The Role of Blue and Gold Officers

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by usna1985, Mar 11, 2017.

  1. usna1985

    usna1985 10-Year Member

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    Below is a sticky that I posted years ago and have recently updated. It provides information in FAQ format on the role of BGOs, BGO interviews and related topics as well as answer questions frequently asked on this site about BGOs.

    PLEASE NOTE: While every attempt has been made to make this sticky accurate, the information below has not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by USNA.

    What is a BGO and what is his/her role?

    BGO stands for Blue & Gold Officer. BGOs are volunteers who typically have some affiliation with USNA in addition to being a BGO. Many are USNA graduates. Some are parents of current mids or grads. Most BGOs are civilians but some are active duty military. Those who are on active duty do BGO work as volunteers -- in other words, it's not their full-time job.

    BGOs are primarily there to be the personification of the Candidate Guidance Office (Admissions). With roughly 20,000 applications per year, CGO can’t personally advise and interview every candidate. Thus, CGO relies on a network of BGOs to do this on their behalf.

    There are more than 3,000 BGO, each of whom is generally assigned to one or more high schools. In any given year, each BGO may be working with between one and twenty-five candidates. BGOs are responsible for conducting the BGO interview that is required as part of the application package. They answer questions from candidates and often will present the appointment certificate at a school ceremony.

    Is the BGO really an "officer?"

    Despite the nomenclature, not necessarily. Most BGOs are grads, meaning that they have at some point been an officer. Some are still on active duty. Some may be reservists and some may be retired officers. However, many have left the service before reaching retirement, so they are now civilians, albeit former officers. There are also BGOs who have never served in the military -- they could be parents, spouses, or other relatives of mids or grads, school counselors, etc. However, all BGOs, including these individuals, have generally attended a week of training at USNA when they started and then, once every five years, an additional week of training or a one-day condensed training session.

    How do I contact my BGO?

    On June 1 of your rising senior year, your BGO should be listed in the Candidate Information System ("CIS"). At the same time, the BGO learns that you are his/her student through the BGO on-line system. IMO, the best way to make initial contact with your BGO is via email. After that, you and the BGO can sort out the best way to stay in touch. You can also find out your BGO via your high school guidance/career counselor.

    Do I have to wait until June? Isn't there another way to find out this information?

    You can find out who your BGO is by contacting your school guidance counselor. If he/she doesn't know, go to the USNA catalog (available on-line at usna.edu/admissions under "catalog") and it will list the Area Coordinators ("AC") (usually one per state) with contact info. Contact your AC who will provide your BGO's contact info.

    Do I need to talk to me BGO prior to my senior year?

    No. BGOs are happy to talk with you prior to your senior year, especially if you have specific questions. But you do not need to get to know your BGO in advance to make a good impression or for any other reason. Many, if not most, successful candidates meet their BGO for the first time at the BGO interview and then again maybe at a presentation ceremony. Other candidates may have more frequent contact. It really depends on the BGO and the candidate.

    Help! I emailed/called my BGO and he/she hasn’t called me back. What do I do?

    First, wait a few days and try again. Remember, BGOs are volunteers who have jobs and lives outside of their BGO responsibilities. They take vacations (especially in the summer), they travel for business, they get sick, they don’t check email, etc. Thus, the fact you don’t receive an immediate response doesn’t mean the BGO doesn’t care. It simply may take a bit of time. If it is truly an emergency, you can contact CGO directly. If repeated attempts to contact your BGO over a period of several weeks are unsuccessful, you can always reach out to your Area Coordinator for assistance.

    Why hasn’t my BGO scheduled my interview yet?

    BGOs are not required to interview candidates who have submitted less than 1/3 of their packets to USNA. The reason is that many candidates listed in the system (because they attended NASS, etc.) have no intention of following through with their applications. Others start their application but never get beyond submitting one or two items. Thus, once you've submitted 1/3 to 1/2 of your package, you should expect to receive a call/email asking to set up an interview. Some BGOs are more “proactive” and try to get all their interviews done in early summer. Others may wait (often due to personal schedule) until more of a candidate’s packet is complete. If you have 80% or more of your packet into USNA and still haven’t heard from your BGO, I suggest you contact him/her.

