NROTC Marine Option -- on stats, interviews, intangibles

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by rocatlin, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. rocatlin

    rocatlin 5-Year Member

    Jan 24, 2013
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    NROTC Marine Option -- on stats, interviews, intangibles

    With the Marine Option board questions coming around, I decided to share/"declassify" my son's experience and give my thoughts and impressions on the process.

    I'll start out by posting an often referenced link to a blog post by one of my friends that sat on NROTC MO boards. It's a great "inside the room" look at what the boards look at.

    To the sharing part...

    Stats (1st component in process):

    General comment: Do yourself a favor and don't get into the trap of comparing stats with others to see if you (or son/daughter if you aren't the applicant) are "good enough." Stats are important and will get you in the door, but how you conduct yourself or how you are perceived "in the room" (literally face to face or sometimes over the phone) during your interview really give the board insight as to who you are and if you are deemed ready for the challenge of becoming a Marine Corps officer. The Marine Corps is not a statistical organization -- it's very leadership (people) oriented.

    For those that are curious, I'll post my son's stats (generalized) for his first time through the 4 year scholarship process -- in which he was NOT selected. To put this in perspective, they are essentially the same stats (with a slightly higher PFT, GPA, etc) for the second time through the process in which he WAS selected. He received the scholarship notification during the first board while a freshman in college. I'll cover more in the intangibles section.

    Again, don't get too hung up on stats. Both my son and I thought these stats the first time around were "good enough." The officer that handled his board submission for the second go around thought they were "good enough" as well. (Again more in intangibles.)

    I'm hesitant to post specific scores so I generalized the ranges/stats. Again, essentially the same or better the second time through the process.

    Over 285 PFT
    Over 4.40 GPA (Weighted) -- straight A's, some AP courses
    Class rank: Top 5% in a class over 1000
    ACT: 30 plus
    Senior Young Marine -- 2 leadership schools -- graduated in top 2-3 each national class
    Section leader in national championship marching band (not your average "band nerds")
    Misc other community service activities

    Interview: (2nd component in process with minimal of 2 formal "directed" interviews)

    The interview form used in the process is probably still publicly available. I don't think it has changed much since the process was all paper. In any event, I actually have seen my son's eval from his first time through the process. With the excpetion of a couple of 4's (above average) he received 5's and very positive remarks by the 2 officers that interviewed him.

    Here are the categories from the applicant assessment section -- (rated on scale 1-5 with 5 being well above average )

    Interview performance
    NROTC Program Motivation
    Service Over Self
    Physical fitness (based on interviewing officer's personal evaluation)
    Overall suitability for NROTC program

    On his second time through, my son actually had 3 interviews. Two were of the formal/directed/rate and comment type (categories above) and one was from the CO of the recruiting district. More in the intangibles.

    Intangibles (what I see as a 3rd component in the process):

    (1) A lot of the intangibles are covered in the leadership traits and principles that the Corps highly values. ("Google"/Bing JJ DID TIE BUCKLE (14 traits) as well as principles). The subjective part of the interview (the officer(s) providing input as to the applicant's potential) have a lot of basis in things such as bearing (one of the categories above), initiative (can actually be seen in physical and academic preparedness), unselfishness (again above), endurance (really important on my son's 2nd time through), enthusiasm (not phony/rah type -- genuine), etc.

    (2) Follow up/communication/staying in the process -- the candidate / RS team:

    The first go around during my son's senior year in high school, the only communication he received after the 1st board was a blast email to all that applied that no applicants from his particular district received the scholarship during the first board. Another remark to the entire group was "keep working on your PFT" but with a 287, my son wasn't particularly worried.

    The first time around, the lack of communication was obvious. Back to the "good enough" part, we need to remember these are 17 & 18 year old kids and they want to know the whys. (Admittedly, as a parent and a Marine veteran that worked in the process, so did I.)

    Nothing could fix the first go around -- it was in the books. Speculation was that the ball got dropped or something to that effect (if you take a negative reason). An accepted reason is that these boards are tough -- not only for the applicants, but also for those reviewing packets and trying to weigh them against procurement needs, etc.

    After the initial disappointment, wonder, and even anger -- my son got right back into the groove and resubmitted his application as soon as the next 4 year scholarship application window opened up. The second trip through, the communication was markedly different from the RS perspective. The replacement made it a point to have monthly touch-points and meetings with all in the pool. He had monthly PFT evals. He coordinated with the PLC program. There is always a level of uncertainty up until board announcements, but my son felt that at least his communication wasn't ignored.

    (3) Planning and timing:

    As stated earlier, my son reapplied for the 4 year "outside" scholarship as soon as the new application window opened up. He also enrolled as a Marine Option college program midshipman -- which would also open up another path to a scholarship with the "sideload"/NROTC unit initiated scholarship.

