The service academies are federal institutions that provide an undergraduate education and train future commissioned officers for service in the United States Armed Forces. Applying to a Military Service Academy is a rigorous, highly-competitive, and lengthy process only for the most determined and qualified candidates. Service academies routinely rank amongst the top universities in the nation. Students pay no tuition while at a service academy, but they are required to serve in the military upon graduation. Cadets and midshipmen will receive a small stipend while attending an academy as well as free room and board.
Listed below are the five federal United States service academies:
The United States Military Academy (USMA) located in West Point, NY
The United States Naval Academy (USNA) located in Annapolis, MD
The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) located in New London, CT
The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) located in Kings Point, NY
The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) located in Colorado Springs, CO
To be eligible to apply, you must meet the following initial requirements:
- Be a United States citizen
- Be unmarried with no dependents
- Be at least the age of 17, but less than 23 years of age by July 1st of the year you would enter the academy.
Along with these points, you will need to meet standards of academics, physical wellness, tattoo placement, and more. Check the specifics of the academy you want to apply for to find the most up to date list of standards.
The biggest questions one must ask himself or herself is: “Do I really want to attend a service academy? Am I ready and willing to serve my country?” Don’t go to an academy if you’re doing it under pressure from family and cohorts; go to an academy because it’s something you truly want and desire.These schools are not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to be challenged academically, physically, and mentally.
When applying for an academy, it is best to start applying early during your junior year in high school. If you are outside of the junior year timeframe, it is still possible to apply so long as you meet the designated age eligibility requirements. Enlisted service men and women in the military are also encouraged to apply. To do so, open a Candidate Profile through the respective school’s website (opening a profile is the only way to initiate the application process).
The next and most critical step is to obtain a congressional nomination from your local congressman or congresswoman, your two State Senators, or the Vice President of the United States. All candidates are eligible to apply for nominations from these four sources. To apply for a congressional nomination, contact your local congressional representative and both of your senators’ offices for information on their application process. The Vice President can nominate candidates without geographical restriction within the United States. To apply for a nomination from the Vice President, you can find information on the White House webpage.
The President of the United States is the source for service-connected nominations (i.e., Junior/Reserve Officers Training Corps for cadets enrolled within an eligible JROTC/ROTC program, children of career military personnel, soldiers in the armed forces, children of Deceased or 100% Disabled Veterans, or children of Medal of Honor awardees).
Ensure you apply through all applicable sources. You only need one nomination from any of these sources to be included in a pool of candidates before a service academy will even look at a potential candidate’s application file.
If applying to USMA, USNA, or USAFA, for example: There are 15,000 applicants interested in attending a particular service academy. Of the 15,000 applicants, about 4,000 of them will receive either a congressional or service-connected nomination. The service academy’s admissions office will then look at those 4,000 nominees and narrow down the list to identify nominees who meet the school’s qualifications. In the end, approximately 1,000 qualified nominees will receive appointments to that service academy. (These rounded numbers were based off a recent academy’s admissions statistics and are not exact numbers.)
Candidates are required to have letters of recommendations, strong transcripts, strong SAT or ACT scores, pass a Department of Defense Military Examination Review Board (DODMERB) physical examination, and pass a fitness test. Candidates are expected to be scholars, leaders, and athletes within their schools or communities. If you are in high school, ensure you are serving in a leadership position, whether it’s as a sports team captain, a class or club officer, or community leader.
For those who dream about attending a service academy, don’t give up if you don’t get accepted the first time. There have been numerous applicants who have applied more than once and eventually received an appointment into an academy. The academies look favorably upon individuals with grit, character, and determination.
If applying to a service academy is your goal, we wish you the best of luck!
Viv is a West Point graduate, an Army Officer, and an Army wife. She has served on Active Duty with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and is now in the Army Reserves. She is enjoying life in Texas with her Army Ranger husband (also a West Point graduate).