The West Point admissions interview is a mandatory requirement for applicants. It is also usually required by the Member of Congress for nomination. The tips and sample questions described here apply equally to nomination interviews. For information on all West Point admissions requirements, read our article on How to Get Into West Point.
We’ve also given several helpful West Point essay examples and provided commentary on what makes them great and how to model your essays.
West Point officially states that the interview is invaluable in the admissions process as it gives them the best chance to get a subjective look at a candidate. They are attempting to measure the candidate’s character, resilience, the desire to serve Candidates could be everything on paper, but nothing in front of an audience. Contrastingly, they may be that individual that had a rough family life that affected them academically but emerged a stronger individual capable of leading others.
Most interviews are done by a West Point Field Force Representative at the candidate’s home, at the representative’s home or office, in a neutral location or by telephone/Skype when there is too much distance between the representative and the candidate. You can find your local Field Force Representative here.
Others who can conduct the interview are Military Academy Liaison Officers (MALOs), USMA Admission Officers, ROTC Professors of Military Science, and Summer Leader Experience (SLE) cadre.
The interview is slated for 30-45 minutes. Parents are encouraged to meet the interviewer, but the interview should be conducted only with the interviewer and candidate.
West Point Admissions Interview Questions – Rating Criteria
Candidates are rated on a scale of 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (disagree strongly).
Candidates will be evaluated throughout the interview in the following areas:
- Eye contact
- Tone of voice and delivery
- Quality of answers
- Full and intended to engage/inform the interviewer? Or, brief and hoping to get through the interview?
- First impression at introduction
- Good handshake/greeting? Did the interviewer get the sense that the candidate wanted to be there and to impress?
West Point interview questions will center on the following areas:
Knowledge of West Point and the Army
The path to an Army officer’s commission through West Point is challenging. A cadet has to complete a rigorous undergraduate program while they are learning the distinctly military elements of their chosen career. Success takes drive and motivation. Candidates for West Point need to understand why they are making the commitment to serve their country. These questions attempt to get at how much legwork the applicant did ahead of time to learn about West Point and the Army and what life would be like as an officer in the United States Army.
Typical Question: Why do you want to be an Army officer?
Sample above average answer: I believe that American values and our way of life are worth fighting for. One of the finest ways one can demonstrate this commitment is by becoming an officer in the United States Army. This commitment is not something to be taken lightly and I needed to explore what the duties and responsibilities of both a cadet and a lieutenant were. I had a plan.
I visited the Somerset Army National Guard unit near my home in New Jersey. There, I was introduced to a group of officers, non-commissioned officers, and ROTC cadets. I learned from my visit that officers lead by example and need to take care of their soldiers. Non-commissioned officers are the “backbone” of the Army and it is important that new lieutenants learn from their sergeants.
Once I become a lieutenant, I hope to deploy overseas. An important aspect is to understand the local culture in the execution of my duties as an officer. I hope that my intended major of international relations helps me gain a deeper understanding of the people I will be interacting with overseas.
Overall, through my experience in visiting a National Guard unit and talking to current Army officers, I understand what it takes to be an Army officer and I am prepared for this challenge.
Army officers are going to be put in situations where there will be adversity and challenges. Officers must have “grit” and resilience to overcome challenges and come out stronger on the other side. America’s soldiers count on their officers to be able to lead them through challenges.
The idea of “grit” was developed by Angela Duckworth and outlined in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (year). She collected data on over 11,000 cadets at West Point to determine cadets’ “grit” scale and whether this predicted success at West Point. She found that the higher the grit, the more likely the cadet would graduate. This question gets at this idea of grit.
Typical Question: Can you give me an example of when you had too much to do and were under pressure? How did you react? How did you resolve the conflicts in your schedule? How did you establish priorities for your efforts?
Sample above average answer: Yes, I can. I really got in over my head spring of my junior year. I was taking mostly IB classes, playing soccer, and working two evenings a week. My grades began to suffer and I was not sleeping enough. I felt out of control. So, I stepped back and asked myself what was important to me. The answer was my family and school since they would determine my future. So, I gave up soccer and talked to my boss about working only on Saturdays. Then I cut out wasted time watching TV and closed down my Facebook account to make the most of the time I scheduled to study. It was a great experience. It helped me figure out what is really important to me, gave me some tools to use when I need to re-orient my priorities, and gave me some good study habits for when I go away to college.
Ethics and Morals
Army officers do the right thing for the right reasons, all the time. It means doing the right thing whether someone is watching or not. They are loyal first to the Constitution and nation, then to the institutional Army, then to their units, then finally to themselves. They do not tolerate deviations from what is right from subordinates, peers, superiors or friends.
Sample Question: What does integrity mean to you?
Sample above average answer: To me, integrity means doing the right thing whether anyone is watching or not. It means doing the right thing for the right reasons, all the time. It means telling the truth about something you did even if it results in your getting into trouble. It means being willing to come forward and report what a friend did, even if doing so results in losing that friend, or being ostracized from a group of friends. One time, I was walking home and these local guys were all picking on this really awkward kid at the bus stop (I didn‘t know him), and even though I was worried that it might cause a confrontation, I stepped in an stood up for him and waited with him until the guys left.
Bottom Line for your West Point Admissions Interview
If a candidate becomes educated and knowledgeable about West Point and does his/her due diligence, it tells the interviewer that he/she is serious about becoming an officer. If he/she tells the interviewer what he/she did to become educated, he/she will become the 5% of interview candidates who have adequately prepared in this regard.
Listen to our podcast episode on the Service Academy interview process below! This episode will talk about winning techniques in order to master this important task and get closer to an Academy appointment.