Service academies, including West Point, have a unique recruiting process, striking a balance between academic excellence, athletic prowess, and leadership potential. 

This post will delve into the specifics of the recruiting process for athletes at West Point, but many of these principles apply across the board to the Air Force and Naval Academies as well.

What is Recruiting and Its Role in Service Academies?

Recruiting is the process by which service academies attract and select the best talent, academically, athletically, and as future officers. It plays a pivotal role in shaping each Service Academy class. 

At West Point, roughly 23% of each class is composed of D-1 athletes, indicating the significance of sports in the academy’s culture. This athletic prowess not only contributes to the overall morale and camaraderie of the institution, but it also plays a role in developing successful cadets and future officers. More importantly, these recruited athletes are seen as key contributors to the academy’s numerous team sports, helping them to succeed at the Division I level.

An Overview of Teams and Athletes

West Point supports 30 athletic teams, encompassing a total of approximately 1050 cadets across the entire corps of cadets. Each year, West Point recruits around 250 athletes, with 50-60 of those athletes typically winning their congressional district. However, many athletes do not win their district, and their nominations may come from various sources.

Number of Recruited Athlete Slots for West Point

These numbers provide an example from a recent USMA class. They combine recruited athletes who are recruited directly (~250) and recruited athletes who complete a year at the USMA Prep School (~100)

SportTotal Number of Recruiting Slots
Men’s Baseball14
Men’s Basketball14
Men’s Gymnastics6
Men’s Hockey10
Men’s Lacrosse22
Men’s Rugby6
Men’s Soccer12
Men’s Tennis3
Swimming & Diving18
Track & Field49
Women’s Volleyball11
Women’s Basketball7
Women’s Lacrosse12
Women’s Rugby5
Women’s Softball6
Women’s Soccer13
Women’s Tennis3

How Nominations and Appointments Work with Recruited Athletes

Sources of Nominations

Liaison officers and coaches play a crucial (yet very different) role in the recruitment process, with liaison officers working closely with Members of Congress to secure nominations for potential cadets. Read more below for how their roles differ. Bottom line – do not discuss recruitment with your liaison officer (Field Force Officer, Academy Liaison Officer, or Blue and Gold Officer). 

Beyond these congressional nominations, West Point has an additional 220 appointee slots. The Superintendent has a certain allocation of slots, and they provide some flexibility in the selection process.

The Minimum Criteria for Recruits

Getting into West Point as a recruited athlete requires meeting certain minimum academic standards. These include a Verbal score of at least 550/25 and a Math score of at least 570/25. Any D or F grades will necessitate explanations and potential negative evaluations. 

Prep School versus Direct Entry

West Point admits a certain number of recruited athletes each year both through direct entry and its prep school. Approximately 100 athletes per year go to the prep school, while about 150 gain direct entry to the academy. The choice between prep school and direct entry largely depends on the athlete’s academic preparedness and the immediate needs of West Point’s athletic teams.

The Recruitment Process

Getting Started

For athletes interested in getting recruited, the first step often involves receiving an interest letter from the academy. West Point sends out approximately 20,000 of these letters each year and typically receives about 12-15k responses. These prospective athletes then go through a pre-screening process conducted by the academy’s coaching staff.

Player Ratings

In the pre-screening process, the coaches will rate the athlete using a six-point scale:

  • 1: Recruited athlete (blue chip athlete)
  • 4: Looked at, but not interested (potential walk-on)
  • 5: Undecided, could be a 1 or 4 over the course of the year
  • 6: New, unrated

Importantly, an athlete isn’t officially recruited until they receive a written contract. The final commitment often occurs on National Letter of Intent signing day.

The Roles of Coaches and Liaison Officers


Coaches are the only ones who can recruit athletes. They can’t make official contact until July of an athlete’s junior year of high school, and they often recruit more people than they have slots for.  Keep this in mind as you discuss recruitment with a coach.

This is a precautionary measure in case some recruits drop out due to medical reasons, choose another school, etc.

Liaison Officers

While Liaison Officers can’t recruit athletes or single them out for special attention, they can provide important information about the coaches and the selection process. They can also highlight candidates of interest to admissions.

Academic and Leadership Criteria

Several metrics help gauge an athlete’s potential at West Point. These include the College Entrance Examination Rank (CEER), High School Rank Convert Score (HSRCS), Faculty Appraisal Score (FAS), and Community Leadership Score (CLS). The academy also considers a candidate’s leadership experiences and potential.

The recruiting process for service academies is a unique and rigorous journey. It requires high levels of academic and athletic performance, as well as strong leadership potential. But with dedication, talent, and the right information, aspiring service academy athletes can navigate the process effectively. Remember, the journey to becoming a cadet or midshipman begins with a single step: expressing interest and beginning the conversation with the academy.

Service Academies and Recruited Athletes West Point Spotlight Blog Post

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Trisha Dach

Former Air Force Captain Trisha Dach served as an Intelligence Officer from 2011-2018. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Trisha has helped hundreds of candidates earn a service academy appointment or ROTC scholarships, with over a 90% success rate with clients. Click here to learn more about Captain Dach.

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