Founded in 1802, West Point is our nation’s oldest service academy. Graduates of West
Point “serve this nation honorably, sharing a strong sense of purpose, pride, and satisfaction
that comes from meaningful service to others.”
Attending the United States Military Academy is a wonderfully unique and challenging
experience. West Point is a four-year college with a mission to develop leaders of character for
our army—leaders who are inspired to careers as commissioned officers and lifetime service to the nation. The students of West Point (called cadets) are selected from the most talented,
energetic, and well-rounded young people in the country. Located on 16,000 acres in the scenic
Hudson Valley region of New York State, West Point is conveniently situated just fifty miles
north of New York City. The year-round pageantry and tradition make the Military Academy a
national treasure and a popular tourist spot. People come from all over the world to see cadets
in action, and there is so much to see.
What do I remember most about West Point? It would be impossible for
me to choose just one event. Perhaps it was marching with my class onto the
parade field at the end of the very first day and taking the oath as my family and
friends watched anxiously from the stands. Or maybe it was the exhilarating
feeling of parachuting from an airplane 1,250 feet in the sky and the shock of seeing
my parents waiting for me on the drop zone! Or it may very well have been
the day I found out I passed physics. Or perhaps the day we beat Navy in football
for the fifth straight year. Or the day I scored two goals in our Army-Navy
lacrosse game and we won by one goal in the last second. Or it could have been
when I was a squad leader and my squad successfully completed squad stakes
competition and found our way home. Or perhaps the day I became platoon
leader at CTLT (cadet troop leader training) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Or it
might have been when I shook the hand of the President of the United States after
receiving my diploma. Now that was a day to remember.…
Choosing West Point opens the door to countless opportunities. Cadets receive a topnotch
education, training in leader development, and numerous professional opportunities.
They learn first how to be a follower, and then to be a leader—skills that will carry them in all
of their life endeavors. Not to mention the fact that they are guaranteed a five-year job in the
So what makes West Point such a special place? West Point is more than a school; it is a
tightly knit community. The officers and noncommissioned officers who serve as instructors at
West Point share a special bond with the cadets. The students and their instructors at West
Point are members of the same profession and are dedicated to the same principles of “duty,
honor, and country.”
Cadets at West Point live under an Honor Code that states that “a cadet will not lie,
cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” The penalty for those who violate this code is serious.
The Honor Code is meant to develop cadets into true leaders of character. Cadets internalize
the importance of living honorably and carry this value with them into the army.
West Point is indeed a special place. Where else
can you eat virtually every meal in less than twenty minutes
with the entire student body? Where else can you
march into a stadium on national television and be a
part of the Army-Navy rivalry? Where else can you stop
on the way to class and pose for a picture with tourists?
Where else can you make so many friends for a lifetime? At no other school does the word classmate
mean so much. The bonds that are formed at West Point are unparalleled. On the very first
day cadets are advised to “cooperate and graduate.” This mantra follows them through victories
and defeats, through successes and failures, from reception day until graduation day. The West
Point Experience prepares cadets for all that life has to offer. When they throw their hats in the
air, they are truly ready to be all that they can be.
The Core Curriculum
Academics at West Point are tough, but with the amount of assistance available, cadets
are set up for success. The overall curriculum contains classes in both science and the
arts. Unlike most colleges and universities, the core curriculum is very extensive. In other
words, during the first two years, there is not much flexibility in course selection. The core
curriculum consists of thirty-six courses that the academy considers essential to the broad
base of knowledge necessary for all graduates: a course in Information Technology for all but engineering majors; and a three-course core engineering sequence for those who do not
major in engineering. This core curriculum, when combined with physical education training
and military science, constitutes the Military Academy’s “professional major.” This
broad base of classes serves several purposes. Cadets not only get a solid foundation before
specializing in one area, but have also studied in all of the academic departments and have
a sound basis for selecting one of ninety-nine majors. Besides their major or field of study,
all students take what is called a five-course engineering sequence. This sequence
strengthens the cadet’s engineering background and in a sense gives him or her a second
major. The engineering sequences include electrical engineering, environmental engineering,
civil engineering, mechanical engineering, nuclear engineering, systems engineering,
and computer science. All graduates receive a Bachelor of Science degree. The United
States Military Academy introduced a “major with honors,” which contains a minimum of
twelve courses, an individual research requirement, and requires a minimum academic
program score cumulative (APSC) of 3.0 in the core curriculum and a 3.5 in the major.
