Getting Into a Service Academy
The service academies annually award the biggest scholarships in the country. Each cadet receives a four-year education, room and board, pay, exclusive benefits and training. These tips give you an edge in getting into one of these elite institutions:
1. Get the grades. Face it, you have to be among the best to be a cadet. Ninety percent of cadets were in the top 20% of their class. But, the academies want well-rounded people. Good grades are a starting point, not the finish line.
2. Practice testing. The ACT and SAT are critical. Average scores for the class of 2004 were 29 on the ACT and 1260 on the SAT. Test again and again until you score high enough to be above the average.
3. Be an athlete. Not everyone is an intercollegiate athlete, but all cadets play intramural sports, face fitness tests and undergo strenuous physical training. Earning a varsity letter is a plus.
4. Be a leader. The academies are looking for leaders. Participation in clubs and extracurriculars is not enough. Become a club officer or class officer. Don't be modest. Work hard to win school, athletic and community awards. Awards separate you from the pack.
5. Work in the community. Leaders care. Show you care by routinely volunteering or working in community programs.
6. Ace the interview. Your interview with the academy liaison officer is a big deal. You will be asked about citizenship, reasons for attending and even about current events. Read the newspaper before your interview. Practice with your family. Answer in clear, thoughtful sentences.
7. Know your Congressman. You need an official nomination to get into the academies (except the Coast Guard Academy). These come from Senators, Congressmen, the Vice President and the President. Apply to all the sources, but get to personally know the ones you can. Volunteer in their office. Write them letters. Make appointments to see them.
8. Go for more than one. Congressman and Senators have a limited number of nominations for each academy. By considering all four academies you increase your chances of getting in.
9. Attend summer programs. Each academy offers programs for exceptional students during the summer before their senior year. These programs provide an up close look at the academies and what cadet life is like. Your counselor can help you apply. The deadline is usually in January.
10. Start now! While the academies don't start official applications until your junior year in high school, you should start early. Write and get the pre-candidate questionnaires and candidate kits. Talk to your high school counselor. Talk to your Congressman. Meet the academy liaison officer for your area. Let everyone know you have a dream and a plan to make it real.