So You Want to Go to West Point?


Probably the most well-known of all commissioning programs (but the hardest to qualify for) is the United States Military Academy at West Point. Admission to West Point is open to civilians and to current (enlisted) members of the military. Each year the United States Military Academy admits 1,150 to 1,200 young men and women. A West Point cadetship includes a fully funded four-year college education.

Tuition, room, board, medical and dental care are provided by the U.S. Army. A cadet earns about $600 a month or nearly $7,200 a year. A portion of that cadet pay is deposited into a personal checking account. Another portion of cadet pay is deposited to a “Cadet Account” that is used to help a cadet pay for expenses such as uniforms, books, a computer, activity fees, etc. Each cadet will pay a standard amount for laundry, dry cleaning, haircuts, tailoring services, and shoe repair. A cadet’s gross salary is subject to federal and state withholding taxes and social security deductions. By law, graduates of West Point are appointed on active duty as commissioned officers and serve in the U.S. Army for a minimum of five years.

Admission Requirements

You must meet certain requirements specified by public law in order to be considered for admission to West Point. You will be evaluated in three areas: academic performance, demonstrated leadership potential, and physical aptitude.

You must also meet strict medical qualification requirements. First of all, you must be a United States citizen, at least 17 and not yet 23 years of age on July 1 of your year of admission. You must not be married, pregnant, or have a legal obligation to support a child or children. If you are a naturalized citizen, you must provide documentation.

To qualify academically at West Point you should have an above average high school or college academic record. A complete transcript of your academic achievement will be evaluated to determine your qualification. You should perform well on the ACT, Inc. Assessment Program Test (ACT) or the College Board Admission Testing Program Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).

To prepare yourself for the academic curriculum at West Point, you should complete four years of English with a strong emphasis on composition, grammar, literature and speech; four years of college preparatory mathematics, to include algebra, geometry, intermediate algebra, and trigonometry as a minimum; two years of a foreign language; two years of a laboratory science such as chemistry and physics, and one year of U.S. history, including courses in geography, government and economics. If your school includes a course in precalculus and calculus in its curriculum and a basic computing course, these courses will be helpful in preparing you for your first year at West Point.

A well-rounded high school background in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities is a good way to prepare to enter West Point. Participation in student government, clubs, and other community activities provides leadership experiences that also reflect favorably on developing your leadership potential as an Army officer.

You must also complete the Physical Aptitude Examination, which consists of five events: pull-ups for men or flexed-arm hang for women; a basketball throw from the kneeling position; the standing long jump; a 300-yard shuttle run; and a two-minute period of push-ups. You are permitted just one examination, and you should practice the five events prior to taking the examination.

You apply to West Point by requesting and completing a PreCandidate Questionnaire, and by obtaining a nomination, normally from a United States Congressman or a Senator. (NOTE: Current enlisted members do not need a congressional or senatorial nomination). A candidate file will be started after you return the PreCandidate Questionnaire, preferably in the spring of your junior year of high school. Your Candidate Questionnaire will be evaluated by the Admissions Office to determine whether or not you will be competitive for admission.

If you are a competitive candidate, you will receive additional forms to complete. Fill out those forms as quickly as possible because West Point has a rolling admissions program. The Admissions Committee will only evaluate your application file when every requirement has been completed. The majority of the Members of Congress use a competitive nomination process, whereby 10 candidates are named to compete for a single vacancy. A minority of the members of Congress names a single candidate as their primary nomination, and some choose to number, or rank order the alternates. If you have an excellent academic and extracurricular activity record, however, you have a good chance of gaining admission with an alternate nomination. Each year several hundred of the best qualified alternate Congressional and military service nominees are offered admission from the West Point waiting list.

West Point for Current Enlisted Soldiers

Each year about 200 active-duty soldiers is offered admission to the U.S. Military Academy or the Preparatory School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Although some soldiers are offered direct admission to West Point, most attend the Prep School first. All applications are made directly to West Point. Soldiers not directly admitted to West Point will be automatically considered for admission to the Prep School.

To apply for West Point or the Preparatory School, soldiers must be:

  • U.S. citizens
  • unmarried with no legal obligation to support dependents
  • under 23 years of age prior to July 1 of the year entering USMA (under 22 prior to July 1 of the year entering the Prep School)
  • a high school graduate or have a GED
  • of high moral character

Soldiers who meet the basic eligibility requirements have achieved SAT scores greater than 1000 or ACT composite score of 20 or higher and achieved average grades or better in their high school curriculum are especially encouraged to apply. Soldiers must obtain an endorsement from their company or lowest-level unit commander.

Academic Program: Currently 21 optional majors are offered along with 24 fields of study. The West Point curriculum is accredited by The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-2680, (215) 662-5606. Six engineering majors programs – civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, environmental engineering and engineering management – are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Additionally, the Computer Science Accreditation Commission (CSAC) of the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board accredits the computer science major.

