I tend to comment for the other lurkers reading a thread that didn’t start it, won’t comment on it, but feel they are in a similar boat and want to learn from the thread. So OP, don’t take anything I’m about to write as personal or towards you. It’s simply a comment on the topic in general. Take from it what you want.
1. No matter how much you’ve ALWYAYS wanted to attend a military academy, and no matter how much you THINK you know about it, you have absolutely “No Idea” what you’re getting into until you get there. For most, it’s nothing what you thought it would be.
2. Some applicants apply PRIMARILY because of the FREE/SUBSIDISED education. They know it’s a good school, and the “Price is right”, but they are not prepared for a life of such military rules, discipline, and lack of individuality.
3. Academically, it’s a lot more challenging that most other schools. Not necessarily because of the course load, which is generally more than a traditional school, but because of the time restraints associated with all the other military activities and training involved.
But for those who truly do want to become commissioned officers and serve in the military, the training and experiences at the academy are essential. Your actual academic degree isn’t the main reason for the academy. You can learn academics in any educational institution. And no one believes that your degree in behavioral science or history is going to make you a better pilot, STO, Missile Ops, or other officer. (Caveat - some degrees may be part of your job, such as engineering or one of the sciences). It’s the military training and teaching you how to adapt to the stresses of the academy and the team concept that is the primary purpose of the academy. That’s what is going to train you to become a military leader. This is why the academy isn’t easy. You’re being forced to LEARN how to adapt. How to be part of the team. How to lead. Civilian schools don’t care about these things. Matter of fact, civilian schools care very little about you as an individual. As long as you pay your tuition, pass the classes, and don’t bring negative attention to their school, they could care less what you do outside of the school. And they could care less what happens to you after you graduate. They don’t care if you work at Pizza Hut, are homeless, or live in mom and dads basement for the next 40 years. The military isn’t like that. They care about the next 5-20 years. The impact you’ll have on the enlisted troops under your command. Performing a job that contributes to maintaining peace for our country.
Now, this isn’t to say the academy is the only place this can be achieved. ROTC is another Avenue. Granted, because they aren’t a 24/7 military environment, they have to achieve this with different methods. More concentrated training, summer programs, more selective on what you major in, etc. There’s a different type of commitment you have to demonstrate. But in the end, they too are trying to produce the same type of military,leader and officer.
So when you apply to the academies, realize that the academic education is secondary to why that institution exists and why you are there. You’re there to learn how to handle stress. Learn how to manage time. Learn how to deal with diverse individuals. Learn to be part of a team and something much larger than yourself. The Bachelor of Science degree is just an added bonus.
If you learn, understand, accept, and are ok with these truths, (and can see the big picture and look 4+ years down the road), then the academy can be a much easier place to handle and get through. Even the academics will become easier. But if you’re more interested in the academic side of the academy and your own individuality, then the academy will be much more difficult to get through, and/or you may find that it’s just not for you.