The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) is a federally-run program for high school and some middle school students that promotes citizenship, discipline, and skill development in a military-inspired model. Participating public and private schools across the country run JROTC programs, some of which require participation as a condition of attendance. Visit the JROTC website for a list of participating schools by state.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces and is divided into branches, each with its own individual units: Army (AJROTC), Air Force (AFJROTC), Navy (NJROTC), Marine Corps (MCJROTC), and Coast Guard (CGJROTC).

JROTC is distinct from ROTC, a program for college students who receive a scholarship covering all or part of their tuition contingent upon their fulfillment of an active military service duty upon college graduation. (For more information on ROTC and other college scholarships, check out our posts, A Guide to ROTC Scholarships and You Were Accepted to Your Dream College But Can’t Afford It…Now What?) Unlike participants in ROTC, JROTC members are not required to join the military after high school or college. However, many JROTC members have gone on to serve as notable members of the United States Armed Forces.

What does JROTC membership involve?

In order for you to join JROTC, your school must participate in a program through one of the military branches listed above. Membership is also contingent upon some other factors, including your citizenship status and disciplinary record.

JROTC is generally available as a course at school, so it isn’t exactly an extracurricular activity. However, when it comes time to fill out your college applications, you will most likely want to describe your involvement in the Activities section, especially since it is listed as one of the activities categories in the Common App. JROTC courses typically teach military topics concerning both historical and current practices, and also include a physical fitness component. Because of the physical fitness aspect of the courses, JROTC will likely replace or help you fulfill your physical education requirement. (However, exemption policies may vary by school, so be sure to look into your school’s requirements.) Generally, instructors are retired military members.

As we noted above, unlike ROTC, JROTC does not commit you to military services in the future, but you may enlist at a higher rank under some circumstances if you have completed a certain amount of time in JROTC.

Benefits of joining JROTC

Joining JROTC has numerous advantages. The program’s mission is to develop your patriotism, good citizenship, and appreciation for the work of the U.S. Armed Forces. Additionally, it builds leadership skills and enhances your ability to work with a team. As we discuss in Your Resume, Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile, these are important skills to have not only for college applications, but also for your future career and throughout life.

JROTC also helps you improve your physical fitness and learn practical military-related skills. Cadets, as they’re referred to in JROTC, have the opportunity to develop these skills through participating in certain extracurricular activities or competitions between different units in skills like drills, orienteering, and marksmanship. You may also have the opportunity to earn special awards and join honor societies. If you choose to pursue a military career, you may also be able to earn or start at a higher rank.

JROTC and your college applications

Since JROTC provides you with numerous opportunities to take on challenges, compete, and earn awards and honors, participating in the program can certainly help you stand out to admissions committees. Furthermore, you may be able to join certain honor societies within branches if you maintain a particular grade point average (such as the Kitty Hawk Air Society for the Air Force JROTC), and these societies often offer opportunities for community service activities. While community service isn’t an explicit requirement for admission to most colleges, participating will reflect well on you and demonstrate that you care about helping others and bettering your community.

JROTC is a nationally known and well-respected organization that will catch the attention of admissions officers and demonstrate your sense of discipline and dedication to your country. Moreover, if you are planning on studying a related discipline, such as military history, a JROTC membership can contribute to a cohesive, specialized application profile.

While JROTC may not be for everyone, the program has a number of benefits that will help you develop good citizenry and leadership skills, as well as stand out to admissions committees. To learn more about the program, visit the JROTC website.

For more information on shaping your extracurricular profile, check out some of our posts below:

Your Resume, Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile

Well-Rounded or Specialized?

How to Fill Out the Common App Activities Section

An Updated Guide to the 2016-17 Common App Honors Section

Interested in ROTC? Read A Guide to ROTC Scholarships.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine