Saturday College Book Club: The West Point Candidate Book: How to Prepare, How to Get In, How to Survive

Posted: September 19, 2015

The US military academies are some of the most prestigious universities in the country. What does it take to get into West Point, Annapolis, or the Air Force Academy? The West Point Candidate Book: How to Prepare, How to Get In, How to Survive, by Sue Ross with Randy Lee, presents a detailed look at the application process, the “orientation”/boot camp called ”Beast Barracks,” and what life is like for cadets at the United States Military Academy, commonly called West Point.

My advice to candidates is to make sure you’re going to West Point because you want to be an officer in the United States Army.
Applying to West Point, or any of the military academies, is much more complicated than applying to Harvard or State U. Applicants must start in the winter of their junior year by getting registered in their system and making contact with your recruiter/MRO. Applicants need a strong academic record, evidence of leadership, physical fitness and a strong desire to serve as an officer in the Army. They also need to be nominated/recommended by an elected official from their state: governor, senator or congressman/woman. The West Point Candidate Book goes into the process of application in great detail: how to contact your MRO, how to present yourself at the interview with your senator’s staffer, how important it is to get even more physically fit than you already are, how to manage your time in your first year. Throughout the book, the authors share quotes and anecdotes from “the voice of experience:” current and former students at USMA. I found these quotes particularly helpful, because they gave a sense of the challenges of attending a military academy: the gamesmanship, the rigor and the leadership lessons learned. I especially appreciated the effort they made to include female voices and points-of-view. West Point becomes more diverse every year and the book represents that.

The bottom line for students who are considering West Point: 1) You’re in the Army from the moment you arrive on campus until you’ve finished your commission four years after graduation. 2) While the school is tuition-free, it is not “free-free”; you pay for it in sweat equity. 3) You will get a fantastic education at West Point, but the education is not the only reason, or even the best reason, to attend. Students who are undecided about military life frequently wash out in the first semester because the atmosphere is so intense. This is a lose-lose scenario, not only has the student wasted his or her time and effort, but he/she has also taken the place of someone who was gung-ho to enroll. There is no transferring in to West Point.*

To be selected to be a West Point cadet is an honor, and also hard work. The West Point Candidate Book will give you a strong, all-around idea of what it takes to become one of the next generation of United States military leaders.

*Some applicants will have their acceptance deferred in favor of a year at the United States Military Academy Prep School. See page 101 for more information about USMAPS.

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