The Perks of Service Academies

By now, seniors are all too familiar with the stress and rush of the four-year college application process — we’ve heard the words “Common App,” and “holistic” repeated ad nauseum, and most of us simply can’t wait for the entire process to be over. However, there’s another, albeit smaller, subset of schools that many Choaties are unfamiliar with: military academies. Compared to the exhaustive process that applicants to these schools go through, merely writing a few supplement essays and sending standardized test scores suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

Although only a handful of students apply to service academies each year, according to college counselor Mr. Eric Stahura, “Interest in military academies seems like it’s increasing.” The most popular options for Choate students have been the U.S. Military Academy (known colloquially as West Point), the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. The application process for these schools is very different and much more comprehensive than the application process for traditional four-year colleges. In addition to an academic component, there’s also a physical test, as well as a nomination process in which the applicant applies to receive a formal recommendation by a sitting U.S. Senator, member of Congress, or the Vice President.

Applying to military academies means starting early. According to college counselor Mr. Mauricio Zelaya, “You need to start planning in the spring of junior year. Some of the academies offer a summer academy that’s linked to them, and oftentimes, students experience that to get a glimpse of life at the academies.” Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to attend in the summer because, according to Mr. Stahura, “Students often have an impression about what it’s like to be at the academy and wear a uniform. But once students experience it in the summer, they realize that it’s really a life choice.”

Mr. Stahura emphasized the seriousness of attending a military academy. Unlike traditional colleges, the experience at a military academy doesn’t merely last four years. According to Mr. Stahura, “There is a five-year active duty and three-year non-active duty commitment to the U.S. military.” This means that students are actually signing up for 12 years in total. If the service is completed directly after graduation from the academy, most applicants can expect to be 30 by the time that they have fulfilled their service.

However, Mr. Stahura also pointed out the unique benefits afforded by a military academy. “For a student that has a real goal to serve the U.S. military in some capacity, it’s really a phenomenal opportunity. They’ll have employment and tuition is fully funded plus stipends. There’s engineering and science and research and the opportunities to have a job after graduation. To be grounded in your employment — that’s amazing. There’s only a few college opportunities that offer that.”

Prospective military officers don’t necessarily need to attend a military academy. Through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, students can gain officer training at a traditional four-year university. According to Mr. Stahura, “ROTC application is a separate application as well. Students are essentially applying for a scholarship. If they receive the scholarship, they need to enroll in a member institution.” Mr. Zelaya added, “It’s like another major. There are certain requirements and protocols attached directly to the campus program. There’s usually also an affiliated club.”

In addition to getting a traditional college experience in tandem with officer training, the other benefit of a ROTC program is that you don’t have to commit to service while still in high school. According to Mr. Zelaya, “You can also apply for and pursue ROTC after entering college.”
Evidently, there are many options for those considering service after Choate. If this sounds interesting to you, make sure to attend the U.S. Naval Academy’s visit on December 7, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. in the College Counseling Office to find out more about the military academy application process.

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