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NROTC vs. OCS for a low GPA college senior?


Well-Known Member
Also agree to be careful if/when you get out into the fleet as a SWO with a license. You will be a lot better prepared, but there is still a ton to learn. I sailed as a cadet on a Coast Guard ship and one of the new ensigns struggled with qualifying for OOD because he was just so dead set on what he learned in school. Don't be that guy
In my experience, maritime grads are very good on the bridge right off the bat. The OOD PQS covers a lot of things a maritime grad probably doesn't have much experience with and, even in the ship driving realm, we do some things that no merchant mariner would have any reason to train to...UNREP, DIVTACs, plane guard, EMCON ops, etc. All that said, being a 3rd mate will still put a new ENS ahead of the power curve.

More broadly though, while ship driving is obviously a core competency in surface warfare, the job is much more about the leadership/administration of our sailors and tactical employment of the platform.


Here's what you need to do dude.

Work your butt off senior year, get your GPA up as much as you can. Apply in the fall for the Third Mate gig at MSC because you can always back out of it. If you want, submit a SWO package as well senior year if you can get your GPA up to the 2.8. It is highly plausible to go from 2.7 to 2.8 your senior year, Shiphandling 2 is really the only class that could trip you up on that. Just make sure you STUDY for the test at the beginning of each class. People tend to get focused on the mission planning and forget to look over the COLREGS (lights and sounds!), the 10 million "rules of thumb" for ship driving, and some generic basic seamanship stuff. People overlook Sea Term but rock that out, it can actually boost your GPA significantly (it did mine every year). Get A's in everything in the spring, there isn't a single hard class that semester since you're studying for your license. Load up on those PONY's for ship, meteorology, and cargo/containerization.

Then go do a tour with MSC, its a good point on the application for when you apply for OCS. The Boston OR is pretty familiar with your experiences and will work with you. While your at sea, study for the ASTB so you can get and outstanding OAR score. Every time you get off that 08-1200 junior third mate watch, go to the O-6 deck lounge and study for an hour. Everyday. Thats what I did and when I ended up taking the ASTB I walked out with a 72 on the OAR. Find some nerdy engineer to help you out with the more complex math and physics stuff in there because that's where you'll make your money for grades.

When you come home see if you still want to be a SWO, and go take the ASTB. I will caution you to make sure you really know what you're getting into in the SWO community. After sailing on your license, the way the surface community does stuff will have you in your space on a cruiser bashing your head against a bulkhead asking yourself "why, just why." (thats from experience). However (comma) if you really hate it, its a pretty minimal commitment and I will vouch three years goes by pretty quick. If you don't know anyone that has gone SWO from Mass Maritime as a deckie, shoot me a PM and I'll get someone in touch with you.

Finally, just apply for SNA. Flying beats the shit out of SWO or deck officer. If you decide you want to fly for the Marines, come talk to me.

Thanks Sir! MSC actually told us that their deck department is over-manned right now, and they may not hire more 3/M's for another year or two. I've been keeping in touch with them regardless, and if they stick to that plan I'll head to the Boston MM&P hall the morning after graduation. I figure if my grades are still too low by then, I can always start a masters program close to home and night mate as often as I can. I live about an hour from the NY/NJ hall.

I am considering SNA as it is pretty awesome, but I would like to put my license to use. Although hearing "Yeah, I've gotten three hours of sleep since this exercise started..." from a SWO a few days into RIMPAC was pretty intimidating, discussing the in's and out's of the job with another SWO on TDY to our ship and touring a DDG when we got back to Pearl really convinced me that this career path is for me. Of course a Divo on TDY to an MSC tanker is probably in a better mood than normal and a two hour tour doesn't show anyone what life on a busy destroyer is really like, but I believe I'd enjoy it. Plus, latest word from our STCW office at school is that 60% of time assigned to a Navy ship over 1600 tons as a SWO will count towards upgrading our licenses. A SWO friend of mine (MMA '07) just upgraded to 2/M after finishing his first Divo tour. And our last DNS/SSMP OIC, a SUNY grad who went SWO, managed to transfer to the IRR Reserve as a 1665 SSO after completing his initial service obligation. I'm sure that isn't the norm, but nice to know its possible.

Thanks again for the words of encouragement Sir, great to hear from another Buc.


Just out of curiosity, why don't you want to sail on your license? I couldn't imagine having to pay to go through all the training and testing for the license only to not use it. Our graduating class had 19 commission active duty, mostly SWO and I don't think anyone had that stellar of a GPA. Honestly your GPA doesn't sound terrible, especially considering you had a nonconventional degree and its a BS. It would be one thing if you were graduating from Penn State with a degree in psychology, but you've had a pretty intense course load to get a degree in maritime transportation. I say study really hard for the ASTB and use that to get into OCS. Don't give up or get discouraged. I didn't think I would get a pilot spot with my GPA but here I am.

Also agree to be careful if/when you get out into the fleet as a SWO with a license. You will be a lot better prepared, but there is still a ton to learn. I sailed as a cadet on a Coast Guard ship and one of the new ensigns struggled with qualifying for OOD because he was just so dead set on what he learned in school. Don't be that guy

Good luck!
Thanks for the words of encouragement Sir, always been a big fan of KP. My dad is class of '88 and met my mom there while she was working in Furuseth hall. I'll actually be there for ring dance next weekend, I was the girl's backup but hey I'll take it.

My old man always regretted not going SWO, so it's always been on my mind. While on the Henry Kaiser I was privileged with some great mentors among a group of SWO's assigned to us, they spent generous amounts of time giving me a no BS image of what life as a SWO is like and even arranged a personal tour of USS Pinckney for me after RIMPAC wrapped up. After that experience I really fell in love with the job. Although it sounds fairly miserable at times, I'm up for the challenge. I have nothing against sailing in the union, I'm just looking for something more meaningful.

You are absolutely right though, I plan to take the ASTB either this fall before the Coasties cram starts, or after that's all over. I'll make sure to ace it and put together one hell of a SWO package. As a backup I've already started applying for one of the M.S. programs at NY Maritime, and I live about an hour from MMP's NY/NJ hall so I could night mate between class days. I agree on the "that guy" point as well of course, spent a week on a buoy tender two years back and witnessed the same situation. The Ensign's know it all attitude made me embarrassed to be a Maritimer. Even new 3rd Mates sailing commercial face a steep learning curve.

Thanks again Sir, hope to see you in the fleet.