The United States Naval Academy was founded in 1845 to provide a place where young
men could learn the ways of the sea and the necessary traits of a future combat leader in an
environment where a misstep could be tolerated here and there. Here and there, mind you.
Not often. More than 150 years later, Navy offers both men and women undergraduate degrees
in nineteen majors. While math and engineering receive the primary emphasis academically,
there are several majors offered in the social sciences and humanities, including history, political science, and English. Everyone who is offered an appointment to Navy is admitted
on full scholarship. The Navy pays for your room and board, tuition, medical and dental bills,
and even gives you a modest monthly stipend. The academy has baccalaureate accreditation
with both ABET and CSAB to go along with its regional accreditation. The Nimitz Library,
built in 1973, acts as a second home for many of the academically taxed midshipmen at the
Naval Academy. It has 636,500 volumes and subscribes to 2,000 periodicals, as well as possessing
such computerized library sources and services as the card catalog, interlibrary loans,
and database searching.
If life is measured by unique experiences, you just can’t pick a better place.
In my four years, I went to Navy firefighting school, spent six-weeks of one summer
in San Diego training on an amphibious vessel, sang for the president five times as
a member of the Men’s Glee Club, skippered a forty-four-foot sailboat from
Annapolis to Newport, Rhode Island, and back, spent another month one summer
with an F/A-18 squadron in Virginia Beach, went to Dublin, Ireland, to watch the
Navy football team play Notre Dame, got my scuba qualifications, was in four
musical productions, did aerobatics in a T-34 (one of the Navy’s training planes) in
Pensacola, Florida, and went under the waves in a submarine for a few days.
Sound fascinating and eclectic? It was. And I recommend it to any of you.
Special learning facilities include a learning resource center, planetarium, wind
tunnels, radio station, propulsion laboratory, nuclear reactor, oceanographic research vessel,
towing tanks, flight simulator, and a naval history museum called Preble Hall.
The Naval Academy has a unique clarity of purpose, expressed in the school’s official
mission: “To develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically, and imbue them
with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty in order to provide graduates who are dedicated
to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and
character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.”
That puts everyone—faculty, staff, and midshipmen—on the same wavelength. It
also encourages a sense of spirit and pride found at few other schools.
The Navy campus, known by the Brigade of Midshipmen as the “Yard” is located in
Annapolis, a small Chesapeake Bay sailing mecca and the capital of Maryland. The city
is located about thirty miles southeast of Baltimore and thirty-five miles east of
Washington, D.C. The Yard covers 338 acres, and is home to twenty-five historic buildings
including Bancroft Hall, in which all midshipmen live, which happens to be one of the single
largest dormitories in the United States (4.8 square miles of hallway).
One thing you can look forward to if you become a midshipman at the Naval Academy is
making some of the best friends of your life. Your classmates will hail from all fifty states
and more than twenty foreign countries. A recent high school graduate will have classmates
here who have spent some time at other colleges or in the operational Navy as enlisted sailors
or marines. The diversity is extraordinary, and refreshing. Religiously, many midshipmen
practice traditional Judeo-Christian religions. Every major religion in the world is represented
within the Brigade. Whatever else may happen, you can be sure that your horizons
will expand tremendously.
Attending the United States Naval Academy is a
decision that, if you come expecting a challenge, you
will never regret. It is a small, insulated, often unforgiving
place that pushes you to your limits. For twentythree
hours, fifty-five minutes a day in a regular school
week during your four years there you might hate it.
But that other five minutes comes about once a day
when something happens that reminds you of how
much you owe to the place. Maybe it happens walking
to class in the morning and looking out at the beautiful
campus for a minute, or seeing one of the many
close friends you’ve made there, or going into
Memorial Hall and seeing the memorial register of past graduates who sacrificed their lives for
our country in all of the major wars that America has been involved in since 1845. Those
moments are special. They make it all worthwhile.
