The Basics of Applying to a Military Academy

Do you want to pursue an outstanding college education while serving your country and exploring the world? If so, going to a military academy could be a solid route. Similar to traditional colleges and universities, students at military academies build meaningful friendships to last a lifetime. Getting into one can be a challenge as service academies are extra competitive. Free tuition, complimentary room and board, a top-notch education, and a guaranteed job after graduation make it appealing to many high school students. However, spots are limited and potential candidates must go through a rigorous admission process requiring them to jump through more hoops than they would for a traditional 4-year institution.

Once admitted into a military academy though, students earn a place at a highly respected school that has educated the best members of the United States military. To apply to one, students must obtain an official nomination from a United States Congressperson (except Coast Guard), and undergo a stringent physical examination. If this generally sounds good to you, then read on to learn more!

Eligibility Requirements

To be considered as a military academy student, you have to be:

  • A United States citizen, or an eligible non-citizen with proof of intergovernmental authorization
  • Have no dependents
  • Not pregnant
  • Not married
  • Not legally responsible for child support
  • At least 17 years of age, but younger than 23 years of age, by July 1 of admission year

Application Process

If you are interested in enrolling in one of the five military academies, you should get started with the application process as early as possible in high school. Ideally, you should finish a preliminary application in your junior year. There are two ways to go about applying – you can do it online, or request an application from a regional command office. Once you get past this step, you’ll need to complete additional applications for Congressional nomination and regular admissions. These applications are often accompanied by in-person interviews as one of the final steps for consideration.

Admissions requirements vary from one school to another, but generally, students are required to take the SAT or the ACT exam like those applying for traditional 4-year colleges. On top of the standardized test, military academy-bound students must also undergo a medical examination and a physical fitness test. The medical exam is done by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board. Physical test requirements may differ, so refer to your prospective academy’s website for more information.

The Five Academies

There are five military training academies in the United States. Collectively, they are known as the “Five-Pointed Star.” Still not entirely sure which branch of the military you want to pursue? Get familiar with each of these academies and their offerings, history, admissions procedures, and eligibility requirements:

  • The United States Military Academy is sometimes better known as West Point. It’s a popular one for military academy-bound students, and the program will take four years to complete. “Cadets” graduate as second lieutenants in the United States army.
  • Located in New York, the United States Merchant Marine Academy provides extensive training in marine engineering, maritime law, and other subjects related to civilian sea transport and military.
  • The United States Naval Academy awards Bachelor’s degrees to students based on militaristic, academic, and athletic performance.
  • Youngest of the five academies, the United States Air Force Academy prepares its graduates to become second lieutenants in the United States Air Force.
  • The United States Coast Guard Academy is located in New London, Connecticut. It offers eight majors for students to choose from, and graduates must complete five years of active duty service.

Expenses & Lifestyle

Once accepted, students become “cadets,” or officers in training. They receive free tuition in exchange for an active duty obligation. Books, room and board, medical and dental care are also all covered and paid for. To top it all off, students also receive a monthly stipend to cover any other living expenses.

As far as the academy lifestyle goes, you can expect to have a pretty structured schedule that is strict, conservative, and requires lots of discipline. If you are looking to attend college to embrace freedom, then a military academy may not be the right choice, as cadets are often not able to leave campus unless permission is granted. There are also strict rules in place for drinking and drug use. Students must participate in mandatory activities from 6 in the morning to 8 in the evening, and then finish homework and study after those hours. In addition to ensuring all goes well in the classroom, cadets must stay on top of their physical endurance and participate in intramural or varsity sports. Athletics is a big deal for success at a military academy.


It is not easy being a service academy student! However, there are perks to sticking with it. Military academy students receive an incredible education, get the opportunity to bond with classmates, and access to future job opportunities.