you need to latch on to an activity and take it as your own. For me, those two activities were cross country and Boy Scouts. For others, it may be football, soccer, lacrosse, Girl Scouts, or whatever. The point is that you need to be involved, and you need to be a leader in said activity. I was an Eagle Scout and Senior Patrol Leader for a troop of 100+ kids, and I was the cross country captain for a very competitive school. Show that you want to and are willing to take on the leadership role for the activity, and those in charge take note.

    2) Take the academics seriously

    There's a reason why they ask for your SAT/ACT scores as well as your transcript. You need to prove that you are a competent leader that can be entrusted with the lives of America's finest. Therefore, take your academics seriously! The minimum standards are just a bar for how low the Marine Corps is willing to take applicants; the true "passing" bar is well above an 1000/22, trust me on that one. Take the SAT/ACT multiple times each to get a feel for how you take each test. The Marines will only look at how well you did on one test in particular (i.e. no super-scoring), so hopefully with each passing test the more knowledge you have will boost each score a little bit. I understand the SAT is changing in the next couple years, and I don't know how; but fight the current fight and keep an eye out for how things will change. I went 1380/29.5 for the Math and English combination, and I was barely above the accepted average in both. I took the SAT 3 times because I preferred it over the ACT.

    The better you do in school, the more willing the Navy is to pay for 4 years of your higher education. It's a no-brainer, but I've been startled by how many friends of mine slack off for the first two years of HS and then try to turn up the intensity come junior year, or even senior year. Take as many competitive classes as you can, right from the get-go. I've long held to the idea that getting mostly A's and a few B's in an AP or Honors class is better than acing the easiest classes your school offers.

    3) The PFT is not a joke. At all.

    The Marine Corps is a very image-driven environment. They want officer candidates who are capable of excelling in a physically demanding environment, and this means from the very first PFT test. I'll break the PFT test down into it's three parts and how to prepare for them (this is for guys; I know the standards are different for females, but it is what I know and understand).

    a. The pull-ups
    This is often the first event during the PFT, because most find it to be the most demanding. The Armstrong Pullup Program is the single greatest workout I can think of for prepping for this, as long as you are doing absolutely perfect repetitions. During our PFT, many kids did 19 or 20 pullups but only had 12 or 13 counted because their form was off in some way. Kipping in any manner is absolutely not allowed, the OSO will make sure of that. Because they are 5 points each, it is imperative to complete as many as possible. I did 19, but the average was between 16-17 (for those who ended up selected).

    b. The crunches
    This is the easiest part of the PFT. If you have any core strength, all you have to do is raise your elbows 6 inches to your chest and slam back down. Now repeat 100 times. The accepted range was between 92-100 repetitions (I did 97). Mostly do planks and AMRAP in 20 second bursts, and you should be fine (pro-tip I received from a GySgt PFT god: "Crunch as hard as you can for the first 80 seconds. You will find that if you are prepared, you should be in the 75-85 range. Rest for the next 15 seconds to catch your wind and prepare yourself for the last 25 seconds of measured, full repetitions. That way, you're not struggling to complete the last few in good form.").

    c. The run
    This killed so many strong candidates. Kids who had 20 pullups, 100 crunches were dropping 22 or 23 minute three mile runs, and it killed their package. Therefore, train as much as possible for this. I ran cross country, so my time of 17:52 was well above the pack. You don't have to run every day, but get your time down below 20 minutes to be competitive.

    4) The interview

    This is what I was most worried about. A two-on-one interview with two Marine Officers asking questions about your background and why you want to be one of The Few. Of course they will ask you what leadership you did, what you did in school, but the hardest question for me was "Why do you want to be a Marine Officer?" I can't answer that question for each applicant, because there is no truly wrong answer. But if you can put forth an answer to that question that comes from the heart, I promise you that you will be fine (I'm not going to put my response to this question seeing as it got a little personal for me).

    Come prepared with letters of recommendation. Not only the required ones (teacher, guidance counselor, other administrator) but from others who pack some weight behind their words. If you have some heavy hitters on your side that can attest to your leadership and how you would benefit the Corps, I promise it can only help.

    Also, wear something nice. You only get one first impression, why not make it a good one?

    4) DoDMERB

    Yes, this is a total pain. I understand how remedial (see what I did there?) some of the tasks are, but push through. However, I would say get this done as early as possible. There are stories of people on this forum who are waiting desperately for their Remedials or Waivers, and the earlier you get on it the better. I needed a remedial based on some ptosis surgery I had four years ago that didn't affect my vision. It was stupid, but if you can provide paperwork that shows how you are not impaired, this too will pass.

    5) The endgame

    Be proud in what you've accomplished. If you didn't receive a scholarship, it's not the end of the world. There are a multitude of other options (I have friends going PLC, friends going as college programmers, friends reapplying to the Naval Academy) that exist for you that you can take full advantage of.

    If you receive a scholarship, I welcome you to the beginning of a long and fruitful journey. Take pride in your accomplishment, then push forward. Continue to strive and exceed your limits.

    I'll look forward to seeing you all some day.

    Best of Luck,
    Prospective USMC
    UVA Class of 2018, Marine Corps Scholarship Recipient
  2. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator 5-Year Member

    Oct 21, 2010
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    ^ Good post. Print it out and stick it on your bedroom door people.

