How to Become a West Point Cadet: In-Depth Guide (2021 Edition)
So, you want to be a leader? Serve your country? Score free tuition? Achieve peak physical fitness? The West Point Experience prepares the West Point cadet for leadership as commissioned officers on active duty in the U.S. Army. It is a 47-month process that provides for the intellectual, military, physical, moral-ethical and social development of cadets and transforms them into character leaders.
The West Point student population numbers roughly 4,300, including cadets from every U.S state and more than 30 foreign countries. West Point is also home to about 1,200 active-duty soldiers and 3,000 family members. A civilian workforce of roughly 5,000 personnel supports the academy.
Let’s take an in-depth look at West Point in all its glory and what your path to get there would typically look like.
1. Where is West Point Academy?
2. Map of the Campus
⚬ Entrance Requirements
⚬ Acceptance Rate
4. What it Takes to Be a Cadet
5. Majors Offered
6. Sports Program
7. All About Graduation
8. Naval Academy History
Where Is West Point Campus?
Set in the scenic Hudson River Valley of Orange County, 50 miles away from New York City, the United States Military Academy, West Point, is a four-year academic institution and a nationally renowned historical site with roots that trace back to 1802. West Point cadets are commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army upon graduation.
In addition to being a federal service academy with a full range of academic, military and athletic activities, West Point is America’s oldest continuously occupied military installation. Its long history and the critical nature of its role in developing commissioned leaders of character contribute to West Point’s stature as an American “national treasure.”
The campus is a national landmark and home to scores of historic sites, buildings and monuments. It is a popular tourist destination, complete with a large visitor center and the oldest museum in the U.S. Army.
United States Military Academy
646 Swift Road
West Point, NY 10996-1905
Phone: 1 (845) 938-4011
West Point Map
West Point Admissions
In addition to receiving fully funded West Point tuition, cadets also receive room and board, health insurance and a monthly stipend.
So, how hard is it to get into West Point? You’ll need excellent test scores to start. According to Prep Scholar, the average West Point SAT score is 1340, the average GPA is 3.9, according to Prep Scholar.
In addition to being brainy, West Point cadets bring the brawn too. Practice for the candidate fitness assessment to successfully demonstrate the strength, agility, speed and endurance required of all candidates.
Did you know West Point has its own terminology? Admissions counselors are called regional commanders, and candidates seek to be appointed, not accepted, into West Point.
West Point Requirements
Step 1. Confirm Eligibility
Applicant basic eligibility requirements:
- At least age 17, but not 23
- A U.S. Citizen
- Not married
- Not pregnant
- Not legally responsible for child support
Step 2. Gather Personal Information
The info you need for your application is:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your ACT, SAT, PSAT or PLAN scores
- Your 9-digit zip code
- Your high school’s ETS Code
- Your high school’s address
- Your Congressional District
Step 3. Apply Online
Complete the Candidate Questionnaire to open an application to West Point. The application window opens in mid-January for high school juniors. Open a file as early as possible. All qualified applicants receive their West Point Candidate Portal credentials by email, usually within 24 to 48 hours.
Step 4. Connect with the Field Force
Field Force members are a massive help with navigating the application process at West Point. All applications must include an interview. A Field Force representative will contact you to schedule it.
Step 5. Apply for a Nomination
A nomination is required to attend West Point. There are two types: Congressional (your Representative or one of your State’s Senators) and Service-Connected. Nominations are due by January 31st of the year you start college.
Step 6. Get a Medical Examination
The DOD Medical Examination Review Board will provide the info about your exam.
Step 7. Take the Candidate Fitness Assessment
Be prepared with the proper form seen in these demonstrations:
- Basketball throw
- Cadence pull-ups or flexed-arm hang
- 40-yard shuttle run
- Modified Sit-ups
- 1-mile run
Step 8. Take College Entrance Exams
The SAT, ACT, PSAT or PLAN tests must be timed and include a writing score. When registering for the SAT, you must also register for the Essay. If registering for the ACT, select the “ACT Plus Writing.”
Take the tests as many times as practicable. West Point admissions will super-score your standardized tests.
West Point Acceptance Rate
West Point is among the nation’s most selective colleges, enrolling only the most promising men and women, with a 10.3% acceptance rate. More than 14,000 applications are received each year, and only 1,000 candidates are selected.
West Point Cadet
West Point Cadet Ranks
Soldier, military professional and leader of character: The leader development process compels cadets to incorporate these roles into their emerging professional identities. They wear their rank, insignia and awards on uniforms. See the West Point Cadet Ranks for more info.
West Point Cadet Uniform
The Cadet Uniform Factory at West Point has kept cadets looking sharp in The Long Gray Line’s traditional look since 1878. From the full dress coat’s 44 gold-plated buttons to the 16-ounce “cadet gray” wool uniform, West Point Cadet uniforms are handmade by master craftsmen.
While the CUF employees take pride in the unmatched quality, cadets also appreciate buying at cost.
West Point cadets are almost always in uniform during the academic week.
Crest color worn:
- Cadre (Officers and Enlisted): Blue
- Firstie (senior): Black
- Cow (junior): Gray
- Yearling (sophomore): Yellow
- Plebe (freshmen): Nothing
Cadets also wear uniforms that soldiers wear Army-wide. The gym uniform is black gym shorts, a white T-shirt and tennis shoes.
Fun Fact: A mackintosh, also known as a rubber raincoat, is the only article of clothing that West Point visitors may borrow from a cadet.
West Point Majors
The academic program provides the intellectual foundation for service as a commissioned officer with the knowledge and skills needed for continued growth as a U.S. Army officer.
