Cadet ameriforce

From Soldiers to Cadets

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by Jennifer G. Williams

West Point and Prep School Eligibility Requirements Applicants must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen at the time of enrollment
  • Be at least 17, but not older than 23 years of age on July 1 of the year entering USMA (or not older than 22 on July 1 of the year entering USMAPS)
  • Be unmarried with no legal obligation to support a child or dependents; pregnant applicants will not be admitted
  • Be medically qualified by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB)
  • Be a high school graduate or have a GED
  • Be of high moral character and never have been convicted of a felony by a civilian or military court
  •  Submit official scores on the standardized ACT exam or the SAT with writing test
  • Be nominated by the commander
  • Be eligible for re-enlistment
  • Have completed Basic Combat Training prior to admission; completion of AIT is not a prerequisite

new cadet

West Point Cadets toss their hats into the air at the completion of their graduation ceremony. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle

Most enlisted Soldiers know they can attend Officer Candidate School after earning their four-year degree to become an officer. But many likely do not know they can gain admission to West Point after they already have joined the military.

In fact, 85 slots specifically are available for Army Reserve or Army National Guard Soldiers. Soldiers may be admitted directly to the United States Military Academy (USMA) or may be selected to attend the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS) for one year before becoming a West Point Cadet [See breakout on the previous page].

Qualified candidates for the Solider Admissions Program must have a high school diploma or GED and be at least 17, but not yet 23 on July 1 or on Reception Day. Soldiers must have completed basic training prior to starting at West Point and must be single with no dependents.

“We tend to fill all of our Reserve and National Guard slots each year,” says MAJ Lyndsey Meyer, who handles Solider recruiting at West Point, “so those spots can be competitive.”

And no wonder — the program allows enlisted Soldiers to receive a fully funded four-year West Point education (valued at about $450,000), a Bachelor of Science degree and, upon graduation, a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army. Graduates have a five-year commitment to the Army in return for their education.

In addition to showing a strong academic background and good test scores, Soldiers must be recommended for the program by their company (or higher) commander. It also is a good idea for reserve component applicants to get a recommendation from their U.S. Representative or Senator to be more competitive, she says.

“We definitely tell reserve component Soldiers to apply for those Congressional and Senate nominations, in addition to their commander’s recommendation,” says Meyer. “It will definitely help you. If you meet all the other requirements, there’s a very good chance you will be offered a spot at West Point.

The Admissions Team also values leadership, says Meyer. “We look at your high school leadership — were you involved in extracurricular activities? And your time in the military. What we really value are those leadership skills the military brings. In the Army, have you attended special schools or been named Solider of the Quarter? What leadership roles have you held?” she asks. These are things that will help your application stand out. Meyer suggests that reserve component Soldiers improve their chances by retaking and improving their ACT or SAT scores, to include the essay portion, and getting all of their requirements for application finished early — very early. Applications are due no later than Feb. 28 each year, but Meyer stresses to finish your application early. “Do the medical exam early. Everything early, she says. “The earlier, the better. You can always improve your file. If you can get everything done by September or October the fall  before class starts, you’re really improving your chances.”

For the best chance at getting selected for a directto-West Point slot, Meyer says an ACT score of 25-26 and above is best. “Sixty percent of the application is academics — we look at your high school performance, your college performance and your test scores. Thirty percent, we look at your leadership and 10 percent is physical fitness,” she says. Another way to boost your academics would be to take college classes, adds Meyer. “That really shows initiative. This year, we had an applicant who is deployed, and is taking Pre-Calculus online. He just got a 95 and we are offering him a spot for the next class. Go to your education center and see what your options are, especially in math and in English.”

Visit www.westpoint.edu/admissions/ for more information about the Soldier Admissions Program and the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, and to start your application today.

Cadet Jennifer Lee

Profile: Cadet Jennifer Lee

  • Year at West Point: Third (or Cow) year
  • Hometown: Federal Way, Washington
  • Major: Interdisciplinary Science, focusing in Life
    Sciences. Plans for Medical School at some point

How did you hear about this program?

