Uniformed JROTC high school students marchingThere are many misconceptions about what JROTC does as a program, none of them more prevailing than the belief that enrolling in JROTC means enlisting in the military.

There are many misconceptions about what you learn in JROTC and what you do in JROTC. If you were under the impression you would be required to join the military after high school because of JROTC participation, remember, JROTC is not a military preparation program. 

The main purpose of JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) is to prepare students in secondary school to become better citizens through specific leadership training and character development lessons and activities. By contrast, ROTC, the college level program, does require a commitment to service. 

In fact, U.Smilitary boarding schools and high school military academies that dot the map from the east to the west coast offer a robust and rigorous life and college preparatory experience. JROTC cadets at military boarding schools have an outstanding opportunity to engage in mental, physical and social activities that develop confidence, self-responsibility, perseverance, integrity, and respect. 

Secondary schools with JROTC programs recognize prospective applicants are often attracted to military schools and military academies for a variety of reasons, which may or may not include military service at all. Reasons to attend a military school may include: structure, motivation, self-discipline, time management, goal-setting, and independence. 

In fact, based on statistics from the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMCSUS), the majority of military school graduates do not enlist, but instead matriculate to traditional colleges and universities. After graduating from college, alumni from U.S. military schools and military academies report JROTC training continues to be extremely valuable in college, career, and life. 

JROTC cadets often assume leadership positions in their adult life in fields as diverse as: law, medicine, government, business, technology, engineering, and aviation. Involvement in community service and leadership roles in the Associated Student Body (ASB) augments JROTC participation. 

What is JROTC?

“Since the beginning, the purpose of the JROTC program has been to teach cadets leadership, geography, civics, health, global awareness, life skills and U.S. history.” -Accreditedschoolsonline.org

What do you learn in JROTC? In JROTC, you will learn lessons directly applicable to life, including: skills in leadership/management, life habits, life skills, and the development of good character. JROTC also imparts an understanding of your role and responsibility as a citizen, as well as an understanding of United States history, government, and geography. If you choose to attend a military boarding school, the JROTC program is an integral part of the academic curriculum through Leadership Education Training (LET) classes, but also extends well beyond the classroom. Both inside and outside the classroom, you will take part in a variety of mental, physical, and social activities. 

What do you do in JROTC? You will gain real-world lessons in leadership, learn how to follow the chain of command, and learn when to lead and how to follow. Cadets participate in formations, drills, competitions, and annual reviews. Perhaps, most significantly, top leaders inspire, manage, help set policies, and provide ongoing governance of the Corps of Cadets at military boarding schools. This experience is a direct way for you to gain strong leadership skills to prepare for college and life beyond. 

What does JROTC do for you?  If you want to develop and mature, JROTC is a great way for secondary school students to challenge themselves and prepare for life. According to U.S. News, “leadership, character and community service are the core tenets of high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, or JROTC.” 

What is JROTC about? As stated by the U.S. Army, the mission of JROTC is “motivating young people to be better citizens.” It is not about pushing teens to enlist in the military. JROTC, if you think about it, is a way to create tomorrow’s leaders in our communities, professional fields, and in our country. 

JROTC meaning? The JROTC acronym stands for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. This is not to be confused with Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in higher education (college/university level). 

Do you have to enlist if you join JROTC? In this article, we delve into military schools and why they are college preparatory and do not require or promote enlistment. Of course, a small percentage of military school graduates may choose to enlist following high school, but most attend public or private universities or attend the highly selective service academies or an ROTC university. Serving in the military is not a requirement of admission or graduation from a U.S. military school. 

JROTC vs. ROTC? At the secondary level (middle and high school) in JROTC, there is no requirement to enlist. The focus is on the development of good citizens and future leaders. However, at the higher education level at college or university, there is a requirement to serve if you are in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). 

What are the JROTC enlistment benefits? If a student decides to enlist following high school, there are a number of JROTC benefits that help students prepare to enlist in military service or enroll at an ROTC university, or U.S. service academy (USMA, USNA, USCGA, USMMA, USAFA). Benefits that help prepare JROTC students for military service include: fitness (mental and physical), leadership and followership skills, teamwork, and executive function skills. 

