Army & Navy Academy Alumni at Army-Navy game. One cadet is attending West Point and the other cadet shown is at Annapolis.

Thinking about applying to one of the service academies like West Point or Annapolis?

Get a competitive edge by considering a military boarding school and by following these top 10 tips.

It will be critical to stand out from the competition and follow the guidelines very carefully.

Brace Yourself for Competition – Check the most current acceptance rates, but this gives you an idea based on research:

  • U.S. Military Academy West Point – 11%
  • U.S. Military Academy Annapolis – 9%
  • U.S. Air Force Academy – 13%
  • U.S. Coast Guard Academy – 20%
  • U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – 24%

Be a Stand Out – Given the competition, you will need to come up with ways to stand out. Not only does your transcript and GPA need to be very strong (shoot for 3.74 or above), but they will look at a number of other variables, including: advanced placement (AP) classes, honors classes, associated student body or JROTC leadership, sports participation, and extracurricular activities.

Strive for Excellence – The application and all the documents must be in top order. No spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors please! Make sure you review and edit all documents carefully before submitting.

Understand the Review Process – The service academies are providing not only a top notch college education, but they are preparing students to serve in the military after graduation. Make sure you understand the high level of commitment to service this entails. Unlike military schools, where JROTC might be part of the curriculum and programs, there is no requirement to serve or attend a service academy or enlist after graduating.

Write Down Unique Qualities – Before you even begin the process, take some time to write down what sets you apart – academically, physically, and in terms of leadership potential. In the essays, you will need to highlight what sets you apart, why you wish to attend, and demonstrate outstanding command of the English language.

Review Your Records – Before you even get started, review your records with an academic counselor. Check your transcript, discipline records, and attendance to ensure they are all in order. Write down any awards you have received or any special training. For instance, some military academies for high school offer LET (leadership education training) aviation, cyber security, unmanned aerial systems, computer science, and other specialized courses.

Get a Nomination to Attend – It is imperative to follow every requirement to be considered for admission and this is a critical step. You can get either a congressional nomination or a service-connected nomination. The sources of congressional nominations for West Point include: a representative in Congress, your US senator, the President or Vice President of the United States, delegates to the House of Representatives from Washington, D.C., the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands, the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, and the Secretary of the Army.

Follow the Admission Requirements – Do you meet all of the personal requirements? You must be a US citizen (unless you qualify under one of the exceptions) and be at least 17. In addition, you cannot be married, pregnant, or be legally responsible for the support of any children. You also need to be in good physical and mental health to pass medical exams, and have strong performance on physical assessments. Also, don’t forget to get a Social Security number before you apply. If you have any questions, check the respective website for eligibility requirements.

Meet the Deadline – There is no early application and your documents will be reviewed after the deadline posted on the sites. Make sure you get started early as the process requires time and energy. In particular, letters of recommendation can take considerable time, so begin thinking about this as early as your freshman or sophomore year in high school.

Get Fit – Get fit mentally and physically to prepare the rigorous application and assessment processes. Workout on a regular basis and participate in sports.

Admissions to Service Academies – Frequently Asked Questions: 

  • Does it help to go to a military boarding school to prepare and gain admission? Yes, it really helps because college counselors and retired military officers know the process and can guide you. More importantly, a military school prepares you through a structured daily schedule, drills, formations, military reviews, barrack inspections, fitness training, JROTC/LET programs,and specialized electives. 
  • What are they looking for academically? Ground yourself and know that being a 3.9 or above, along with Advanced Placement and Honors classes on your transcript will help your chances. The service academies train officers to take a lead role in highly challenging situations. They want the very best candidates with the mental and intellectual skills to be strong thinkers and decision makers.
  • What are they looking for physically? The service academies require applicants to pass a physical fitness test. If you attend a military boarding school, then you have probably been involved in varsity sports, but may also have participated in the Officer Candidate Course. This is excellent training and preparation.
  • What are they looking for in leadership? Being involved in the military requires a strong character and dedication to service. The academies want applicants that have demonstrated leadership and service to their school and communities.
  • Do graduates serve in the military? It is important to understand the service requirements. For example, West Point graduates act as officers in the United States military, with a requirement to serve for five years on active duty.
  • What are the application requirements? Every service academy differs, but here are the basics. West Point applicants are required to submit the following: high school academic transcripts, SAT with essay or ACT with writing scores, four letters of recommendation, and the West Point application essay.
  • What is a good backup plan if I don’t get in? Check out ROTC universities or traditional universities that offer an ROTC program. Unlike JROTC, the ROTC programs at the college level do require military service. There are some great choices out there, including traditional universities with ROTC optional programs (e.g. UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley). There are also ROTC universities such as: Norwich, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Virginia Military Institute, and many others.
  • Who are some famous people who attended military schools? J.D. Salinger, Owen Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, Lorenzo Lamas, Larry Fitzgerald, Roger Staubach, Stephen Stills, Ward Burton, Conrad Hilton, General William Crouch, George W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, and John McCain.

In conclusion, gaining admission to a service academy is extremely difficult, but not insurmountable. If you are prepared to be a top student, engage in athletics, and gain a leadership role in high school, it will all serve you well. Attending a military boarding school could provide a competitive edge, so check out military schools in your area or in the United States.