I didn’t know West Point had a program for Soldiers. My recruiter spoke with me about it when I expressed interest in West Point. His commander was a West Point grad and they both helped me through the process.

What made you choose the National
Guard?

It was kind of a spontaneous decision… I enlisted on my 17th birthday in an aviation unit. I wanted to do something different.

Family military experience?

I’m the first one — my parents were a little nervous when I joined.

How was your transition?

It’s been a good journey so far. I came straight out of AIT to West Point.

How did enlisting in the National Guard first help you when you started at West Point?

Having military experience helped me through basic training, and field training in our sophomore year. I was an enlisted medic, so we did a lot of training. I was able to bring my medical experience to my classes here at West Point. Any MOS you have gives you more personal experience to share with your classmates.

How do you think being prior enlisted will help you when you become an officer?

You understand the NCO corps. Your interaction with your NCOs is extremely important — managing expectations, and understanding both sides of things — it’s definitely an advantage.

Any advice for those who may be thinking about applying to the program?

Keep up with your academics! If you don’t hit the books for a long time, it can be really hard to get back into the academic side of things.

cadet valenza

Profile:  Cadet Mitchell Valenza

  • Year at West Point: Third (or Cow) year
  • Hometown: Queensbury, New York
  • Major: Economics
  • Hoped-for MOS: Infantry

How long were you in the National Guard before you started at West Point?

About a year, year and a half…I joined when I was 17 and completed basic training between my junior and senior year in high school. I finished my senior year and was accepted at West Point, so I didn’t get to finish AIT. When I was accepted, it voided my contract with the National Guard and I rolled into West Point. Served in the Guard during my senior year in the Reserve Sustainer Program. Family Military Experience: I wouldn’t have known as much about the military if my parents weren’t so involved. They gave me a pretty clear idea of what I was getting into.

Did you know about this program when you joined the National Guard?

I did know —I had been planning to go to West Point since about 7th or 8th grade. As I turned 16, 17, the opportunity was there to enlist at 17, and I chose to do that — not because of the slots, but more as a way to determine whether I would enjoy the military lifestyle and see if it was for me.

Did you do anything special to help your chances at being accepted?

Most people get a Congressional nomination, but for Soldiers, you can get your Commander to nominate you. I did both.

How did your prior National Guard experience help prepare you to be a cadet?

It prepared me for the military side of West Point, but not necessarily the academics side, which is the majority of what we do here. It helped me put things into perspective and it gave me a better understanding of the army than I would’ve gotten just from West Point training. It was an adjustment to get used to the college side in addition to the military side of things here.

How can Soldiers help improve their chances of getting into West Point?

Call the admissions office and talk with them. It can be a big adjustment for someone who’s been in the military for a few years to go back to college. Maybe retake your SAT or ACT to improve your scores and be more competitive. A lot of prior military will apply and be accepted at the prep school for a year, and they can get back on track with their academics, and get used to the environment. Also, talk to officers in your unit and talk about what your options are and what the process might be and what the next 4-5 years of school might look like.

After wanting to go to West Point, is it what your expected?

Pretty much. It is very regimented, and there’s a fairly rigorous academic schedule. We do most of our military training during the summer— field training, air assault school, etc.— that was different than what I expected. I ‘d thought we’d be doing military training along with our academic classes, but it’s more separate.

USMA Prep

The United States Military Academy Preparatory School is a 10-month program that prepares candidates selected by the USMA admissions office for the academic, physical and military challenges of the United States Military Academy.

There are usually about 240 students admitted to USMAPS each year. It is a good program to help nontraditional students get back in the groove and be ready for a rigorous academic schedule.

“For Soldiers, it can be a good way to get that year of improvement,” says USMA Admissions Team member MAJ Lyndsey Meyer. Roughly 200 graduates from the prep school roll right into the USMA cadet class after they complete the prep school. It’s not that that many people did not meet the requirements from the Prep School, says Meyer, “some just find that it’s just not for them.

Improve Your Chances!

Soldiers are especially encouraged to apply if they meet the basic eligibility requirements and have achieved:

  • SAT scores greater than 1500
  • ACT composite score of 20 or above