Since she was a student at Cathedral High School, Haley Roach dreamed of becoming a lawyer.
She reached that goal in 2019 after graduating from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.
But she’s not headed for a big law firm. Instead, she’s headed for the U.S. Army, where she will join the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, or JAG Corps, an elite group of military lawyers popularized in movies and television.
Law school—especially after paying for an undergraduate college degree—can be expensive, and students often finance it with student loans. But as a freshman at the University of Dayton in Ohio, Roach joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to pay for college.
Like most of her fellow ROTC college peers, Roach says she felt a desire to serve her country. She thought ROTC would provide structure she wanted in college, and the U.S. Army would be good for her professional development.
“Financial concerns were definitely the main reason I looked into ROTC,” Roach said. “What first attracted me to that path was the need to pay for school.”
After Roach paid for her first semester of college—with the help of a scholarship and a loan that she has since paid off—ROTC paid for the rest. “Everything was paid for by the Army, including the cost of textbooks and a monthly stipend to spend however I needed,” she said.
Although she became a commissioned officer after completing the ROTC, she deferred her required four years of active duty service to attend law school back home in Indiana. She had the option to have the Army pay for law school, too, but chose not to.
“Luckily, merit scholarships from McKinney covered law school for me,” Roach said. “While the Army didn’t directly help me pay for law school, I have a hunch that my personal statement about a particularly challenging ROTC experience contributed to my full-ride scholarship.”
As a law student, Roach had several experiences that she believes contributed to her acceptance into the highly competitive JAG Corps, including externships at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and with Cummins, the Indiana-based manufacturer. She also spent one summer assisting JAG Corps defense attorneys at Fort Stewart, Ga.
She credits ROTC with helping her accomplish her goals without the stress of student debt. “It was the best decision, personally and professionally, I ever made,” Roach said.