Only the few and the proud can be admitted into a United States Service Academy, and rightly so. It’s tough to get in and tough to make it through, but since the job after graduation requires people of great courage and determination, then the application process is a fitting place for you to start showing your mettle.
So, you think you want to be an officer in the Military? To do that, you can go to one of the 5 Federal US Service Academies, you can go to a military college or university, or you can go to a university that offers a ROTC Program. Begin to research these programs as soon as possible, because there are many things you need to do to become an Officer.
The Federal Service Academies include: United States Military Academy (often referred to as West Point), United States Naval Academy, United States Merchant Marine Academy, United States Air Force Academy, and United States Coast Guard Academy. The five Service Academies offer a free, top-notch college education to these men and women who dedicate their careers to serving our country, many of whom choose to major in some field of Engineering (yay Engineering!).This is a breakdown of what you need to do to get into one of the Academies.
1. Focus on your grades.
Just as an example, 90% of Cadets at West Point were in the top 20% of their class.Your GPA is really, really going to matter in this game, so do your very best starting freshman year of high school.
2. Open your (pre) Candidate Profile on each academy’s/school’s website.
This starts the process and is not optional, and it should simultaneously register you for the mailing lists so that you can stay informed about events near you.
3. Visit the campuses
Try to do an official, registered campus visit when at all possible so it goes on record that you were there. Some campuses may allow you to stay overnight and sit in on classes, or even meet someone in admissions. While you are there, be sure to take the tour and be on your absolute best behavior. Every interaction counts in admissions, and doubly so in the military.
4. Meet the Academy liaison in your area
Each geographic area of the US is assigned to a representative or liaison for each Academy, and you will need to meet and likely interview with this person. Prepare for and ace your interview with the liaison. Read current events before you go and practice what you might say. Be sure to show your desire to be in the military; have a ready, polished answer for why you want to join the Service. You should also attend the Academy events in your area (which are usually held in October and March).
5. Begin networking to get a nomination from a Senator, Congressman, or the Vice President of the USA
You will want to reach out to everyone you know to see if anyone can introduce you to one of these government officials, or even put in a good word for you. Every little bit helps, and be diligent about asking people. Start early. Network with both Senators and Congressmen because they can only offer 10 nominations each. Call their office and ask if they offer any events that you can attend, or if you can intern or volunteer there, or if you can just come and meet them sometime–anything. Always be amazingly polite. In the military, “Yes, Ma’am” and “Yes, Sir” go a long way.
In the Spring of your Junior year you will need to start the formal application process to receive the nomination. Contact the offices of these government officials to ask about the procedure–or better yet, check on the website first and then follow up with any questions via a call or scheduled visit. You do not need a nomination for the Coast Guard Academy. You should also see if you can claim residency in multiple districts (state and county, perhaps) as this would increase your chances of securing the nomination because you could ask multiple officials. You can apply for a nomination from these four sources: 2 Senators, 1 Congressman, or VP of US. Many of these officials make their decisions in the Fall as to whom they will write letters for, but you should start MUCH EARLIER with familiarizing yourself with the process and networking (networking means getting to know people who might someday be able to help you). The nominator will notify the Academy if you are selected, so there is nothing you need to do there. (Note: Each member of Congress can have only 5 people attending the Naval Academy at any time. Members can nominate 10 candidates for each vacancy so the Naval Academy can choose–OR they can nominate one principle nominee and 9 others as alternates).
6. Apply for summer leader seminars at the Academies in January of Junior year
These seminars, where offered, are solid introductions into what your life would be like at a Service Academy. The camps, like the Academies, are intense.
7. Line up 3 recommendations for your nomination during Junior year
Many Academies like one rec to be from your guidance counselor. Some Academies want a rec from your English, Math, Physics or Chemistry teacher. Check requirements and do your absolute best for all of your teachers.
8. Apply for your nomination (April)
A Senator or Congressman will typically request that you submit: an application, 3 rec letters, official transcript, SAT/ACT scores, resume, 250-500 word essay (usually on why you want to be in the military or what it means to you to serve), optional photo. They often request that you mail these in one envelope.
