Attending a military institution can provide the chance to gain a prestigious college education while serving your country and exploring the world. Service academies also boast a campus culture that is both fun and meaningful; the close friendships that academy students forge tend to last a lifetime. But be aware that the admissions process for military academies is not for the faint of heart. Candidates must obtain an official nomination from a U.S. Congressperson (except Coast Guard), and all must undergo stringent physical examination. If attending a service institution appeals to you, this article can help you determine your next step.
Meet the Academies
In the United States, there are five military training academies, which are sometimes collectively known as the “Five-Pointed Star.” If you’re unsure which branch of the military to pursue, you can explore the history, admissions procedures, and eligibility requirements for each at their respective websites.
• The United States Military Academy is known as West Point. It is a four-year, coeducational military academy whose “cadets” graduate as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.
• The United States Naval Academy is often referred to as USNA, Annapolis, or Navy. It grants bachelor’s degrees to students based on academic, militaristic, and athletic performance.
• The United States Air Force Academy is the youngest of the five academies, and its graduates are commissioned second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force.
• The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, offers eight majors and, like its four counterparts, requires graduates to complete five years of active duty service.
• The United States Merchant Marine Academy trains “midshipmen” in marine engineering, maritime law, and other subjects related to military and civilian sea transport.
Basic Eligibility and Application Process
To enroll in a U.S. military academy, you must be:
• A U.S. citizen (or an eligible non-citizen with proof of intergovernmental authorization)
• At least 17 years old, but younger than 23, by July 1 of admission year (for the United States Merchant Marine Academy the upper age limit is 25)
• Not pregnant
• Without dependents
Students interested in enrolling in one of the five military academies should begin preparing early in high school, and ideally complete a preliminary application in their junior year. You can request the application from a regional command office or from the institution itself, or you can apply online. (Click here to view the online preliminary application for West Point.) You will later be required to complete additional applications for Congressional nomination and regular admissions. These applications will, in many cases, be accompanied by face-to-face interviews.
While specific admissions requirements vary somewhat between institutions, military academy candidates are required to take the standardized college admissions tests that are required of most civilian students—the SAT and/or the ACT.
Medical, Physical, and Academic Testing Requirements
Both a medical examination and a physical fitness test are required for entry into a U.S. military academy. The medical exam is administered by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB). Information about the physical tests can be found by visiting your prospective academy’s website.