United States Naval Academy


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 Campus

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?


Information Summary

Ranks 1st in Maryland and 42nd overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 97.5
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance N/A
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 32 / 1370
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 14 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 97% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 4,512


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

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.

Educational Options

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.

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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.

The Nomination

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.

Extracurricular Activities

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

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.

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Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Maryland.


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 formation.

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 endless.

Social Life

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.

Social Opportunities

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.

Commissioning Week

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. . . .

Prominent Grads

  • 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 the Navy
  • Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, World War II Hero
  • Admiral Ernest King, World War II Hero
  • Jim Lovell, Former Astronaut
  • John S. McCain, III, U.S. Senator from Arizona
  • Admiral Chester Nimitz, World War II Hero
  • 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 Director, CIA
  • 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 winners.
  • 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 of Staff
  • 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

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