What the academy did for my classmates and me was that, through all
of its stifling regulations and regimentation, it set us free on the playground of
life. It opened up to us a wealth of opportunities that will take some of us to the
top of the military profession and to the highest levels of government, and others
in altogether different but exciting directions. And we all set out on our journeys
armed to the hilt with weapons not often found in our society today: self-awareness,
self-reliance, and determination. We were forged in the fire of four years by
the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, four years that often hurt, but also purified
and strengthened the good in us, and gave us the tools to attack life and its hurdles
with gusto and confidence.
And let’s face it…there are more pluses than you could hope for at most other schools:
Your education is paid for, you are in a great and historic town, you make lifelong friendships,
visit exotic places, try things you’ve never previously dreamed of, and get a degree out of all of
it. You’ll have all the tools you need to be a success once you are done here. So how could you
really go wrong?
Suffice it to say, if you are seeking academic challenge, you won’t be at all disappointed
by the Naval Academy—it is undoubtedly one of the most stressful and taxing academic programs
found in our country. On top of that add the fact that military activities take up much of
your free time, and you have a true time-management challenge. Study time simply isn’t plentiful,
and it takes a great deal of self-discipline to maximize your effectiveness. Over time you
learn to cope, however, and are a better person for it.
There is also a great deal of academic opportunity at Navy.
The Naval Academy offers the Bachelor of Science degree in three major areas.
Engineering, Mathematics and Sciences, and Humanities and Social Sciences. Every
midshipman is required to complete 140 semester hours to graduate, and to pass core
courses in mathematics, engineering, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences.
Physical Education is another staple of the curriculum, with everyone taking three
semesters of swimming, a semester of boxing and wrestling, a semester of martial arts,
and three semesters of free electives. The Physical Readiness Test (PRT) is taken each
semester and tests the midshipmen’s fitness by measuring their performance in push-ups,
sit-ups, and a one-and-a-half-mile run. All midshipmen also take mandatory professional
development courses during their four years that include Naval Leadership, Ethics and
Law, Seamanship, and Navigation. Class attendance is mandatory for all midshipmen.
Class Size and Faculty
Class size and student-to-faculty ratio are advantages that you will truly appreciate if you
attend the Naval Academy. The largest plebe chemistry lecture section may consist of
thirty-five people. The average size for an introductory lecture is twenty-three students; for a
regular course it’s about fifteen, and for a lab, ten. The student-to-faculty ratio is seven to one.
The faculty, you’ll find, is impressive in its own right. It is composed of both civilian
professors and military officers, with ninety percent of its members holding Ph.D.s.
Last but not least, if you make it through all the rigors of the program and come out with top
grades, there are several special options open to you at the academy. First, a group of seniors begin graduate work at educational institutions in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area
like Georgetown and Johns Hopkins each year. This is called the Voluntary Graduate Education
Program, and is a great deal for the academically motivated. A small number of midshipmen are
also named as Trident Scholars, allowing them to spend their last two semesters doing an independent
research project. The Trident program culminates in a presentation given by the
Scholars, attended by the faculty of their department, and open to the public. There are ten
national honor societies active at the Naval Academy, and five of the departments on the Yard
have honors programs in their majors.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Requirements for getting into the Naval Academy are much stiffer even than those at
many of the nation’s other top schools, because, at least in part, Navy looks at other things.
While other institutions will examine you closely academically, the academy, because of its
affiliation with the federal government and the U.S. Navy, will want to know more about what
they are getting. To enter, you have to be between the ages of seventeen and twenty-three,
unmarried, with no children, and pass the Department of Defense Medical Review Board physical
exam. You must also score high on SAT or ACT. Of the 14,423 applicants for the class of
2008, only 15.2 percent received offers of admission. Of those finally admitted, fifty percent had
scored higher than 600 on the Verbal section of their SAT and eighty-eight percent had done
at least that well on the Math section (thirty-five percent exceeded 700 on the Math). The combined
average SAT scores for the class of 2008 was 1320.
