Naval Prep program offers pathway to Notre Dame for deserving students

Author: Erin Blasko


In a new partnership among the University of Notre Dame, the U.S. Navy and Holy Cross College, deserving students will have the opportunity to enroll as midshipmen in Notre Dame’s Naval ROTC program after their initial year of college coursework.

Based on a successful pilot program last year, the Naval ROTC Preparatory Program (NPP) will provide students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to graduate from Notre Dame as officers in the U.S. Navy.

“It’s an opportunity for exceptional students to achieve their goal of attending Notre Dame and commissioning as an officer in the Navy,” said Regan Jones, director of Notre Dame’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, which administers the program at Notre Dame. “The NPP is an exciting program because it offers high-ability students a prep year providing them a solid academic foundation for future success.”

The program is designed to lower the barriers for high-potential students who may not have had access to academic enrichment programs in high school due to family, social or economic circumstances.

To that end, the program provides an extra year of academic and Naval ROTC exposure at Holy Cross before welcoming students to Notre Dame as midshipmen in the NROTC program.

The program includes tuition and fees at Notre Dame courtesy of the Navy and tuition, fees, room and board at Holy Cross courtesy of Notre Dame and Holy Cross. Students may also qualify for additional need- or merit-based financial support.

NPP students must maintain academic requirements, pass the Navy physical fitness assessment once per semester and remain in good social and academic standing while at Holy Cross.

They also must commit to major in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and students will participate in already established courses at Holy Cross designed to prepare them for study in STEM fields at Notre Dame.

The Navy identifies and screens applicants before recommending them for the program, which is designed, in part, to diversify the ranks of the Navy.

“Our Navy team is as diverse as our mission set. We operate in every environment and our team of sailors and officers represent many different cultures, histories, perspectives and ways of thinking. We bring diversity to the fight, which is an advantage,” said Capt. Mark Prokopius, commanding officer of Notre Dame NROTC. “NPP is a tool the Navy uses to recruit high school students who participate in Naval Junior ROTC and would not necessarily be competitive at no fault of their own for a national NROTC scholarship, but still have a strong desire to serve their country.”

Notre Dame launched the NPP as a pilot program during the 2019-20 academic year. Two students participated in the pilot. Both completed their preparatory work at Holy Cross and are now enrolled at Notre Dame as first-year midshipmen.

Seven students enrolled in the program this year.

“This program is for people passionate about serving their country, and if you have the opportunity to participate you should 100 percent take it,” said Lance Hartley, midshipman fourth class, a computer science major and one of the two pilot students now enrolled at Notre Dame.

Hartley is from Georgetown, South Carolina, a mill town about one hour south of Myrtle Beach. He was raised by his grandmother, who worked as a clerk at the local school. His step-grandfather, her husband, worked in the mills until an on-the-job injury left him unable to work. His parents are divorced.

Before applying to the NPP on the advice of a close mentor, Hartley, who is also part of the cheerleading team, was considering working in the mills himself before enlisting in the military.

College was not part of the plan.

“We live out in the country and don’t have access to the internet. So I thought college would never be an opportunity for me.”

As for his experience last year at Holy Cross, he said, “It was challenging. I’d never been that far from home, and had to work harder than I ever had academically, but I am grateful for the opportunity.”

Ultimately, he would like to do something in cyber intelligence or cyber security.

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This article was produced by Notre Dame's Office of Public Affairs and Communications and originally appeared here: on

Writer: Erin Blasko

Photography: Matt Cashore