Decision Time: USNA or USMA


5-Year Member
Feb 3, 2014
I have been given an appointment to both USMA and USNA and now I have to choose, here's what is going through my mind:

USMA: I have always thought that I want to go to West Point. I've been a ArmyStrong guy for as long as I can remember. I attended SLE at West Point over the summer and absolutely loved it and visited again later in the summer with my family and it solidified my love for West Point. I recently went on another visit in early January to see what it was like during the academic year and it wasn't as fantastic. My host, his roommates, and a lot of the other freshman he hung out with said they did not enjoy it there and that they wish they would not have gone or wanted to transfer. I'd say about 70% of the students I talked to were in a poor or miserable mindset. This changed my outlook on USMA. I find myself to be a pretty mentally strong kid from my failing and overcoming many times in sports and other aspects of life, but it bothered me that so many kids weren't happy to be there. I definitely think I could handle USMA without becoming depressed, I'd just rather not be around kids who mope all the time. USMA has always been a goal of mine and is very near and dear to my heart, I can definitely see myself there.

USNA: I initially applied to Navy because I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone with the whole application process and seeking nominations, etc. I never considered it too much until I had my interview with my Blue and Gold officer and he spoke highly of all the opportunities I could have in the Navy and how much he loved Annapolis and USNA. Being from Indiana, I've always been more of a land guy so the whole "live on a ship for months at a time" idea is foreign to me, but I definitely think I can adjust. I'm also very interested in the Aerospace Engineering program there and the opportunity it gives me to become a pilot. I have a friend at the academy who's a plebe and absolutely loves it and in his biased opinion the mental attitude of students at USNA is more positive. I kind of let USNA fall to the way side again and concentrated on USMA until I got an LOA from them and realized that I should get a Nomination for Navy to guarantee myself a spot in an academy. Also, my less-than-stellar visit to USMA made me really want to consider Navy again.

I can definitely see myself at either academy. Navy gives me opportunities to try completely new things like aviation and life at sea, but Army will give me multitudes of opportunities as well. I fell in love with Army first and still at this time consider it my preference, but Navy started to present a lot of opportunities to me that I think would be interesting.

Any feedback or helpful advice would be awesome! I'm thinking out loud and figured I could post on here to get help. Thanks!
I know this sounds so cliché but follow your heart. I say this because I believe you will make the best of your situation if you go to Army. Your heart has been with Army, go with it.
Keep us posted and good luck.
First, as you know, no one here can answer that for you. You should be checking out what you would do after the academy to make a selection, or at least help in that regard. I'm also not saying the BGO over-hyped it (I didn't attend either academy) but he will pretty clearly have a bias towards USNA. Also, I would somewhat discount the feeling of the plebes at USMA. As I understand it, that how a plebe typically feels in the depths of winter during their plebe year at USMA.
First, as you know, no one here can answer that for you. You should be checking out what you would do after the academy to make a selection, or at least help in that regard. I'm also not saying the BGO over-hyped it (I didn't attend either academy) but he will pretty clearly have a bias towards USNA. Also, I would somewhat discount the feeling of the plebes at USMA. As I understand it, that how a plebe typically feels in the depths of winter during their plebe year at USMA.

I'm following this thread with more than casual interest as DS is in precisely the exact same situation. He's been armed with the research, access to graduates of both SA's, the visits, SLE and NASS, etc. Objectivity, an eye toward the future, potential opportunities that match his talents and then of course, what his heart tells him.

Going to be an interesting next two months.
Keep in mind you visited USMA during the "Dark Ages," or whatever it is they call it there. The time between Christmas and Spring Break is The Worst. It's cold, dark all the time, and you've just come back from enjoying yourself on leave to getting yelled at all the time. It sucks at either school, though it's easier when the gorgeous town of Annapolis is on the other side of the wall, not...Highland Falls.

So I wouldn't necessarily base your opinion on life at USMA from that.

It comes down to what you want to do. Both are excellent schools. Do you want to be in the Army? Or do you want to be in the Marine Corps/Navy? Think about lifestyle, MOS/branch interest, where you'd want to live, etc.
Also think about the people you've met from each one. Who would you want to spend nine-to-fourteen years with?

