Have you ever dreamed of zooming down the runway of an aircraft carrier in an F-18 Hornet, catapulting into the vast blue ocean on your way to a combat mission? How about silently running under the ocean in a nuclear-powered submarine or leading a platoon of elite Marines? If you want to serve your country, get a world-class education, and have your dream of being a sailor or Marine come true, then the United States Naval Academy may be a perfect fit for you.
The Naval Academy will prepare you to become a professional officer in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps. To help you sail or soar into your future as a Midshipman, we have put together some tips on navigating the Naval Academy application process. From your Preliminary Application to life as a Midshipman, read on to see if you have what it takes to become a commissioned officer in the United States Navy or Marine Corps.
The Naval Academy At A Glance
Located in historic Annapolis, Maryland, the Naval Academy is home to 4,000 students who make up the Brigade of Midshipmen. The history of the Academy dates back to 1850 when the Naval School of Annapolis became the United States Naval Academy. The format has changed little over the years requiring midshipmen to study for four years and train aboard ships every summer. The curriculum has changed with the times, with a far more advanced and technical emphasis. The beautiful grounds of the Naval Academy are on 338 acres on the shores of the Chesapeake.
Once accepted, you will attend the Academy free of charge, including room and board and summer training opportunities. At the Naval Academy, you can choose from more than 20 majors ranging from Aerospace Engineering to Oceanography to Robotic Engineering. As you can tell, the academic program is focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This allows the Academy to meet the current and future technical requirements of the Navy. Small classes allow you in-depth discussion and hands-on learning, providing opportunities for critical thinking and engagement. Classes are very demanding, and in addition to courses required for your academic major, you will get training in leadership and naval science. You’ll also be judged on your military performance and physical fitness. The USNA expects you to maintain high standards in academics, military performance, and fitness. After graduation, you will be commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy or Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
After commissioning, you will serve a minimum of five years on active duty. Becoming a Midshipman at the USNA is the first step to a life of service to the Navy or Marines, and your country.
What Does It Take To Get In The USNA?
The United States Naval Academy has very specific eligibility requirements. The best place to start is to see if you meet the basic admissions criteria.
You must be:
- A United States citizen
- Between 17 and 23 years of age
- Unmarried and not pregnant
- Of excellent moral character
- Academically and medically qualified
- Physically fit and pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA)
- In possession of a congressional nomination from one of many sources available
Here are some things you can do to make your application more competitive.
- Meet with your Blue and Gold Officer
- Attend Candidate Visit Weekend
- Attend their Summer Seminar
- Attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS)
- Excel academically (GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and class rank)
- Participate in extracurricular activities and sports
- Pass a full medical exam and physical fitness test
Even if you crush all of these tasks, you may still fall short. The USNA acceptance rate is just 10%. So, how can you increase your chances of getting into the USNA? Read on to find out.
How Can I Prepare?
The earlier you start, the greater your potential of being accepted and earning an appointment to the USNA.
If you are in high school:
- Study hard (especially in English, math, and science).
- Join a sports team and participate in courses that help you learn to express yourself, like drama, public speaking, or debate.
- Be a tutor.
- Become a leader by joining a scouting program or a local or school club. Take on leadership positions like club president or secretary.
- Demonstrate character by helping others or getting involved with the National Honor Society, church groups, or other organizations that support your community.
- Start Your Preliminary Application. Junior year is when your application process begins.
- During the summer of your junior year, attend the Summer Seminar. This program will introduce you to life at the Academy, where you will experience first-class academic, athletic, and professional training. Space is limited, and it’s highly competitive, so apply early.
How Do I Know If I Qualify?
In addition to the basic requirements, you will need to meet the following specific requirements:
To compete academically, you should have a:
- SAT score of 1410 (composite) or
- ACT score of 31 (composite) and
- GPA of 3.94
Many applicants have taken advanced science and math courses in high school, including Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics. Also, applicants have taken Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or college credit courses as high school students. These courses will help make you stand out on your application.
In addition to academic performance and physical fitness, you will need to show a strength of character and leadership potential. The USNA will review your Letters of Recommendation and do a background review.
Physical Training (PT) is a big part of the Academy, and satisfactory completion of the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) is a required part of the admissions process. This test of strength, agility, speed, and endurance. It will help determine if you possess the stamina needed to complete the physical program at the Academy. Your examination must be administered by a physical education teacher, coach, current JROTC instructor, an active duty commissioned officer, or your Blue and Gold Officer.
You must the medical and weight standards for a commission in the United States Navy or Marine Corps. If you do not meet these standards as an applicant, you’re disqualified (unless you get a medical waiver). You will take your examination at one of the designated examining centers located on or after July 1 of the year preceding your year of admission.
How do I apply?
The application process is time-consuming and requires detailed planning and follow up. Let’s take a look at the application process.
You can begin the application process as early as your Junior year in high school. All application materials provided by candidates are done through an online portal. Applications open in the Spring of your junior year and are due by the end of January in your senior year.
The following steps will give you all you need to know to apply to the U.S. Naval Academy.
You will have to meet the basic eligibility criteria we went over earlier:
- A United States Citizen by July 1 of the year of entry
- At least 17 years of age and must not have passed 23rd birthday on July 1 of the year of entry
- Not pregnant and have no dependents
- Have a valid Social Security card
You will have to submit a preliminary application to see if you are qualified and competitive.
