With the motto “Ex Scientia Tridens,” meaning “Through Knowledge, Sea Power,” the United States Naval Academy, sounds like an institution with a formidable history dating back to the days of the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers. Yet, the history of the USNA, sometimes referred to simply as “Navy”, reveals humble beginnings, and, even as late as 1850, the school consisted of only 10 acres of land and 50 students (called midshipmen). In the second half of the 19th century, the school’s size and breadth exploded to a 338-acre campus and a student body 4,000 individuals strong. In 1933, the Annapolis, Maryland-based institution began awarding bachelor’s degrees, developed a number of top engineering/STEM programs, and in 1976, became a coeducational institution—finally shaping into the modern form of the Naval Academy that 15,000+ applicants line up for a chance to attend each year.

This current version of the US Naval Academy is a highly-selective, prestigious four-year university that accepts just 9% of those who apply—a similar figure to Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Rice, and Northwestern. In addition to the fact that 91% of applicants are ultimately rejected, high school students seeking admittance into the USNA also need to understand that they face a different type of admissions maze than encountered by applicants to other uber-selective universities. To help guide you through the labyrinth, we will cover:

  • The Naval Academy’s Class of 2024 acceptance rate
  • SAT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Naval Academy applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2024
  • The Naval Academy’s unique nomination/application elements
  • A look at the demographics of current Naval Academy undergraduates
  • The percent of accepted students that attend the Naval Academy (yield rate)
  • Tips for applying to the Naval Academy
  • USNA Essay Advice 
  • How to assess whether applying to the Naval Academy worth the immense effort

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

USNA Class of 2024 Acceptance Rate

Out of the 15,699 applicants seeking a spot in the Naval Academy’s Class of 2024, only 6,615 ended up receiving nominations. Another round of scrutiny sliced down the number of men and women left standing to a mere 1,426, which equates to a 9.1% overall acceptance rate. The previous year, Class of 2023 hopefuls were admitted at an even lower 8% rate.

SAT, ACT, and Class Rank of Accepted Naval Academy applicants

The mid-50% SAT range for entering members of the Class of 2024 was 1250-1510; the ACT ranges were 27-34 in Math and an identical 27-34 in English. Looking at the most recent class rank data available (Class of 2023), 54% finished in the top decile of their high school class, 81% were in the top quartile, and 95% placed in the top half.

Admissions Trends & Notes

  • There were only 4,578 female applicants compared to 11,121 men.
  • For the Class of 2024, the number of applicants fell to 15,699 from 16,331 the previous admissions cycle.
  • The average SAT of a student enrolled in the Class of 2023 was 1350.
  • Legacy students in the Class of 2024 included 52 sons and 20 daughters of USNA alumni. Six students had mothers and fathers who were both alums.
  • The 2024 class was comprised of 64 veterans of the navy and 15 formerly-enlisted marines.

The Naval Academy’s Unique Nomination/Application Requirements

Those seeking admission to Stanford’s Computer Science program do not need to seek the formal endorsement of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Google-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. That would just be strange, right? Well, when applying to the Naval Academy all applicants must actually seek a formal “nomination” from one of the following sources:

  • A member of the U.S. Senate
  • A member of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • The President of the United States (for children of active duty, reserve, retired military parents only)
  • The Vice-President of the United States
  • Your ROTC/JROTC Unit
  • Your Navy/Marine commander (for active service members)
  • Through being a child of a deceased/disabled veteran

While getting more than one Congressional nomination will not benefit you, it behooves applicants to apply to both of their Senators as well as their local House of Representatives member as doing so will increase the overall odds of obtaining a singular nomination. Each House member and Senator can have five constituents attending the Naval Academy at any one time (which averages out to just over one per year).

How many Naval Academy students receive Congressional vs. Service-Connected nominations?

Of the 6,615 Class of 2024 applicants receiving nominations, the greatest percentage—76%–were nominated by members of Congress. Ten percent received Presidential nominations, 6% by the Secretary of the Navy, and six percent through ROTC programs. Only 1% were nominated as Children of Deceased/Disabled Veterans.

When to apply for a Naval Academy nomination

While the Naval Academy doesn’t need your nomination paperwork until the 31st of January during your senior year, it is advisable to start the process of reaching out to your MOCs during 11th grade. The online Vice Presidential nomination application opens on March 1st and closes the following January 31st. All MOC nominating offices have their own deadlines. Some members of the HOR and the Senate have application deadlines in September of senior year while others have a later November deadline; most will allow you to submit your applications as early as the second-semester of your junior year.

Who actually gets into the Naval Academy?

