United States Military Academy


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 military.

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.

Information Summary

Ranks 9th in New York and 56th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 96.8
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance N/A
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 33 / 1350
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 17 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 97% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 4,589


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.”

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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 service-related).

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. Leadership 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 Scholarship Recognition.

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 examinations.
  • 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.

Financial Aid

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.

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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 absolute blast!


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.

Prominent Grads

  • 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

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