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+
USNA, USAFA and West Point all offer Summer Seminar, an opportunity for seniors to spend a week on the campus seeing if it feels right. And, it gives administrators a chance to watch and evaluate prospective students.
At USNA it’s called Naval Academey Summer Seminar (NASS). Here’s the blurb on USNA’s website:
The United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar is a fast-paced, six-day experience for high achievers who have completed their junior year in high school. Summer Seminar teaches you about life at the Naval Academy, where academics, athletics, and professional training play equally important roles in developing our nation’s leaders. If you think that you may be interested in pursuing an appointment to one of the nation’s service academies and serving your country as an officer, you should seriously consider attending the Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar.
To apply, you must:
- Have completed your junior year
- Be 17 by July 1st
- Be unmarried with no children
- Demonstrate leadership and achievement in athletics
- Be physically fit and in good health
- Have a positive attitude
You pay $350 for the experience, plus travel, for 8 academically-focused 90-minute workshops on topics like oceanography, IT, Naval architecture, mechanical engineering, mathematics, history, and more. A typical day starts at 5:45 with breakfast, a morning workshop, lunch, afternoon workshop, a sports event or military drill instruction, dinner,a Special Event and then taps at 2300 so you can start all over again the next day at 5:45.
Sound good? Here’s better news: It’s open for applications. You have until April to complete it. Anyone planning on attending USNA or any military academy should apply for this event. You want as much information as possible about what it’s like to be part of that world before taking the Oath during Plebe Summer.
There are two great reasons (besides what I’ve already explained) for attending:
- You get your first FitRep (Fitness Report) during those two weeks, although you don’t find out about that until you return home, when your B&G officer tells you. And, the USNA runs all participants through the CFA (Candidate Fitness Assessment). A requirement of admission, applicants either pass it during Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS), or retake it as part of their application package.
- All NASS participants are automatically processed as applicants to USNA upon completion. There is no need to submit an additional preliminary application.
If you don’t get selected, it doesn’t mean you won’t be selected for USNA. There are only three summer sessions of 750 students each. There will be lots of applicants selected who didn’t attend.
Here’s a rundown on what the Summer Seminar experience was like for one of the successful applicants (taken from Building a Midshipman):
You wake at 4:30 a.m. departure day—after packing seven pairs of shorts, ten sets of socks, a few shirts (they’ll give you five when you get there), a bathing suit (you have water work) and shower sandals. Not much else, a book in case of free time (but that was non-existent). You hug your Labradors Stoney and Casey one last time, explaining to them the immensity of this event, climb into the family car and head off to the airport by 5:15 a.m. to catch the 6:45 flight.
The United Airlines flight takes you through Denver, home of the US Air Force Academy. The plane lands behind schedule at Baltimore-Washington International, leaving you a late-night thirty minute drive to your hotel, located close enough to the Yard (the USNA campus) for walking. That choice is fortuitous because Visitor parking on the Yard (the local’s name for the campus) proves difficult (as a Plebe, Mom and Dad get a FONA—Friends of the Naval Academy—pass allowing them access to on-Yard parking).
It has been a long day, but who can sleep? You and your father walk over to the “school by the bay” and watch. Look. Absorb the history and tradition you will be part of for six days—starting tomorrow. Despite the late hour, you aren’t the only wide-eyed high school age civilian wandering with parents. You also notice uniformed Mids briskly walking through the Yard, and groups of fit-looking Mids in work-out clothes sprinting the Yard’s many running routes.
Now, it’s 8 am, and you’re standing at the proverbial door to your future. A guard station with two Marines controls entry to the 338-acre institution once known simply as the Naval School and renamed the “United States Naval Academy” in 1850. Inside these walls lie the remains of John Paul Jones; the sword he used; his famous quote, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not go fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way”; the figurehead from the USS Delaware now known as ‘Tecumseh, the God of 2.0’ (for the Midshipman goal to get a grade point average of 2.0); and Freedom 7—America’s first space capsule.
