West Point (US Military Academy) Essay Prompts and Tips
With an acceptance rate of just 9%, getting into West Point and officially becoming a United States Military Academy cadet is no easy task. After all, how many colleges require a nomination from a member of Congress? Those brave young men and women who aspire to navigate a supremely challenging admissions process do so in order to later dedicate a portion of their adult lives toward serving their country. The intent of this blog is to offer admissions-related advice on how to approach the three West Point essays.
(Want to learn more about How to Get Into the United States Military Academy? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into West Point: 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 West Point that rejects more than 9 of every 10 applicants, you’ll need to put maximum effort into every area of the application, including the supplemental essays. Below are the United States Military Academy’s required supplemental prompts for the 2021-22 admissions cycle along with our advice for composing winning essays.
Note: each has a limit of 2,500 characters.
West Point Essay Prompt #1
Explain why you want to attend the United States Military Academy and serve on active duty as an Army officer.
It may be helpful to view this prompt as a higher-stakes version of the typical “Why Us?” college essay. In this category of essay, an applicant is tasked with telling their story of how they decided that ______ University was the perfect school for them. Next, 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, this essay for West Point wants to see that you have done your homework and are 100% committed to life as an Army officer. This should be a highly-personal story that demonstrates your maturity, commitment, and readiness to commit to a life in the Army. This is not a decision that anyone should make lightly and West Point 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 Junior ROTC as an adolescent/young adult.
- Attended the Summer Leadership Experience at West Point.
- Had in-depth discussions with family members or non-family family members who served in the Armed Forces.
West Point Essay Prompt #2
What are the most important qualities in becoming a successful USMA cadet and a successful Army officer?
Let’s brainstorm some qualities that might be worth mentioning here:
- Emotional/social intelligence
- Enthusiasm and vigor
Yet, this is by no means a comprehensive list of admirable qualities that apply to your four years at West Point as well as your later Army career. Ideally those qualities listed may assist in your brainstorming process.
One terrific way to come up with your list of qualities is to directly ask those who have served or who presently serve, what qualities they feel are most important in an Army officer. While there are no right or wrong answers with this one (outside of listing negative qualities), your explanations for precisely why each quality is critical to the success of a cadet/officer is essential.
West Point Essay Prompt #3:
West Point and the Army are committed to the idea that respect for others and an understanding of diversity are important leadership traits. Why will you be successful in working with leaders, peers, and subordinates of a gender, color, ethnicity, and/or religion different from your own?
A highly-diverse population arrives each year at West Point and they want people that are comfortable with people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Sharing your views on tolerance and diversity is great, but words are not as impressive as actions. Not surprisingly, the strongest essays chronicle a candidate’s actual experiences. Use your life experience to show rather than tell West Point how well you work as part of a diverse team. Examples can come from a job, school projects, athletics, Junior ROTC, or—if applicable—the Summer Leader Experience at West Point.
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 West Point?
The United States Military Academy lists six factors as being “very important” to the admissions committee: GPA, standardized test scores, the interview, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, and the rigor of your secondary school record.
West Point classifies the essays as being “important” to their decision-making process, in the same tier as class rank, recommendations, and talent/ability.
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If you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your West Point essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.
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).