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  • Captain Harper

How hard is it to be accepted into Marine Corps OCS? What should I do to get selected?

Updated: Oct 8, 2021


An OCS candidate moves downhill through the woods

First and foremost, you need to meet with an Officer Selection Officer (OSO) or their Officer Selection Assistant (OSA) to make sure you're qualified for the program beyond just having a college degree. There are a lot of things that can disqualify you so it's best to talk to an OSO or OSA directly.


Your chances of getting selected for Marine OCS depends on a number of factors which include:

  • Your Physical Fitness Test (PFT) scores

  • Your OSOs evaluation of you

  • Contract Type (Ground, air, law or reserves)

  • The strength of your overall application

  • Who you are competing against

There are some other variables but these are the biggest ones. You will have more control over some of these things but there's no one magical thing that will guarantee selection. Your PFT scores and OSO evaluation are probably the most important ones in your control.


PFT Scores - Members of past selection boards have indicated that they prefer to see a series of PFT scores that show improvement or a series of high scores that doesn't change much, over one perfect 300 PFT. This shows that you have the motivation and determination to make improvement that you need to have to be a successful Marine and that you are consistent and dependable. So don't be embarrassed if your PFT score is not very high right now, just make steady improvements and take PFTs at the very least, on a monthly basis.


OSO Evaluation- This can make or break your application because this is where the OSO will give the board their opinion of you. The process of interviewing and completing an application usually takes a month or two minimum so if you did not make a good impression or no impression during that time, this can sink your chances of being selected.


Applicants and candidates are encouraged to be responsive to communications from their office, participate in Pool events as much as possible and volunteer to take the lead and mentor other members of the Pool as much as they can. This maximizes your opportunities for making a good impression. Unfortunately, your opportunities to interact with your OSO or OSA may be limited depending on the way the office is set up. So take advantage of every interaction.

Contract Type - Now let's talk a little bit about percentages with the caveat that none of these numbers are scientifically calculated and based only on the selection results from the Manhattan office.

  • Ground - This is the most common type, you will be going active duty into a job that is not a pilot or lawyer. Sorry, no guarantees on which job. If your PFT score is a 285 or higher, I would say you have a 75% chance of getting direct selected to the OCS class you were applying for. If your PFT was in the 260-275 range or you didn't get direct selected with a 285 or higher, your chances of being pre-selected to the following class is probably 80–90%.

  • Reserve Ground - You are going to be a reservist with a job that is not pilot or lawyer. If you want a particular job or geographical location, this is probably the best way to get it. Candidates with PFT scores 260 or higher tend to get selected about 80% of the time. They can also get pre-selected at similar rates to regular ground.

  • Air & Law - If your PFT score is 260 or higher, your chances of being selected are 90%. The problem is that it is much harder to qualify for these contracts because there are additional requirements, like having a law degree or passing a flight physical.


Overall Application – If you are a college grad, there are certain pieces of the application that you're now stuck with. Test scores, GPA, major, employment history, extracurricular activities during your school years, etc. are all looked at and unless you were really on top of things during your highschool and college years, this part of your application may be weaker than others. If you're in this boat, pick something that requires some leadership skills and start getting those volunteer hours in. Make sure you bring proof of those hours to your OSO/OSA or they won't know to include them in your application.


Your competition - this is the thing you have the least control over. You are not only competing against the other candidates in your office but from your recruiting district. A recruiting district usually encompasses several states and candidates from other Officer Selections Offices. If your fellow candidates are all Boy Scout troop leaders running 300 PFTs with degrees from Harvard and you are not, you might be out of luck. Try not to focus too much on this aspect because it may become counterproductive. Just do what you can to put your best foot forward.


Being a Marine Officer is more than a job; it's a calling. It is a profession that requires women and men of the highest caliber. If you think you meet this standard and want to become an officer in the Marine Corps, check out the website below and request to speak to your local Officer Selection Officer, Captain Chad Harper.




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