There is a lot of information on Service Academy admissions on online forums and various websites, and our goal is to ensure you focus on the right areas. Understanding the admissions process will help you apply effort to the areas that matter most in your application.
Here is an overview of the major sections in this guide:
Don’t get overwhelmed by the process or the low admission rate. Breaking it down into pieces can help you understand the entire timeline and give you confidence in your application.
The West Point Mission
The mission of the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, is to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets. The goal is for each graduate to commission as a leader of character dedicated to Duty, Honor, Country, and prepared for a career of professional excellence. Above all, West Point is seeking out committed leaders who will serve the Nation as officers in the United States Army.
Basic Requirements – Who West Point is Looking For
There are both legal requirements and unspoken requirements for admittance into West Point. Legal Requirements:
- 17-22 years old
- U.S. Citizen
- Not pregnant; with no legal obligation to support a child
Academic capability is an important part of West Point admissions criteria. Your high school GPA, class rank, and academic test scores are the primary aspects the admissions team looks at. As far as grades are concerned, this is something to start paying attention to as soon as you enter high school. The average high school GPA for a recent West Point class was 3.9. Additionally, 75% of the class received a GPA of 3.75 or higher.
Just because you have a GPA that fits this criteria doesn’t mean you’ll receive an appointment from the admissions team, as they focus on the whole person concept (with the Whole Candidate Score). On the other hand, the WCS also gives you a chance if you started excelling later in your high school academic career and your GPA isn’t as high!
As for your SAT or ACT scores, the higher your test scores the better your chances of admission.
Here are a recent class’ test scores for comparison:
West Point SAT score statistics
West Point ACT score statistics
Understanding where you fall within these scores can help you decide if you want to retest or are happy with your score. Even a 100 point increase on your SAT composite can make a huge difference! West Point Admissions recommends retesting for SAT scores below 600 in Math and Verbal as well as scores below 29 composite for the ACT.
For a deep-dive into West Point SAT/ACT scores, read our article on 5 things you should know!
Fitness is a major part of the application process. The physical test, known as the Candidate Fitness Assessment, is a series of 6 exercises that you can practice before the test, and we highly recommend doing just that! You can calculate your estimated CFA score using our Candidate Fitness Assessment Score Calculator.
Here are instructions for the fitness assessment. As you prepare for the test, understanding these max and average values will help you succeed:
West Point fitness test max scores
West Point fitness test average scores
The good news is that this test is the same across all service academies, so if you are undecided about which service academy to apply for you can still prepare for all and only test once. The test can be administered by any physical education teacher, a Field Force representative (or other liaison officer), military officers or NCOs, JROTC instructors, or professors of military science.
You’ll also want to make sure you meet the height and weight requirements for West Point.
To be considered “fully qualified”, you should build a solid record of extracurricular activities and/or athletics throughout your high school career. The admissions team is looking for leadership potential. This is measured through your athletics, extracurriculars, and information from your teachers. Taking on an active leadership role is a great goal for any clubs, sports, or activities you are involved in. Additionally keeping active in classes and developing strong relationships with your peers will demonstrate leadership capability to your teachers.
Here are some sample questions that your teachers will fill out – these are great items to keep in mind when interacting with others throughout your high school career:
- Do you show interest and concern for the welfare of others?
- Do you work effectively with others toward group goals?
- Do you influence others in a positive manner?
- Do you communicate effectively in face-to-face discussions?
- Do you communicate effectively in written work?
- Do you set an example of good conduct for others?
- Do you set high standards for own performance in a number of activities?
- Do you maintain composure and perform effectively under pressure?
- Do you adjust to demanding schedule of activities without neglecting schoolwork?
- Do you seek academic challenges beyond that required by normal course work?
- Do you reach sound, logical conclusions based on the analysis of facts?
- Do you accept full responsibility for your own actions?
Understanding the Whole Candidate Score
Academics, fitness, and leadership are all taken into account for an appointment. All of these topics combine to form what West Point admissions refer to as the “Whole Candidate Score” (WCS).
You can calculate an estimated Whole Candidate Score to see your chances of receiving an appointment with our West Point Admissions Calculator.