- American Politics
- Applied Statistics & Data Science
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Computer Science
- Cyber Science
- Defense & Strategic Studies
- Electrical Engineering
- Engineering Management
- Engineering Psychology
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Science
- Foreign Area Studies
- Foreign Languages
- Geospatial Information Science
- Information Technology
- International Affairs
- Law and Legal Studies
- Mathematical Science
- Mechanical Engineering
- Nuclear Engineering
- Operations Research
- Space Science
- Systems Engineering
- Systems and Decisions Sciences
Over 35 research centers and research support centers are at USMA. Motivated cadets, world-class faculty and, through these centers, scholars and scientists thrive.
West Point Athletics
“Every cadet an athlete.”
West Point Athletics boasts seven core curriculum physical education classes, 12 company athletic
teams, 16 competitive club sports teams, five national champion club teams and 500,000 square feet of fitness facilities.
The program includes physical education classes, regular fitness testing and Army Black Knights competitive club athletics, including the national classic Army-Navy football game. Go Army, Beat Navy!
Q: Who won the first Army-Navy football game at West Point in 1890?
A: Navy won 24-0 but suffered defeat at Annapolis in 1891. The rivalry is still going strong!
West Point Band
“Nothing is more agreeable, and ornamental, than good music. Every officer, for the credit of his corps, should take care to provide it,” Gen. George Washington.
The Army’s oldest active-duty band is The West Point Band, founded at the academy in June 1817. Music has been a consistent part of cadet and soldier life. The band motivates and inspires the rising Army leaders while serving as the Army’s musical ambassadors to the country.
Visit the West Point Band online for current info about upcoming West Point concerts.
West Point Graduation
Graduation week at West Point celebrates cadets’ accomplishments of the past four years. Parents and family members, and guests attend events typically held Tuesday through Saturday, including a parade, receptions, a banquet, and music performances. The week’s finale is the graduation ceremony, including the traditional hat toss as “Class Dismissed” is announced. Cadets leave notes, photos, cash or other items inside their hats for children, age 6 to 10, who rush the field to grab a hat after the ceremony.
Traditions following graduation include the new Second Lieutenants giving the first enlisted person who salutes them a new silver dollar. And finally, the pinning of “butter bars” upon changing into the Class A uniform.
West Point History
- The first class had two cadets, and standards were in development during the first few years, with students aged 10 to 37 staying between six months and six years.
- By 1817, a West Point graduate, Col. Sylvanus Thayer, “Father of the Military Academy,” took the lead. Thayer elevated academic standards, focused the curriculum on engineering and officer training, imposed self-study and daily homework, and instilled military discipline and an honor code.
- West Point engineers, surveyors and mappers, the topographers, deployed westward in what the Smithsonian National Museum of American History calls “part military reconnaissance, part scientific exploration, part treasure hunt.” They brought back maps, specimens, records and observations that shaped scientific thought and national policy. They also had a hand in building most new railroads, highways, harbors and bridges, and modernizing industrial practices.
- In 1870 the curriculum shed its narrow emphasis on engineering for broader coursework, especially military strategy and proficiency. West Point graduates supervised the construction of the Washington Monument (1888), the Library of Congress (1897) and the Panama Canal (1913).
- The academy’s post-war superintendent, Douglas MacArthur, restored and strengthened its academics during his tenure from 1919 to 1922. He made “Every cadet an athlete” into a fitness mantra. He codified the Honor System — “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do” — under a Cadet Honor Committee.
- In the face of a return to war and a demand for more officers, West Point started a flight school that graduated more than 1,000 cadets as commissioned pilots between 1943 and 1946. Maxwell Taylor took over as superintendent in 1945. He began shaping the modern military academy by replacing subjects such as fencing and horsemanship with physics, electronics and applied psychology.
- In 1976, America’s Bicentennial Year, Congress for the first time allowed women to enroll at the federal service academies, and West Point began recruiting. By the late 1980s, all cadet companies included women, and women had led in every position across the Corps of Cadets.
- Today, West Point academics extend to dozens of arts and science majors.
When Was West Point Founded?
West Point exists because of war, terrain, and Gen. George Washington’s cunning disposition. The military leader of America’s revolution made the wooded plateau commanding a tight S-bend in the Hudson River the place to stop British warships sailing north to squash the upstart colonies’ revolt.
The general’s Continental Army set up camp in January 1778. Washington chose noted Polish military engineer Tadeusz Kosciuszko to design its forts, batteries and redoubts. His soldiers strung a 150-ton chain, “The Great Chain,” across the river to block enemy vessels long enough for them to be shelled and sunk.
After the revolution, Washington saw the continuing need for American-educated civil and military engineers. He and other U.S. officials pushed for a domestic school of military strategy and engineering. Lawmakers, however, feared it could lead to an elitist class system. Once President Thomas Jefferson got assurances the student body would be egalitarian, he signed legislation setting up the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1802.
Famous West Point Graduates
After the war, academy graduates coming home to a grateful nation included MacArthur, Eisenhower and Bradley, George S. Patton, Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell and Jonathan M. Wainwright.
West Point graduates include:
- 89 Olympians
- 83 Medal of Honor Recipients
- 20 Astronauts
- 96 Rhodes Scholars
Cadets enter the academy and become active-duty members of the U.S. Army. They take the first steps toward joining the Long Gray Line, one of the Army and the nation’s proudest traditions. At West Point, cadets develop as leaders prepared to serve the Army and the country for a lifetime.
West Point graduates serve as teachers, astronauts, business leaders, engineers, presidents, governors, lawmakers, mayors, intelligence directors, Cabinet members, ambassadors, judges, authors, actors, Medal of Honor recipients, scientists, inventors, physicians and sports figures.
Visit MyBaseGuide for a complete guide to West Point.
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