Probably the most well-known of all commissioning programs (but the hardest to qualify for) is the United States Military Academy at West Point. Admission to West Point is open to civilians and to current (enlisted) members of the military. Each year the United States Military Academy admits 1,150 to 1,200 young men and women. A West Point cadetship includes a fully funded four-year college education. Tuition, room, board, medical and dental care are provided by the U.S. Army. A cadet earns about $600 a month or nearly $7,200 a year. A portion of that cadet pay is deposited into a personal checking account. Another portion of cadet pay is deposited to a "Cadet Account" that is used to help a cadet pay for expenses such as uniforms, books, a computer, activity fees, etc. Each cadet will pay a standard amount for laundry, dry cleaning, haircuts, tailoring services and shoe repair. A cadet's gross salary is subject to federal and state withholding taxes and social security deductions. By law, graduates of West Point are appointed on active duty as commissioned officers and serve in the U.S. Army for a minimum of five years.
You must meet certain requirements specified by public law in order to be considered for admission to West Point. You will be evaluated in three areas: academic performance, demonstrated leadership potential, and physical aptitude. You must also meet strict medical qualification requirements. First of all, you must be a United States citizen, at least 17 and not yet 23 years of age on July 1 of your year of admission. You must not be married, pregnant, or have a legal obligation to support a child or children. If you are a naturalized citizen, you must provide documentation.
To qualify academically at West Point you should have an above average high school or college academic record. A complete transcript of your academic achievement will be evaluated to determine your qualification. You should perform well on the ACT, Inc. Assessment Program Test (ACT) or the College Board Admission Testing Program Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).
To prepare yourself for the academic curriculum at West Point, you should complete four years of English with a strong emphasis on composition, grammar, literature and speech; four years of college preparatory mathematics, to include algebra, geometry, intermediate algebra, and trigonometry as a minimum; two years of a foreign language; two years of a laboratory science such as chemistry and physics, and one year of U.S. history, including courses in geography, government and economics. If your school includes a course in precalculus and calculus in its curriculum, and a basic computing course, these courses will be helpful in preparing you for your first year at West Point.
A well-rounded high school background in academics, athletics and extracurricular activities is a good way to prepare to enter West Point. Participation in student government, clubs, and other community activities provides leadership experiences that also reflect favorably on developing your leadership potential as an Army officer.
You must also complete the Physical Aptitude Examination, which consists of five events: pull-ups for men or flexed-arm hang for women; a basketball throw from the kneeling position; the standing long jump; a 300-yard shuttle run; and a two-minute period of push-ups. You are permitted just one examination, and you should practice the five events prior to taking the examination.
You apply to West Point by requesting and completing a PreCandidate Questionnaire, and by obtaining a nomination, normally from a United States Congressman or a Senator. (NOTE: Current enlisted members do not need a congressional or senatorial nomination). A candidate file will be started after you return the PreCandidate Questionnaire, preferable in the spring of your junior year of high school. Your Candidate Questionnaire will be evaluated by the Admissions Office to determine whether or not you will be competitive for admission. If you are a competitive candidate, you will receive additional forms to complete. Fill out those forms as quickly as possible because West Point has a rolling admissions program. The Admissions Committee will only evaluate your application file when every requirement has been completed. The majority of the Members of Congress use a competitive nomination process, whereby 10 candidates are named to compete for a single vacancy. A minority of the members of Congress names a single candidate as their primary nomination, and some choose to number, or rank order the alternates. If you have an excellent academic and extracurricular activity record, however, you have a good chance of gaining admission with an alternate nomination. Each year several hundred of the best qualified alternate Congressional and military service nominees are offered admission from the West Point waiting list.