Once you’ve met these requirements, the next step is to attain a nomination. This can be
done through a couple of different sources, the most common of which is the congressional
nomination. This means that you put your name and information in the hands of your
congressman and both of your senators, and they decide whether or not to grant you an
interview. If you are successful in gaining an interview, you may receive a nomination. If a
nomination is offered, it is up to the academy whether or not they will give you an appointment,
which is the final acknowledgment of admission. (Note: if you are the child of a career
military officer or enlisted person, or if your parent was disabled or killed in the service of
our country, there are special categories under which you can be nominated; more information
is available on this from the Office of Admissions web site: www.usna.edu/admissions).
One little hint: you will put yourself in the best position to get a good look from your congressman
and senators and the academy if you get your admissions materials in early.
What to Submit
There are a few things that you need to submit. In the spring of your junior year of high
school you should go online and fill out a Preliminary Application. If you meet basic
qualifications, you will be sent an application letter with information on how to go online
and complete the application. Application letters are mailed out weekly, starting in mid-May.
To make yourself most competitive for a nomination and subsequent appointment to the
Naval Academy, there are a few things you can do. First of all—and this is true for all
the good schools—get involved in all that you can and do it well. Prove in various activities
that you have what it takes to be a leader. Load up your plate with Advanced Placement and
Honors courses and perform favorably in them. These courses, along with faculty recommendations
from your high school, play a sizable role in the selection process. Also, play
varsity sports. The vast majority of each class entering the academy each year lettered in
at least one sport in high school. These accomplishments, combined with good grades, show
that you are a well-rounded individual, just the kind of person the military is looking for to
make up its corps of officers.
Financial aid at the United States Naval Academy
is a given. Everyone at the school has room, board, and
tuition paid for all four years by the federal government.
Midshipmen even receive a modest (very modest)
stipend each month for any extraneous expenses.
At the end of the second class year, all members of the
Brigade are eligible for the “career starter loan.” This
is a loan of up to approximately $25,000 (the ceiling
gets a little higher every year) that you pay back at
incredibly low (in the neighborhood of one percent)
interest rates over the time that you serve in the Navy
or Marine Corps after graduation. And that brings up
another point: in exchange for these various little
perks, all graduates of the Naval Academy owe the
Navy or Marine Corps at least five years serving as officers
in the operational force.
Student Financial Aid Details
Want to be busy? Don’t worry about that for a second if you receive an appointment to
the Naval Academy. Activities aren’t even really an option—they’re an imperative. Everyone
marches in parades, everyone plays a sport (either intramural or intercollegiate), everyone
attends all home football games, everyone attends guest lectures by high-level speakers—
everyone takes an active role in the moral, mental, and physical development as a future Navy
or Marine Corps Leader of Character.
Nonathletic activities at the Naval Academy are just as varied as the athletic offerings, if
not more so. For the adventurous spirit (as are many that look into attending one of the
service academies) there are organizations like the Alpine Racing Club and the Cycling Club,
offering basic training sessions as well as more advanced opportunities to their members.
Those interested in the fine arts will find the program, especially in the field of vocal music,
significantly more rewarding than they might have expected at a service academy. The Men’s
and Women’s Glee Clubs are two of America’s best-known and critically acclaimed groups of
their type, and Navy’s annual winter musical productions are the largest drawing nonprofessional
theatrical events in the Baltimore-Washington area. Gospel Choir and Protestant
and Catholic Chapel Choirs round out the varied offerings for singers at Navy.
Players of brass instruments and percussion may find a home in the Naval Academy’s
Drum and Bugle Corps, which generally travels with the football team on road trips and plays
every day for a flock of tourists as the Brigade of Midshipmen marches in from noon meal
The Masqueraders are the Naval Academy’s thespian troupe; they present a full-length
dramatic production in the fall of each year.