    What will my BGO interview be like?

    There is no one answer to this because every BGO does things somewhat differently. Below, I’ve tried to address some specific questions about the interview.

    Where will it take place?

    Typically, the interview will occur at your house, at the BGO’s house, or occasionally at the BGO’s place of work or "neutral" site such a public library.

    Should my parent(s) attend?

    BGOs are happy to talk with your parent(s) but primarily want to talk with you alone. If the interview is in your home and your parents are there, it makes sense to have them meet with your BGO with you present, if they have questions about the process. If you meet your BGO somewhere else, I would not take your parents unless: (1) your BGO asks to meet them or (2) they have specific questions. They obviously can drive you to the interview but should stay in the car initially. If they do have questions, they can speak to the BGO after your interview (when they pick you up). If your parents are anxious about USNA or the military or do have questions, the BGO is a great person for them to speak with.

    What should I wear to my BGO interview?

    Below is only my opinion. I like to see candidates dress in a way that conveys this interview is an important part of their day. Most men come in a collared shirt, pressed slacks (chinos are OK), and non-athletic shoes with socks; women dress along the same lines. I cut folks some slack when the temp is 98 degrees with 98% humidity. Sweat gear, shorts, shoes without socks, ratty T-shirts, torn jeans and the like should be avoided. Dressing more formally (coat & tie) is certainly appropriate and some BGOs may expect it. I realize that, in some areas, jeans and a T-shirt are "dressing up." BGOs live where you live and will understand dress codes in the area. Also, if the interview is in your home, still dress appropriately. For example, bare feet should be avoided. A good rule of thumb is to dress as you would for a funeral or an afternoon wedding.

    What does my BGO know about me?

    A lot less than you might think. Due to privacy concerns, your BGO actually has very little information about you. In particular, we do NOT have access to your teacher recommendations, activities record, transcript, class rank, or CFA scores.

    We do know your name, your address, your h.s., your NASS status (attended, turned down, didn't apply), if you're being recruited for a sport and which one, your highest SAT/ACT scores, what noms you have received, the "status" of your application (which items have been submitted and on what date), your medical status (qualified, incomplete, rejected -- but NOT the reasons for lack of qualification), your CFA status (pass/fail) but not your scores, and your admissions status. As you can see, it's not very much. So, when we ask you about your grades, activities, etc., it's because we don't know and want to know.

    What questions will the BGO ask?

    There are certain “mandatory” topics – things USNA expects BGOs to cover. These include: candidate's understanding of plebe summer, limited majors, and the honor concept. Is the candidate interested in NAPS or Foundation? Is the candidate pursuing NROTC? What is the likely service selection?

    However, most BGOs will discuss much more and will weave these topics into a much broader discussion of your interests, motivation, activities, sports, family military background, etc. BGOs will often go over the USNA and nomination processes, assess where you stand in terms of deadlines, ask about NASS (if you participated) and many other things. There is no interview “script.”

    Do I need to ask questions?

    No. However, I personally find it surprising that a candidate has no questions about anything to do with USNA or the application process. That said, you should ask questions for which you want an answer, not just to fill time.

    What sorts of things might I want to bring up?

    If there is something about you that you want USNA to know and isn't obvious from your application packet, this is a great place to bring it up. In some cases, it could be "hardship" related -- you're an orphan, you have to take care of your siblings after school, you work every day after school and on WEs, English isn't the language spoken in your home, etc. It could be an activity or interest that is hard to describe elsewhere -- maybe you are a state chess champion or excel at cricket or ran a fundraising campaign for a charity that raised the most money ever. I'm not suggesting that everyone must have something to add -- I would say that most do not -- but if you do, this is the time to raise it.

    How long will the interview last?

    Again, it depends. Most of mine run about an hour. I know BGOs who finish in 30 minutes and some who spend up to two hours.

    How do I prepare for the BGO Interview?

