Lack of Varsity Letter

Seeking Knowledge

10-Year Member
Oct 25, 2008
Hi all,

My Junior is starting on the service academy journey. She is a very good student in a magnet school that had competitive entrance admissions and where all classes are taught at the honors level. The school does not rank students nor weight grades. She holds an officer position in NJROTC. Her high school offers NO athletics. She is a strong swimmer and worked as an ocean lifeguard @ a Federal Govt Park this summer. All summer long she kept up in her swimming w/ her co-workers who are varsity swimmers in high school and college, but she herself does not swim competitively...she's just good at it. Is this a deal-breaker for the service academies? Are varsity letters mandatory? How can this be overcome?

BTW this is my first post here.

Thanks for any input.
First, welcome to a long process. To answer your question: it is not a "deal breaker" to not have a varsity letter. Is it a plus, sure, but so are many other activities. The academies are not looking to fill their classes with tons of "varsity" athletes, but rather people who are involved in any number of activities and show commitment to those activities they participate in.

If your daughter was very worried that this would be a deal breaker she could always join the local swim team and compete at that level instead of at a school level. I think they have swim teams like that if I'm not mistaken. I would not do this at the expense of grades or another preferred activity though.

Best of luck on the journey, this site can help answer many questions you or your daughter may have so welcome aboard.
Admissions looks at athletics for more than just the physical fitness aspects - teamwork, small-unit cohesion, dealing with adversity, as well as how you can manage your time with a full and busy schedule.

For the Class of 2012: Varsity Letter winners averaged around 80%-85% for each of the SA's.

Important? Yes. Mandatory? No.

Someone makes up the other 15% - 20%. :wink:
Our DS had no varsity sports, HOWEVER...He workeed as thhe Sr lifeguard at our why for 20 hrs a week during the school yr for 2 yrs while in Tae Kwon Do.

So did he have a traditional athletic background, but he did have athletics. The AFA asked for letters from both his coach and boss to explain the athletic level he was involved in.

The AFA does get the fact that some kids are athletic in a non traditional role. I can't speak for any of the other SA's since our DS only applied to the AFA
If the school doesn't offer athletics, it's kind of hard to be on a varsity sport, let alone earn a varsity letter.:smile:

Seriously, if it can't be done, it can't be done. One option (if you are a junior -- a bit late for seniors at this point) is to join a community team and demonstrate excellence. This, quite frankly, is easier to do with individual sports, where there are times or other indicia of personal achievement. However, there are still benefits with team leagues and this will help with the teamwork aspect.

I would also mention the school's lack of atheletics to your BGO and to your nominating committee (during your interview) and discuss what things you have done to demonstrate the things a varsity letter usually shows (strong athletics and teamsmanship).

As noted above, even though ~80% of successful candidates are varsity athletes, ~20% are not. So not a deal breaker, especially when it's beyond your control.