Rethink Your Leadership Experience

It’s often hard to gain relevant leadership experience before applying to OCS. Pick well-rounded leadership positions to stand out to the OCS Selection Board. This post was written by a candidate who attended OCC in 2016.

Tips for Gaining Personal Leadership Experience

  •  I coached sports after high school and returned each year to help the team prepare for the regional and national championships. I was an average athlete, but, being able to list accomplishments as a coach helped a lot.
  • I also coached other levels from novices to masters-level athletes and volunteered with athletes with disabilities, which included many prior service members.

Much of this was pro-bono but paid off in experience. A huge benefit of coaching was learning to speak in public. It wasn’t unusual to deliver a brief to a race director, Olympian, or board members of the sports governing body.  That also helped my command evaluations and billet performance evaluations at OCS. High school in particular also gives you the chance to manage small groups and mentor.

  • I volunteered at my church a lot and managed small content creation teams. I acted as an editor, but mainly I managed other content creators and published their work.
  • I spent one spring break doing flood relief with the Red Cross.
  • I volunteered as an English Conversational Partner for the ESL program at my college.
  • Bottom line, don’t be afraid to volunteer. A lot.

leadership experience

Tips to gain “platoon-level” leadership experiences

  • Many candidates volunteered with an organization that interested them.
  • Camp counselors or similar roles are very common.
  • Many candidates take leadership positions in a club or professional organization.
  • Some candidates had trouble getting leadership positions in clubs. So they created their own club, where they were the president.

You could create a Semper Fi society or something of the like if there is not already one. It can be simple like starting a religious study or a tactics and strategy club.

  • Being the captain of a team looks really good.
  • School Alternative Service break.
leadership experience
Candidates participate in a field training exercise.

Community Service

Other Ideas

  • The first thing you should ask yourself is, “What am I passionate about?” Then find something that will allow you to do that. If you care deeply, it usually works out in your favor and it’s easier to get leadership positions when you like it.

Check with the career center at your college. They have relationships in the community and can set you up with some amazing opportunities. They’ll also know what kind of leadership activities appeal to higher education boards and certain types of jobs. You won’t be the first one they’ve helped get into OCS or one of the service academies. They will also be able to look at any past leadership experience and find ways to balance it and make you more interesting via new opportunities.


leadership experience
The Tarzan course is one of the most memorable events at OCS.
  • Reread your LinkedIn and resumes. Often, there is work history you have forgotten about that will stand out to a board.
  • Volunteer as a docent or naturalist at a museum, aquarium, etc
  • Seems obvious, but ask for a leadership position at work or in an existing group. Often leaders are willing to co-lead or create a new position.
  • Check out Toastmasters, they are a well known public speaking and leadership organization.
  • Check in with your local VFW and see where you can volunteer or lead in some capacity.

Good luck on your path to becoming a Marine Officer. Leadership by example starts long before OCS, the habits you develop at home will help or hurt you in Quantico.

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