Top Fears for Females–Conquered

“Help! How can I beat the tough odds at OCS for females?

If you’ve wondered that, then you’re not alone. In my graduating class, less than 20% of females were remaining. Most of these went immediately to a delay at TBS due to injury. Scary figures, right?

This platoon is about to meet their Sergeant Instructors for the first time

If you are intimidated or discouraged by these facts, STOP! The odds are tough but just let that be motivation. The 1 female in 5 who graduated with us was probably the best prepared and most dedicated. Just determine to be that one and you will become an officer in the Marines. Do not let doubt creep into your mind. You can be the best prepared, and you can do it. Thousands have before you.

I will use this post to answer questions that females have asked before.  I did not have females in my company, but the “neighboring” company did, and obviously I’ve had plenty of female friends successfully complete OCS. I will only answer questions that I think I can do justice to.

Q: What advice do you have for females going in?

A: Overall, it’s no different from my advice for men. Know the most knowledge you can, memorizing all the general orders perfectly and studying all the pubs I have on the site. Study! Work out hard! If you can keep up with the sample workout on this site, you will be in good shape. Get all the sleep you can before OCS. You’ll lose a ton there.

Q:  I am working right now on my upper body strength and I have printed out information to study ahead of time. How many miles a day/week should I be running? Is there a max of miles I should be running at a time? What other upper body exercises should I do to prepare?

A: I recommend working on upper body and core especially, as your loads will be similar to the heavy loads carried by the males. Working in heavy squats and lunges will help develop core and lower body strength ahead of time. I said heavy, no 5 lb Jillian Michaels dumbbells here. For running, aim for 15% increase in mileage per week. If you develop shin splints, run on a softer surface, ease back a little, and do stretching and mobility work. Try foam rollers, for example. For upper body exercises, do push ups, pull ups, bent arm hang, and something to work your shoulders like military pressing dumbbells. They’ll make you hold your rifle out or up for extended periods of time, definitely a good idea to build some deltoid strength.

Q: I see that the attrition rate for females is high of dropping out. How many females typically go to OCS? And how many actually pass? What would be a good PFT to aim for to prepare for OCS? Any other information you have for females and to prepare for OCS this June would be nice.

A: First, thanks so much for all your questions. By asking them, many many other candidates can learn along with you as they are answered. All I know is that only about 1 platoon (~60) start in the fall OCS, and no females compete in the winter. I’m not sure how many go through in the summer. So the fall I went, 1 out of 8 platoons was female. They started with 62 and finished with just under 20 if I recall correctly. A good PFT is called a 300! I never even hit 300 but was in good enough shape at 280-290 going in. If you can get a 280 PFT, you are good to go for that. The PFT doesn’t really predict how well you will do at OCS, however. Plenty of 300 PFT candidates don’t make it. So try to be well-rounded.

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Final inspection day. The same platoon as above. About to graduate. The FEW, the proud!

33 thoughts on “Top Fears for Females–Conquered

  1. I just contracted for OCS for the OCt. Class. My question is…
    I had to lose so much weight to qualify for OCS 26 pounds to be exact. I have two more pds to lose. I am 5’2 1/2 and my BMI is 22%. But when I am taped I they measure me at 31% BMI. My question is, I feel like i am skin and bones. I look it to. Do you think that this will hinder me in OCS. I am very strong and have a good PFT score but I am woried about my extreme weight lose. What do you think?

    1. If you are within the USMC weight standards, you won’t need to be taped. So, if you can sweat off 5 pounds before showing up for inprocessing, then I would think you’d be good for the whole time. Once it kicks off, your weight shouldn’t be a problem with all the calories you’ll be burning. You get weighed (& taped, if necessary) at the beginning, the end, and maybe twice somewhere in the middle. There’s no need to worry about your weight, if you are dedicated, because you have all summer to work with! Lose a pound a MONTH and you’re going to be fine. Just keep the cardio up.

  2. It’s clear that so many females don’t make it through. Do you know the biggest reason? Being mental, physical, etc?

    1. Probably most of them are knee-to-foot area overuse injuries, or lower back. I don’t know that mental weakness is more prevalent, not going to go there, but the physical breakdown is much more pronounced. Show up ready to carry weight every day!

    2. My class started with 64 and graduated 23. The drops were a combination of injuries, failed academics, and leadership. During the 10 week course there are boards at the 3, 6, and 9 week mark where the sergeant instructors send every candidate who is having trouble to see the commanding officer. If he decides you cant hack it you go home. Most of the injuries were stress fractures that developed from shin splints. Heat cases and falls resulting in broken bones also happen. Every week or two you have academic tests over Marine Corps history, uniform regulations etc. If you fail three of these test you’ll get the boot. They can also kick you out for leadership/failure to adapt/gunny doesn’t like you. You are constantly being watched and tested in stressful situations. They are monitoring how you handle being hot, sleep deprived, hungry, screamed at… They want to see if you snap under pressure or give up. OCS is basically run by sncos. They decide who they want in their Corps and who they want leading their young Marines. If they think they can get under your skin they will and you won’t make it. That being said, learn your knowledge to eliminate the chance of being an academic drop. Substitute boots for sneakers once or twice a week and do pull ups and pushups. If you’ve made it most of the way and have an injury but you’ve sucked it up, done well, and stayed motivated the gunnies will make sure you graduate. Whenever I was struggling I would look at the candidate next to me and say if she can do it I can do it.

