Successful West Point Essay Examples

The following are West Point essay examples from cadets who have won appointments to West Point in the past few years. We will provide commentary at the end of each essay as to why each of these answers to West Point’s questions are effective. For information on all the West Point application requirements, read our Ultimate Guide to getting into West Point.

Essay 1:

Prompt:
Explain why you want to attend the United States Military Academy and serve on active duty as an Army officer.

Answer:
I want to earn an undergraduate degree at West Point pursue my passions of military service to our great Nation while exploring the sciences. I work diligently in high school, taking advanced academics, keeping in top physical condition, holding school leadership positions, and volunteering in the community. This, along with the honor of knowing many Army officers, gives me confidence in pursuing West Point as the next step toward becoming an officer in the Army.

I’ve been fortunate to have the support of my teachers and mentors in my pursuit of becoming a West Point cadet and future military leader; they reminded me of the importance of selfless service. My football coach, Chris Page, before he passed away, told us the incredible sacrifices
he made to make himself a better teacher and coach. Through his stories, the purpose of my hard work in preparing for a military career crystalized- be better for others so they can be better serving our country. To honor him, I founded the Coach Page Scholarship Fund so others would be inspired by his life of selfless service.

To gain additional insight on being an Army officer, I have talked with a family friend, Major General Joseph Jones, who was the Commanding General of U.S. Army Cadet Command who talked to me about life as a cadet and the challenges I would face. I also wanted to see an active military unit, so I visited with a captain at the New York Army National Guard training site at Camp Smith. There, I saw how Army officers lead by example; they are expected to get “dirty on the field” and to support other soldiers in all their goals. I am inspired by military leaders I have interacted with and through them, I’ve gained an understanding and respect for the duties I would assume upon commissioning.

For the privilege of serving our great Nation, I have prepared for the challenge and honor of being a USMA cadet and upon graduation, to commission as a proud officer in the Army.

Commentary:

Note that this first essay is not a laundry list of accomplishments the candidate did in high school. Rather, it centers on what the candidate did to find out more about what life would be like both as an officer candidate and an officer in the United States Army. Notice the candidate talked to officers as well as took time out of his/her schedule to visit a local National Guard unit to meet with officers and see what life in the Army would be like. This shows West Point that you understand that becoming a cadet is a serious commitment and that “get” why you are making this commitment is important.

Essay 2:

Prompt:
Think of some things in the past that were difficult for you. Pick one and discuss what steps you took to address it. Include whether you turned to anyone, the role that person played, and what you learned about your character as a result of this challenge.

Answer:

One of my most life-changing setbacks was moving from Japan to Florida one week before starting high school. Previously, I devoted a significant portion of my life to training in martial arts. From a young age, I developed strong Japanese speaking and listening skills with a specific focus on martial arts. Spending a minimum of ten hours a week training with team mates, I was laser-focused on the next competition with aspirations of competing at the national level one day. My family’s PCS to MacDill Air Force Base rendered nearly all of my goals obsolete and squandered most of my efforts. The move forced me not only to leave my training behind but also dramatically reshaped my priorities as I realized I needed to make changes to my life to accomplish my goals.

Before high school, I had no experience with team sports or club activities outside of martial arts. Despite this reality, upon starting my freshman year, I immediately signed up for soccer and joined the Corps of Cadets. My first weeks of soccer were extraordinarily challenging. I did not know the rules and struggled with the physical demands. Most importantly, I was painfully unfamiliar with the concept of relying on others. The juniors and seniors on the team needed me as a defender; therefore, they encouraged my learning and celebrated my successes.

The Corps further solidified my appreciation of the team concept. As a new JROTC cadet, my superiors corrected how I dressed, marched, and spoke. Having never been part of a hierarchical system, I quickly learned to adapt to subordination. Accepting help and mentorship while preparing for promotion board preparation armed me with the confidence and sense of duty to help junior cadets later in my Corps career. I learned that I could set an example for my peers and contribute to an effort greater than myself. Two years later, as a First Sergeant, I became responsible for training younger cadets. I embraced this leadership opportunity and discovered how much joy and accomplishment I experience while serving others as their leader.

Whether it be a win on the field, a successful execution of pass and review, or a passed promotion board of a cadet I trained, collective victories trump any satisfaction I experienced throughout martial arts competition. I have learned from the experience to seek out an education and a profession where I can join and ultimately build and lead a cohesive team, and to rely on my teammates. My experiences in high school taught me to seek out leadership with a technologically advanced team that shares a common goal: to win our nation’s wars. Should I be given the opportunity to one day lead, I hope to realize my maximum potential as an Army officer and find true contentment in the opportunity to be a servant leader.

Commentary:

Note that the writer focuses on what they learned from this experience, and how it will help them serve as a better officer as a result of the challenge. A majority of the essay is focused not on the conflict, but on what resulted from the life challenge.

Essay 3

Prompt:
West Point and the Army are committed to the idea that respect for others and an understanding of diversity are important leadership traits. Why will you be successful in working with leaders, peers, and subordinates of a gender, color, ethnicity, and/or religion different from your own?

Answer:
Military officers are comfortable working in teams and they value the inherent strengths that come from teams made up of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. They are respectful of others. They understand that high performing teams are characterized by common goals, shared responsibility for success, and appropriate leadership-followership relationships.

I spent last summer in Nicaragua; three weeks in an intensive Spanish language program and two months living with a Nicaraguan family in the country. While I was in the country, I was working with a non-governmental organization (NGO) that was fielding small-scale alternative energy projects that people could us. For example, I helped develop an apparatus that fermented chicken manure into methane gas for cooking. Not headline-grabbing stuff, but it worked very well for these folks. I learned an incredible amount. I learned that people are people wherever you go. We may look different, we may talk different, we may have some different ideas, but we are all basically the same and should treat each other with dignity and respect.

I understand that I will deploy to other countries and need to appreciate foreign cultures and show respect for their different points of view. By practicing inclusion in leading others in the Army, that will surely transfer to both myself and the people who I lead respecting those we interact with overseas.

Commentary:

This essay should be centered on an experience the candidate had that shows that he/she values diversity and respects others. The first paragraph summarizes the argument, the second paragraph talks about the experience, and the third concludes forcefully with a summary as well as applicability to his/her future role as an Army officer that will require him/her to deploy, fight and win.

Final Thoughts for Your West Point Application Essays:

Essay #1 is probably the most important of the three essays and is standard across most Academy and ROTC applications. The key to most of these essays is to do some legwork and ask serving or retired officers about these questions as well as go out and visit local Guard or Reserve units to see the Army in action and forcefully answer these questions drawing on these interviews and experiences. You can get our tips on Congressional nomination essays here.

If you do the above things, you are that much closer to a West Point appointment!

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LTC Kirkland and Captain Dach

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kirkland (USA, Ret.) is an expert on military admissions and leadership. He served for over 25 years in the United States Army, including stints as an instructor at West Point and as a commander of two Army ROTC programs. Former Air Force Captain Trisha Dach served as an Intelligence Officer from 2011-2018. A graduate of the Air Force Academy. They have helped hundreds of candidates secure appointments and ROTC scholarships. Together, they help educate parents and students on military propensity, leadership, and Academy admissions.

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