Thinking about West Point

Hi! I’m an 8th grader who is seriously considering going to West Point for college. So, I have a few questions.

1: How do I get in?
For the academic portion,I got a 33 on the ACT last year and I don’t know how this translates to high school, but I have straight As. I’m …still working on the physical requirements, but I don’t have to take the CFA for a while. I’m wondering what extracurriculars will be most beneficial and if there are any hacks to getting a nomination.

2: Is there anything in particular I should know before making a decision?
None of my family has ever been in the military, so let’s just say I don’t know anything that can’t be found on the West Point website.
So, thanks in advance for your help!


  1. Keep up your academics. Continue to ensure that your stats meet or exceed those of a typical incoming class:

Make sure you avail yourself of the most rigorous courses your school offers, and make sure you do well in calculus, chemistry, and physics. The academies are primarily engineering schools and all cadets earn a B.S. All cadets are required to take and pass those three courses, among others in the engineering stream, regardless of major.

As for ECs, focus on team sports with the goal of becoming extremely fit, earning a varsity letter(s) and, for leadership points, becoming a team captain. For example, of the 1302 candidates appointed to the class of 2020, 99% were varsity athletes:

If you are a Boy/Girl Scout, earn your Eagle or Gold Award as both of those achievements are awarded significant leadership points. The RAND Corporation did a study on service academy admissions several years ago to identify whether the application scores that USMA uses as admission criteria could predict success both in the USMA and as an officer. From the 50-page paper produced, here is the list of points awarded per EC category at the time:

There are no “hacks” to securing a nomination, and this is the first and most important step in applying to the academy. USMA cannot offer an appointment without a nomination, so you need to familiarize yourself with this process if you haven’t already by checking the websites of your congressperson and both senators. Once you start the nomination and application process, you will be assigned a Field Force Representative (FFR) who will shepherd you through this process and who will have insight into how competitive your district is and how you stack up against the competition in the year you apply. Getting the nomination is the gating factor; once a candidate has a nomination and is deemed 3Q (qualified academically, physically, and medically), the likelihood of an appointment is close to 50%. You will also need to dig deep to be able to explain clearly and genuinely to the nomination panels why you want to serve as an officer in our armed forces. Also, be prepared to answer your understanding of the consequences of your decision.

  1. In addition to scouring the wealth of applicant information on the USMA website, you should check out (CC for military applicants) where you can learn more about the process and get all your questions answered by current and former military personnel. These sources will tell you to do your best academically, up your physical fitness game, and pursue leadership opportunities. You will want to show quality over quantity, stay focused, and put your best application forward.

There is also some good general information about the application process in this article:

As for what you should know before making a decision, the application process is long and full of moving parts. By the time you are through it, you will know enough to make an informed decision. Should you receive an appointment and matriculate to USMA, you will have two years before you take the oath of affirmation (first day of classes your junior year) to walk away with no financial or service commitment. No one who commissions from West Point is uninformed about the decision they are making, so no worries there.

Our son graduated and commissioned from West Point last May and is now serving his nine-year commitment in the Cyber branch at Ft. Gordon, GA. I’m happy to answer any other questions you have to the best of my ability.


Thanks for the great information. Did your son always have aspirations to join the military? How would your son describe his overall experience while going through the early years of the academy.

No. The decision seemingly came out of nowhere as I’ve related here several times.

Our son, like almost every other grad, would describe West Point as the gray prison, a great place to be from but a very tough place to be. By design. No one goes to any service academy for a good time. The program tears you down in your first year and takes the remaining three to build you back up and shape you into a competent leader of soldiers (regardless of your major or the branch you are eventually selected for). It’s a tough way to get through college and will test your mettle every minute of every day. Every year, 200-300 cadets will separate before graduation for various reasons. The Army knows this path is not for everyone and allows cadets to walk away from the program anytime during the first two years with no financial or service obligation.

Service academies are not regular colleges. They are designed to produce officers for the military. The “experience” just is what it is. Most power through to commission and are glad to put West Point in the rear view mirror. Affection for the academy comes later as Stockholm Syndrome sets in. :wink:


Look a Great resource with tremendous discussion from current and former Service Academy cadets.

1 Like