NROTC Choices


C/O 2026 Applicant
Jan 18, 2021
Hello to all. I hope you guys are doing well.

Currently, I am very fortunate and blessed to have options with my NROTC scholarship. I have the NROTC 4 Year Scholarship (only tuition) and an acceptance to the NROTC Preparatory Program at SDSU. Furthermore, I am on a waitlist for UCLA to hopefully transfer my 4-year Scholarship there OR I could transfer the 4-year to UCSD where I already have been accepted. The caveat to this is that the 4-year scholarship only covers tuition and I will have to pay my room and board if I take this route, while on the other hand, I can choose to go to SDSU for 5 years with tuition and room & board paid for by the Navy.

I would love to accept either but my thoughts on these scholarships are that:
1. I don't want to take out student loans or have my parents pay for my room and board.
2. If the Navy will be able to pay for all of my tuition, why not attend more prestigious and well-regarded universities like UCSD or even UCLA? I have visited both institutions and they are very solid universities to get a bachelor's degree.
3. Would it make sense for me to accept the 4-year and hopefully transfer to the UCSD or UCLA unit and pay the room and board since both universities are solid in their programs? How likely would the Navy approve of the transfer of the NROTC unit?

I even called my Chief who has helped me throughout this process. He made it up front with me to ask myself whether either scholarship will pay for room and board since many 4-year recipients still pay for room & board (though dependent on the university).

Though this is ultimately my own decision, can anyone who is going or has gone through this process give their two sense in this? Thank you to anyone that can contribute their thoughts to this.

On a side note, yesterday I received a letter from Great Lakes concerning my 4-year scholarship stating that I must accept my 4-year by 3/24. However, in the initial email that was sent to me, it states that I had up until 5/15 to accept. Which date do I conform with?
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You can accept the NROTC scholarship and then change your mind if you are offered admission to a SA or another branch of ROTC and wish to take that instead at a later date - the acceptance is not binding. So I would recommend reading the fine print in your contract including the prep contract as I've never seen one of those, to ensure that hasn't changed, and then accepting without delay. You accept it within the date of your most recent letter, not the prior detail. Are you waiting for something else - SA/ AFROTC? either way g'head.

For the prep program just make sure you understand what it will cost you after the scholarship at each prep school option - last Fall a few families were caught off guard thinking one of the prep schools was a zero cost/ full ride when it was not- search the board for details. However, it's sounds like just a terrific program and way to get off to a solid start in NROTC - congrats on both the scholarship and this offer. Please keep the board posted on your experiences.

Typically the navy pays either tuition/ fees OR room and board. But specific universities also either cover room and board or allow students to apply the merit / aid scholarships they receive toward room and board- and some do not. So you within days if not already should have a sense of what merit monies/ aid you were awarded - expressly check with each school on what you are afforded/ what is the better deal and what you can "keep" to use for room and board or tuition. for some state schools for example, tuition is 8500 and fees 4000, and room and board is 16500 - in that case taking the scholarship money for room/ board is a better deal than the in-state tuition and fees - find out and do what's best for you. Get it in writing. Confirm the total cost to attend details - some schools like my Alma Mater NYU had a hidden cost - the professors wrote most of the textbooks and put out a new version each year and tracked who bought it - 400-600 per book in some cases- so they made la bundle per year just on their textbook sales- that wasn't fun.

My DS went through this process 3 years ago and after being offered scholarships from A, AF, and NROTC chose the navy scholarship, and is using it at a school that provides room and board (caveat- any monies used toward room and board are taxable, but this is not a high impact). Knock on something wood, as long as he stays on-course and commissions and serves, he will graduate with zero debt from a bachelor's degree education.

I think you need to first confirm what merit/ aid monies would offset the tuition or room and board that you don't cover on scholarship at these schools, and confirm which schools offer room and board support. Confirm the exact amount you would pay over 4 years in each program. Then you need to decide whether the prestige or experience is justified for that bill or whether you'd prefer to graduate without high costs. In our household we did that analysis and felt that for Harvard/ Cornell/ Notre Dame/ Purdue or a select few other schools the experience and caliber of students to interact with (it's good to be surrounded by a lot of people more talented than you in some ways) we would pay the difference if any of our children wanted to go there, but for most other schools, getting out of school without debt (other than years of service which for DS that service is a dream and goal not a burden) was the right path. But you do you, and decide.