The only other thing I'll add is that USMA has the benefit in that their training is more focused, whereas USNA has to play to like four different masters. Since at USMA everyone's going into the same service and a lot go into combat arms (MFE? Whatever Army calls them) branches, that's what it seems like you spend a lot of time doing. USMA is also more willing than USNA to send cadets to "real" Army schools like airborne, air assault, mech leader, etc. There aren't a lot of schools like that mids go to very often (some go to airborne or dive school, but it's not nearly in the same proportion as at USMA), but that's because none of those schools would really help a mid after graduation.

USNA, conversely, sends huge chunks of each class to several very different things. As a result, while there's an emphasis on nautical science and you will spend some time on the water both at USNA and on summer training you can choose your own path. If you're interested in Marine Corps, you can gear your time at USNA towards that with FEXs and Leatherneck. If you want aviation, you can try the soaring summer trainings and go on a cruise with a squadron out in the fleet.

I wouldn't say I loved every minute of my time at USNA, but I wouldn't change a thing about going to USNA or the service I chose. I'm sure there's plenty of grads from both academies who will tell you the same thing.
Dear jmvogel,

If USMA has been your dream, I wouldn't put a whole lot of weight on comments made by your freshman USMA host. The month of January at a SA is a tough time; you're back at a rigorous military school after Xmas break, weather is dreary/dismal and 2nd semester academics start off with a vengeance. The USMA host and others you talked with were bound to complain and say negative things.

My DS is currently a plebe at USNA and he and his roommates (he is in a 4 man room) have had plenty of drags in the past few months. The picture these plebes paint for visiting HS seniors is not always pretty. When I ask DS if it is wise to complain and point out the negative, he says he is "honor bound" to tell the truth about the school (which includes the bad things). I'm afraid that sometimes he and his roomies might go overboard with describing SA drawbacks, but in actuality, he is really enjoying his Plebe year. For all his complaining, he doesn't want to be anywhere else (well at least most of the time - this winter weather has been pretty brutal for a CA kid).

I'm saying this, because if you were to do a Candidate Visit Weekend at USNA, you might find USNA plebes saying the same miserable things about their school. It's what plebes do. You will have to make up your mind based on a lot of different factors, but the comments of an unhappy freshman at USMA needs to be looked at with perspective. Sometimes I think my plebe takes pride in how "miserable" he claims to be; it is part of embracing the suck.

Wishing you the best! In the end, trust yourself - you will make the right decision.
hey man,

I cannot stress enough that you need to follow what YOU want to do. USMA suffers greatly from the "Dark Ages" which are a very real and depressing few months that you saw cadets in.

USMA will send you to awesome schools over summers, like Airborne, Air Assault, you will have chances to try out for advanced schools like Special Forces Selection, etc. The list goes on.

USMA also has a lot more academic opportunity than USNA. Way more majors.

The plebe summers at USNA and USMA are very different as well. I have friends at both and their experiences were vastly different. USNA seemed boring. During USMA plebe summer though, they shot all types of weapon systems and rucked everywhere, went on field training exercises, and did a lot of cool stuff. There is a big combat arms focus at USMA, and most of the instructors there are all military and combat veterans, something you cannot say about USNA instructors.

HOWEVER, USNA does have more variety for opportunities after. You can go Marines (air or ground) or Navy (air, surface warfare, subs, limited special ops, etc). If you are Army then go for it. It is our main land fighting branch
Agree re the Dark Ages. I think that, had you visited at the end of March, there would have been a huge difference in attitude -- or, if you'd visited USNA in the Dark Ages, it would have depressed you.:smile:

Ask yourself this question . . . "If I hadn't been accepted at USMA but only at USNA, would I have been disappointed?" Then ask the same question but reverse the schools. Or, on a more positive note, which appointment excited you most.

I should tell you that, originally, I was gung-ho for USCGA. My visit changed my mind to USNA. NOT that USCGA wasn't -- and isn't -- a terrific school but b/c certain things about the school AT THAT TIME, caused me to hesitate. Did I make the right decision? I hope so.