This is where Albert Michelson first accurately measured the speed of light with just $10 worth of equipment (in 1878, he won the Nobel Prize for Physics), and where Midshipman Joseph Reeves invented the first football helmet. This is the spot where, just one month earlier, 1000 graduating seniors threw their hats into the air in celebration, and set off for their assigned duties. Inside is Tecumseh Court, where Midshipmen celebrated V-J Day by beating the Japanese bell until it cracked. A meander through this National Historic Site resembles revisiting treasured history, every building named for a famous American military figure.
It begins sprinkling—a precursor to the seven-feet of water and sludge Hurricane Isabel will drop on the Yard in nine months. The schedule you received before leaving home calls for running, so you innocently ask where that will take place (not outside because, good grief, it’s raining!). The Detailer (now called Cadre) assigned to greeting and meeting cracks a smile, and answers,
“We try to schedule all of our wars for sunny days.”
Sixty minutes later you’re wet and muddy, and part of the USNA Summer Seminar process.
Later, your dad tells you, after waving good-bye and losing sight of his only daughter, he wanted to give you spending money. He asked a Detailer if he would mind finding you and giving you $20 (That’s right—in the USNA environment, $20—or 20 cents—would get to the intended party).
The young man replied,
“Mr. Mxxxx, don’t worry about that. Your daughter will have no time to spend money.”
From the uniformed Marines checking ID’s at the gate to the polite and friendly greetings of the Mids you pass to and from the orientation, it is clear that the comfortable rules and regulations of your ‘podunk’ civilian life have been replaced by YP’s, gouge, EI and the Dark Ages of USNA.
You blitz through the fastest week of your life. Some attendees don’t like being barked at. Mentally, you scream,
Just do what they say! They know how to train you!
You have no problem saying, ‘Sir! Yes Sir!’ over and over. You’re thrilled to rise early and sprint to the track for more running. You never feel like quitting because, what’s the big deal? It’s not Plebe Summer. It engenders a question of pride—even with your lungs burning and your legs chugging through the last quarter mile. Even when your Detailer tells the company:
“We’ll run longer because we’re the best!” And sends everyone on an extra half mile ‘longcut’—even then you don’t feel justified quitting.
You remember that run well: You were lagging further and further behind, the next Squad of Plebe wanna-be’s closing in and threatening to pass you. Your Platoon pushed you on, but your lungs had nothing left to give. Just as you decided to move off the path and get out of way, your haggard head lifted and spotted the finish line. There ahead, classmates slowed down, and doubled over as they gulped fresh air and tried not to throw up. Just ahead twenty steps. Ten steps… Five, and then, Done!! You knew you could make it! When the week ends, your company remains the only one without a single quitter the entire time.
You remember the time you forced exhausted arms through push-ups—again. One, two, three. You’re great at push-ups—it’s one of your strengths—but, the Detailer didn’t want push-ups anymore. Now he wanted you to stay in an arms-bent position and hold. So you held. Centimeters from your face, a worm crawled under your body, between your arms, toward your lowered chin. Millimeters from your mouth and nose! Oh well. You held, until the Detailer restarted the push-ups. What’s one worm?
You adopt Navy language as your own. Mother B, Plebe, the Yard, chopping in the hallways. You like chopping. Go Navy Beat Army!
Now you’re back from both Summer Seminars (You also went to USAFA’s version). You return to civilian life with a burning desire to attend the Naval Academy. Everything you observed—the honor, the commitment, the clear-eyed intelligence of potential classmates—convinced you your life path and destiny intersect at the gates of the Naval Academy.
They send you home with a good Fitrep report, a failed PAE (you couldn’t hang from a bar for eighteen seconds), and an oversize packet of USNA materials. You use your new USNA duffel bag to carry it. Go Navy! Beat Army!
–excerpt from Building a Midshipman: How to Crack the USNA Application
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade and author of two technology training books for middle school. She wrote Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.