9. DoDMERB exams — Dept of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (pronounced: DAHD-merb)
You will need to pass a medical examination to demonstrate that you can physically handle the regimen of an Academy. The physician will often ask for previous medical records. You can do this in the Summer after Junior year.
10. APPLY EARLY even though admission is rolling
Some military applications open in April so you want to apply as early as you can; applications are date and time stamped when they arrive. (In the event that you may not be accepted, let them know you are interested in their prep school programs, where they may offer you a spot.)
What you need to apply:
Transcripts for all 6 semesters
Super-scored SAT/ACT tests (Average ACT: 26, Average SAT: 1260)
English, Math, Chem, and Physics teachers to do a School Official Evaluation in the summer
Candidate Personal Data Record
Candidate Statements (Essays).
You will receive one of the following responses:
An offered spot in the Academy
An offered spot in their prep school (for kids who fit what they are looking for, but need to improve their GPA)
If you don’t get in, RE-APPLY. Go to a civilian university and join ROTC, go to a military school, or go to a Post Graduate year to improve your GPA. DO NOT GIVE UP. Military personnel exhibit determination at all times. This is the first of many tests. Do NOT give up.
Use the CollegeMapper Military Timeline to stay on track with all your tasks.
There are many things that you can be doing to prepare yourself for the military and your application, as early as freshman year of high school:
- Volunteer: Start volunteering in your community or school as soon as possible and regularly.
- Be a leader: Join clubs and activities through your school or community to show your leadership skills, likely when you are an upperclassman.
- Be athletic: Earning a Varsity letter looks good for your commitment, and being in shape will help you pass the Fitness Assessment.
- Be prepared: Always know your high school rank, GPA and test scores so that you can set goals for yourself to improve.
- Do something leadership-related in the summertime: Try mentoring, coaching, tutoring, being a camp counselor, working, etc.
- Consider going to a military summer school prep program: These really help you understand what the military will be like.
Some summer camp options include:
Whatever grade you are in, there is something you can be doing now to prepare if attending a military school is your objective. You will need to be focused and set clear goals for yourself. Grades need to be a top priority, and you should take advantage of every opportunity to talk to Academy graduates and current members of the military. These schools are prestigious places to be, and if you gain admittance, you have every right to be very, very proud.
For more information login to CollegeMapper and take a look at our timeline for applying to military programs.Google+
Former LEAP test prep student and high school valedictorian, Taylor England, is our guest blogger on her journey to get an appointment to West Point.
The best advice I can give about getting into a service academy is to start early and continually seek opportunities to build relationships.
As soon as you become interested in a military academy the first step is to reach out to the local representative from the school (each district has one for each service academy). This representative will be the key that unlocks many doors in your future. The earlier you do this, the better the representative will be able to advise you on how to enhance your application.
During the junior year of high school apply to a summer camp, each service academy has one. Students typically apply by the end of January. The importance of doing that application the day it becomes open cannot be stressed enough. I applied at midnight as soon as it became available, and my representative was alerted. This showed my passion for going to a service academy. The summer camp experience not only helps your application, but it also gives you a good feel of the campus and how things run at that service academy. I would also encourage you to go to more than just one camp. I went to both the Naval Academy’s and West Point’s camp which aided me in choosing my first-choice. Don’t be fooled. These camps are just as much an evaluation of you, as you of the school. During the week, the Cadre will be taking notes for evaluation of you; just be yourself, and it will all work out.
Back to doing everything early: the application for the actual service academies will come out at the end of May/early June as you finish your junior year. Another good thing about going to the summer camp is your application will be available earlier than the average applicant. Once again I stress the quicker you get all of the requirements done for your application, it can greatly influence your success in the process. Representatives have to wait for you to finish at least 75% of your application process before they can even interview you; it is in your best interest to just sit down and crank it all out.
Writing essays in the summer is not what you want to do, but most of the essays will be able to be used more than once. I wrote the first essay for my West Point application and was able to chop it up and move things around and use it for the Naval Academy’s application. Each essay is around 500 to 1000 words, so not too terrible.