  3. I plan on trying to go to OCS next year (2012); what do you recommend I do, as a female, to get ready physical wise? I am working with someone prior Marine Corps to get me a little bit ready. i.e. the Flexed-Arm Hang, Crunches and 3-mile run. My goal is to get either a perfect score or a nearly perfect for the PFT. But other than that, what else would you recommend I do to prepare better physically for OCS?

    I understand, it was a little redundant.

      1. I just graduated OCS and to those Females who want some advice here it is. Going into OCS you need to have good endurance. You run everywhere, literally, and you also carry a pack and a M116 everyday. So you must do weight training. In addition and more importantly you must have practical strength. Follow the workout plans on this site and the OCS site. They helped me out. You have to run in Boots for almost every run or endurance event. So it may not hurt to buy a good pair of boots and work on trail running. I had a time adjusting to the heavier boot and the mountainous trails. And Believe me when I say that OCS has the worse Mountains ever… The hardest part for me was not the PT (that was fun) it was the Hikes. Caring 50-60 pounds on your back, a 7.8 pound rifle, in addition to 90 degree mountains. I didn’t like it. But they build you up to them in a very short period of time. Just take each day as it comes. Just have fun 🙂

  4. Have you seen women of smaller build make it through OCS? I have tried to put on muscle, but my metabolism simply has not allowed me to gain any weight. Do you think I would be at a disadvantage–in terms of humps and such–despite being mostly muscle?

    1. Nadia, I absolutely have. One of the female officers in my TBS class was very short and was somewhere in the 100 lb – 130 lb range I believe. It has been done before. The smaller you are, you could think of that as a disadvantage, but I recommend not thinking negatively about something you can’t control. Just do alot of heavy squats, deadlifts or lunges, and try to build endurance by humping as heavy a pack as possible. When doing weights, I just recommend avoiding lower weights and more reps. You’re not trying to be Jillian Michaels here, you need to have the strength to carry a pack at 75% of your bodyweight!

  5. We had a girl that was 105 pounds. She Graduated. They had to take her out by herself and Hike with her for the 12 mile hike because she fell out of the group hike. But dont expect that. She was in great shape and passed everything else with flying colors but she struggled with the 60 pound packs and the speed that we ran I mean hiked LOL

  6. Thank you both for your information. Also, for the humps, would you be able to provide an estimate of the pace that the females began with? And what constitutes “falling out”? Do you just stop and go back to the barracks?

    1. About 3 miles every 50 minutes, with a ten minute water break. Falling out means you can’t keep up. They put you in a hummvee in the back. And you will fail that event, and worse, the Sergeant Instructors will zero in on you and make your life hell.

  7. question:
    my recruiter told me that female ocs (boot camp) is only once a year in may,
    but in this website i saw that some people did it in october. so is it twice a year? or are they talking about something else?

  8. Hi! I’m getting ready to leave for OCS in about 7 weeks. I’m confident about my core and upper body strength, but my run time is not ideal. My max is about 25 minutes. I could use some advice. Should I be doing 3 miles 5 days a week, focusing on hills and sprints, or doing distance? Should I be using weight or running in boots? I’ve heard both yes and no (no because shin splits develop easily). Should I incorporate other cardio? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    1. Fantastic question. There are a million options but I recommend overall using variety above all to prepare. For example, hard sprints one day, rest legs the next day. Medium length (3 miles or so) run in running shoes, followed by a rest day for legs. Then a boots run–start out slowly wherever you are, and build up to 3 miles, followed by a rest day for legs. Lastly, a leg weights day–try a pyramid of deadlifting, followed by a rest day for legs. On any of those days, including rest days, if you can mix in any other cardio–go for it! Especially swimming or something easy on your joints like that.

      Be wary of overtraining, so listen very closely to your body and don’t hurt yourself to ease stupid “workout guilt” if you need to take an extra rest day. Big deal. The deadlifting day will be sufficient for weight-bearing. Push yourself hard and utilize the muscle confusion of VARIETY. Good luck and keep it up!

      1. Thanks for the fast reply! And I will definitely be incorporating this. This blog is extremely helpful.

  9. I plan on looking into OCS for the Marine Corps but am concerned with a knee dislocation I suffered recently. I’ve been building it up but it just hasn’t been the same… I’ve heard so many stories (both parents and bf being Marines) and I’m just concerned that the knee injury is going to seriously hinder my OCS experience. Is there any advice you could provide? Would they let me wear a knee brace? Thank you so much!

