Candidate Wilson earned a West Point appointment, in our opinion, against the odds.

His story is one of transformation, perseverance, and strategic decision-making. 

Diagnosed with ADHD in his freshman year and struggling with poor grades, Wilson’s future at a selective leadership institution like West Point seemed unlikely. 

However, a series of critical decisions, including changing schools, discontinuing medication, and engaging in leadership and athletics, paved the way for his remarkable turnaround. 

This case study explores how these decisions were instrumental in overcoming initial setbacks, demonstrating his resilience and adaptability.

Cadet Wilson, formerly candidate Wilson, put in the work necessary to earn his West Point appointment!

Summary of West Point Candidate Wilson

Wilson began his high school career facing significant challenges.

His freshman year was marked by disappointing Cs and Ds. Wilson is not alone with these grades. A lot of capable young men and women start off their high school academic careers off poorly for a variety of reasons.

In Wilson’s case, a combination of a lack of structure and other considerations led to his poor grades.

Additionally, he received an ADHD diagnosis in 8th grade that might have been hastily concluded by his pediatrician.

The prescription medication did little to address the root of his struggles, casting a shadow over his academic and personal development.

However, together with his family, Wilson decided to transfer to a military high school halfway through Grade 10. This decision introduced the structure and support he needed to mature and develop the skill sets that would eventually help him pursue excellence, creating a dramatic change in his trajectory and setting him up for success.

Academic Qualification

Initially hampered by his performance, Wilson’s academic journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and the right environment.

The transition from a public school to a military high school marked the beginning of his ascent.

Off the medication by the end of his 10th grade year, Wilson’s grades improved from Cs and Ds to Bs and Cs during his 10th grade year.

Eventually, he started achieving As and Bs throughout junior and senior years.

This turnaround was further supported by a tutor, emphasizing Wilson’s commitment to excellence.

Despite a rocky start, his SAT scores of 610 Math and 670 Verbal (1280 composite) qualified him to open an application at West Point. He continued improving his SAT scores until he achieved a 1390 composite.

He took the SAT 5 times in total, not giving up until the last test he could take (December of his senior year in high school).

His new scores highlighted his academic potential, especially considering his upward trajectory in grades.

Academically Qualified: YES

Technically, Candidate Wilson worked to improve his GPA drastically along with the SAT scores over the course of his high school career.

Physical Qualification

Athletics played a pivotal role in Wilson’s development, both physically and personally.

Transitioning from a novice track athlete in grade 10 to a varsity team captain by his senior year, he not only demonstrated his athletic capabilities but also his leadership and dedication to his team’s success.

Students do not need to become team captain to be successful at West Point, but the overall theme among Wilson’s application is that in any environment he is placed, he leads his peers.

Wilson himself admitted that he was not the best athlete on his team.

However, he was able to help several of his teammates avoid academic probation by organizing study sessions his junior year. This support and dedication to the team is likely what resulted in him being voted in by his peers as captain his senior year.

This experience not only demonstrated Wilson’s physical capabilities but also his leadership skills and commitment to team success.

Candidate Fitness Assessment

Wilson started off with sub-par performance when he took practice Candidate Fitness Assessments.

This is something that every candidate or future candidate should start doing now: take a practice CFA to see where you’re at with all 6 events combined.

Had he submitted those initial scores, he would have failed pushups and pullups.

However, by the time he attended Summer Leaders Experience, he took the CFA and achieved these scores:

  • Basketball Throw: 72 feet
  • Pullups: 11
  • Shuttle Run: 9.1 sec
  • Pushups: 75
  • Situps: 95
  • One-mile run: 7:10

He made incredible progress in maxing out pushups and situps, and also greatly increased his pullups from 4 to 12 over the course of 9 months.

His achievements in the CFA, coupled with his leadership and performance in varsity track, paint a vivid picture of a candidate who not only meets the rigorous physical standards of West Point but seeks to surpass them.

Physically Qualified: NO

Although he was a leader on his team, had Candidate Wilson submitted his initial CFA scores he would have failed the test. Thankfully, he put the work in early to get his scores up for Summer Leaders Experience.

Note that students can fail the SLE CFA and submit another test after SLE.

Leader Qualification

Wilson’s leadership journey culminated in his role as the commander of his Army JROTC unit, where he led 110 cadets.

This position was not just a title but a responsibility that he embraced fully, showcasing his ability to inspire, manage, and lead effectively.

Notably, his JROTC cadre chose him as the Battalion Commander. Whereas on his track team, his peers chose him as team captain.

