“Duty, honor, and country.”
Those three words aren’t just fancy decorations on a seal. Rather, they capture the most important aspects of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Founded in 1802, West Point is one of the oldest service academies in the country and the premier school for training commissioned officers in the U.S. Army.
West Point traces its roots back to an initiative by the third American president, Thomas Jefferson, who desired to establish a school to train the best and the brightest for the Army.
Over the centuries, West Point has been the alma mater for some of the most important figures in American military history, including General George Patton and President Ulysses S. Grant.
While military life is certainly the core of West Point’s culture, the school does offer advantages outside of training to become a soldier.
In particular, the Academy boasts an excellent engineering school and a vibrant sports program, including an award-winning football team.
While these last attributes can be found at nearly every institution of higher learning, do not be fooled. West Point has a very rigorous and detailed application process, designed to bring in only the greatest future officers.
West Point Acceptance Rate
As you’ll see in a moment, West Point has a very different application process than nearly every other school. But it does mirror other institutions in some ways, including the number of applications it receives.
In 2021, 12,294 students applied to West Point through various methods. Only 1,210 people out of that group received offers of application. That gives the school an acceptance rate of just 8.6%.
That is an incredibly competitive acceptance rate, without question.
To help put it in perspective, a rate that low means not only that the Academy will reject every nine out of ten students, but also that all ten will be rejected every ten rounds.
In other words, West Point takes only the best of the best. For that reason, the Academy is in line with other military academies.
For example, the Naval Academy at Annapolis has an acceptance rate of only 8.3%, while the Air Force Academy is slightly higher at 13%.
These low numbers certainly put pressure on those hoping to go to West Point, but there are real benefits to attending such an elite school.
First of all, there’s the pride that comes from knowing that you make the cut, especially in a military school like West Point. The Academy values the bravest and most dedicated people, as they’ll go on to be the best soldiers.
Even better, there’s the comradery offered by such a group. When you’re immersed with the strongest and most competent people in your field, you’ll rise in your own standards and abilities.
GPA for West Point
With increasing regularity, institutions are removing GPA requirements from their application packages, preferring instead to take a holistic look at potential students.
Because West Point trains future leaders in America’s Army, they don’t have the luxury of removing such standards.
To be considered for acceptance At West Point, you must have an average GPA of 3.84. Even more important, the average GPA is an incredibly high 3.9 on a 4.0 scale. In other words, if you want to get into West Point, you better have straight A’s.
Now, that it is overstating things a little. A 3.9 score isn’t quite the same as a 4.0 score, which means that there is some room for a B or two here and there. But anything lower than that will likely knock you out of consideration.
That seems very harsh, but it’s important to remember the purpose of a GPA. High school grades aren’t just indicators of your intelligence. In fact, they often do an abysmal job of telling an observer how intelligent a person is.
Instead, grades are indicators of a student’s work ethic and dedication. If you can pull A’s in most of your high school classes, you must be a hard worker, willing to do the things others won’t. We see evidence of that approach in the school’s grading philosophy.
Obviously, the U.S. Army values cadets with a strong work ethic, which is why West Point expects high grades from applicants.
SAT & ACT Requirements
While many modern colleges have done away with the requirement to submit standardized test scores, West Point does not follow suit. Your application must include grades from either the ACT or the SAT.
The Academy does not have a minimum score you must earn on these tests to be considered. However, one look at the averages of students at the school, and you can see what they expect.
According to the Class of 2025 profile published by West Point, accepted students tend to average a 634 on the critical reading portion of the SAT and a 653 on the math portions.
For the ACT, students averaged a 29 on the English, math, and science reasoning portions, a 30 on the reading portion, and a 27 on the writing portion.
Unsurprisingly, those are incredibly high standards, well above the national averages. But again, they are very much in keeping with West Point’s expectations.
To help applicants do their best on the standardized tests, the Academy has published this helpful explainer.
The explainer encourages students to do their best not by taking the tests over and over, but through strategic studying and test-taking processes. It also has tips on which test is best for potential West Point students.
Other Requirements and Admission Tips
For most schools, the application process is simply filling out some paperwork and sending a few materials. But West Point is not like other schools.
Because graduates of West Point go on to serve crucial roles in the U.S. Army, they have much higher standards for their students and a much more involved application process.
First, you must make sure that you are eligible to study at West Point. As a military academy, West Point does not accept everyone, even if they have the top grades.
Instead, they only accept people between the ages of 17 and 23, who are unmarried and non-pregnant U.S. Citizens who are not legally responsible for child support.
In other words, they only want people who can devote all of their time and energy to their studies.
Second, you need to fill out an application, which includes not only your standard personal information but also your congressional district. This is necessary information for the Academy, as you may need a nomination from your elected official to attend the school.
Part of this application includes completing a candidate questionnaire. This questionnaire serves as a first-round screening tool for the Academy.
If you pass that first round of screening, you will be sent credentials to register on the Candidate Portal.
After receiving your credentials and registering on the Portal, you must connect with the West Point Field Force. Your Field Force representative will help walk you through the application process, starting with an interview. Because this interview will pertain to your future career, it’s important that you come in professional dress!
While working with the Field Force, you’ll apply for nomination to West Point. Every candidate must be nominated by either a Congressional representative or someone in the service. That might sound intimidating, but the school provides easy-to-follow resources for securing a nomination.
The last three steps in the process all involve exams. You’ll need a medical examination from the Department of Defense Review Board, you must pass a fitness assessment, and you must take your standardized test.
That’s a lot of steps, and they all need to be completed by January 31st.
Essays for West Point
As is already abundantly clear, West Point is very different from other colleges and universities. That includes the essays required for acceptance.
Where most universities require students to answer some question about their service records or philosophical beliefs, West Point asks students to complete a candidate statement.
For the statement, the school gives students an option of three prompts. They must write an answer to that prompt using less than 200 words.
In recent years, prompts have included questions about a candidate’s desire to enter the U.S. Military, the essential qualities in a soldier, and the value of diversity and camaraderie.
Because these essays are personal to the person writing them, there isn’t a single right or wrong answer that an applicant can give to ensure success. However, every writer should be aware of techniques to improve their chances.
Because of the word limit, students should strive for clear and concise information. That means avoiding vague and meaningless terms and choosing strong details. The more specific you can be, the more your essay will stand out.
Also, be sure to check for grammar and to use active voice as much as possible. To use active voice, replace most incidents of “is” or “are” with other verbs, preferably those with more punch.
By following these tips, you’re sure to write an essay that not only best expresses your thoughts, but also catches the reader’s attention.
Is West Point Right for You?
If you have a desire to serve in the U.S. Army, and the grades and determination to go through the process, then West Point is absolutely the right school for you.
It is the premier learning institution for America’s Army, and the best way to become an officer in the service.
That said, you cannot forget that West Point has the highest standards for its applicants. Where other schools allow for some leeway when it comes to grades and test scores, the Academy demands top marks. Academic excellence is next to military precision in their eyes.
More daunting is the long application process, which tests not only your intelligence but also your connections and your physical attributes.
You must be able to pass tests and inspections, as well as secure a nomination from a military member or a representative in congress.
Is that hard work? Absolutely. But if you go through all of these steps, you’ll be ready to join the heroes in America’s Army.