Department of Military Science & Leadership

About ROTC

The mission of the Cal Poly Military Science Department is to commission the future officer leadership of the U.S. Army and motivate young people to become better citizens. The program here began in the early 1950’s and has so far commissioned over 1,300 Officers into the United States Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard.  The program remains one of the top Army ROTC unit’s in the nation with our Cadet’s routinely receiving above average marks at the regional and national levels.  This performance is made possible by a high-caliber student body, a cadre with years of Army experience, convenient access to first-rate training areas, and outstanding support from the University, the program’s alumni, and a host of local organizations.  Cal Poly ROTC Cadet’s shoulder the added responsibility and commitment associated with the program but discover along the way an enhanced level of maturity and responsibility that no other course can provide in College. 

The Program

The program has been designed to meet the country's requirement for officer-leaders in the Army (Active Duty, National Guard and Reserves). It is therefore multifaceted with distinctive sub-elements to meet individual needs and requirements. For example, ROTC is traditionally a four-year program, but individuals with prior service, members of Reserve or National Guard units, participants of JROTC in high school, and summer Cadet Initial Entry Training attendees may receive advanced placement credit and complete the program in two years. Normally all students enroll in one Military Science course while also participating in our leadership laboratory and physical training each quarter. The physical fitness of all our Cadets is closely monitored. The program consists of two phases: the Basic Course (Lower Division), normally taken during the Freshman and Sophomore years or obtained through advanced placement credit, and the Advanced Course (Upper Division).  For a more detailed overview of the program, review the Cal Poly SLO Army ROTC Cadet Guide.  Download Here

Basic Course

The Basic Course refers to first and second year courses, MSL 101, 102, 103, 201, 202, and 203 which are designed for new students who want to qualify for entry into the Advanced Course and for those students who may want to try Military Science without obligations. In addition to their academic requirements, Basic Course cadets may participate in a variety of extracurricular activities. Placement credit for the Basic Course may be granted to students who have completed initial entry training for the Armed Forces, three years of Junior ROTC in High School or ROTC Basic Camp. MSL 101, 102, and 103 concentrate on leadership, followership, team building and outdoor skills and provide an overview of how the Military fits into society. MSL 201, 202, and 203 more thoroughly address the heritage, traditions, and organization of the United States Army.

Basic Camp

Basic Camp is the premier leadership program of its kind in the United States. An intense four-week introduction to Army life and leadership training of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, the aim of the course is to motivate and qualify Cadets for entry into the Senior ROTC program. Basic Camp is designed for college students, typically between their sophomore and junior years but has been recently extended to include first-year Military Science Cadets as well. Upon successful completion of the course, graduates can take part in ROTC at their college as a third-year student in the four-year program. While attending Basic Camp at Fort Knox, Ky., Cadets gain an experience that includes what to expect from Army life and the responsibilities of being an Officer. The course instills the confidence and the decision-making abilities requisite of a top-notch leader, in the Army and in life. 

Each Cadet takes on a leadership role among his or her peers while at Basic Camp. Senior officers and newly commissioned Second Lieutenants coach and mentor Cadets throughout the process, offering daily feedback and recommendations for improvement. As Basic Camp progresses, Cadets' leadership responsibilities grow as they lead peers through simulated combat scenarios using paintball guns in a field training exercise and on urban-based squad tactics missions.

Advanced Course

The Advanced Course consists of MSL 301, 302, 303, 401, 402, and 403. It is only open to students who have completed the Basic Course or earned placement credit (various methods). Students also attend a five-week Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, KY, during the summer between their MSIII (junior) and MSIV (senior) years. In addition to their academic requirements, Advanced Course Cadets provide the student leadership for the Cal Poly Army ROTC Battalion.

Completion of the Basic and Advanced Courses qualifies the Cadet to apply for a commission in the United States Army. The student may be able to influence whether his or her service will be on active duty or in the reserves through academic and ROTC grades, Advanced Camp performance, extracurricular activities, etc.

The Particulars

Once a student has been admitted to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo they must meet only a few basic requirements to participate in the ROTC Basic Course. However, to participate in the Advanced Course or earn an ROTC Scholarship, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 17 years old by October 1 of the year for which he or she is applying for scholarship and under age 31 by June 30 of the year of graduation
  • Be able to complete all commissioning and graduation (degree requirements)
  • Be physically fit and medically qualified
  • Achieve minimum SAT/ACT scores of 1000/20 respectively.

The Privileges

Cal Poly’s Military Science Department augments the national ROTC scholarship by awarding campus-based scholarships.

  • Scholarships are merit-based and awarded competitively. Well-rounded individuals with strong backgrounds in academics, athletics, and leadership positions have the best opportunity to earn scholarships.
  • Recipients of an ROTC scholarship who are admitted to Cal Poly can elect to receive either full tuition and fees or up to $10,000 in room and board.
  • Two and Three year scholarships are available as well.

Any Cadet that decides to commit to becoming an Officer, regardless of whether he/she has been awarded a scholarship, will be given priority registration privileges each quarter. 


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