    My son did well during orientation and the first semester in the unit. He had the highest freshman PFT score and 3rd highest among Marine Options (even higher than his scholarship counterparts) and was chosen/voluntold for the endurance team. He made a positive impression with the upper class mids as well as the MOI/AMOI team with his attitude, academics, and other activities.

    Now for some of the timing part -- through luck or providence his MOI just happened to be one of the officers on the first selection board in November. (Realistically, if a board sees a college program midshipman's packet come through, there probably would be some consulting going on even if the MOI wasn't on the board.)

    My son's hard work, endurance, et al. paid off under the evaluation of the intangible "interview" of his MOI evaluating his performance. After his big fake scholarship check was presented (actually after his freshman year of college was over), my wife and I were pulled aside and I was told Marine to Marine that my son's packet journey through the early board lasted less than 5 minutes in debate. When you have a combat veteran leading off with basically "we'd be stupid if we didn't select this kid", it tends to shorten the process.

    (4) Endurance/drive/you gotta want it -- I think you get the point.


    Final thoughts...

    First of all, the applicant controls his/her own destiny. Hit the application early--after hopefully preparing yourself academically and physically well before the application comes open (months/high school years before) .

    Very few get selected in the early board, BUT put your absolute best package together well before then. Don't play catch up.

    If at first you don't succeed -- suck it up butter cup. It's a competitive process and is meant to be hard. All of us that have worn the uniform want the officer corps in The Corps to be the best.

    Stats are still important -- and you should do well. Be first class. Frankly a low first class PFT will hurt you. No leadership will hurt you. Poor grades, trouble in school, etc. will hurt you. If you have those negatives going into the first board, it is extremely doubtful you'll get selected in the second board as well. For those with good stats, be humble and remember that stats don't make the human/leader, but being a human and a leader makes the officer.

    Related to the first final thought, we parents should be interested / informed of the process -- we've earned that right. We should NOT dictate the process, however. I feel the Marine Option process eliminates a lot of this due to it's one on one interviews, but once again, you the applicant working with the RS team drives the process.

    Be humble, yet proud that you the applicant are a small majority willing to make the sacrifices and ultimately explore a career that won't be easy. (Another set of thoughts on how it won't be easy when you compare yourself to your old high school friends living the easy life, but that will be another post in it's entirety) There is that saying, "If it was easy, it wouldn't be the Marines."


    Now for a parent's cool story bro' related to communication. After my son went through his 2 formal/scripted interviews, the CO of the recruiting station in the region wanted to interview him personally before he endorsed his board paperwork. I do not know what was said in that interview, but I will say that I was sitting at my office desk and got a post interview phone call. Unsolicited. Unsuspected. Unnecessary. But Appreciated. It was very meaningful for a Silver Star recipient to pick up the phone and call to basically thank us for doing a good job in raising our son. For a parent, that's inspiring. For a Marine, that's motivating. Rah. Kill. Yut.
  2. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt 5-Year Member

    Dec 13, 2010
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    Bravo Zulo rocatlin! Well done!

    Great anecdote about the call from the CO. What a memory!

    If I can add a few additional thoughts...

    Essays - I believe these are very important. See the blog article for confirmation. The applicant should spend a great deal of time conveying the right message and rewrite it many times to get it right. Proofreading by an English teacher and/ or a former Marine can help fix the grammatical and messaging. Don't settle for "good enough." Make it the best it can be.

    Staying in touch - my DS had most of his communication via a local recruiter not the OSO. In fact, he first learned of his scholarship award (informally) from this Sergeant. This may be particular to how it was managed within our region and with that particular OSO. But believe me, I have no doubt that my son's interaction with that Sergeant played no small part in his eventual scholarship. Treat every interaction (officer, enlisted, civilian employee) with respect - each interaction is an "interview" (or could be).
    rocatlin likes this.
  3. rocatlin

    rocatlin 5-Year Member

    Jan 24, 2013
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    +1 USMCGrunt..

    Good point on the essays. I forgot about them. They are kinda lumped in that application process that gets the person in the door. I will say that the perception of the applicant better match the essay in the application. You need to be that person you say you are. Don't fluff it with what you think they want to hear.
  4. mgreen

    mgreen Member

    Nov 1, 2015
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    Great post! All of the points above are absolutely correct. DS didn't have much contact with the OSO, but was assigned a fantastic NCO recruiter. DS didn't DEP, but was invited to work out with the DEP pool. Couple of other points: study and be prepared for the interview, wear professional clothing, bring a resume, and train hard for the PFT.