Serving as an officer in the United States military is a noble and admirable goal, and attending a Service Academy is a great way to make it happen. However, the admissions process is extremely competitive, and an important part of your application are your Service Academy essays. In this post, we’ll give you some tips on how to write an essay that will set you apart from the other candidates and help you earn a coveted appointment to a Service Academy.
These writing steps apply to all essays for your main application during senior year as well as Service Academy summer programs (such as Summer Seminar or Summer Leaders Experience)
1. The Importance of Planning and Reviewing your Service Academy Essays
First and foremost, proper grammar, structure, and flow demonstrate your attention to detail and your ability to communicate effectively. These are crucial skills for an officer in the military, and admissions officers will be looking for them in your essay. A well-written essay that is free of errors and flows smoothly shows that you take your application seriously and that you have the ability to convey your ideas clearly and concisely.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your grammar, structure, and flow:
- Start by doing your research. Before you begin writing your essay, make sure you understand the prompt and the requirements of the Service Academy you’re applying to.
- Plan your essay before you start writing. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that your essay has a clear structure.
- Use proper grammar and punctuation. Make sure you understand the difference between homophones (e.g., their, there, they’re), and use them correctly. Also, make sure you understand the rules for capitalization, commas, and semicolons.
- Use transitions between paragraphs. Transitions help to guide the reader through your essay and make it easier to follow your train of thought. Although the input for Service Academy essays may not appear as though you can use paragraphs, you should.
- Proofread your essay multiple times. Once you’ve finished writing, go back and read your essay several times to catch any errors you may have missed. Ask multiple teachers, mentors, family members, or even current or former officers to review your essays.
- Finally, make sure your essay flows smoothly. This means that your sentences and paragraphs should be well-organized and easy to follow.
While it may seem like a small detail, paying attention to grammar, structure, and flow can make a big difference in your essay. It shows that you take your application seriously, that you have the ability to communicate effectively, and that you have the attention to detail necessary to be successful as an officer in the military. Remember to research, plan, proofread, and ensure that your essay flows smoothly.
2. Demonstrate that You Serve Others
Let’s talk about what admissions officers are looking for in an essay in terms of content. While they want to know about your accomplishments and qualifications, they’re also looking for something more: they want to see that you have a deep commitment to serving others and a strong sense of the core values of the military.
This means that your essay should focus on your actions and deeds that demonstrate your dedication to service and your understanding of the military’s core values.
So, how do you do that?
3. Use Examples from Your Life
Show, don’t tell. Instead of just listing your accomplishments, give specific examples of how you’ve put your values into action. For example, instead of just saying that you volunteer at a local soup kitchen, describe how you created an initiative and led others, and go into detail on why you helped feed the homeless.
4. Focus on Leadership
Highlight your leadership experience. Admissions officers want to see that you have the potential to be a leader in the military, so make sure to include examples of times when you’ve taken on leadership roles. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to actively seek out leadership opportunities, or even create your own.
5. Be Specific and Tailor Your Writing to Each Service Academy
Tailor your essay to the branch of service you’re applying to. Each branch of the military has its own core values, so make sure you understand them and highlight how you embody them in your essay.
Let’s talk about each branch of service’s core values:
- Army: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage
- Navy: Honor, Courage, and Commitment
- Air Force: Integrity, Service, and Excellence
- Coast Guard: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty
- Marine Corps: Honor, Courage, and Commitment
Incorporating these values into your essay will show the admissions committee that you understand the importance of serving others and that you are committed to upholding the values of the military. Learn how to demonstrate military propensity in a recent episode of our podcast.
You can find specific examples of winning essays for all the Service Academies as well as Congressional Nomination essays that won the nomination below: