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Have you ever heard of the Merchant Marine Academy? Many Americans have at least heard of the 3 main Service Academies: Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, and West Point. What about this lesser-known Service Academy? 

The Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) is located along the north shore of Long Island, just 20 minutes from New York City. You’ll hear USMMA also referred to as “Kings Point”. Students are called midshipmen instead of cadets, similar to the Naval Academy. 

There are two options for midshipmen after they graduate. They will either commission into any branch as Active Duty or into the Naval Reserves as Strategic Sealift Officers. 

If you commission into Active Duty, you will be required to serve for at least five years. If you commission into the reserves, you will be required to serve as a Merchant Marine Officer for at least six years. 

There are only two degrees: Marine Engineering or Marine Transportation. Along with a commission, each student graduates with a Bachelor of Science Degree as well as Merchant Marine Officer License.  We will go into more detail on both of these degrees here.

There is a lot of information on Service Academy admissions on online forums and various websites, and our goal is to ensure you focus on the right areas for the Merchant Marine Academy. Understanding the admissions process will help you apply effort to the areas that matter most in your application.

Here is an overview of the major sections in this guide:

How is the Merchant Marine Academy Four-Year Experience Different Than College or Other Service Academies?

Just like other Service Academies, the Merchant Marine Academy offers midshipmen a unique college experience. Students learn skills and discipline unlike the traditional experience. Unlike the other Service Academies, however, students spend an entire year at sea during their “Sea Year”. 

Class Size

The plebe class size starts out at 280 each year. The class size is one-fourth of the other Service Academies, which start out around 1200 and usually graduate around 1000. 

The USMMA Does Not Fall Under the DoD

Unlike the other Service Academies which fall under the Department of Defense, the Merchant Marine Academy is operated by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD). 

Sea Year

During the Sea Year, midshipmen work as either a deck cadet or as an engine cadet for 300 days at sea. This happens between the third class and second class years (between sophomore and junior years).  

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Academics at the USMMA are much different than traditional Service Academies, as there are only two options, both directly related to a career in the maritime industry. 

Marine Engineering Degree

  • Focused on shipboard engineering – operation, maintenance and repair of vessels.

Marine Transportation Degree

    • Two focuses within Marine Transportation
  • Marine Transportation – develops skills to serve as deck officers aboard merchant ships. 
  • Marine Logistics and Security – develop skills to manage complex maritime and intermodal supply chains and help address security challenges facing the maritime transportation system. 


Unlike the other three main Service Academies, the athletics at the Merchant Marine Academy are Division III. 

The MMA offers the following sports:

  • Men’s Varsity: baseball, basketball, cross-country, football, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and wrestling
  • Women’s Varsity: basketball, cross-country, lacrosse, swimming and diving, track and field and volleyball
  • Sailing program: intercollegiate sailing, rowing, offshore sailing, power squadron, and sailing squadron
  • Intramural and club sports: ice hockey, rugby, water polo, and others

Now that you understand the major differences between the Merchant Marine Academy and other Service Academies, let’s discuss how to get into USMMA!

Options Post-Graduation 

Remember there are two paths after graduation from Kings Point: serve as a Merchant Marine and also concurrently in the Naval Reserves or commission into Active Duty. 

Typically, only 30-40% of each graduating class chooses to serve on Active Duty. Midshipmen can choose to commission into the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy or Marine Corps. 

Right now the most competitive branches to commission into for Active Duty are the Coast Guard and the Air Force. 

Students need to make decisions earlier in their Kings Point career rather than later, as there are requirements for each service branch. Remember that a large chunk of the sophomore and junior years are taken up by the Sea Year. 

The good news is that except for the Air Force, there is typically not a commitment until Senior Year. 

Basic Requirements for the Merchant Marine Academy

There are both legal requirements and additional requirements for admittance into the Merchant Marine Academy. Legal Requirements:

  • 17-22 years old
  • U.S. Citizen
  • Unmarried
  • Not pregnant; with no legal obligation to support a child

Admissions Requirements

The Merchant Marine Academy admissions team sets high standards for appointees. Academics are the single most important factor, but athletics, extracurricular activities, leadership positions and overall character are all taken into account. The admissions team is looking to make sure you have what it takes to excel.

