I totally agree. I am not going to say which academy is better or worse academically. I have my preference and everyone knows that. Personally, I believe that a young person who is interested in the academy, SHOULD pretty much know in their heart which branch they want. I'm not saying that they might not have doubts, but there should be little question about which one they want. Maybe the decision is based on family ancestry and tradition. Maybe it's based on what you want to do once commissioned. E.g. pilot, nuclear energy, engineer, etc... What does concern me, and nothing personal against the original poster so don't MISREAD what I'm saying, is that there are a lot of times where questions comparing the different academies come up where it is so easy to see the poster's underlying motivation. They are interested in going to a top notch school to get a top notch education.
Now, is there anything wrong with that? No. But, in my humble opinion, a college education should NOT be the primary reason for attending a military academy. It should be in the type of military officer it can prepare you to be, so you can most effectively lead our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines during peace time and at times of war. Sorry, but that is what I truly believe. Some people may feel that they will become a better officer, because of their personality and style, if they attend ROTC. Again, another great choice. Some, find their "Calling" later on after having graduated from college on their own. Again, a good decision. The academy is another means to a goal.
Let's be totally honest. There are 5 types of people when discussing the military. Those who are totally against it. (They aren't part of this discussion). They who are very supportive of the military, but it's just not for them personally. I can respect that. It's definitely not for everyone. But, of the remaining who do attend the military, there are 3 types. Those who really aspire to be in the military. Whether it's as an enlisted person or officer after college. They have wanted the military for years. This is what they have dreamed of. Obviously, those are the ones you hope are enlisting. Then there's those who join for the sole purpose of the benefits. Whether it's a free education; medical/dental; retirement after 20 years; etc... These folks have no problem serving; whether it's 4 years enlisted, 5 years out of the academy, or up to 20 years and a retirement. For them however, the priority has been the benefits, and they are willing to back a certain price through service for those benefits. Maybe a different set of priorities, but understandable. I prefer those who want to serve, even if the benefits weren't there. They now there are benefits, but their primary priority is serving. When you see pro football players leaving the game, in order to serve, then you understand. That's how many of our fathers and grandfathers were during WWII. Of course, there's also the 3rd group. Those who have graduated high school or college and have nothing else lined up. The military is a place that is an option to get them out from where they are. Again, nothing wrong with this, just that a person needs to recognize this and admit it to THEMSELVES.
No one has to admit publicly that they are joining the military because they have nothing else going for them; or that they are in it for the benefits; or that they want to serve and that's the only reason. All anyone should do is be true to themselves. At least admit to yourself WHY you are serving. Then you can make the best choice.
The academy however is a very unique situation. Whether it's air force, west point, Annapolis, coast guard or merchant marines, the scenario is the same. This is the number 1 place where military officers are born. Nothing against commissioning via ROTC or OTS, but academy officers are a different breed. Generally speaking, they will usually go further and higher in their military career. And in my opinion, rightfully so. So, when choosing the academy, any academy, I personally believe that it should be for the person who's dream is to be a military officer when they grow up. To serve their country during peace time and war. To lead young men and women under their command to protect and defend our country's values, morals, and way of life. That this is the number one priority. The fact that they will give you a 4 year college education, healthcare, etc... is secondary and appreciated. But NOT the reason for going. As such, you should know what you want to do in the military. Then, it's as simple as seeing which academy can help you accomplish your goals. If you really want to be a pilot or work in the aerospace world, the Air Force is the obvious choice. If you are into nuclear energy, oceanography, marine biology, etc... then the navy is probably the right choice. Maybe you are really into serving with homeland security, drug interdiction, border security, safety, etc... Then the coast guard is a good choice. Same with the army if your desire is civil engineering, political science, foreign affairs, mechanical engineering. But, when the first question is; "Which academy has the best school" or "What are the differences in the academies"; I tend to lean towards believing that service to one's country is not the primary reason for wanting to attend the academy.
Basically, I see nothing wrong with applying to all 5 academies. As long as you can say; this is my number 1 academy because this is what I want to do to serve my country. Then, this is number 2, 3, 4, and 5 if I can't get accepted into my number 1. Again, no one has to admit their motives publicly. As long as they know deep down inside why they are wanting to attend a military academy, that is up to them. If they truly want to serve; then they probably already know which academy they want. If they are doing it just for the education, then they will "Put Up" with the military for their 5 years of service, plus their 4 years of college. But, that is why the academy only requires a payback of 5 years. Because they know that while many people who attend really want this and will probably stay in beyond 5 years, there will be those who will leave after 5 years because their priorities were different.