Thinking about applying to one of America's five service academies? Get ready for the biggest challenge of your life. Because they require intelligence, leadership, physical ability and even a recommendation from a member of Congress, schools like the U.S. Military Academy and the U. S. Naval Academy are more difficult to get into than most Ivy League schools. The following three tips will help you at least get a shot at being accepted into a service academy for your collegiate career.
Know How Much You Want It
Is entrance into a service academy a driving goal or a vague ambition? Who wants it more—you or your parents? One thing that can get you through the grueling application process is wanting it more than others. There is no shortcut to getting accepted. Since you're competing against the best, you won't make it based on just talent or connections.
Are you willing to take the SAT and ACT three or more times? Will you devote hours each week to physical training? Will you volunteer for leadership positions even if your schedule already seems full? You may have to do all of those things—and more—to be accepted into a service academy, so it's important to know how much you are willing to do to be admitted.
Great Grades Aren't Enough
As with other elite schools, academic excellence is critical for acceptance into a service academy. In addition to academic prowess, however, the service academies place great emphasis on leadership, intelligence and physical fitness.
Everyone you're competing against has super grades. You will have to do much more than succeed in class to distance yourself from the pack. Instead of simply participating in clubs and athletics, strive to be a club president or team captain. Don't just study your textbooks—read newspapers and develop opinions on world events. Even if you meet the standards for physical fitness tests, train until your scores are in the top 10 percent.
Contact Your Congressman Early
Many consider service academies more difficult to get into than the most selective civilian schools, because to be considered, applicants to all (except the Coast Guard Academy) require an official nomination from a member of Congress. Since Congressmen can only nominate 10 candidates per year to each academy, it's important to let your Representative or Senator know that you're serious well before your senior year.
Make initial contact during your freshman or sophomore year, and find out what you need to do to give yourself the best chance for a nomination. Some counselors recommend considering multiple academies to improve the odds.
Learn more about what it takes to get into a military service academy by visiting them online.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock