Thank you to West Texas+New Mexico OSO Captain Wisotzkey for sharing his advice to candidates who lack the perfect credentials.
As an OSO, one of the most common questions I get from applicants is “how do I make myself more competitive for a selection board?”
Sometimes this is due to the applicant wanting to crush the competition, but more often than not, it’s because they feel like they are below average in a certain category, such as GPA, physical fitness, leadership experience etc.
The response to their question is simple – stand out.
Five Ways to Stand Out
Below are five ways that can make applicants stand out throughout the application process and ultimately get selected on a board.
Submit a biography and/or professional resume
After being issued an application, your OSO will give you a checklist of all required documents.
A lot of them are pretty standard, such as birth certificate, transcripts, test scores, etc. However, we can always add more to your package. Some OSOs will ask for these items regardless, but even if they don’t, always submit a professional resume and simple one page biography. It does not need to be anything fancy; I recommend a one page typed document.
Your package for a selection board will end up with a decent amount of documentation enclosed; letters of recommendation, your 100 word statement, OSO evaluation, etc. By adding a resume and biography to the stack, it demonstrates professionalism and the perception you actually care about the selection board and are willing to go out of your way to distinguish yourself.
Never miss an opportunity to demonstrate improvement
This is primarily in regards to physical fitness. For some reason, most applicants are afraid of the PFT. Yes – I know that you want to get a good score, but doing one set of pull-ups, one set of crunches, and running 3 miles is not asking for much. It is recommended that you run at least one PFT a month throughout the application process. This not only shows that you are improving on physical fitness, it also shows your dedication to the program. OSO’s will submit every PFT you have done to the selection board. The boards care more about just a high PFT score, they also look for how many PFT’s you have conducted and how much you improved. For instance, if you are in the program for 6 months and your PFT score remains a 265 the entire time, you are not demonstrating improvement.
However, if the first time you run a PFT you fail to get a first class but 6 months later you are running a 265, that demonstrates dedication and hard work. Even if you have a great PFT score, always be willing to run another one to show you are maintaining your fitness.
If your OSO asks you to run a PFT, it’s because you need one, not because we want to watch you work out.
At any given time, OSO’s are working with dozens of applicants and every applicant is different.
Some need waivers, some have medical issues, some need help with physical fitness, some have families, some are on the fence about applying, some are waiting to bring their GPA up, etc. We cannot keep track of every single applicant’s personal life, especially considering we are meeting new applicants on a weekly basis. If you are serious about applying, it is imperative that you submit what is asked of you in a timely manner.
The majority of the requirements for PLC or OCC are not difficult. We do not ask for documentation that should be hard to come by and completing the application is easy.
Turn all required documents in as soon as possible and always be asking what your next step is.
As an OSO, I will never neglect an individual who is quick to respond and is always ready to go when I ask for something. However, I will neglect the guy I met four months ago, issued an application to, and haven’t heard from until it was convenient for them.
This is a competitive process and the overall goal is to build Marine Officers – by demonstrating you can already handle yourself like a Marine Officer, you will definitely stand out.
Similarly to not neglecting PFT’s, do not neglect to attend the events, workouts, and pool functions your OSO hosts.
These events are to help YOU prepare for OCS. Do not make repeated excuses as to why you cannot attend events. We understand that everyone has personal schedules, but more often than not, our events are planned at least a month in advance.
These events demonstrate that you are eager to attend OCS, willing to learn as much as you can, and more than anything, are truly valuable for you. An OSO’s “pool” consists of candidates that have already been through OCS and are waiting to commission, those that are contracted and even selected to attend OCS, and those who are in the application process. There is an invaluable amount of information you can learn from surrounding yourself with other members of the pool. The Marine Corps thrives on relationships and these events can be a great way for you to network and start making friends who aspire to go through the same thing you want to. Do not be afraid to try new things and fail.
If you have never climbed a rope before and your OSO organizes an event for you to learn, do not be ashamed – you will have to do this at OCS, why not learn now?
Go out of your way to learn new skills and demonstrate how eager you are to attend OCS.
Relationship with your OSO
Above all, your relationship with your OSO is paramount.
As mentioned above, we work with dozens of applicants with a million different stories and backgrounds. It gets very difficult to keep track of everyone, so by you keeping in touch with us and doing the things we ask you to do, you will definitely be on our good side.
Keep in mind that your OSO is the sole individual that prepares your physical package that is presented to a selection board. We also submit an OSO evaluation on every individual. While selection board members will evaluate you on your GPA, test scores, PFT score and background, they value what we have to say more than anything.
They trust that as Marine Officers, we know what our institution is looking for. We will speak to your character, integrity, professionalism, and dedication – even if you don’t have the best GPA or PFT. For example, if you graduated with a 2.3 GPA but it was because you worked full-time all through college to pay for – that demonstrates character and hard work.
On the contrary, if you graduated with a 2.3 GPA because you were lazy and would rather party than focus on school, it is hard for us to defend. If you consistently show improvement on every PFT and never miss an event, we will recognize you are someone who truly wants to be there.
OSOs are not recruiters
Do not think of OSO’s as recruiters. While we are on recruiting duty, we are much more than recruiters; there is reason we’re called Officer Selection Officers vice officer recruiters. Our job is to find qualified applicants, get them through the application process, and submit them to a selection board. We do not get extra “points”, bonuses, or absolutely anything if you are selected. In fact, the one thing we do get is increased liability. If you get selected and fail to ship to OCS because you get cold feet, that is an issue. If we feel like there is even the remote possibility that could happen, we are probably not going to recommend you get selected for OCS and more often than not, selection boards listen.
Living Marine Corps values
Bottom line, it is our job to make Marine Officers and we truly take pride in doing so. We want to find and assist the future generation of officers that we want to serve alongside and that we trust enlisted Marines to follow. Our Corps Values are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. If you consistently demonstrate our Corps Values and never back down from a challenge, it will not go unnoticed.
My former Officer Selection Assistant used to have this quote on his white board behind his desk:
“There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you” – Derek Jeter
That quote encapsulates the entire process of becoming a Marine Officer. If you demonstrate that you are truly committed and will stop at nothing to become a Marine, you will get selected.