You’ll need to provide:
- Social Security Number
- High School Educational Testing Service (ETS) Code from your counselor
- High School Class Rank
- Congressional State and District
- Full Zip Code
- SAT, ACT, or PSAT score
If you have applied for one of their Summer Seminar programs, you don’t need to submit a preliminary application. After the Academy reviews your application, they will assign all those accepted to move on to the next level with an official candidate number. Once you get an official candidate letter, you’ll have to send in more information about yourself like Letters of Recommendation and a personal essay outlining the reasons you want to attend the Naval Academy.
Apply For Nomination
Before you can be considered for an appointment, you must obtain a nomination. This is a very competitive process. The nomination process is independent of the admissions process and should be done simultaneously.
Most applicants get one of the following nominations:
Congressional. For each cadet vacancy, each member of Congress may nominate up to 10 candidates.
Vice Presidential. For each cadet vacancy that occurs, the vice president may nominate up to 10 candidates to be considered for appointment. Don’t mail your request for a vice presidential nomination to the Academy; they will make recommendations to the vice president based upon your admissions file.
College Entrance Exams
You must take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT) before admission. Check with your school counselor for test dates and registration requirements.
In addition to completing the Candidate Academic Information, your high school counselor should mail an official transcript to the Academy. Transcripts should include your candidate number.
You must meet the medical and weight standards for a commission in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps. The Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) is responsible for determining your medical qualification. It can take up to 30 days to schedule your initial medical evaluation, 60 days for completion, and possibly another 30 days for a medical waiver if required. This can result in up to a four-month process for candidates.
Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA)
You have to find your own examiner and provide them with official instructions on setting up and administering the test. Your best bet is to ask your physical education instructor or a coach.
The final step in the application process is an official interview with your Blue and Gold Officer. Blue and Gold Officers are volunteers who are Naval Academy graduates, parents of midshipmen, or graduates. They are there to help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have about the Academy or the application process. You should contact your Blue and Gold Officer as soon as you get your official candidate letter.
What Happens After I Apply?
Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll hear whether you will be offered an appointment. Admissions are rolling, so accepted candidates will receive notification as soon as the admissions board makes a decision. If you are considered a highly competitive candidate, you may get a Letter of Assurance as early as September in your senior year. Appointments offered are conditional until you take the Oath of Allegiance. You’ll typically be notified by April 21.
Life As A Midshipman
Once you have been accepted to the Naval Academy, you may wonder what life will be like once you step on the campus. Your adventure begins the summer before you start your Plebe (Freshman) year.
As a Plebe, you will take their oath of office on Induction Day of plebe summer. Hopefully, you have gotten yourself in great physical shape because you’ll be tested both physically and mentally. Plebe Summer is a 7-week indoctrination program that will instill in you the discipline and teamwork you’ll need to do well at the Naval Academy. Your summer will be filled with physical training and team-building exercises on the obstacle course.
Once the Brigade of Midshipmen returns in the fall, Plebes like you will be challenged with a full schedule of demanding courses, assigned tasks, and an introduction to Navy and Marine Corps technology and history. You’re expected to obey the strict standards of discipline like addressing all other Midshipmen as Sir or Ma’am, keeping your room in inspection-ready order at all times, and memorizing daily and weekly facts about the news and Naval history. Your freedom is somewhat restricted as a Plebe. You will only get a few hours of off-campus time each weekend. Your year ends with an all-day Sea Trial and a team climb to the top of the Herndon monument. Once you replace your Plebe cover (cap) with the official Midshipman cover at the top of the monument, you are officially “plebe no more.”
As a Sophomore, you are now called “youngsters.” You will be able to relax a little but are still required to keep up your high grades, keep your room and uniform in inspection order, and follow the code of conduct. You will get some more free time off-campus on the weekends but still need to wear your uniform on campus and in town.
Second Class (2/C) Year
As a junior or 2/C Midshipman, you are the Brigade’s trainers, responsible for teaching and training the new Plebe class. You will be put in a leadership role and will have a chance to develop your leadership style. 2/C’s are also known as the tough Midshipmen that’s because you’ll be expected to correct Plebes all around campus. At this time, you will also be required to sign a commitment to service in the Navy or Marine Corps after graduation. Up until this time, you could leave the Academy if this path is not right for you. You will get more liberties, like having a car (parking is off-campus), wearing civilian clothes when off-campus and having more free time. At the end of the year, you’ll get your class ring and participate in the formal U.S. Naval Academy 2/C Ring Dance.
Seniors are called Firsties, or First Class Midshipmen. During your final year at USNA, Firsties focus on leadership development. This is the year that you’ll focus your efforts on leadership development. As a Firstie, you will hold a leadership position in the student body and be responsible for the performance and training of the midshipmen under your command. You’ll also find out what service and specialty you’ll be assigned to after graduation.
At the end of these four memorable and life-changing years as a Midshipman, you’ll have earned the right to toss your cover in the air at the graduation ceremony.
The fellowship and military spirit at the Naval Academy is hard to find anywhere in the world. The USNA will help you reach your potential and lead you on the path to service in the world’s greatest military. Applying and getting into the Naval Academy is not easy, but if you “pass the muster” and join this elite group of students, you can say that you have met and exceeded the challenges set by Midshipmen who have come before you and bring honor to a grateful nation.
Jim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.
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