Let’s look at the demographics of USNA Class of 2024, beginning with ethnicity:

  • Caucasian/White: 72%
  • Asian American: 13% (including those who identify as two or more races)
  • Hispanic: 12%
  • African American: 10% (including those who identify as two or more races)

A look at the gender split reveals that the university enrolls far more men than women:

  • Men: 70%
  • Women: 30%

The 2020-21 freshman class (of 1,194 students) were nominated according to the following categories.

  • Presidential: 665
  • Congressional: 5,056
  • Secretary or the Navy: 421
  • ROTC: 379
  • Children of Deceased or Disabled Veterans: 94

The 2020-21 freshman class participated in the following extracurricular activities during high school:

  • Student Body Leader: 66%
  • School Publication: 13%
  • Debate/Drama: 66%
  • Boy/Girl Scouts: 16%
  • Varsity Athletics: 91%
  • Community Service: 90%
  • Team Captain: 73%
  • Music: 26%
  • Work Experience: 35%
  • Tutoring: 44%
  • Church Group: 47%

The 1,194 members of the Class of 2024 included those with the following academic backgrounds:

  • Naval Academy Prep (Newport, RI): 198
  • Completed a semester of study at a college or university: 82
  • U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and Civilian Prep Programs: 46

The United States Naval Academy’s “Yield Rate”

The Naval Academy’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 84%. This figure even exceeds other high yield institutions such as Harvard (82%) or MIT (77%). In short, very few people go through the Naval Academy’s harrowing and lengthy admissions process and ultimately enroll somewhere else.

Tips for Applying to the Naval Academy  

If you plan on joining the nearly 16,000 USNA hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • The USNA values nine factors above all others: rigor of your coursework, GPA, class rank, application essays, recommendations, the interview, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, and an applicant’s level of demonstrated interest.
  • Interviews are mandatory and a critical component of any application. Interviews are conducted with a Blue and Gold Officer in your home state. Students should contact their BGO immediately upon receiving their official candidate letter.
  • Candidates should come to their admission interview armed with knowledge of the Naval Academy as an institution and prepared to talk about why they want to be a naval officer. The BGO will be assessing your level of interest, leadership potential, physical fitness, organizational ability, among other similar attributes. They will rate you from a scale of “Top 5%” or “Top 25%” through “Below Average” or “Not Observed”.
  • The Naval Academy does strongly consider “demonstrated interest” so you will be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
  • Begin the Preliminary Application as early as April of your junior year.
  • The USNA gives you an opportunity to apply for the Summer Seminar after your junior year of high school. While not a required part of the application process, it is recommended. The deadline for submitting an application to the Summer Seminar is March 31.
  • You will need to arrange for and pass a Candidate Fitness Assessment which can be administered by your gym teacher. This involves push-ups, a one-mile run, abdominal crunches, a 40-yard shuttle run, pull-ups, and a basketball throw from a kneeling position.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the one two-part essay required by the United States Naval Academy. In the 2020-21 cycle, the prompt is as follows:

In a well-organized essay of a total of 300 to 500 words, please discuss both of the following:

(1) Describe what led to your initial interest in the naval service and how the Naval Academy will help you achieve your long-range goals, and

(2) Describe a personal experience you have had which you feel has contributed to your own character development and integrity.

One of the best ways to prepare for this essay is to self-reflect on why you are making this career/life choice and what being a naval officer means to you. It is best to speak with current and past service members, mentors, teachers, and your family as you develop these answers. The goal is not to be highly-creative with your responses, but rather to leave an unmistakable impression that you are a mature and committed young man or woman, who understands the responsibility and sacrifice that lie ahead. The story you tell about character development and integrity should be 100% based in reality—no need for hyperbole or grandiosity.

For more advice on how to approach this essay, visit our blog entitled: USNA Essay Prompts and Tips.

Should I Apply to The Naval Academy?

There are good reasons for the long line of applicants all jockeying for a position inside of the Naval Academy. The USNA boasts an outstanding 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a collection of dedicated professors that are routinely voted among the most accessible of any institution in the country. There are 26 majors to choose from including nine with the word “engineering” in the title. This works out well as the Naval Academy runs one of the premier undergraduate engineering programs in the United States.

Fitting for a college full of disciplined midshipmen, you won’t find a school with a more uniform outcome for graduates—fortunately, the results for degree-earners are all equally positive. The Naval Academy grads assume the title of Second Lieutenant upon exiting the Naval Academy and earn an average starting salary of over $75,000; the job placement rate is an unmatched 100%. Not bad for a school that doesn’t charge a dime for tuition or room and board.

Of course, it goes without saying that all teens applying to a school of the USNA’s caliber also need to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.