I’ll never forget my first day of classes as a plebe (freshman). I was
astonished to see that each of my classes had only about fifteen cadets in it, about
half the size of my high school classes. The first thing each professor did was
write his or her home phone number on the blackboard. ‘Call me at home anytime,
day or night,’ each one said. The classroom experience at West Point is
unlike any other. There simply are no crowded lecture halls or graduate assistants.
Each class is taught by an instructor whose primary responsibility is to
teach cadets. Each class has a maximum number of eighteen students. You just
can’t get that kind of personal interaction at other universities—many of my
friends at other schools had as many graduate assistants as they did professors.
My professors taught every lesson, were available for additional help at all hours
of the day or night, and even came out to support me at my athletic matches!
The resources available to cadets are very impressive. The library contains over 600,000
volumes of resources and 2,000 academic journals and newspapers. All cadets have
desk-top computers in their room and full access to the Internet. In addition, the Center
for Enhanced Performance assists cadets in achieving their potential in all aspects of academy life, offering classes, open to all students, in reading efficiency and student success.
One-on-one additional instruction is available to cadets from their instructors and is what
sets the military academy apart from other schools.
Physical Education and Military Development
Part of the overall curriculum includes physical education and military development.
The physical education curriculum spans the four years. Physical education classes are
incorporated into the grade point average, which highlights the importance of physical
fitness in the army. Cadets receive grades in each physical education class as well as the
Army Physical Fitness Test and the Indoor Obstacle Course Test. The physical program is
quite challenging, but rewarding and fun as well.
Military development is also part of the curriculum. Cadets are graded based on military
performance within their cadet companies as well as their performance during summer training
and military intersession. The heart of the military training takes place during the summer.
During their first summer, new cadets are introduced to the academy through the rigors of Cadet
Basic Training, a six-week experience that transforms the new class from civilians to cadets, and
gives the upper two classes the opportunity to practice small unit leadership. During Cadet Basic
Training—also called “Beast Barracks”—new cadets learn what it means to be a cadet as well
as what it means to be a soldier.
The summer after plebe or freshman year, cadets participate in Cadet Field Training. At
Camp Buckner, sophomores or “yearlings” complete seven weeks of advanced military training
including weapons, tank, and aviation training. During this time, cadets are also introduced to
the different branches of the army and how their focus contributes to its overall mission. They
apply the skills they learned in the classroom as they practice tactical exercises in small units.
Like Cadet Basic Training, upperclass cadets serve as the cadre for this training.
Camp Buckner is also a time for recreation and class bonding. During the summers before
junior (“cow”) and senior (“firstie”) year, opportunities for cadets broaden significantly. During
these summers, cadets must participate in either Cadet Troop Leader Training or Drill Cadet
Leader Training. This involves being assigned to an active army unit for six weeks and acting as
either platoon leaders or drill sergeants. For most cadets, it is their first experience in the regular
army and it is both exciting and rewarding. A cadet must also serve as a leader or cadre
member for either Cadet Basic Training or Cadet Field Training during one of these summers.
This leaves two periods open for cadets to participate in Individual Advanced
Development (IADs). Some military IADs include Airborne School (parachuting), Air Assault
School (rappelling out of helicopters), Combat Engineer Sapper School, Mountain Warfare School, and Special Forces Scuba School. There are also physical IADs such as training at the
U.S. Olympic Center and Outward Bound. Very popular among cadets are academic IADs. These
are similar to internships students at civilian colleges might participate in. Some academic IAD
cadets participate, including duty with the Supreme Court, Crossroads to Africa, the Foreign
Academy Exchange Program, NASA, and the National Laboratories.
Perhaps this is a curriculum unlike any you’ve ever seen. A cadets total QPA (quality
point average) is based on fifty-five percent academics, thirty percent military, and fifteen percent
physical. Cadets must be well rounded. The curriculum is meant to develop “enlightened
military leaders of strong moral courage whose minds are creative, critical, and resourceful.”
It was Thucydides who said “The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars
and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”
Most Popular Fields of Study
Admission to West Point is highly competitive, and the application process is much more
involved than that of a civilian school. Of the approximate 12,000 candidates who start files
each year, only about 1,500 are offered admission. While most colleges and universities look
primarily at a student’s academic background, West Point is interested in the whole package.