Academic Requirements

Academics are a very important factor in the evaluation process. The admissions team is looking for a well-rounded academic record with strong class rank, GPA, and SAT/ACT test results. The majority of students rank in top 20% of their high school class.

Minimum SAT and ACT Scores for the Merchant Marine Academy

The minimum scores for the Merchant Marine Academy for the SAT are 580 for Math. The minimum scores for the ACT are 24 for Math and 23 for English. These are minimums!

Here are the average SAT test scores from recent classes:

The minimum GPA is 2.5.

You’ll be required to submit both your 6th semester and 7th-semester transcripts to MMA. It’s important to put forth effort into academics until graduation, as MMA considers all grades and could revoke admission if you perform poorly in your final semester.

Taking challenging high school courses is the best way to prepare yourself for the academic rigors of any Service Academy, and this is the same for the Merchant Marine Academy. The courses at MMA are engineering-based. A strong knowledge of mathematics and science will help candidates succeed at MMA.

The minimums for academics for high school are:

  • 3 English classes
  • 3 Math classes (algebra, geometry and trigonometry minimum)
  • One physics or chemistry class with a lab component

Keep in mind these are the minimums and most midshipmen who receive appointments to the Merchant Marine Academy have taken more intensive challenging courses – including Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and honors courses. Calculus and physics classes are highly encouraged in high school.


Getting involved in your high school and community early on in your high school career is a great way to build leadership skills. The admissions team looks at your community service, work, and high school involvement.

There are many different activities to choose from, we recommend getting involved in something you are actually interested in and doing it for the right reasons – not just for admissions purposes. 

Application Timeline and Requirements

Here is a brief overview of the admissions timeline. We recommend starting the process as soon as the application opens during spring of your junior year of high school. We break down the specific requirements in more detail below the general timeline.

Freshman-Junior Year

  • Focus on getting good grades in school and taking challenging academic classes

Junior Year – Start the Application Process

  • Winter/Spring – take the SAT/ACT for the first time
  • May 1st – USMMA applications open
  • Complete the 3 part application package
    • Part I – Basic information
    • Part II – Extracurricular activities and essay
    • Part III – Letters of recommendation, school official evaluation with transcripts, and SAT/ACT scores
  • Start the DoDMERB qualification process
  • June 1st – take the Candidate Fitness Assessment
  • September/October – interview for a congressional nomination

Senior Year – Finish Remaining Application Items

  • February 1st – application completion deadline
  • March – April – Candidates typically notified of admission
  • April 1st – Candidates from National Waiting List or “hold” typically begin receiving offers of appointment
  • April 16th – DoDMERB qualification deadline
  • 1 May – deadline to notify USMMA of decision to accept/decline appointment

Part I

You’ll fill out basic information through the online portal.

Part II

Biographical Sketch/Essay

The admissions team is looking for you to describe who you are and show the unique aspects and experiences of your life. Critical thinking, organizational, and grammar abilities are among the top aspects the panel is looking for.

You’ll need to submit a minimum of 500 word essay on the following:

  • Your reasons for wanting to attend the Merchant Marine Academy
  • Your curriculum preference
  • How your high school classes, hobbies, and activities have developed your career interests
  • Any sailing or military experience

Looking for help with the admissions process? Help with your writing samples is included in our consulting services.

Part III – High School Profile

Candidate Activities Record

The candidate fills out a form that details sports, non-sports, and other activities that are then verified by a school official, usually a college counselor. For high school students this is grades 9-12 and includes planned activities through grade 12, or current college year for college students. It’s important to get the email and phone number of the college counselor who is verifying your information correct.

School Official Evaluations

You’ll need to submit three teachers for the School Official Evaluations: math, science, and english. The admissions team prefers a math and english teacher from the student’s junior or senior year of high school and a science teacher of either chemistry or physics. They will receive an email with a form to fill out on the student.

Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA)

Fitness is a major part of the application process. The physical test, known as the Candidate Fitness Assessment, is a series of 6 exercises that you can practice before the test, and we highly recommend doing just that!