    First of all, it’s not an exam. You should approach it as a job interview – be relaxed, be yourself, but don’t treat it like a night out with your high school friends. I suggest you think through (do NOT memorize) questions you’re likely to get. These are quite frankly the same types of questions you may get from the nominating committees for your MOCs.

    You should read about USNA. Read the usna.edu site. Read the catalog (available on-line). There are books on life at USNA, Internet forums, newspaper articles, etc., all available to you. No one expects you to be an expert on USNA – that’s why you have a BGO – but to sit in an interview and say you want to major in religion (there is no such major at USNA) or want more than anything to be on the varsity archery team (there is no such varsity sport at USNA) makes you look unprepared. Show the BGO that you have made some effort to understand what you’re getting into.

    If you need help with preparation, ask a neighbor, teacher, guidance counselor, pastor, etc. to take you through a mock interview. For some that is helpful but for others it’s actually more stressful than the real thing. At the end of the day, most candidates find their BGO interviews interesting and even fun – and often forget they are “interviews.” Thus, unless you have very poor communication skills, you should do fine with no preparation.

    You may want to bring a copy of your “resume” (h.s. activity sheet). BGOs don’t have access to this information and it helps us remember points of your interview. You may also want to bring a copy of your essay.

    What are some things I should NOT do?

    (1) Lie. It should go without saying but it happens. Do not embellish your “resume.” Don’t say you turned in your packet when you didn’t.

    (2) Denigrate other services or academies. Other than on the football field three hours each year (and in some cases not even that), the military looks at members of other branches as comrades in arms. It's OK to be really interested in USMA or one of the other SAs as well as Navy.

    (3) Be a “know it all” about USNA. I guarantee that, in most cases, you don’t know as much about USNA as your BGO, even if you did go to NASS or your sibling attends USNA. Don’t assume that, because your BGO graduated 10, 20, or even 50 years ago, that he/she is clueless. Most BGOs stay very involved in USNA life, attend regular BGO training, etc.

    (4) Lack social skills. Don’t chew gum. Don’t use “like” in a sentence except as a simile or as a synonym for “enjoy.” Do look the BGO in the eye.

    What type of report does the BGO fill out after the interview?

    The BGO is required to do an interview write-up that basically summarizes the interview. We must cover topics such as communications skills, physical fitness, organizational skills, interest and motivation, etc. We’re encouraged to add additional comments that would help USNA know more about you.

    My system shows the BGO still hasn't submitted the interview write-up. What do I do?

    Most BGOs try to get their write-ups done within a few days after the interview. However, as mentioned above, BGOs do have other commitments and it may take a week or more before the interview is entered into the system. If you find that more than three weeks have gone by AND most, if not all, of the rest of your packet is complete, I suggest contacting the BGO and politely asking if he/she has had a chance to enter his/her interview comments. It's possible the BGO simply forgot.

    What happens if my packet has been 100% complete for over a month and I still haven't had my BGO interview? Will USNA review my package?

    As a general rule, Admissions won't review a package until it's 100% complete, which includes the BGO interview. If your packet is complete except for the BGO interview before September/October, USNA will most likely wait. If interviews are "overdue," individual BGOs get "nastygrams" reminding them that one or more of their candidates has a completed package but for the interview and to please get it done. If it still doesn't get done after a couple of weeks, the Area Coordinator may reassign the candidate to a BGO who has time to conduct the interview; this may be impossible in some geographic regions. At some point, USNA simply reviews the package without the BGO interview. If the interview is later submitted, it is EXTREMELY unlikely to cause a change in the determination, especially if the original determination was favorable.

    How much can the BGO interview help or hurt me?

    That is very difficult to answer. If the BGO really likes you as a candidate, it might be a small help. Again, this has nothing to do with whether you and the BGO "get along"; rather, it's how the BGO perceives you as a candidate. If the BGO has -- AND CAN DOCUMENT -- significant concerns, it could hurt.

    So what might those "significant concerns" include?