The core curriculum is consists of a solid base in mathematics, basic sciences, engineering sciences, humanities, behavioral sciences, and social sciences. It includes 31 courses that every cadet completes. You must successfully complete 40 one-semester courses, along with physical education and military development programs. At the end of your second year, you decide on a major or field of study and select the appropriate elective courses.

West Point offers 21 majors and 24 fields of study. A major requires a cadet to take 10 to 13 electives in a specific major and write a thesis or complete a design project. A major is a more enhanced, enriched academic experience with greater depth in the area of concentration. A field of study requires nine electives be taken in order to graduate. At the time of this article, more than 75 percent of the cadets elect to major.

The student-faculty ratio at West Point is approximately 8 to 1. Classes are small, typically numbering 12 to 18 cadets. Army officers and civilian professors both instruct at West Point. About 75 percent of the West Point faculty are military personnel who have completed graduate work at universities. All faculty members have their master’s degrees and over 30 percent have doctoral qualifications.

Cadet Life

Life at the United States Military Academy is BUSY! Many say cadets are the busiest college students in the country. Classes and study, physical education or athletics, military duties and recreation fill many hours of the day. Typical cadet day:

6:55-7:30 Breakfast
7:35-11:45 Class or study
12:05-12:40 Lunch
12:45-1:40 Commandant/Dean Time
1:50-3:50 Class or study
4:10:5:45 Intramural, club or intercollegiate athletics; parades; extracurricular activities; or free time
6:30-7:15 Supper (optional except Thursday)
7:15-7:30 Cadet Duties
7:30-8:30 Study Conditions/Extracurricular activities
8:30-11:30 Study time
11:30 Taps
12:00 Lights Out

All cadets receive Christmas, spring, and summer leave along with the four-day Thanksgiving break. Christmas leave is normally two weeks in length following the completion of first-semester final examinations. Spring leave is about 10 days, including the weekends. Summer leave is about 3 or 4 weeks depending on a cadet’s military leadership training assignment. When academics begin first classmen (seniors) get twice as many weekend leaves as second classmen (juniors). A plebe (freshman) will have only a few weekend passes. Plebes also may leave West Point for extracurricular or cultural trips and athletic trips. There is also the traditional Plebe-Parent Weekend scheduled each fall.

During Cadet Basic Training (six weeks long), New Cadets do not have privilege periods because of the requirements of the intensive military training activities. There is a day set aside for a military family visitation, allowing New Cadets a short time of relaxation. New Cadets are also given time to call home on the weekend.

The transition from civilian life to a military environment is challenging. You learn military courtesies and standards, and you learn to live by those standards every day. You learn how to properly wear the various cadet uniforms. You practice drill and ceremony, and you learn how to prepare for inspections.

Like all of the military services, West Point uses a “Cadet Leader Development System” to help develop military leaders. During your first year at West Point you learn to “follow.” The Leader Development Program prescribes the relationship between you as a plebe and upper class cadets. As a plebe, you must be able to recall an accumulation of information with precision. You may receive constructive criticism at times during Cadet Basic Training, but upperclass cadets (unlike the “old days”) are not allowed to treat you in a demeaning manner. You will also carry out specific tasks in your company during your plebe year. During each succeeding year at West Point, you receive progressive leadership responsibilities. You learn how to be a team leader during the second year at West Point, guiding two or three cadets in your company. In your third year, leadership responsibilities are expanded, helping you learn more about senior noncommissioned officer duties in the U.S. Army. This prepares you for cadet officer responsibility during your senior year. You learn what it takes to lead larger groups. It also prepares you for platoon leadership responsibilities as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Cadet barracks are modern, well lighted and comfortable. There are two or three cadets in each room, with space for desks, closets, and beds. Cadets are required to purchase a personal computer for academic courses and projects, including a color monitor, central processing unit and a keyboard. There is some space restrictions that may limit the number of printers in each room. Each cadet also has a telephone. The cadet barracks also feature recreational rooms, lounges and study rooms.

Military Training

On the first day you arrive at West Point you experience a military environment. You quickly learn to live by military standards, render proper military courtesies and complete a rigorous military training program. The purpose is to develop leaders with a strong moral-ethical foundation who have an appreciation for discipline, sensitivity to the needs of others and a commitment to a demanding code of ethics as professional soldiers. You are instructed in fundamental military tactics and leadership during a 2-week intercession period between the first and second semester each year. Field training is conducted during the summer months at West Point and at military installations located throughout the United States and parts of Europe and the Far East.

Cadet Basic Training is a 6-week program that helps you make a rapid transition to military life. You are physically challenged with daily physical fitness training that helps prepare you for long footmarches, mountaineering, rifle marksmanship and tactical maneuvers. “Beast Barracks”, as it is commonly called, is challenging, stressful, physically demanding and rewarding. It establishes a foundation for your basic military skills.