Are military schools service academy prep schools? High school military academies typically follow the best practices from the military service academies like West Point and Annapolis through their JROTC programs. Some military schools consider themselves to be college prep, but also service academy prep schools. They may model themselves directly after the best practices used at the top service academies, including West Point and Annapolis.

Does JROTC look good on college applications? JROTC is regulated by the military, so if you are thinking about attending an ROTC university, or applying to one of the five military service academies, it could give you a competitive edge. In fact, some military high schools are Honor Units with Distinction, a real plus in getting into a service academy like West Point. In response to this question on Quora, one person noted some useful tipss: “if you get a lot of promotions, do a bunch of hours of community services, and participate in events, they will think very highly of you and it makes you look like a respectable person.”

Does JROTC pay for college? According to Accredited Schools Online, “JROTC cadets can start earning school-specific scholarships as early as 9th grade. These scholarships cover the cost of an education at over 260 different colleges.” 

Is a college education free at the top service academies? As noted by Kiplinger, “The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy and Merchant Marine Academy offer a tuition-free education—but getting in takes hard work and patience.

Do all of the military service branches have JROTC? In short, the answer is yes. In 1964, Congress expanded the Army JROTC to include all branches: Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force. In addition, they also modified the program so retired military personnel and reserve officers could serve as instructors, rather than active duty personnel.

Is JROTC good for teens? The majority of students simply want to gain the leadership, character, and the life skills JROTC offers. While some may want a competitive edge to gain admission to West Point, Annapolis or another service academy, most students want the benefits to prepare for college and life. 

10 JROTC Benefits for Students 

  1. Leadership – Almost every profession needs strong leadership and JROTC is a great starting point to learn how to create a vision, spearhead projects, manage, inspire, and mentor others.
  2. Confidence – The backbone of leadership, confidence is critical to decision-making, management, and goal-setting. JROTC helps teens develop confidence by challenging them to face mental, physical and social experiences and situations.
  3. Life Skills – Students today, more than ever, need life skills in time management, how to structure and balance their day, etiquette, communication and conflict resolution skills, health management, and strong communication skill sets. JROTC helps teens learn skills they can actually apply during college, career, and throughout their lives.
  4. Technology– JROTC has a sophisticated technological framework used in classroom lessons. LET (Leadership Education Training) follows modules specifically designed to cover all the core content for the lessons on history, civics, life skills, and much more.
  5. Citizenship – Being a good citizen means following a value system, learning an honor code and living by it. Many military boarding schools/academies follow the honor code: “do not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate, those that do.” As part of JROTC, they follow a set of core values: honor, integrity, respect, responsibility, and gratitude.
  6. Service orientation – Community service is a key component of any JROTC program and cadets learn how to do service projects to support their community. Community service projects vary by location, but range from food and blood drives, concerts at hospitals, mentorship programs for youth, and support to the elderly and the troops.
  7. Teamwork – Knowing how to make friends, build camaraderie, resolve conflict with peers, and when to offer a hand, are all key components of leadership training. Cadets attending military boarding schools/academies often see the lessons from JROTC carry over into their academic classes as well as in sports, clubs, and other activities.
  8. Historical understanding – Understanding and appreciating the history of the U.S. helps inform students about ways they can create greater compassion, understanding, cultural awareness, so they are informed global citizens. Cadets at military academies often enjoy special cultural events and programs that complement the lessons learned in LET classes.
  9. Government – Developing an understanding of the U.S. government, how it works, and ways to give back through community service creates a strong citizenry.
  10. Geography – Opening your eyes to the world at large, other countries, cultures, and knowing basic geography creates global awareness and compassion.

We hope we have dispelled some common myths and misunderstandings about JROTC by detailing commonly asked questions and providing a list of benefits. In particular, remember, there is no requirement to enlist and this is not the objective at the junior level.

No matter what your goals are beyond high school, consider the many academic and personal benefits JROTC has to offer you. Enjoy the leadership, character development, as well as the college and life preparation this outstanding national program has to offer.

As a public service, the Army and Navy admission team is standing by to assist you as you research military schools with JROTC programs. If we’re not the right fit, let us help you find the right military school. 

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Resources: Association of Military Schools and Colleges of the US (AMCSUS), College Express, Go Army and other directory listings for military schools, military boarding schools, and colleges and universities.