    Let's say you're 5'6" and 300 pounds and are huffing and puffing as you walk into the room. That would raise concerns with re physical fitness. Or you say that the only reason you want to attend USNA is because your parents want you to get a "free" education. That creates concerns about interest and motivation. Or, you say you aren't involved in any activities inside or outside of school, don't work, don't help raise your family -- IOW, all you do outside of the classroom is play video games, watch TV and hang out with your friends. That could be a problem.

    Do BGOs have any "vote" in the admissions process?

    Outside of the interview, no. We don't sit on the admissions board and aren't contacted by the board.

    Does my BGO know when I receive an appointment or a turndown?

    Yes, but in almost all cases, after you are told.

    I'm reapplying -- will I have the same BGO?

    In most cases, yes. And, yes, the BGO will be asked to conduct a second interview. Ask your BGO or Area Coordinator to set you up for an interview with an new BGO. IOW, try to get 2 BGO interviews. Why? Chances are that the views of your initial BGO won't have changed much. If he/she gave you a good write-up last year, you'll get another good one. A second BGO saying you're great can help. Likewise, if you got a lukewarm write-up, unless you’ve done a lot to address your weaknesses, the BGO's opinion probably won't have changed. Even if it has -- and he/she now thinks you're great, it can only help to have another BGO confirm that. Also, in most cases, your college will be away from home and you can asked to be reassigned to a BGO who lives near your college.

    Below are some questions from forum members:

    My BGO is not very helpful and seemed to have limited knowledge about the Naval Academy. Most of my questions were answered with "I don't know" or "You should call the academy. I bet they would know."

    Some BGOs are more experienced, engaged, etc. than others. Beyond that, there are questions to which BGOs simply don't know the answer. Why? USNA provides "full" training every 5 years with limited training in between. The training covers the major points that most BGOs need to know but can't possibly address every issue that might come up. Unless the BGO has come across the issue before, he/she doesn't know the answer. Rather than guess or give a wrong answer, BGOs typically suggest the candidate contact CGO. We can do it on your behalf, but we won't get the answer any faster than you can on your own.

    What options does a candidate have in the unusual situation where their assigned BGO is unresponsive, unhelpful, seen as a detriment, or unable to carry out their duties due to an unforeseen situation?

    The candidate should contact Area Coordinator who can, at his/her discretion, reassign the candidate to another BGO. Please note that this is only done in extenuating circumstances and not because the candidate has negative views about his/her assigned BGO.

    [For Parents] I know my child should be contacting the BGO or CGO. But my child is in school all day and has sports after school. Would it be all right for me to contact his BGO just to confirm that the email my son sent him was received?

    Your child should do it. Trust me, he/she has time to call and text his/her friends and thus has time to call/email the BGO. The one exception is if your child is away for an extended period -- which could happen over the summer -- and unable to check email and you happen to see an email from the BGO then, yes, I would contact him/her and note your child is away and will be returning on X date. Or, if the BGO's email address or phone number is wrong (for whatever reason, the BGO has YOUR contact info, which isn't your child's contact info). The better move is to have your child correct it but, in divorce and other situations, I’ve had parents contact me to give me the right contact info for their child.

    Could you give some real world examples of some reasons you have not recommended a candidate for something other than not wanting to attend?

    Let me preface my comments by saying that it's extremely rare for me to "not recommend" a candidate. I may not give a strong recommendation to some folks, but a flat out "not recommended" is not something I do routinely or lightly. And when I do, it's for objective reasons as further described below, not because I didn't "like" him or her.

    It's not usually about the candidate "saying" the wrong thing. It's about an interview that suggests to me that the candidate won't be a good fit at USNA. Below are some real-world examples with some details changed for anonymity. Of note, it's never ONE of the items below that leads to a "non-recommendation"; it's always a combination that causes me to believe the candidate and USNA aren't the right match.

    1. Being totally unfamiliar with USNA – the candidate has made no effort to learn about the school. These days, there is a wealth of free and readily available information for those who care enough to read it. I often ask candidates if they've read the USNA catalog and/or what they've done to learn about USNA. I don't expect people to be "experts" on USNA, but having made no time or effort to learn about a school where you want to spend the next four years of your life suggests to me that you don't care. Examples: (A) Candidate who had no idea what majors were available at USNA and admitted he/she hadn't read the website or catalog. Wanted to major in sociology. (B) Candidate who had no idea that there was a Plebe Summer, let alone any concept of what the summer was like.

