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How to Get Into the US Naval Academy

By Zach Skillings

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Posted: December 14th, 2021
How to Get Into the US Naval Academy

The U.S. Naval Academy trains students to become officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. While this is an excellent school for anyone dreaming of a military career, gaining admission to the USNA is a long and rigorous process. Candidates are required to complete two applications and secure a nomination from a U.S. Senator or Representative. But even though the application process is challenging, it can be accomplished with enough preparation and perseverance. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to get into the Naval Academy. 

What is the U.S. Naval Academy? 

The U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) is the second oldest of the five U.S. military service academies. Located in Annapolis, Maryland, the Academy trains students (referred to as Midshipmen) to serve as officers either in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps. The U.S. Navy fully pays for tuition in exchange for five years of active duty service after graduation. Admission to the Academy is extremely competitive, with less than 10% of applicants accepted. 

Although the competition is fierce, those who gain acceptance are guaranteed an officer position in the Navy or Marine Corps upon graduation. This makes your decision to apply to the Academy a career choice instead of just an educational one. For those who have a passion for leadership and service, the USNA is a surefire way to launch a career in the military. 

Basic requirements 

The first step to getting into the Naval Academy is making sure you meet all the basic requirements. You’re eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria: 

  • A U.S. citizen by July 1 of the year of entry
  • At least 17 years old and must not have passed 23rd birthday on July 1 of the year of entry
  • Unmarried
  • Not pregnant and no dependents
  • Have a valid Social Security Number (If you do not have a Social Security number you can apply for a card on the government website)

Preliminary application 

Candidates must submit a preliminary application before official admission consideration. The purpose of this application is to screen applicants based on basic eligibility requirements. Fortunately, this application takes only 15 – 30 minutes to complete. You can submit a preliminary application if you…

  • will be a senior in high school next year
  • are currently in your senior year of high school
  • are a current college student looking to transfer

You’ll need the following information to complete the preliminary application: 

  • Social Security Number
  • High School Educational Testing Service (ETS) Code
  • High school class rank
  • Congressional state and district
  • Full zip code
  • SAT, ACT or PSAT scores

The Academy assigns you an official candidate number if you move on to the next level. Note that if you’ve applied for a USNA Summer Seminar in the past, you don’t need to submit a preliminary application. 

Official application 

Once you’re officially a candidate, this is when the bulk of the application process takes place. The USNA official application includes many of the components required by traditional colleges, including: 

  1. High school transcript
  2. SAT or ACT scores
  3. Extracurricular activities 
  4. Letters of recommendation 
  5. Personal essay 
  6. Medical exam 
  7. Fitness test 
  8. In-person interview

Let’s talk about each of these components to get a sense of what a competitive application looks like. 

1. School transcript

The USNA is seeking students who have earned high grades in challenging courses, particularly ones involving advanced math and science. There’s no minimum GPA requirement, but you should strive for mostly A’s and B’s and aim for a rank near the top of your class. If possible, take AP, Honors, and International Baccalaureate classes. To boost your chances of admission, your high school courseload should include the following:

Mathematics 

Take four years of mathematics courses and develop a strong foundation in geometry, algebra, and trigonometry. Courses in precalculus and calculus are also highly recommended.

Science 

Take one year of chemistry and one year of physics, with a lab in each if possible. 

English

Take four years of English coursework with an emphasis on the study and practice of effective writing. Studying English and American literature is especially helpful.

Although not required, the Academy also recommends students take at least two years of foreign language studies, one year of U.S. history and one year of European or world history, and introductory computer and typing courses. Learn more about the USNA’s academic advice on their site

2. SAT and ACT scores

For the official application, you’ll have to submit either SAT or ACT scores.* PSAT scores are only sufficient for the preliminary application. To give you a sense of what to aim for, half of admitted applicants scored between 1230 and 1450 on the SAT or between 28 and 33 on the ACT. Earning a score within or above this range can go a long way in boosting your application.

Take both exams beginning in December of your junior year. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to retake them if needed. 

*Students applying for admission to the Class of 2026 will do so under a test-optional policy. 

3. Extracurricular activities 

Since the mission of the USNA is to produce strong military leaders, applicants should participate in extracurricular activities that demonstrate their leadership potential. If you look at the USNA Class of 2024, you’ll find that 73% of students were captain/co-captain of a sports team in high school and 66% were student body leaders at some point. This just goes to show that to get into the Academy, superficial involvement in activities is not enough. Strong candidates have a meaningful impact on the activities in which they’re involved. 

4. Letters of recommendation 

The Academy also requires multiple letters of recommendation, typically from teachers and athletic coaches. These letters provide insight into your character, so you should ask someone who can speak to your strengths. For this part of the application, it helps to have strong relationships with several of your teachers, coaches, or mentors. Be sure to ask for your recommendations ahead of time so that nobody feels rushed to write their letter. 

1. Personal essay

A key part of your application is your personal essay, in which you’re asked to describe why you want to attend the USNA. A strong essay details a personal experience that shaped your interest in the Academy, and how attending the USNA will help you achieve your long-term goals. Throughout your essay, emphasize your desire to serve and lead others. 

2. Medical exam 

Because the Naval Academy is a physically demanding program, there are certain medical standards that candidates must meet. For instance, candidates must be between 58 – 80 inches tall, and have vision that is correctable to 20/20 in both eyes. Learn more about the medical examination on the US Naval Academy’s site.

3. Fitness test

Candidates must also complete a fitness assessment that evaluates their coordination, strength, speed, agility, and endurance. The test consists of a one-mile run, a shuttle run, a kneeling basketball throw, abdominal crunches, push-ups, and pull-ups. Those who exercise regularly should have no trouble completing the assessment. 

4. In-person interview

The final step in completing your application is conducting an official interview. You’ll be interviewed by a Blue and Gold Officer, who are volunteers composed of USNA graduates, parents of midshipmen or graduates, and civilians. Contact your assigned officer as soon as possible after receiving your official candidate letter to schedule a time for your interview. 

Apply for nomination 

Along with completing your official application, you’ll also need a nomination for acceptance to the USNA. The nomination process is independent of the official application, and should be completed simultaneously. Nominations are usually secured from one of the following sources:

  • Congressional Representative
  • U.S. Senator
  • Vice President of the United States
  • President of the United States (only open to children of active duty, reserve, or retired military parents)

Senators and Representatives are limited to five nominees in a given year, meaning competition for nomination can be steep. Most nominees are required to submit documentation demonstrating their academic skill, sports and extracurricular participation, and leadership abilities. An in-person interview with the nominator or their staff is also common. Keep in mind that you don’t have to know your nominator personally, so you should apply for all the nomination sources you’re eligible for. Learn more about the nomination process on the Naval Academy site.

Next steps…

If your application is approved and you receive a nomination, you’ll be officially appointed to the Naval Academy. Only a select few make it into the ranks of the USNA, so you should be proud of your accomplishment! The next four years of your life as a Midshipman will be academically and physically demanding, but they’ll also be incredibly rewarding. You’ll learn a lot and come out the other side ready to begin your service as a Navy or Marine Corps officer.

Related: All about Public Service Loan Forgiveness

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