If none of this sounds good, maybe mountaineering, cheerleading, competing in
triathlons, or one of the host of other options available will. The possibilities are nearly
Now to your social life at the Naval Academy. USNA is not a party school. It should be
said right off the bat that if your goal at college is to strengthen your liver and go to wild
parties five days out of the week, while appearing only to take your exams each semester, Navy is not the place for you. Consistently ranked highest in the nation for sobriety and zero tolerance
of drugs. Of course, you are reading this book, so this is not presumably the path you have
chosen. You won’t be highly successful at any of the other schools in this book by modeling your
life after John Belushi’s character in Animal House, but depending on your innate ability and
resourcefulness you might be able to graduate. Forget it at Navy. You will be challenged with
the restrictions, and the academic demands, accompanied by the fact that you have to stay in
pretty darned good physical shape throughout your four years.
With that little disclaimer out of the way, the best way to explain social life at the academy
is that you start out with none and it slowly gets better. One of the intentional pillars of the
rigid training that one undergoes at the academy is self-sacrifice, and one of the big ways that
this is hammered into you is through the withdrawal of many social privileges during your four
years. You start out as a plebe (freshman) and go through your summer of basic training (known
as Plebe Summer), in which you are not allowed to leave the Yard at all. Then the year starts.
As a plebe during the academic year, you can go out only on Saturday afternoons and
evenings. When you do venture away from the Yard, you can’t drive, have to wear your uniform,
and can only go a certain distance away from the grounds of the academy. Pretty limiting.
An average day as a plebe? How about a morning? Wake up at 5:30,
study your rates (required memorization), read the three newspaper articles
that you’ll be asked to report on at meal, go report your knowledge to your upperclass
at 0630, fix your shoes and uniform for formation, do a chow call (stand
out in the passageway and scream out the breakfast menu, officers of the watch,
and a million other memorized items), and run off to 0700 formation. Morning
classes feel more like sanctuary than a grind, since they mark the only time
when you can sit quietly. Relax in Bancroft and an upperclassman will gladly
remind you of the laundry bags to be delivered, newspapers to be collected for
recycling, and various other menial jobs to do. Some plebes escape to the library
during their free periods but there aren’t any bells there, and fourth class midshipmen
are notorious for dozing. Nod off in Nimitz and you might sleep through
the rest of your classes for the day…and a plebe on restriction is significantly
more unhappy than a plebe delivering laundry. The gist of all this: the kinder
and gentler era we live in has had no effect on the level of activity that punctuates
an academy plebe’s mornings.
During sophomore year, known as youngster year, midshipmen can go out on Saturdays
and Sundays. Once or twice a semester, they are allowed to leave on a Friday afternoon and to
return that Sunday evening.
Weekday and weekend liberty is granted for first and second class midshipmen, based
upon academic, athletic, and military performance.
While social life is, to say the least, not traditional, there ARE some social opportunities
at the academy that are quite impressive. Every year popular music groups as
well as renowned classical musicians come into Alumni Hall, the Naval Academy’s arena
and theater complex. Popular concerts of the past few years have included shows by Hootie
and the Blowfish, Brooks and Dunn, Third Eye Blind, and the Goo-Goo Dolls. The Baltimore
symphony, the St. Petersburg State Ballet Theatre, and the Moscow Virtuosi Orchestra, and
the traveling company of the New York City Opera have recently appeared as part of the
Distinguished Artists Series, a classical program conducted each year in Alumni Hall.
Some of the traditionally highly anticipated nonperforming arts social events of each
year are just as impressive. The Ring Dance, which takes place at the end of the second
class year to celebrate the new firsties’ right to put on their class rings for the first time, is
basically super-prom. It’s a formal dance, and the second class midshipmen spend much of
the year prior to the event agonizing about who they will bring, often from all the way across
the country, to the event. The night includes dancing, a formal dinner, and fireworks to top
it all off. Most people arrive in limos and stay at luxurious hotels in Washington, D.C., or
Baltimore for the weekend. It’s a nice reward for three years of hard work—and good motivation
to put up with one more.