You can calculate your score using our Candidate Fitness Assessment Score Calculator. We recommend using this calculator to see where you stand and how minor improvements will change your score.

Your CFA can be administered by a gym teacher, JROTC instructor, Academy field rep, or and commissioned or non-commissioned officer. The CFA must be taken on or after June 1st.

You will see a pass or fail for your CFA in the candidate portal once submitted. You can only take the CFA twice, so it’s important to both pass each event and get an overall passing score.

You’ll also want to make sure you meet the height and weight requirements for the Merchant Marine Academy.

Optional Letters of Recommendation

If enrolled in college, applicants must provide a minimum of two letters of recommendation from current or past college professors.

Although these are optional for high school students, we highly recommend adding these to your application. High school coaches and other mentors in your life have great insight into your leadership abilities, integrity, and character.

You can email letters of recommendation to or mail them to:

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
Admissions Office
300 Steamboat Road
Kings Point, NY 11024

Get In Touch with the Merchant Marine Academy

There are 5 zones for admissions, 4 of which are geographic. Each zone has an officer and an admissions assistant

FInd your admissions officer here.

How to Get a Nomination

A nomination gives the Merchant Marine Academy the legal authority to consider a candidate for appointment. The appointment itself is the offer of admission from the MMA. So you need a nomination first in order to be eligible to receive an appointment.

Merchant Marine Academy nominations work differently than the other three Service Academies in several ways.

The Merchant Marine Academy concentrates on nominations from each State, instead of each Congressional district.

This can be a positive because it expands the number of Members of Congress a candidate can receive a nomination from (any State Representative can nominate anyone in their state – they don’t have to be from the same Congressional district).

Unlike other Service Academies, the Merchant Marine Academy does not accept military-service connected nominations or Vice Presidential nominations. You’ll be required to receive a nomination through Congress – either a State Senator or a local Congressional Representative.

Who are you eligible to receive a nomination from?

You are eligible for at least ANY U.S. Congressional Representative from your state, and your 2 U.S. Senators. These usually increase in competition as you increase from the local to national level. Note that unlike other Service Academies, any Congressional Representative from your state can nominate you!

Each Member of Congress is authorized to have 5 candidates at any one-time. Typically Senators and House Representatives will have 4 candidates and 1 open slot. They will usually use one open slot per year. Each slot can be filled by up to 10 nominations from the Senator/House Representative.

Bottom line: You are competing for one of those 10 nomination slots. There are different methods for the Member of Congress to use for nominations, but typically the 10 nominees are not ranked by the Member of Congress. The nominating authority will usually leave that up to the Service Academy to decide who is the most qualified.

You should apply to every nomination source you are qualified for in order to increase your chances of selection for nomination.

Find your local Senator or Representative here.

Medical Qualification 

DoDMERB manages the medical qualification process. Make sure to take care of any appointments as soon as possible to meet the April 16th deadline. Read more about the process here

Letter of Assurance from Merchant Marine Academy – Receive “Pre-Approval”

A Letter of Assurance is a reservation of an appointment to the Merchant Marine Academy contingent upon medical qualification, physical qualification, Height/Weight and continued excellent work in school, and file completion.  Letters of Assurance are conditional and subject to review throughout the entire application process.  Candidates receive Letters of Assurance based upon excellent scholar, athlete, leader credentials as noted in this post.

Is the Merchant Marine Academy Right for You?

This is a great question. There are many perks to attending the Merchant Marine Academy, but you really want to make sure that this is the right place for you. One of the best ways to figure that out is to spend time at the MMA and talk to graduates.

Schedule a Visit

There are a few different types of visits available for students: day visits and overnight visits. You will get a better idea of midshipman life if you choose an overnight visit, which lasts a full 24 hours. You’ll get to see what classes are like along with sports practices and club meetings. You’ll eat meals in the dining hall and stay in the escorting midshipman’s room. 

You can call the Merchant Marine Academy at 516-726-5643 to schedule a visit.

Congressional Academy Days

You can find out more about the Service Academies by attending events hosted by Members of Congress. These are often virtual. 

Ready to Apply? 

You can apply through the USMMA website here

Want to maximize your potential of earning a Service Academy appointment?