    1. It may seriously hamper your exercise there. You may even be screened out upon entry processing. You definitely will be able to wear your brace–lots of candidates need things like that after the first few weeks anyhow.

  10. Hello I am a college junior and am considering marine plc, however, I know that getting acceptance into ocs is extremely difficult for females. What are things that I can do to increase my chances in addition to physical fitness? What other factors would help my application?

    1. Get leadership on your resume. Get former military officers for your recommendations. Start the candidate’s reading list. Form a very good relationship with your OSO. Also, acceptance usually is easier but getting through OCS is much harder (speaking statistically).

  11. I run a lot and want to get my run time down for OCS, what would be a good run time for the 3 miles to shoot for? What is an average pace that females run at OCS?

    1. Ali,

      I graduated PLC juniors this past summer. I ran a 20 minute three mile, but I was second best in my platoon and we had plenty of fantastic candidates who ran 22 minutes or below. As a female, I would be more concerned with building upper body strength (don’t let the PFT fool you: you NEED to be able to do at least two or three pullups on your own for the O-course) and lower body strength with heavy squats, lunges, etc. Above all, just put out 100 percent and have fun!

  12. I am currently 13 years old, female, and extremely motivated to becoming a US Marine. I can run a 7:30 min mile at max, but get tired after 2 miles and tend to slow down by a LOT. I also can only do 15 push ups at max. But the good thing is I can do 100+ sit ups. I am mostly worried about the run though. I want to become very physically fit to become a USMC officer when Im old enough, do you think that if I continue running and doing push ups everyday than I will be able to meet the physical requirements?

    1. Rose, I think that you are off to a mediocre start at best. You should easily be able to run a 6:00 mile for up to three miles by the time you go to O.C.S. As for the push ups those are alright, and the situps are also okay. If I were you, I would start upping my pt by 200% if you realistically want to make it in & years.

      1. I disagree with Christina. Rose, you are 13 years old. The fact that you already know you want to become a Marine is fantastic. Do not let anyone get in your way if that is your goal. You are still young, so have fun and enjoy middle school and high school. If you can, join track or cross-country and work on your run time through sports. Incorporate moderate weight training at first, building up as you get older. Stay focused, get good grades, and go to college. If you are in good shape when you graduate high school, you can always tweak your workouts to get you closer to a 300 PFT (which has females doing pullups in 2014, not the flexed arm hang – 3 is minimum, 8 is maximum).
        Semper Fi.

      2. Rose, don’t listen to Christina. Twenty-one minutes for three miles is 100% for females–that’s a seven minute mile. I can’t run that fast (my run time is about 23:30), and I was still able to graduate OCS juniors this summer. Most males can’t even sustain a 6:00 minute pace for three miles. As long as you keep up the PT and keep working hard to get stronger, you’ll be fine. You have several years to build up your strength; just keep your goal in sight and don’t waste time.

        You sound highly motivated. Keep it up!

  13. I’m leaving to Ocs soon and my biggest fear is just mentally preparing myself and the leadership events. Honestly I’m not very familar with any of it but I’m going to try my best, how do they grade on leadership?

    1. No one is familiar with the leadership events unless it is their second time through OCS. You will be graded on confidence, composure, ability to work under pressure, and how you apply what you’ve been taught. Even if you get to your test and have no clue what you’re doing act confident. They don’t grade you on the outcome (sometimes the puzzles are near impossible) they grade you on how you dealt with an impossible puzzle.

  14. If the boots you run in are not made for running I can see where they would cause injuries. For runs where you can wear running shoes get the best you can afford. Look into the newer “maximally padded” shoes that ultra distance marathoners use. They have 50% more cushioning and absorb much more shock and protect your knees, ankles and feet more then regular shoes. No ankle support but you might not need that. There are modern boots that absorb a lot more shock then old designs. Consult a backpacking store with good boot fitting staff. Return them if they don’t fit right after a week. Also check on custom insoles or orthotics if needed. Wearing two pairs of socks or using moleskin prevents blisters.

  15. Hey, so I am about to conclude my sophomore year in college and am heading out to OCS (PLC 6 week) in a few weeks. I am SO nervous. I have scored 300s on my PFTs both times I have taken it. Best 3 mile (well 5k actually) is 18:15 and I’m sitting at about that time right now. I have built up good upper body strength, can do a decent amount of dead hang pullups, and my legs are also really strong from running a ton and lifting. I guess my main concern is how to deal with sergeants screaming in my face and getting under my skin. I am pretty tough, but I do not want to crack or break down in front of them. Really just want to be able to keep my cool and be level-headed. How did you ladies best deal with it? Recommendations for preparing besides keeping up with workouts/studying the knowledge? I have a 3.87 in college so far, so I can’t imagine I would ever fail due to academics, or the physical aspect. I really just do not know what to expect.

  16. Sort of an odd question here…but how is the sleep situation for females, and how does one conquer sleeping in a squad bay with no experience before? I am pretty okay with everything else, except when it comes to sleeping. I am also a light sleeper. Thanks!

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