    BTW - 17:52 3 mile is one hell of a time! Congrats on that! :thumb:
  3. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt 5-Year Member

    Dec 13, 2010
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    Good general advice.

    Don't forget the application with two important essays.

    Regarding extracurriculars: there are many areas to consider including volunteer, employment, athletics, non-athletic (Scouts, Class Officer, School clubs, School organizations, Music, other)

    Awards, Honors and Certifications like SCUBA, CPR, Pilot License, Lifeguard, volunteer firefighter, EMT, etc also are included options in the application.
  4. Prospective USMC

    Prospective USMC Member

    Apr 29, 2013
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    Thanks for the kind words kinnem! :shake:

    USMCGrunt brought up good points. The essays are an essential part of the application as a whole. It's the first place where the board hears your own words, so make them good! Take up all 2500 characters you are allotted for both.

    There is certainly no dearth of activities one could provide examples of leadership in. Any skills you bring to the table that can help your package ought to be brought to the table.
  5. Bakslash

    Bakslash Member

    Dec 24, 2013
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    Great post! Couldn't have broken the process down any better. Like you said applicants need to understand that the minimum is far from what is expected, on everything: PFT, tests, etc.
  6. VMI82

    VMI82 Room 131

    Dec 2, 2013
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    +1 prospective usmc

    I'd add following thoughts for non traditional students like my DD who chosen in 1st round District 12

    I) She/we home schooled because we live so remotely in MT nearest High School was 2 hours each way.

    Home School was a 'push' because we kept scrupulous records. Still - we knew some on the selection board would view her GPA as 'suspect' as many Parents would consider fudging to get a 4 year ride.

    So two factors addressed that:

    1. Dual Credit Classes at local Community College. DD took so many she had to stop this spring so as to not exceed 30 credit hours rule.

    2. as you say - hammer the ACT/SAT. I set up a prep course and DD took a practice test every day for 60 straight days. It became muscle memory. It took her from test anxiety to quiet confidence because of the repetition.

    II) I am disabled with TBI induced Parkinson's and we have a son with Down syndrome. My wife is a Hospice Nurse who stayed in town during the week in winter because roads were so bad it'd have taken 3 hours each way.

    Thus DD and siblings ran our Cattle Ranch, did all grocery, cooking and managed the household while attending to their studies, fighting off predators (DD 3 … Wolves 0). So DD did not have 3 letters in sports, nor other extra curricula.

    Her essays and interviews about the responsibility she had and work she did was probably what won the scholarship.

    III) even though her education was non typical DD sought out Athletics when we moved to town 12 months ago (wife was transferred) so she ran The Spartan race with local Marine Corps League team and trained in a Parisi gifted Teen program. This helped her ace the PFT (even though she had a wicked cold day she ran it)

    IV) We set up 15+ practice interviews for DD. She is shy, by nature, as she was adopted at age 12 from a very dysfunctional family. Like practicing for the ACT … perfect practice makes perfect.

    V) DD organized a rifle raffle and raised enough funds to fly back to VMI for an Open House weekend PLUS put $500+ into local Marine Association. This, I feel demonstrated passion and determination.

    VI) The Marines, more than any service, want someone who WANTS to be a Marine.

    DD only applied to the Corps for ROTC and in her essay said "If you don't select me I will enlist, still earn the title and then turn Mustang." I.e., I am doing this - you (the Board) get to choose how & when.

    Aggressive? - hell yes. But we tend to be that way in the Corps :)

    ** Other services may not be upset if they see an applicant sending in apps to other branches … I suspect Marine Selection Boards like candidates who say give me the Corps or nothing. I may be wrong … but that is my 'hunch'

    VII) Recommendations - 1000% agree. DD had recommends from prior Master Guns with 20 years at 8th/I (he was her 'Coach' for Spartan race). Her english teacher at Comm College has a son in Recon and wrote a beautiful, near lyrical, piece.

    VIII) It does help if you can 'show' not tell that the Corps runs deep … if that is in your family. I know that is not possible for many - and don't sweat it if not. Go with your strengths. BUT if your family has that legacy make sure to stress how important that family tradition is to you.

    For our family: My son is a DM for FAST Co. My father was one of 1st KIA in Vietnam. Me. Father-in-law was in Korea. Both Grandfathers in WW2, etc etc … (yes, pretty damn close to Lt Dan)

    IX) Good Selection Officer. DD had a great Captain. Good man. You could tell he believed in her. She stayed in constant contact with him and built a relationship. DO NOT KISS ***. But excellent follow up, keeping them informed, doing what you say you will do - all 'professionalism 101' traits go a long way to building a positive impression. Each Selection Officer gets a 'pick of the litter' when he presents. You want to earn that - especially in today's austere environment.

    I hope this gives insight to any follow in future years that are also non traditional students. It can be done!
  7. USA123

    USA123 New Member

    Dec 24, 2013
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    Another perspective

    If you're not sure what direction you want to go in, it may be better to submit multiple apps. Like most kids, my son was 16 at the time he started the app process and wasn't ready to limit his options. He applied to USMA, USNA, USAFA, AROTC, NROTC (MO) and none of the branches (including the Marines) had a problem with it. He learned a lot about each choice through the app process--things he would have never known about had he not applied. However, everyone's circumstances are unique and in some cases, but not all (!), it may be an advantage to show that you are committed to one particular option.

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