Not only must candidates be of high academic caliber, they must qualify physically and medically
as well. Candidates must also earn a nomination from a U.S. representative, senator, the
president, vice president, or from the Department of the Army (these nominations are
The admissions committee seeks students who are bright, athletic, and have “demonstrated
leadership potential” throughout their high school years. To determine the academic
strength and potential of a candidate, the admissions committee examines both the high
school transcript and the SAT/ACT scores. To determine the physical fitness and potential of a
candidate, the committee looks at the athletic activities in which the candidate participated
during high school. In addition, candidates are required to take a physical aptitude examination
(PAE), which consists of several events such as a 300-meter run, pull-ups, and a broad
jump, designed to determine athletic ability and potential.
Because West Point strives to be the premier leader development institute in the
world, it is important that the academy admit cadets who have leadership potential
that can be built upon. With that in mind, the admissions committee looks for students
who were part of the student government in their school, primarily student body or class
president. Other indications of exceptional leadership potential might include participation
in boys/girls state, scouting, debate, school publications, and varsity athletics. In a
typical class of about 1,200 new cadets, more than 1,000 earned varsity letters in high
school and about 750 were team captains. Over seventy-five percent of the class graduated
in the top fifth of their high school class. The mean SAT I score for a recent class was 630 Verbal and 647 Math, 28 on the ACT, and some 237 earned National Merit
Candidates must also be at least seventeen and not older than twenty-three years of age
on July first of the year they enter the academy. They must also be U.S. citizens, be unmarried,
and not be pregnant or have a legal obligation for child support.
Steps in Applying
There are several steps in applying to West Point.
- Make a self-assessment. Determine if you qualify for West Point and if this is something
that you would be interested in doing.
- Start a candidate file. This is done by contacting the USMA Admissions Office.
- Seek a nomination from the representative in your district and your senators.
- You must complete all of your SAT and ACT testing, as well as your physical and medical
- You then have the option of visiting West Point and spending the day with a cadet on a candidate
orientation visit. This is optional, but highly recommended. An orientation visit is
the best way to get a feel for academy life and if it’s for you.
- If you complete all of these steps and are admitted into the incoming class, your final step
is to enroll in the academy on Reception Day.
For those candidates who consider USMA to be their top college choice and are interested
in applying early, West Point offers an Early Action plan. Under this plan, applicants are
informed of their admissions status by January 15. Persistence is “key,” as about thirty percent
of each incoming class are second-time applicants.
All cadets at West Point are active-duty soldiers in the regular army. As such, they
receive approximately $10,000 a year in pay. They are provided medical and dental care, and
room and board. For this, cadets perform assigned duties and agree to serve as commissioned
officers for a minimum of five years following graduation. From the cadet salary, deductions are
made in order to pay for uniforms, textbooks, a desk-top computer, laundry, grooming, and similar
necessities. Upon acceptance of the appointment, cadets are asked to make a one-time,
nonrefundable deposit of about $2,900. The total cost of a cadet’s full education is about
$275,000. This is quite an impressive national investment!
Because there is no tuition cost associated with attending the United
States Military Academy, all students have an equal chance of attending. This
creates a diverse population within the corps of cadets. Because we wore the
same uniforms and none of us paid tuition, we really didn’t know how well-off
our fellow cadets were, nor was it our concern. We accepted one another for who
we were, not for our family’s background.
Student Financial Aid Details
One of the toughest things about being a cadet is deciding what activities to become
involved in. From sports to dramatics to religious activities, West Point truly has it all.
A few years ago, a couple of seniors painted ‘West Point is a party
school!’ on the side of their R.V. in an attempt to rouse spirit among the corps.
The irony of this statement roused more than a few chuckles, because cadets
know that nothing could be further from the truth, but, while the rowdy fraternity
party scene is not alive and well at West Point, don’t be fooled into thinking
that being a cadet isn’t fun. With the number of available activities, it can be an
In addition to sports, there are countless other activities for cadets to enjoy. For instance,
there are over 100 recreational clubs for cadets to participate in:
- There are clubs that support the corps such as the cadet band and the cadet radio station.
- There are clubs that are academic in nature such as the debate club.
- There are clubs that are geared toward the arts such as the Theatre Arts Guild.
*There are numerous religious groups and activities. Religion plays a large part in the lives
of many cadets and cadets are the backbone of the churches on post. From singing in the
choir, to teaching Sunday school, cadets find plenty of time to grow in their spirituality both
personally and as a member of the larger community. Almost all religious denominations
have services on post for cadets to attend.
There are also many social activities for cadets to attend. There is an on-post movie theater,
frequent dances, a golf course, a ski slope, a bowling alley, boat rides, and tailgates. You’ll
very rarely ever hear a cadet say that he or she is bored!
