Last Updated on January 10, 2022

Did you know what each of the three Service Academies has a prep school? These prep schools have about an 80% acceptance rate into the Service Academies! This is a great opportunity for students who need additional academic preparation to develop, giving them a greater chance to succeed during their 4-year Service Academy experience. 

What does this mean for you or your student? If your high school student is applying to a Service Academy and doesn’t get accepted, that’s not the end of the road! There is still a chance that your student will be offered a prep school appointment!

When the Service Academy admissions panel meets and begins making offers of appointment each year, there are many candidates who have excellent leadership and athletic abilities but aren’t quite there when it comes to the academic side of the house. We’ll go into this further in this article. We break down the typical student profile for Air Force Academy Prep School, Naval Academy Prep School, and West Point Prep School appointees (including GPA and test scores) so you can get a glimpse into how the process works and what to expect. 

Breakdown of the Three Service Academy Prep Schools

About 240 cadet or midshipmen candidates attend each of the three Service Academy prep schools every year. Of these 240 attendees, about 200 end up being selected to attend a Service Academy, getting us to the 80% acceptance rate. That’s 600 new cadets/midshipmen per year between all the Service Academies! 

Once your student is accepted into a Prep School their chances of attending a Service Academy go up drastically, as the Service Academies are more or less holding a spot in the freshman class next year for a large portion of each Prep School graduating class. 

You do not need a Congressional Nomination to receive an offer of appointment to a Prep School. This means that if your student lives in a competitive district and is highly qualified but does not receive a nomination, they may be offered an appointment to a Prep School instead. 

The Prep Schools also create an easier nomination process. Instead of relying on a Congressional Nomination, new avenues of nomination open up for Prep School cadet candidates – the most important being the 85 slots open to active duty service members.   Prep Schoolers are considered active duty and qualify under that category.

Master the Prep School Lingo

The official Service Academy prep schools include: 

  • NAPS (Naval Academy Prep School)
  • MAPS (West Point Prep School)
  • USAFAPS (United States Air Force Academy Prep School) 

About 25-30% of each prep school class are recruited athletes. 15-20% are prior service enlisted personnel. That leaves about half of the prep school class. So, who exactly makes up this remaining portion?

The Typical Profile of Prep School Cadet Candidates

As we mentioned above, half of each prep school class are usually high school students who excel in athletics and leadership, but need additional academic preparation.  


Most cadets and midshipmen participated in Varsity sports in high school, earning at least one letter. The strong athletic candidate has won multiple Varsity letters or lettered in more than one sport. They are a team captain. They may have been awarded All-American or 1st team All-Area. They scored high on their Candidate Fitness Assessment (above 600). 


The strong candidate profile in terms of leadership is a high school student who actively participates in leadership roles in organizations they care about. Typically this looks like a leadership role in the student government, debate team, National Honor Society, editor of the school yearbook or newspaper, Scouts, JROTC, or other organization. Students should be able to describe their leadership roles and how they’ve led others in their role and directly contributed to the organization they are a part of. Team captain of a sports team also demonstrates leadership.


So, your student is really strong when it comes to athletics and leadership as detailed above — but they don’t quite meet the academic requirements.

Test scores are king when it comes to academics. Since GPAs are extremely subjective depending on the school, standardized tests are the great equalizer. Your student may have a decent GPA but not test so well.

A good rule of thumb is 1100 for the SAT or 23 for the ACT. If your student is at or below these scores, the Service Academies will be hesitant to give direct entry into a Service Academy and MAY offer a prep school appointment instead. 

The average SAT/ACT scores for students admitted directly into a Service Academy are about 1300/30, with GPA around 3.85. These vary slightly by Service Academy.

What to Do with Low SAT or ACT Scores

For starters, one of the main ways to overcome low test scores is to actively try to raise them! 

  • Test as many times as you can – It sounds obvious but many students don’t realize the impression they create by only testing once or twice and achieving low SAT or ACT scores. 
  • Actively try to raise your test scores – Don’t just retake the test over and over, you should be studying and actively taking steps to help raise your scores. 
  • Bring up your plan of action with any Service Academy representative – It doesn’t matter if you are talking to your liaison officer or an interview panel for your Congressional nomination, showing you have a plan and are taking steps to improve your scores will help show initiative and drive. You may not be able to turn this into a strength, but acknowledging it as a weakness will help you in the long run.

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Benefits of Attending a Prep School

Aside from the extra year of academics, prep schoolers are exposed to the military mindset a year in advance and are typically more successful at handling the mental stressors of their first few years. Their direct entry classmates tend to rely on them for leadership and guidance, especially during the freshman plebe summer and school year. 

Unfortunately there is no way to request entry into a Service Academy Prep School. As the academy admissions panels meet, they determine who meets criteria for admission, and who they think needs extra preparation. They will usually send out the bulk of offers of appointments to Prep Schools in the March-May timeframe, but some students have received these offers as early as January. 

Are you Competitive?

Wondering if your student is competitive? We created calculators for both USAFA and West Point to give you an idea of how you stack up against other candidates. Plug your information into these calculators to get a percentile. 

You’ll also need to use our Candidate Fitness Assessment calculator to complete these. 

After you have your student’s percentile, you’ll have a general idea of where they are in terms of other applicants. Keep in mind this is just an estimate. 50% is the average of candidates who are offered direct appointments into a Service Academy. If your percentile is high but you have low test scores, your chances of a direct appointment are lower. 

If your student has demonstrated strong leadership and athletic abilities but needs more time to prepare academically, a prep school is potentially a really good opportunity! 

We wish you luck in your application and dedication to serving in our nation’s Armed Forces!

Prep School Resources:

Listen to our podcast episode on Service Academy Prep Schools! This episode will talk about the 240 cadet or midshipmen candidates for Prep Schools and who typically receives an appointment.

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