Whatever you decide, DO NOT LOOK BACK. Give it 100% and you'll be fine.
I think you got the old "Ain't we got it tough" song and dance. That has mixed results with young women cadets and mids are trying to impress too.

You can always ask them "If it is so bad, why do you stay?" and relish the awkward silence that seems to follow.

Kinnem's advice is spot on, though.
Have you had a CVW at USNA? If you haven't visited the school, then I strongly recommend you request one so that you have some firsthand knowledge. I think it is absolutely necessary that you visit any school you're seriously considering.
At your age I was positive that I would go to the Point, but things intervened and I went to USNA. For me it was very fortuitous; I still love the school and the opportunities it presented for me.
Best wishes, but it seems to me you have a little more factfinding to do.
I had the same choice to make but in the end I went where my heart was (as cliche as that sounds). You visited USMA at a bad time and of course the Plebes were unhappy, I'm sure if you had done a CVW at the same time you would have experienced similar sentiments coming from the Plebes. If you haven't taken a CVW I suggest you do, I did overnights at both schools and it helped me make my decision like nothing else. Good luck and I hope you make the right decision for you.


One other very important thing is service selection, your post academy career will be longer than your time at the academy no matter what so take that into account as well.
Our son, who has been USNA through-and-through for 2 years now, just visited Annapolis on a candidate visitation weekend a few weeks ago. He was shocked at how much negative feedback he received from the many plebes he spoke to during his 2 days on the yard. It certainly gave him pause as he realized just how hard plebe year can be on a young man's psyche.

A few days later, his confidence and determination returned when news of a BFE arrived in our household.

In retrospect, we should have emphasized to our son to try to talk with upperclassmen as well during his CVW. You probably would have been wise to do the same. Nevertheless, my point is that 4th class year is going to be tough sledding no matter which service academy you choose. You are going to run into dis-spirited classmates in either institution -- and you may find out that your own spirits are challenged from time to time. Don't make your selection based on that winter visit you took to USMA.
Summer training has been expanded dramatically over the last two years. Airborne, Air Assault, NAVSCOLEOD, USMC Mountain Warfare Training are now available to all classes and the billets have increased since last year. MAGTF has also been opened up this year to rising 2/C. I've also seen LRECs involving interaction and training with foreign special warfare units (they're not always about language learning). And ECAs like Infantry Skills and Semper Fi are still around as always.

USNA is a lot less focused than USMA, but you can still focus yourself as an individual on a certain path if you wish.
Congrats on the fine achievements. My DS visited the USNA during the dark ages 4 years ago. The negative talk was so bad he decided not to attend the academy. As others have posted, its normal for plebes to be complaining a lot during these times so don't weigh this much on your decision. Did my son make the wrong decision-who knows.. He will commission in May from a great college where he has a 2 year scholarship and is headed to Charleston for Subs. IMO base your decision on what you want to do after you graduate. Best of luck
Don't base your decision on the comments of the Plebes you visited . The months of January and February in the Northeast are difficult. It is dark , cold and dreary most of the time. It saps the spirits of everyone, not just plebes at USMA or USNA.

Base your decision on what you would like to do after your 4 years at either academy.

Best of luck to you :thumb:
During junior year, my DS was only considering USNA, but his BGO strongly encouraged him to consider USMA so he could make more of an informed decision. The BGO went so far as to encourage attendance at SLE to see what USMA was truly about. My son went to both SLE and NASS over a two week period. In between After SLE and before NASS, I had him write down what he liked and disliked about USMA. After NASS, I had my son do the same so he could evaluate his likes and dislikes if a decision had to be made. My son received nominations to both USMA and USNA along with appointments to each. DS ultimately chose USNA, but after attending SLE and talking to cadets, the decision was not as easy as he thought it would be. Overall, I am glad he had a tough decision, since there was a lot to consider not just for classes and training he would receive, but for the career after academy life and career after military life.
Army vs Navy

My DD is in exactly the same position. Army or Navy. We have suggested she talk to a few graduates 2-3 years out and see if what they are doing is something she can see Herself doing and enjoying. She loved her visits to both academies. For her it's about the destination as well as the journey. Good Luck!