How to Get Into West Point
During the Revolutionary War, George Washington identified a plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River, about 50 miles north of New York City, as the single most important strategic position in all of nascent America. Despite the best treasonous efforts of Benedict Arnold to hand over the newly-fortified lands to the British, the Continental Army never lost control of West Point and it has remained the longest continuously occupied military post in the United States. In 1802, President Jefferson turned West Point into the United States Military Academy (USMA) where, for hundreds of subsequent years, it has churned out a steady flow of American military leaders.
High school students seeking admittance into the USMA will 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:
- Do I need a letter from a member of Congress to get into West Point?
- When should I apply for a nomination?
- What SAT score do I need to get into West Point?
- What grades do I need to get into West Point?
- What are the academics like at West Point?
- Getting Nominated/Qualified/Admitted at West Point
- What are the outcomes for West Point graduates?
First, let’s tackle the most unique component of the West Point application—the Congressional or service-connected nomination.
Congressional Nomination Requirement
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 West Point you actually are required to obtain a Congressional nomination from one of the following sources:
- A member of the U.S. Senate
- A member of the U.S. House of Representatives
- The Vice-President of the United States
- The Governor or Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico
- The Secretary of the Army
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 MOC is given five nomination slots per year across all five service academies. Each senator is given the same.
If your mother or father has been an active duty member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or the Coast Guard for eight or more years, you are eligible for a Presidential nomination. Sons and daughters of a retired/disabled/deceased armed forces veteran are afforded the same opportunity, however, Presidential nominations are capped at 100 per year so it recommended that these applications also submit requests to their MOCs.
Children of Medal of Honor winners are granted the same courtesy but there is no annual cap placed on them. Those who are enrolled in the Junior of Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) can have their Senior Instructor nominate them instead of a MOC.
How many West Point students receive Congressional vs. Service-Connected nominations?
Of West Point’s roughly 4,400 undergraduate students, the greatest percentage were nominated by the 435 members of the House of Representatives (who each typically nominate one candidate to each academy annually), Senate-nominated applicants represent the second largest contingent, followed by Service-Connected nominations.
When to apply for a West Point nomination
While West Point 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.
What standardized test scores do you need to get into West Point?
There is an image of perfection projected by the USMA that might scare non-1600 SAT scorers into not even bothering to apply. Yet, an examination of the 2018-19 freshman class reveals a far less intimidating picture. Sixteen percent of applicants did in fact score a 700+ on the Critical Reading section and one-quarter earned a 700 or greater on the Math portion. However, the largest chunk—45% of freshman—scored between a 500 and 599 on Critical Reading. Math scores tended to be higher with 49% of undergrads having earned a 600-699 on that section of the exam.
Oddly, on the ACT, the reverse was true. Fifty-seven percent of ACT-takers achieved in the range of 31-36 on the English section while the greatest number—52%—scored in the 26-30 range on the Math section.
What GPA do I need to get accepted at West Point?
West Point doesn’t release GPA data from their applicants but we can glean all we need to know about the high school record of their average admitted applicant through their class rank breakdown. A solid 64% of members of the class of 2022 hailed from the top 20% of their high school class, 19% ranked in the second-fifth, and 11% were in the third-fifth. This should also be extremely encouraging to prospective USMA applicants as many other highly-selective schools with comparable (or even friendlier) acceptance rates often see at least 64% of their freshman class ranking in the top 10%.
Going from “Nominated” to “Qualified” to “Admitted”
Out of the 12,294 applicants seeking a spot in the West Point class of 2022, only 4,005 ended up receiving nominations. From there, the pool was sliced in half again as the admissions committee found 2,228 of that group to be “qualified” physically and academically. Another round of scrutiny cleaved down the number or men and women left standing to a mere 1,210. This 9.8% acceptance rate is the lowest in the history of the USMA.
Academic environment at West Point
There are good reasons for the long line jockeying for a position inside of West Point. The USMA boasts an outstanding 7:1 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 36 majors to choose from including nine with the word “engineering” in the title. This works out well as West Point runs one of the premier undergraduate engineering programs in the country. The most popular majors include business, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, engineering (general), economics, history, and military science.
Outcomes for West Point students
Fitting for a college full of disciplined cadets, you won’t find a school with a more uniform outcome for graduates—fortunately, the results for degree-earners are all equally positive. West Point grads assume the title of Second Lieutenant upon exiting West Point and earn an average starting salary of $53,000; 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. The United States Military Academy continues to successfully complete its mission “to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.”
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent education consultant. He is a co-author of the book The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).