If you are considering applying to the U.S. Naval Academy (or any of the Service Academies, for that matter), you must realize that the competition is extremely stiff.
As an example, consider the class portrait for the USNA Class of 2020. More than 17,000 applications were submitted; but fewer than 1,400 appointments were offered. If you aren’t that good at math (which you should be, by the way, if you’re considering a Service Academy), that’s an appointment rate of around 8%. Which means that 92% of those who applied were turned away. Not great odds.
However, there are ways you can make yourself more competitive. If your goal is to be offered an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy (or any of the other Service Academies), here are four tips that can help you stand out as a candidate.
1. Do 3 Sports
To be admitted to the Naval Academy, you must be physically fit. As a midshipman, you will most likely be expected to participate in athletics of some kind. But beyond the athletic requirements of student life, the physical fitness standards required of commissioned officers (what you will be if you can survive four years “by the Bay”) exist to make sure you are ready to lead in combat.
One of the best ways to show that you have what it takes physically to succeed at USNA, and to eventually lead our troops, is to be involved in varsity athletics while you’re in high school. But don’t just stick to one sport. Do three. If you play football, consider playing baseball and basketball, as well.
If you are a tennis star, think about working to become a track and field star, or a swimming phenom.
Bottom line: if you can get varsity letters (or at least show that you have participated) in three organized sports, you will be more competitive as a candidate.
2. Everybody gets A’s: do more
Think you’re smart? I guarantee someone at the Naval Academy is smarter. I further guarantee that your straight-A transcript(s) from high school, JuCo, CommCo, or university will not make you stand out. All of the truly competitive candidates have straight A’s. So…
Do more than simply get A’s in your classes. Look at getting into Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Consider making room in your schedule for one or two college level classes. Are there academic competitions that you can participate in? Do it. Even better, do very well in those competitions so you can add those accomplishments to your USNA candidate application.
If you are a high school graduate already, keep getting those A’s. But be smart about which courses you enroll in. Can you get into the tough STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses? Can you use some of those high school AP classes as college credit, and then enroll in 200, 300, or higher level classes? If so, do it. Also, get involved with academic student groups, lecture clubs, etc.
Bottom line: A’s aren’t enough. You need to show that you seek out very challenging academics across many disciplines, and that you succeed in those challenges.
3. Be a Leader
Remember a few lines up when I wrote that you need to show you participated in multiple sports? Okay, add this to your to-do: get into leadership positions on those teams. In fact, seek out leadership positions in everything you do. In your sports, in your school clubs, at church, in your civic groups (which we’ll talk about next). Graduates of the Naval Academy will assume positions of great responsibility upon graduation. So, make it easy for the Admissions board to see that you are not only capable of being a leader, but that you aggressively seek out the challenge of leadership.
Bottom line: your competitors will be student government presidents, club presidents, team captains, and leaders of all sorts of other extracurricular activities. You must show the same on your application.
4. Be a Servant
This may sound like a contradiction to the previous tip, but you need to show the Admissions board that you are a selfless servant. The military isn’t called ‘the service’ because that’s a cool moniker. It’s called the service because many of the requirements placed on you will necessitate great sacrifice.
To show that you embody the ideal of service before self, get involved in civic groups. Volunteer. Seek positions of leadership at church, in your school’s holiday food drive, at your local YMCA or Boy’s & Girl’s Club. Do things that show you want to serve others, in order to improve their lives.
Bottom line: as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, you will be expected to display an attitude of service. And as an officer of these United States, a very special trust and confidence will be conferred on you by the American people. Make it a habit now to pursue the welfare of others before you seek your own comfort.
Jeremiah graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 2009, and went on to become a Marine Corps intelligence officer. Prior to the Naval Academy, Jeremiah was a Marine Corps Sergeant. He has deployments in the Pacific, and to Afghanistan.
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