Along with the application to the school, you must also receive a nomination from a congressman, senator, Vice President, or President. You can only get the presidential nomination if one of your parents served in the military. Each congressman or senator has their own application and timeline for when it is due, so be on the lookout. Also apply to each nomination possible. Apply to both senators, the congressman, and the Vice President as it it can only help your chances. After you send in your application, it will be reviewed and you will get a call IF you make it to the interview portion.
In the interview you’ll be questioned about your morals, your activities, your thoughts, why you want to serve, and random questions (one of my questions was what was the last book I read?). You will find out if you got the nomination around Christmas time of your senior year. After you receive your nomination, you must then wait to get accepted by the school. When the school accepts you, they will call and inform you of your appointment to the service academy. Waiting for that call can take months; the first call to go out will be in January and the last call they will make can be the day before you are supposed to report.
What looks good on an application? There are three parts of the application: physical, academics, and leadership. The physical part is assessed by the candidate fitness assessment (CFA) and consists of pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, a basketball throw, a shuttle run, and a one mile run. Different service academies stress certain events in their application process. This test is standard across any service academy. The physical part is also assessed by how many sports you participate in, varsity letters achieved, and awards earned in any of them. If you are on travel teams or select teams, make sure you list these too. Just get involved and excel at the sports you are passionate about. The academies are looking for athletes. The physical part is weighted as roughly 10% of your overall application.
The next part of the application is academics, carrying the heaviest weight (the weight of academics differs between service academy). Your ACT/SAT scores, GPA, rigor of course load, and academic awards achieved are all considered. I can only speak from experience academically, but the average GPAs and test scores are posted on websites. I believe the average ACT score is around a 30 for each academy. Most of the academies super score: so take the test as many times as needed to get the best score possible. I got a 34 in science and reading, a 33 in math, and a 29 in English. It has been said that most service academies weigh math and English most heavily. West Point told me that I should retest to get my English score up. You will be pushed to retest; if it can enhance your application, do it! The next part of the academic portion is your GPA and difficult level of classes. If you have over a 4.0 and you are taking easy classes, they will want to know why you didn’t challenge yourself. On that note, make sure you are finding the right balance. Take as many AP classes and IB classes as you can without letting your grades suffer. However, the service academies would rather you challenge yourself and get a B+ then to not challenge yourself. Keep this in mind when all of your friends are scheduling really easy senior years. Class rank also has an effect, but the service academy will take into consideration the type of school you go to and the number of people that go there. If your school says they don’t rank, you should know that deep in their system they do, and it can only help to find this out. So find out who knows it and get it. I don’t really know the average GPA and class rank, but I would say that top 10% and at least a 3.8 would be a good ballpark, if not higher. They also want to see academic accolades, such as national honor society, national merit scholar, best student in a certain subject, etc. Make sure not to slack off your senior year, because your grades are monitored.
The last piece of the puzzle is the leadership portion, which includes all the leadership positions you hold but also the activities in which you participate. Strive to be in as much as possible. Take on leadership positions such as captain, student body president, committee chair in a club, having a job, or leading a community service project. The service academies really like to see a lot of community service, especially if you lead a project. Become involved in a breadth of clubs, don’t just be in one type of club. Student council, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and church organizations are common clubs sought. Also, there is a program called Boy’s State/Girl’s State run by each state’s government. It is an opportunity to play a part in the leadership of the state; the typical opportunity is to be appointed junior year. Your school should be able to send two students to the program. This looks excellent on your application. Some admissions officers will tell you to go to this program over going to their summer program. Therefore, seek how your school nominates its students.
Overall, the process of getting into a service academy is long and painful….I’m not going to lie. You can ease the pain by getting started early and always striving to enhance your application. It is also important to ask questions along the way; ask your representative or people who already go to an academy. They will know what admissions is looking for. A service academy is an amazing opportunity to serve your country! GO ARMY, BEAT NAVY.
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