AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL PROSPECTIVE SELF-PREPARATORY CADETS
Dear Prospective Cadet,
Welcome to NMMI and the Service Academy Prep Program. Congratulations! You have taken a step toward what may become a life-long career.
Gaining admission to a Federal Service Academy is something you will have to work very hard to achieve. There are a few things you can do to help gain an appointment and a few things that you may do to slow the process down, or halt it altogether. The service academies are very competitive and highly selective. Entrance quotas vary by academy, and vary from year-to-year. The service academies do not guarantee that you will receive an appointment. The decision is solely up to the academy and how you compare to other candidates in your district, state and on a nation-wide scale involving tens of thousands applicants. Here are some things you can do to help yourself get to where you want to go:
Your Nomination: A nomination is required for all service academies except the Coast Guard Academy. Nominations may be obtained from your U.S. Representative (Congressman), either of your U.S. Senators, the Vice President, or the President (only if either parent is active duty, retired from active duty, or other special cases). Applicants to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy are not afforded Presidential or Vice Presidential nominations. It is your responsibility to secure your own nomination. Start now by researching what your nominating sources require and providing them with that information. The USNA website at: http://www.usna.edu/Admissions/steps4.htm is an excellent information source regardless which academy you are applying to. Don't rely on just a single source - apply to ALL nominating agents.
Your Application: Each academy you want to attend needs to know that you are interested in an appointment. You may apply “on paper” or “on line”. Filling out an on-line application is much easier and less prone to errors. The academies all have web sites with systematic instructions allowing you to log on and begin the application process. You will need a Social Security Account Number at some point, so if you don’t have one – now would be a great time to apply for one. These on-line applications may also guide you in the nomination process. You should pay close attention to the admissions requirements for these academies, (i.e. age, citizenship, etc.). If you don’t meet the requirements, you will not be considered for an appointment.
Your Standardized Test Scores (ACT/SAT): One of the most difficult questions to answer from any Prep is, "Are my ACT or SAT scores good enough for the XXXXXX Academy?" Since only the USMMA publishes minimum cut-off scores there is no firm answer. "Good enough" depends on what everybody else has in the district you are applying from and what all candidates, as a group, have. The only thing you can do is to keep taking the tests and reporting the results. There are numerous on-line study helps in this area. A favorite recommendation is the "SAT Question of the Day". Taking our "ACT 500" course during your first semester here should be a priority.
Your Character: The academies want people with good character. Any negative involvement with law enforcement authorities may be grounds to deny your admission. This includes incidents with drugs, alcohol, shoplifting, and vehicle citations. Some can be waivered; some cannot. You will be required to report all arrests, convictions, and probations. If you have a clean record, keep it that way. On a positive note, a candidate with a history of community service is a very good thing. Likewise, a background in Scouting or community organizations is something the academies view very favorably. Many cadets who received appointments over the last few years were Eagle Scouts.
Your Health: All candidates for the service academies and all ROTC applicants must pass a medical examination given by the Department of Defense Medical Evaluation Review Board (or DoDMERB for short). During your application process your academy will schedule you for a DoDMERB evaluation. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) for DoDMERB can be found at: https://dodmerb.tricare.osd.mil/MiscMenuItems/faqs.asp . Do not be alarmed if you get a “security error”. Just click on "Continue to this Website – Not Recommended” to get there. The medical requirements for various service academies may differ. The USAFA posts their requirements at: http://www.usafa.net/mirrored/appenda.htm . The USCGA lists common disqualifiers at: http://www.uscga.edu/display.aspx?id=2932 . These sites are provided to give you an idea of what is involved – they are not inclusive. The DoDMERB physical is good for two years. While at NMMI you will be required to submit a "Statement of Present Health" to update your files.