Generally, it’s better to demonstrate examples of peers choosing you as their leader.

This is what West Point is looking for: young men and women who their peers want to follow.

His involvement in JROTC and leadership on his team were both clear indications of his dedication to military service and leadership.

Medical Qualification

One of the most significant hurdles Candidate Wilson faced was his medical disqualification due to the ADHD diagnosis and medication history.

The Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) is a pivotal step in the journey to becoming a qualified candidate for West Point.

The medical clearance process, overseen by DoDMERB, ensures that candidates meet the stringent health and fitness standards required for military service.

A lot of students wonder if they “meet standards” or not. Candidate Wilson knew he would not.

There is only one source you need to determine whether or not you “meet standards”:

Department of Defense Instruction 6130.03

(or DoDI6130.03 for short)

Wilson knew he would be disqualified initially through DoDMERB. When we first met with him, this was one of his biggest concerns.

We understand that this can be one of the most overwhelming aspects of applying to a Service Academy. There are very few other paths that take into account medical history for young people.

Our general advice is to educate yourself as much as possible regarding your disqualifying condition, but at the end of the day pursue a “yes” relentlessly from the waiver authority.

What helped Candidate Wilson was that his family made the decision to discontinue medication during his 10th grade year of high school.

By the time he applied to West Point and completed the DoDMERB medical questionnaire in June of the summer between junior and senior years, he had 19 months off of medication.

His waiver was granted 6 months later, in November of his senior year.

Candidate Wilson and his family made the decision without external input to go off the medication. Had we known him at the time, we would have recommended he get an evaluation from a mental health professional to provide extra support in making that decision.

The decision to discontinue medication and the subsequent time spent medication-free played a crucial role in his waiver approval. In many cases, 24 months off of medication with a strong performance at school provides the evidence the academies need to be reasonably sure that a student will be successful at the academy.

However, waivers vary year to year with needs of each service and different academies, so keep that in mind. At the end of the day, each waiver authority will make different decisions.

When it comes to medication, time off of the medication is your greatest ally in being granted a waiver, just as it was for Wilson.

Medically Qualified: NO

Candidate Wilson was initially disqualified due to ADHD/medication, but knew this in advance and knew he had to take necessary steps to pursue a waiver. The first step was making himself competitive enough for West Point to initiate a waiver.

Candidate Wilson’s West Point Nomination

Wilson attended a military boarding school, and therefore applied for his Congressional nomination remotely, in the district where his parents live.

He completed the nomination application several months before the application was due in the fall. He also traveled home for the nomination interview with his local Member of Congress.

We advised him that his representative was one of the minority MoCs who nominate candidates using the Principal with Numbered Alternates methodology.

The three methods MoCs can use:

You can read more about what that means post on Congressional nominations.

The bottom line is that the interview becomes extremely important in these types of nominations. The panel has a lot of input as to who gets the top nomination on the slate.

As is standard, the Congressman was not in the interview, but instead a panel of 6 members of the local community sat on the board (a mix of civilians and current and former military).

His interview lasted 15 minutes. He attended in his Army JROTC uniform, demonstrating military propensity already.

Each member of the panel asked him one question.

His answers to 6 questions determined his fate!

At the end of the interview, the Congressional staffer let him know he did very well.

When everything was said and done, Wilson found out he was nominated as #2 out of 10 nominees.

This meant he was not the principal nominee. Had he been the principal nominee, West Point would have had to offer him the appointment if he was considered fully qualified.

Timeline

  • In mid-December, Wilson’s waiver for ADHD and medication were approved
  • In early January, Wilson received a letter telling him he was placed on the National Waiting List.
  • About 2 weeks later he was informed that he was picked up off the NWL and offered an appointment (meaning he was likely qualified alternate)

West Point Takeaways

Cadet Wilson’s case is a powerful example of how strategic decisions and a commitment to self-improvement can alter one’s path dramatically.

From struggling with grades and an ADHD diagnosis to leading a JROTC unit and excelling in athletics, his high school journey epitomizes resilience.

Faced with the prospect of underachievement, he chose instead to challenge himself, pushing beyond the boundaries of what seemed possible given his early high school performance.

While he is lucky to have had his parents’ support, he made the decisions himself to push himself and keep improving throughout his entire high school journey.

His success story serves as a testament to the idea that initial setbacks can be overcome with the right support, strategy, and sheer willpower, embodying the essence of the kind of candidate West Point seeks: not just scholars, but fighters and leaders in the making.

Want to maximize your potential of earning a West Point appointment?