Cadet Field Training is conducted during your second summer at West Point. Eight weeks of field training is given at Camp Buckner, various locations throughout the West Point military Reservation, and at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It is designed to familiarize and train each Third Class cadet in basic and advanced individual soldier skills. Training is conducted in combined arms operations, introducing the cadets to the combat, combat support and combat service support branches of the U.S. Army. First and Second Class cadets develop their leadership skills by serving as officers and noncommissioned officers for the Cadet Training Regiment during the summer.

As a Second Classman ( junior), you receive leadership experience in active Army units, serve as squad leaders at Cadet Basic Training and Cadet Field Training, or participate in military specialty training. A portion of the class participates in Drill Cadet Leader training at U.S. Army training centers, guiding new U.S. Army recruits. Another group participates in Cadet Troop Leader Training at U.S. Army posts and in locations around the world. The remainder of the class participates in Cadet Basic Training at West Point or Cadet Field Training at Camp Buckner. Cadets also participate in Military Individual Advanced Development training courses in such programs as Air Assault, Airborne, Mountain Warfare, Northern Warfare, Special Reaction Team Course, Sapper Leader, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training courses. There may be duty at the National Training Center, the Joint Readiness Training Center, or Combat Maneuver Training Center.

With the First Class year (senior year) comes more privileges, latitude, and much greater responsibility. Approximately half of the first class leads the training of the third class cadets at Camp Buckner and the New Cadets during Cadet Basic Training. The balance of the first class receives leadership experience in active Army units in Cadet Troop Leader Training. They may join United States Army units in Germany, Panama, Alaska, Hawaii, Korea or the continental United States. First classmen also participate in Military Individual Advance Development training courses. Final preparation for the first class before graduation and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army includes courses in the profession of arms. These courses educate cadets on military justice issues, ethics, Army organization and standard operating procedures. The courses are designed to show a cadet how a junior officer takes charge of a platoon, protects against terrorist measures and develops a professional military role with noncommissioned officers. First class cadets also receive information on the various Army branches of service, assisting them in selecting a branch and a first unit assignment.

Athletic Program

The athletic program at West Point is respected throughout the nation. It includes 24 intercollegiate teams, competitive clubs, and intramural sports, for men and women. Army football teams attract national interest by playing teams in Conference USA such as Tulane, Cincinnati, Louisville and Southern Mississippi. There are also the traditional encounters against Air Force and Navy. Army basketball, wrestling, hockey, track, baseball, soccer and lacrosse have gained their share of regional and national recognition.

Normally, you compete twice a week in intramurals. This program gives cadets an opportunity to build leadership, strength, coordination and endurance. You also get a chance to blow off steam and have a little fun in intramurals.

Every athletic facility you can think if is available for your use at West Point. Many of these facilities compare favorably with those found in the nation’s top colleges and universities. Michie Stadium is the home of the Army football team with a seating capacity of over 39,000. There are capacity crowds throughout the fall season. Holleder Center houses 5,000-seat Christl Arena for basketball and 2,400-seat Tate Rink for hockey competition. The Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center, which features five gymnasiums and three swimming pools, begins a major renovation soon. It features Crandall Pool, an Olympic size 50-meter pool. There are numerous special purpose rooms for squash, handball, racquetball, wrestling and weight training. Gillis Field House is used for varsity and intramural indoor track competition. There is an all-weather outdoor track oval and football field at the renovated Shea Stadium complex that is used for daylight and evening competitive events. Lichtenstein Indoor Tennis Complex is the newest of the athletic facilities at West Point. There is also pistol and rifle ranges, numerous outdoor tennis courts, a ski slope and an 18-hole golf course, which has also been redesigned.

Summer Academic Program for High School Juniors

West Point conducts the Invitational Academic Workshop (IAW) for high school juniors going into their senior year. It is a fast-paced program of academic workshops, military training, physical fitness training and intramural athletics conducted during the second or third week in June each year. West Point cadets serve as squad leaders for all aspects of the week-long workshop. 400 high school juniors can attend the workshop each year from an applicant pool of approximately 800-1000 annually.

Students interested in the IAW should e-mail subject=Requesting IAW application from web USMA admissions, and request to be entered in the Invitational Academic Workshop candidate database. All high school juniors in the Invitational Academic Workshop candidate database on February 1st will automatically be mailed an application for the upcoming summer’s IAW. High school juniors interested in the IAW who contact West Point between February 1st and April 1st (IAW applications are not mailed out after April 1st) should specifically request an IAW application. Students may also obtain an IAW application by calling (845) 938-4041.

Invitations to the workshop are awarded on a competitive basis using the academic, athletic and extracurricular information provided on the IAW application form.

The average cost of the IAW is around $200.00. This covers room, board and all classroom/training materials.


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