West Point Military Academy

Updated: July 20, 2023
In this Article

    Each year, over 1,200 cadets converge on Beast Barracks, beginning their four-year journey to becoming a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Do you have what it takes? Not only is it a challenge to get accepted (10% acceptance rate in 2020), but the requirements are rigorous, and the expectations are extremely high. You’ll be required to wear uniforms, attend mandatory academic and military training classes, hold leadership positions, and participate in other character-building exercises. To see if West Point is the right fit for you, a campus visit can really help you get a feel for cadet life and see how four-years at West Point.

    If this is your dream, we have put together a roadmap, giving you the best chance to earn an appointment to the Military Academy at West Point.

    West Point At A Glance

    The story of West Point dates back to 1778, when a fortress was built so the Army could have command of the site. General George Washington made West Point his headquarters here in 1779 and is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America. The United States Military Academy at West Point is the oldest of the service academies and is steeped in tradition and history.

    You and every cadet at West Point are taught leadership and tactics while pursuing your Bachelor of Science Degree in one of 35 majors. You can study everything from Chemical Engineering and Economics to International Affairs and Foreign Languages.

    As a cadet at West Point, you’ll get a chance to fully embrace the rich military tradition of the institution while you train and learn to become a future Army leader. After graduation, you’ll be sworn in as a new Army Second Lieutenant and have the chance to travel the world as you take up your post in a diverse range of job specialties.

    What Does It Take To Get In To West Point?

    Here is a quick look at what you can do to be competitive for an appointment to West Point.

    How Can I Prepare?

    The earlier you start, the greater your potential of being accepted and earning an appointment to the USMA.

    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 Candidate Questionnaire(CQ) early. The CQ opens mid-January for high school juniors.
    • During the summer of your junior year, attend the Summer Leaders Experience (SLE). The SLE program will introduce you to life at the USMA. It’s a fast-paced program that includes academic classes, military, and physical fitness training, and intramural athletics. SLE will give you a good idea of what cadet life is really like once they step on the campus. Space is limited, and it’s highly competitive, so apply early.
    • Review the admissions checklist.

    How Do I Know If I Qualify?

    To earn an appointment to the U.S Military Academy, you must:

    • be at least 17 but not older than 23 years of age.
    • be a U.S. citizen.
    • be unmarried and have no dependents.
    • be of good moral character.

    In addition to these basic requirements, you will need to meet the following specific requirements:


    You will have to excel academically if you want a chance to attend the USMA. The average GPA of students accepted to West Point is 3.9. The average SAT score was 645 on the Math section, 625 on the Reading and Writing sections, and an average composite score of 1270. On the ACT, your scores should be above 24 English/reading and 25 math/science.

    Physical Fitness (PT)

    PT is a big part of the Academy, and satisfactory completion of the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) is an important part of the admissions process. Your examination may be administered by any physical education teacher, Military Academy Liaison Officer, Military Officers or Non-commissioned Officers, Professors of Military Science, or JROTC Instructor.

    Medical Requirements

    You must meet the medical and weight standards for a commission in the United States Army. If you don’t meet these standards when you apply, you’re disqualified (unless you get a medical waiver). You’ll take your exam at one of the designated centers on or after July 1st of the year before your admission.

    What Is The Admission Cycle For West Point?

    The U.S. Military Academy West Point admissions cycle helps you manage your application. The process consists of pre-candidate and candidate phases. Here are some important dates in the Academy’s annual admissions cycle:

    Jan. 15



    Application Portal Opens


    • The USMA will review your candidate file after they receive your completed Candidate Questionnaire online

    Summer Leadership Experience (SLE) Portal Opens

    • SLE applications open for high school juniors and stay open until March 15.
    Jan. 31Application Deadline


    • Your complete application file for the Graduating Class must be complete.
    March 15



    Summer Leadership Experience Application Deadline


    • Application files for the 2019 Summer Leadership Experience must be complete.
    May 29 – June 4, 2021



    Summer Leader Experience Session 1



    June 5 – 11, 2021



    Summer Leadership Experience Session 2



    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.

    Step 1. Apply Online

    You can start the process as early as your Junior year in high school. All application materials provided by candidates are done through an online portal via the Candidate Questionnaire (CQ). The CQ opens in the Spring of your junior year and is due by the end of January of your senior year.

    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
    • Unmarried
    • Not pregnant and have no dependents
    • Have a valid Social Security card

    The CQ will determine 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

    Step 2. Contact Your Field Force Representative

    West Point Field Force members are volunteer USMA Admissions representatives that live in your local area. They are a helpful source of information for navigating the application process at West Point.