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Because “every cadet is an athlete, and every athlete will be challenged,” all cadets must
participate in sporting activities throughout the year. West Point has a highly competitive
varsity program, with sixteen men’s varsity sports and eight women’s, each competing
at the Division I level. More than twenty-five percent of the corps participates at this level.
Some examples of varsity sports are football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track,
lacrosse, and swimming. For those cadets not involved in varsity athletics, there are twenty -
nine competitive club sports. Some examples of club sports are crew, equestrian, fencing, mountaineering, rugby, sport parachute, marathon, martial arts, skiing, team handball,
water polo, and women’s lacrosse. Competitive club sports are great leadership opportunities
as cadets do the majority of the planning and executing of team practices and events.
Yet another portion of the corps is involved in intramurals. Intramural competitions occur
twice a week at 4:00 P.M. and are between teams fielded by each cadet company. There are
seventeen different intramural sports for cadets to choose from. Intramurals foster company
spirit, sportsmanship, and competition. Whichever level of sports a cadet chooses to
participate in, each cadet is truly challenged. Sports at West Point are highly competitive,
a great deal of fun, and a welcome break from the rigors of the academic day. School spirit
and support for sporting teams at West Point are outstanding.
Every athletic facility you can think of is available for your use at West Point. Many of
these facilities compare favorably with those found in the nation’s top colleges and universities.
Michie Stadium is the home of the Army football team with a seating capacity of over 39,000.
There are capacity crowds throughout the fall season. Holleder Center houses 5,000-seat Christi
Arena for basketball and 2,400-seat Tate Rink for hockey competition. The Arvin Cadet Physical
Development Center, which features five gymnasiums and three swimming pools, begins a major
renovation soon. It features Crandall Pool, an Olympic-size 50-meter pool. There are numerous
special purpose rooms for squash, handball, racquetball, wrestling, and weight training. Gillis
Field House is used for varsity and intramural indoor track competition. There is an all-weather
outdoor track oval and football field at the renovated Shea Stadium complex that is used for daylight
and evening competitive events. Lichtenstein Indoor Tennis Complex is the newest of the
athletic facilities at West Point. There are also pistol and rifle ranges, numerous outdoor tennis
courts, a ski slope, and an 18-hole golf course, which has also been redesigned.
Graduates of West Point tend to be very proud of their alma mater; it seems that the
older they get, the prouder they become. Alumni weekends are always very inspiring and very
crowded. Grads come decked out from head to toe in paraphernalia that indicates their year of
graduation. The alumni are known as “old grads” and the funny thing is, one is referred to as
an “old grad” the second he or she tosses that hat in the air on graduation day. The common
joke is that “old grads” are always complaining that the structure and discipline at West Point
is simply not as rigid as when they were cadets. But most agree, it is the values and traditions
that make West Point an enduring national treasure.
Some of my fondest memories of West Point involve marching in the
alumni parades. Marching along an endless line of distinguished alumni and
trying our hardest not to let them down was just an awesome experience. I recall
one time when I was moved to tears as an ‘old grad’ in a wheelchair struggled to
his feet as my company marched by. We were his old company, and he was not
going to sit in his wheelchair as we passed his position. As he applauded and
cheered, ‘Looking good H-4! Go Hogs!’ I could not help but get choked up. I was so
proud to be even the smallest part of this amazing place. I was part of a tradition,
part of history, and someday I too would be standing there facing the corps,
recalling my days as a cadet, and cheering them on.
West Point has had more than a handful of distinguished
graduates. Much of the U.S. Army leadership
since the Civil War were members of the Long Gray
Line—and the tradition continues. West Point graduates
have, and will continue to make wonderful contributions
to our nation. More than 100 graduates have competed
on various U.S. Olympic teams. West Pointers have served
as everything from presidents of corporations to presidents
of the United States. Service is what West Point is
all about, and our graduates serve our nation well.
- Robert E. Lee, 1829
- Ulysses S. Grant, 1843
- George Goethals, 1880
- John J. Pershing, 1886
- Douglas MacArthur, ’03
- George Patton, ’09
- Omar Bradley, ’15
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, ’15
- Matthew Ridgway, ’17
- Leslie Groves, ’18
- Maxwell Taylor, ’22
- Creighton Abrams, ’36
- Doc Blanchard, ’47
- Glenn Davis, ’47
- Alexander Haig, Jr., ’47
- Brent Scowcroft, ’47
- Frank Borman, ’50
- Fidel Ramos, ’50
- Edward White, ’52
- H. Norman Schwarzkopf, ’56
- Peter Dawkins, ’59
- Mike Krzyzewski, ’69