The higher your WCS, the higher your chances of admission.
Academic ability is computed by an Academic Ability Score, which makes up 60% of your WCS.
Physical aptitude is measured with the Physical Aptitude Exam score and makes up 10% of the WCS.
Finally, leadership potential is measured by a Community Leader Score, which makes up 30% of the WCS.
The WCS is a total of 8000 points. 50% of the appointees fall between 5700 and 6300 points.
If you’ve used the calculator, we go into more detail on the components of the Whole Candidate Score by each category and explained the scoring process here: How Hard is it to Get into West Point?
West Point Admissions Timeline
Here is a brief overview of the admissions timeline. We recommend starting the official process during the second semester of your junior year of high school. For more details, read a detailed description of the requirements.
Junior Year – get the process started
- Prepare for the SAT/ACT
- Apply for the Summer Leaders Experience
- Take the SAT/ACT for the first time
- Get in contact with your regional Field Force Representative
- Start a file with West Point – you’ll need SAT/ACT scores
- Apply for a Congressional Nomination
Senior Year – finish up any application items
- Attend the Summer Leaders Experience
- Schedule your Field Force Representative Interview
- Take the physical fitness test (Candidate Fitness Assessment)
- The West Point Application Deadline is January 31st, 2021. All application items must be completed by this date in order to be considered for admission.
In order to meet the January 31st, 2021 application deadline, you must complete the following:
- Candidate Personal Data Record completed
- Candidate Background Experience Form completed
- Official ACT or SAT scores are on file
- Request for Academic Information completed
- 7-semester High School transcript received
- Candidate Activities Record on file and verified by counselor
- Candidate Statements on file
- Candidate Fitness Assessment on file with 2 videos submitted
- 4 School Official Evaluations completed and on file
Letter of Assurance from West Point – Recieve “Pre-Approval”
A Letter of Assurance is a reservation of an appointment to a Service Academy contingent upon medical qualification, physical qualification, Height/Weight and continued excellent work in school, and file Completion. Letters of Assurance are conditional and subject to review throughout the entire application process. Candidates receive Letters of Assurance based upon excellent scholar, athlete, leader credentials at noted in this post.
How to Get a Nomination
If you are seeking a Congressional Nomination, the process is similar across the 3 main service academies. Understanding how the nominations process works will help you plan accordingly.
Nomination vs. Appointment
First let’s discuss the difference between a nomination and an appointment because they can be easily confused!
A nomination gives the Service Academy admission teams the legal authority to consider a candidate for an appointment. The appointment itself is the offer of admission from a Service Academy. So you need a nomination first in order to be eligible to receive an appointment.
You are required to receive a nomination from a nominating authority in order to attend West Point. The majority of midshipmen receive their nominations through Congress – either a State Senator or their local Congressional Representative. There is also a Vice Presidential Nomination, although this is incredibly competitive. If you have a parent who was active duty or retired, you are also eligible to receive a Presidential Nomination.
Who are you eligible to receive a nomination from?
Typically you are eligible for at least your U.S. Congressional Representative, your 2 U.S. Senators, and the Vice Presidential nomination. These usually increase in competition as you increase from the local to national level.
Each Member of Congress is authorized to have 5 candidates at any one-time. Typically Senators and House Representatives will have 4 candidates and 1 open slot. They will usually use one open slot per year. Each slot can be filled by up to 10 nominations from the Senator/House Representative.
This chart depicts the nomination slots that each Senator/Representative has:
Although the class years have different designators at each Service Academy, we simplified them to make the chart easy to understand.
Bottom line: You are competing for one of those 10 nomination slots. There are different methods for the Member of Congress to use for nominations, but typically the 10 nominees are not ranked by the Member of Congress. The nominating authority will usually leave that up to the Service Academy to decide who is the most qualified.
You should apply to every nomination source you are qualified for in order to increase your chances of selection for nomination.
Additional Nominating Sources:
- Presidential: children of military personnel
- Regular Army & Reserve Components
- ROTC & JROTC schools
- Children of deceased and 100% disabled Veterans
- Children of Medal of Honor Winners
Find your Senator or Representative here.