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What Are US Military Service Academies? Should You Apply?

Have you ever considered getting military training while you earn a college degree? Do you live in the United States? If yes, there is no shortage of opportunities for you. The United States Military Service Academies are designed for those who want to pursue their military and academic goals simultaneously.

In this article, I will describe the academies, the pros and cons, and whether they may be right for you.

So, what are US Military Service Academies?

As mentioned, service academies give you a combination of military training and higher education. After graduation, you are commissioned as an officer, guaranteed a military job, and are required to do five years of active service. There is no tuition and living expenses are covered. You are paid a stipend during your education, in addition to health and dental insurance. They are an excellent option for those who want to pursue college and are committed to service in the military!

The 5 US Service Academies

Service academies are divided into the various branches of the armed forces:

  • US Military Academy (West Point) (West Point, NY)

  • US Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD)

  • US Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO)

  • US Coast Guard Academy (New London, CT)

  • US Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, NY)


With all these attractive perks, it’s no wonder that students flock to these prestigious and highly respected academies. Consequently, admissions are very competitive and present a few more hoops to jump through when compared to standard application processes.

A unique and extremely competitive part of these admissions is the letter of nomination that all candidates must apply for. These are not just normal letters you would expect from teachers; they must come from federal government officials, such as a US Senator, Representative, Delegate, President, or Vice President. This is unless a parent is a career military member (8+ years of active service), has died in the line of service, or is a Medal of Honor awardee. The number of recommendations each official can issue is extremely limited, and candidates are often chosen through intense scrutiny by select committees. An important note to make is that the United States Coast Guard does not require this part of the application.

Furthermore, an intensive medical assessment has to be passed. Candidates must also take the CFA (Candidate Fitness Assessment) to test their physical strength and endurance. Excellence must be demonstrated in both academics and athletics. In addition, interviews are required for the Air Force and Naval academies.

Finally, we cannot forget the standard high school academic transcripts, test scores, and extracurriculars that are required by all higher education institutions. Leadership and commitment to community is well looked upon, whether it's through athletics or volunteering.

To give you an idea, acceptance rates range from 9% with the Navy to 16% with the Merchant Marine. Average GPAs range from 3.6 to 3.9. Average SAT scores range from 1280 at West Point to 1380 with the Navy. As you can see, these academies have some of the most selective admissions standards in the nation.


Virtually none, as tuition is free, board and books are free, healthcare is covered, and a stipend is paid.

Way of Life

The military lifestyle is deeply instilled, no matter which academy you select. The atmosphere is extremely strict, orderly, and disciplined. Be prepared to adhere to strict rules and honor codes at all times. Often, there are strict rules on leaving campus. Drinking and drug use is not tolerated. Be prepared to work long, scheduled days. An important note to make is that summer vacation is only a few weeks, compared to two months for traditional students.

Furthermore, athletics is very valued. Students are required to play in varsity or intramural sports. After graduation, recruits are required to serve a minimum of five years, so make sure you truly are enthusiastic about serving your country.


The five military academies are among the best higher education institutions in the United States. They are at the top in terms of average salary numbers. According to Payscale, Naval Academy graduates boast average base salaries of $124,000, with the Air Force Academy at $118,000, West Point at $112,000, the Merchant Marine Academy at $108,000, and the Coast Guard Academy at $104,000.

This puts all US Military Service Academies ahead of Ivy League heavyweights like Harvard and Princeton. Furthermore, these graduates are highly sought after, both in military and civilian job markets. They are able to attain great success in respected roles, whether it’s becoming a doctor, CEO, politician, or engineer. In fact, the Naval Academy boasts, among its alumni, 52 astronauts, 24 members of congress, and one President of the United States (Jimmy Carter). An education at one of these academies almost guarantees a life of wealth, respect, satisfaction, and success.

Is it Right for Me?

Before going, you have to decide if you want to endure this way of life. You have to be able to handle a regimented environment, with strict schedules and rules. Expectations and pressure are high. Academic and physical performance will be challenged, and you must be willing to assimilate into an inflexible honor code and moral character. Freedom is severely limited during your time, and you have to be willing to sacrifice.

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