United States Naval Academy (USNA) Essay Prompts and Tips
With an acceptance rate of just 9%, getting into the United States Naval Academy and officially becoming a midshipman in Annapolis is no easy task. After all, how many colleges require a nomination from a member of Congress? Those brave young men and women who choose to navigate a supremely challenging admissions process do so in order to later dedicate a portion of their adult lives toward serving their country. This blog will offer admissions-related advice on how to approach the lone, two-part USNA essay.
(Want to learn more about How to Get Into the United States Naval Academy? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into the US Naval Academy: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)
When applying to an institution like the Naval Academy that rejects more than 9 of every 10 applicants, you need to put maximum effort into every area of the application, including the supplemental essays. Below are the USNA’s required supplemental prompts for the 2021-22 admissions cycle along with our advice for composing a winning essay.
US Naval Academy Essay Prompt – Part 1
The USNA only requires one essay, but you need to cover two very distinct topics in one place. We will explore these two distinct questions in two separate sections of this blog. However, we want to stress that both need to be covered in the same limited number of words, as the official directions indicate:
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 (CONTiNUED LATER IN THE BLOG)…
It may be helpful to view this portion of the prompt as a higher-stakes version of the typical “Why Us?” college essay. In that category of essay, an applicant is tasked with telling their story of how they decided that ______ University was the perfect school for them. They may write about particular academic programs, courses, professors, research opportunities, internships/co-ops, study abroad programs, and student-run organizations that they will take advantage of once on campus.
Similarly, the USNA wants to see that you have done your homework and are 100% committed to life as a Naval officer. This should be a highly-personal story that demonstrates your maturity, commitment, and readiness to commit to a life in the Navy. Ultimately, joining the Navy is not a decision that anyone should make lightly and the folks in Annapolis will want to see evidence of specific experiences that led you to this conclusion.
For example, perhaps you have:
- Had multiple conversations with a recruiting officer. Share what you learned.
- Participated in NJROTC as an adolescent/young adult.
- Had in-depth discussions with family members or non-family family members who served in the Navy or Armed Forces.
Items you could share related to the long-terms goals can include:
- Talk about your intended major at the USMA. Whether you are interested in political science, aerospace engineering, chemistry, or cyber/electronic operations and warfare, explain how your area of study fits into your long-range goals.
- Discuss where you see your career in the Navy taking you. You may also want to touch upon post-Navy aims.
US Naval Academy Essay Prompt – Part 2
(2) Describe a personal experience you have had which you feel has contributed to your own character development and integrity.
To begin, it’s important to think about what type of specific words we can use to identify your particular character development. The following list may help your brainstorming efforts:
- Emotional/social intelligence
- Enthusiasm and vigor
Next, you want to chronicle a singular personal experience that led you to grow in one or more of these character-related areas. Use your life experience to show rather than tell West Point how you have grown into a person of high integrity. Examples can come from a job, school projects, athletics, NJROTC, or a family experience. In short, the thing to keep in mind here is the Latin quote “Facta, non verba” which translates to “Deeds, not words.”
How important are the essays at the United States Naval Academy?
Overall, the USNA lists nine factors as being “very important” to the admissions committee: GPA, class rank, the interview, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, the rigor of your secondary school record, the level of demonstrated interest, recommendations, and—most relevant to this blog—the application essays.
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Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).