    Step 3. Apply for A 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. Each nominating source controls its own process and timeline; however, your nomination is due to West Point by Jan. 31st of the year you would enter.

    Step 4. Complete Tests

    You must complete and submit the results of the following tests to remain competitive for appointment to West Point:

    SAT/ACT Scores. 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.

    Transcripts. Your high school counselor should mail an official transcript to the Academy.

    Medical Examination. You must meet the medical and weight standards for a commission in the U.S. Army. The DoD Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) will determine your medical qualification. This process can take up to four months to complete.

    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.

    Interview. The final step in the application process is an official interview with your West Point Admissions Field Force Representative. You should contact your Field Force representative as soon as you get your official candidate letter.

    Step 5. Make Sure your File is Complete

    You’ll need to stay on top of your file. Frequently check your Candidate Portal for notifications or updates on your application status and that all of the required documents are uploaded. West Point does not offer rolling admissions, so deadlines are important. The deadline for a complete application is Jan. 31st of the year you are applying to enter.

    What happens after I apply?

    Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll hear whether you will be offered an appointment. If you are considered a highly competitive candidate, you may get a Letter of Assurance as early as January of your senior year. Appointments offered are conditional until you take the Oath of Allegiance. All applicants will hear by early May.

    Life as a West Point Cadet

    Beasting West Point’s Beast Barracks

    After you have been sworn in as an Academy cadet, you will participate in summer training before you even start your first class. You will show up as civilians on Reception Day, or R-Day. Beast Barracks is a 6-week or so immersive experience that challenges you to push yourself mentally and physically every moment of every day. You’ll learn basic military skills discipline. Your summer will end in a week-long Army field experience at Camp Buckner. Your summer experience culminates at Acceptance Day, or A-Day, when you will join the Cadet Corps for the start of the academic year.

    As a cadet, you’ll move from freshmen (Plebes), to sophomores (Yearlings), juniors (Cows), and seniors (Firsties). The core creeds of West Point are character, academic, military, and physical.

    Plebe Year

    As a Freshman, you are called a “Plebe.” Plebe year is an exciting and challenging start of your journey at West Point and is seen as a rite of passage, where you will advance through various stages of personal and professional development.

    Plebe Year Milestones:

    • Major Selection – During the spring semester, you’ll pick your academic major.
    • Acceptance Day (A-Day) – This ceremony happens at the end of your first summer. You’ll go from “Cadet Recruit” to being accepted as a “Cadet.”

    Yearling Year

    As a Sophomore, you are a Yearling. You will continue on with rigorous academic, military, and physical training, but you’ll also get a chance to lead. As a “Corporal,” you get plebes to mentor and train. Your Yearling year starts with three weeks of Cadet Field Training (CFT).

    Yearling Year Milestones:

    • Beginning Your Major – You’ll start to take courses for your major.
    • Foreign Language – You’ll choose and complete your required 2-semesters of a foreign language.
    • Cadet Field Training – CFT is a three-to-four week program that stresses general military skills.
    • Becoming a Team Leader – Your Yearling year is the first chance you’ll have to serve in a leadership position.
    • Airborne/Air Assault School – The summer after Yearling year, you’ll get the chance to attend a Military Development School like Airborne or Air Assault School.

    Cow Year

    As a Junior, or Second Class Cadet, your Cow Year ushers you into “upperclassman” status and the rank of Sergeant. The academic year then kicks off with your Affirmation Ceremony where you will commit to a career in the U.S. Army. For the next two years, your time at West Point will be focused on learning and developing as a leader of character on an individual level.

    Cow Year Milestones:

    • Semester Abroad – As a Cow, you will have the opportunity to pursue a semester abroad through the Department of Foreign Languages.
    • West Point Leader Detail – You’ll be assigned a leadership position as a non-commissioned officer for one of several summer training events.
    • Affirmation Oath Ceremony – On the night before the first day of classes, you and the entire class take the Affirmation Oath.

    Firstie Year

    As a Senior, you will be one of the leaders of the Corps. The First Class is given expanded leadership opportunities and chances to demonstrate learning through capstone classroom projects and final papers. You’ll get your class ring, get your first Army assignment and duty station, and finally get to toss your white service cap into the air.

    Firstie Year Milestones:

    • Graduate Scholarship Program – If you have excelled, you’ll get the chance to apply for and earn prestigious graduate school scholarships. You could become a Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, or Truman scholar.
    • Branch and Post Night – This a one of the most anticipated evenings at West Point. You’ll find out which branch of the U.S. Army you will serve in.
    • Commissioning – Your commissioning will be the last formal event of your time at the Academy. At the ceremony, you’ll raise your right hand, recite the Oath, and formally be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

    About The Author

    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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