Located on the Hudson River, 55 miles north of New York City, West Point is home to the United States Military Academy. Founded in 1802, West Point served as the nation’s first engineering school to support the nation’s growth and produce leaders for the military.
Many notable historic figures graduated from West Point, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and George S. Patton, just to name a few.
West Point is unlike most traditional universities. Students, also known as cadets, complete their bachelors degree in four years, regardless of their major. There is no cost for attending West Point. All students live in barracks at no cost, meals are free, and students even get paid a small salary.
Students spend their summers involved in military training and upon graduation will receive an officer’s commission in the United States Army with an obligation to serve on active duty for five years.
Advice for Applicants
If you’re considering applying to West Point, you’re making a great choice. In 2009, Forbes ranked West Point as the best college in America, bringing much-deserved recognition to West Point’s academic, athletic, and leadership development programs.
Admission to West Point is very competitive. According to West Point’s academic catalog, of the 11,107 applicants for the class of 2013, only 1,299 were admitted. If you truly have your heart set on attending, one important thing to know is that West Point uses the Student-Athlete-Leader (SAL) model not only for its curriculum but also for its applicant selection process. Your preparation should focus on the following areas to improve your chances of acceptance:
Academics – Study, study, study. 63% of the students admitted to West Point in 2009 were in the top fifth of their high school graduating class and had an average SAT score of 1,265.
Athletics – Join a sports team and strive to take a leadership role on that team. Of the 1,299 students admitted to West Point in 2009, 1,172 were varsity athletes in high school and 749 of those were team captains.
Leadership – Take part in activities that will allow you to develop and demonstrate your leadership abilities. Student government, scouts, Junior ROTC, and church organizations are some examples of organizations that will help make you a well-rounded leader.
For more information on the application process, visit West Point’s admissions page.
Advice for Prospective Students
Once you’ve been accepted to West Point, it is very important to prepare for the experience ahead of you. The more prepared that you are when you arrive, the better off you’ll be. Don’t get me wrong – it’s going to be one of the most challenging things you’ve done in your life, but a little preparation can make it just a little bit easier.
Get into the best level of physical fitness that you can. Training at West Point is very physically demanding. You’ll spend many days exhausted and sore. That’s because many of the activities you’ll be doing during training will be new for you, so the best way to prepare your body is to start doing those things now. Do plenty of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and running.
Try to get a copy of West Point’s “Bugle Notes.” Bugle Notes is the book used by freshmen, also known as Plebes, for learning knowledge necessary for success in the first year. Read the book. Memorize the trivia and songs. An older version should be fine, though there tend to be some minor changes from year-to-year.
Advice for Current Students
Graduating from West Point isn’t easy. There will be many challenges along the way, but the sense of accomplishment you feel as you receive your diploma will make the experience worth it. Here are a few key pieces of advice I would like to share.
Many students don’t think about how important their GPA is before they graduate. My biggest piece of advice is to remember that GPA definitely matters to your future. Not only will it play into your branch and post assignments, but it will also affect your ability to apply for graduate programs. The last thing on a cadet’s mind is usually grad school, but a few years after graduation you’ll start to realize how important it is. Stay focused on academics and make sure you graduate with a solid GPA.
Another important thing to consider doing is not taking the cow loan. I’m not sure what they call it these days, but the cow loan is the absolute worst thing West Point allows its cadets to get involved with. Starting your career with $20,000 or more of unsecured debt is absolutely ridiculous, especially when there is no cost for attending West Point and you receive a salary for attending. Not only do I recommend not taking the cow loan, but that every cadet read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and follow his baby steps. If you follow Dave Ramsey’s common-sense advice, you could easily be a millionaire within ten years after graduation.
Stay focused on the lessons you learn at West Point and the adventure you have ahead of you. Your potential is only limited by your imagination.