Your Body: In addition to the general entrance requirements, the academies expect you to meet and maintain certain levels of physical performance. The initial Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) or Physical Fitness Examination (PFE) (for the USCGA) is only the beginning. Go on line to research what the academies want in terms of height and weight requirements. Search for the physical fitness tests that incoming cadets/plebes take and see if you are at their level. We will give, score, and report the CFA or PFE for you. We will also afford you the opportunity to get in shape for the academy. You, however, are required to provide the motivation to succeed. A few words about tattoos: if you don’t have one, don’t get one. The academies have restrictive policies about tattoos. Getting a tattoo removed is a long, costly, and painful process.
Your Athletic Preparation: This goes hand-in-hand with Character, Health, and Your Body (see above). Playing a varsity sport in high school is a good thing. Playing on a varsity team sport is a better thing. Being a leader on a varsity team is the best thing. Why? All services stress teamwork. Your ability to function on (and possibly lead) a team says a lot about your character and social capability. If you can maintain a high GPA and spend countless hours practicing your sport, you are also showing good time management skills - another key talent the academies are looking at you. Since all the academies are looking for good leaders, keep in mind that good leaders lead from the front. It is difficult to lead from the front if you are not in good physical condition and have the endurance to lead. Your future Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen will expect you to be a good example in fitness, character, and knowledge.
Your Obligation: A federal service academy is not just another good school or an entry to put on your resume when you graduate. When you graduate from a service academy, you will owe the U.S. Government a number of years of service. This may vary by academy as to the time spent on active duty or in the Reserves. If you are selected for advanced training like flight school, you will owe more in terms of time. It is up to you to understand these obligations and meet them.
Your Options: Each academy offers different options for academic majors. It is your responsibility to research the academy of your choice and see if it is compatible with your academic goals. If your choice is in one of the engineering disciplines, you may see a wide range of possibilities at each academy. If you are interested in majoring in 16th Century French Art, for example, you may be in for a disappointment. Also, note that very few academy graduates are selected for medical or law school after graduation. These slots are very selective and highly competitive. Only the top graduates are even considered.
Your Financial Preparation: Service academies are not “free”. While the government absorbs a large part of your cost while you are at an academy, you will be responsible for certain other costs. You need to research what part of the fees are yours and start planning accordingly.
Your Academic Preparation: All Preps for a service academy at NMMI can expect a heavy course load of math and science. This is because all the academies require their first-year cadets/plebes/swabs to take Calculus, chemistry and/or physics, and other pre-engineering courses. Expect to take classes that will prepare you for this level of academic performance. You may also want to re-take the SAT and/or ACT tests a few more times to be more competitive to the academy admissions boards. We will help you with the preparation but you incur the financial obligation.
Your Academic Achievement: No matter where you go to college, or for how long, your credits will not transfer to a service academy. All the Academies are four-year programs regardless of your previous college experience. Your only opportunity will be to validate certain courses to qualify you to their next level of the course.
Your Administrative Responsibilities: It is up to you to provide NMMI and the service academy you are applying to with certain documents. It is important that we have a copy of your eight semester (final) transcript as soon as it is available. It MUST state that you a high school graduate. If you have attended college, took college classes in high school, or took the AP exam in any course, please make sure to include that information as well. Your transcripts, copies of test scores, physical information including the qualifying letter from DoDMERB, copy of birth certificate etc. should be sent to the NMMI Admissions office. Remember that the service academy you are applying to, by federal law, has to have proof that you are a high school graduate. Please make sure they have a copy of you final transcript also.
Your Attitude and Motivation: This is possibly the most important part of your preparation. You may have noticed that the word “your” is an important part of each of the above paragraphs. If you want to go to an Academy, you have a lot of work ahead of you. The staff and faculty at NMMI will guide, advise, and provide recommendations to you all along the way. You must do the actual work. You are the only one who truly commands your own destiny. A good attitude and positive approach will certainly help, and if you don't get in the first time, keep trying. The academies like to see persistence and determination in their candidates.
Preps lead the way!
LTC Jonathan Graff
Director, US Service Academy Preparatory Program
-If you have questions about the NMMI Prep Program please contact LTC Graff, 575-624-8480 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCLAIMER - THESE VIEWS DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THE OPINIONS OF THE FIVE FEDERAL SERVICE ACADEMIES OR NMMI IN GENERAL.