I'll just say San Diego state is highly regarded as are the other schools on your list. UCLA did not wow me - like Yale, Temple, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia it's a walled beautiful campus in a not-great neighborhood. To each his own, but I would if you're asking for other's 2 cents, go for the free education. It's your journey so just be honest with yourself and discuss with your family on what will work best for you - no issues with those who opt for the best education and to pay the room and board - a lot at Penn State do this for example - great- again you do you. But they'll have bills looming or to pay that you don't necessarily have to take on.

Good luck.
The advice given is spot on. One thing you need to check. If you accept the NPP at San Diego, I believe the expectation is that you stay with them throughout your NROTC time. So, if you desire UCLA, I would not accept USD unless you speak with them and they agree you can transfer to UCLA if accepted later. Unless I misunderstood what you meant by Prep Program.
DS was in NROTC in San Diego-be aware that if you pay for room and board-the cost of living there is super (outrageous) expensive. I understand the pull of UCSD-SDSU is a sweet deal however. @Herman_Nerd speaks wisely. You are wise to seek to commission debt free. It is nice to have that first paycheck be totally yours. Career wise, post Navy, many employers do not care where your degree came from.
Good morning Meowspike, I feel compelled to weigh in on the college choice aspect. I’m the mom of four kids who grew up in California (I’m a transplant from the Midwest.) All four kids were able to get accepted to several UCs. Three into UCLA (other didn’t apply), 3 into UC Berkeley and UCSD, all into CalPoly SLO, and all into assorted other CSUs. Only one went UC, the rest went to CalPoly and SDSU. Remember that the UC system is a research university system, and the CSUs are teaching universities. Depending on your major and your future career plans, you should keep this in mind. Unless you want to get a doctorate in your field, I question the value of a UC education over others; and dealing with the potential negatives of a UC. Three of my four kids have graduated and have successful careers with great companies. (The last is my current NROTC guy.) None didn’t get a job for which they applied and certainly not because they didn’t go to UCLA. If anything, their experience has been that the CalPoly or SDSU educations were more valued by employers as those students learned how to do actual work and had specific job skills. I’m not bashing a UC education, and certainly all of those grads are able to get jobs. I just caution you about going into debt so you can say “I went to UCLA.”
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DS was in NROTC in San Diego-be aware that if you pay for room and board-the cost of living there is super (outrageous) expensive. I understand the pull of UCSD-SDSU is a sweet deal however. @Herman_Nerd speaks wisely. You are wise to seek to commission debt free. It is nice to have that first paycheck be totally yours. Career wise, post Navy, many employers do not care where your degree came from.
"Lucy, you've got some 'splaining to do!"

Just kidding - thanks @Lucy and @GWU PNS for making me smile.

@Herman_Snerd thank you so much for that input. I did read into the fine lines of the NROTC Prep Program contract and it only states that tuition and room and board will be paid for ONLY during the preparatory year. After that preparatory year, I will receive the same 4-year scholarship that I have right now, with no room and board to be paid for by the Navy (at least it doesn't explicitly state that). I did send an email to my advisor for the prep program and I am currently waiting for a response. In the mean time I did accept the 4-year scholarship since it is not binding.
@Calmama thank you so much. I have thought about the significant differences between the CSUs and UCs, especially within research or learning aspect of the curriculum. Only recently in my life have I thought that UCs are more viable, in my opinion, for the graduate or doctorate degrees while there is absolutely nothing wrong in attending a CSU since it doesn't matter where you may from in the Navy. The "cool" and "prestige" aspect is no doubt present in the UCs as it is very present with many of my friends who are leaning to attend them for their undergraduate degree. I find it sort of toxic in my generation to look down on CSUs over the UCs or other prestigious universities; as many of my classmate's highest goals are to attend a CSU rather than a UC.