Then there is Commissioning Week, an indescribably exciting time each year that leads
up to the graduation ceremony and the hat toss that mark the end of the road for the
departing seniors. It’s a week filled with formal parades, concerts, ship tours, a special performance
by the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels, and many other nice
events. Annapolis is so packed with people during Commissioning Week that it is advisable
for parents to get hotel reservations at least one year in advance.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
On the athletic front, the possibilities are endless. Everyone must participate in a sport,
whether at the varsity, club, or intramural level. Navy offers nineteen different intercollegiate
sports for men, ten for women, and three coed. Men’s and women’s basketball,
water polo, men’s lacrosse, football, and swimming, and crew are some of the sports in
which Navy has traditionally been very strong.
In the fall, the football team is the center of all nonacademic activity. Before every home
game, midshipmen march to the stadium and conduct a brief parade on the field; after the
game they hold tailgaters. But during the game, they sit as a group. There is no sight quite like
that of more than 4,000 young men and women in full uniform leaping up and down in celebration
of a big play by the team. And keep in mind that the chance to cut loose only comes
once in a blue moon at the academy. It gets crazy at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in the fall,
and, in the last couple of years there has been plenty to cheer about. In 2004, the team finished
10–2 and defeated the University of New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco. And
since we’re on the subject of football, we must mention the annual Army-Navy game. Is it a big
event? Read this and you’ll see. Both West Point and Navy pack their entire student body into buses and cart them to Philadelphia. So you’ve already got 4,200 plus students from each
school there in uniform. Add countless alumni from both schools and national television
coverage and you have a truly BIG event. More celebrations of even higher intensity ensue if
Navy wins. If it’s not a Navy win, the weekend usually takes a major downswing and becomes
a time of commiseration with friends. Either way, it’s an unforgettable thing to witness. And
the game is ALWAYS great. It seems that every year, no matter what the records, rankings, or
anything else, the game is a grudge match that comes down to the wire.
Club sports of the more exotic variety like rugby, ice hockey, and karate are also available
and are part of some intercollegiate competition as well.
The effect that graduating from a place like the
academy has on a person is interesting and a bit
humorous. You spend four years grousing and complaining
at every turn about the limitations that have
been put on you and how you wish you could just be
“normal” and such. Then you toss your hat up into the
azure skies on graduation day and develop an instant and puzzling fondness for almost everything
about the place. Navy grads are like a huge extended family. They can be found in all
walks of life and are always ready to lend friendship and a helping hand to another alum. And,
as it might seem would be the case, they’ve got more exciting stories to tell than the average
grad from a “normal” school. Where the average homecoming gathering at another school will
undoubtedly be filled with tales of business deals and house remodelings, a Navy homecoming is filled with anecdotes concerning such topics as
night landings on aircraft carriers, being shot at by
surface-to-air missiles, or a weekend spent on liberty
in Bahrain. It’s a whole different world. . . .
- James E. Carter, Thirty-ninth
President of the United States
- Admiral William Crowe, Former
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs,
Ambassador to Britain
- John Dalton, Former Secretary of
- Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, World
War II Hero
- Admiral Ernest King, World War II
- Jim Lovell, Former Astronaut
- John S. McCain, III, U.S. Senator
- Admiral Chester Nimitz, World War II
- H. Ross Perot, Entrepreneur
- Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Former
Astronaut, First American in Space
- Roger Staubach, NFL Quarterback and
Heisman Trophy Winner
- Admiral Stansfield Turner, Former
- James Webb, VA Senator, Former
Secretary of the Navy, Novelist
- Virtually all of the notable admirals
of World War II fame and dozens
of Congressional Medal of Honor
- Joe Sestak, PA U.S. Congressman
Notable Accomplishments of Naval Academy Grads
- 1 President of the United States
- 2 Cabinet Members
- 6 Ambassadors
- 19 Members of Congress
- 5 State Governors
- 5 Secretaries of the Navy
- 1 Secretary of the Air Force
- 3 Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- 3 Vice Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs
- 25 Chiefs of Naval Operations
- 9 Commandants of the Marine Corps
- 2 Nobel Prize Winners
- 73 Medal of Honor recipients
- 52 Astronauts
- 39 Rhodes Scholars
- 15 Marshall Scholars
- 84 Olmsted Scholars
- 23 Fitzgerald Scholars
- 766 Burke Scholars