    2. Not challenging oneself. USNA is looking for people who take the toughest courses while pursuing ECAs and sports. Taking the "easy way out" in h.s. isn't setting a good course for USNA. Examples: (A) Dropping a difficult course/not pursuing a sport because "I don't have time to do it with my [sports/ECAs/academics]." (B) Not planning to complete Eagle Scout project because "I'm too busy." To be clear, I'm not expecting people to overcommit; these are candidates who have very few activities or involvement in those activities and when asked why suggest they don't have time or have "quit" on an activity when they should have been taking a leadership role.

    3. No leadership. Seriously, none. There are infinite opportunities to lead or take charge of an organization or activity and making no effort to do that is a negative. Example: Q: "What have you done in the last two years in or outside of school in terms of leadership." A: "Nothing really. I mostly just volunteer." There's nothing wrong with volunteering but why didn't you try to lead a project or activity or find ways to make it better? Are you content simply to be a follower?

    4. Lack of organized sports. Not everyone has to be a varsity athlete. That said, lack of participation in any organized sport in or out of school suggests the candidate may not like athletics or sports which could be an issue given the prominence of athletics/sports at USNA. Example: Candidate's only athletic/sports activity is skateboarding "for fun."

    5. Not doing anything productive during the summer. This is a biggie for me. I don't really care what candidates do (internships, sports camps, work, volunteer activities, even a few weeks of vacation) but want to see them do something. Show me you used your time productively. Example answers "Not much." "I worked on college applications." Guarantee the candidate didn't work on applications 8 hours/day, 5 days a week, for 12 weeks. What did he/she do the rest of the time other than play video games?

    6. Not applying for all noms to which you're eligible. To me, this goes to motivation. Examples: "I didn't realize the deadline was so early." "When is the deadline?" [BTW, why are you asking me?] "I didn't get around to it." And, for the VP nom, "I didn't want to spend the time filling out the paperwork since the odds are so small."

    7. Not completing your application package in a timely manner. This also goes to motivation. Completing 2/3 of your package the week of the Jan. 31 deadline tells me this wasn't a high priority for you (especially if coupled with not doing anything over the summer and especially when you tell me that you've already been accepted to ABC civilian college, which meant you managed to get that application in before the one to USNA). There is a difference between finishing in early January and completing 75% of your packet in the final 3 days.

    8. Lying. I've had it happen twice in 15 years when I caught a candidate flat-out lying. In one case, the candidate swore up and down that he had submitted all of his packet except the BGO interview. My records showed he'd only submitted his SATs. He NEVER submitted the remainder. Another time, the candidate told me that his teachers had failed to submit their interviews on time even though he'd given the information to them months earlier. Turns out, he'd given them the info only days before. Folks, don't do it, just don't.

    9. Things that are annoying and don't bode well but, in and of themselves aren't deal breakers: (A) not making eye contact; (B) saying "like" more than 100 times in the first 15 minutes of the interview; (C) wearing clothing that suggest the interview was not an important part of your day; (D) showing up significantly late; (E) spelling my name wrong in your email.

    The above are merely some examples. There can be legitimate reasons for a candidate falling into one or more of the above categories. That's why no single item is fatal and every interview is unique.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
  2. Stephensweeney

    Stephensweeney New Member

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    Does interview play a big role for homeschoolers?
     
  3. MittenMan

    MittenMan Member

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    You need to look at every interview as important - BGO, Senator, Congressperson and anyone else that asks why you want to attend a SA. And the interviews never stop even after this. Scholarships, job opportunities, promotions and many other opportunities that you will interview for through life. So yes, its important.
    Our DS was home schooled and he took every interview with the mind set; I'm serious about this, I want this and I'm not kidding. He was a re-applicant is currently a youngster at USNA, so he had two BGO interviews. Took same mindset both times and did well.

    Re-read 1985's post above very closely; there are some great clues there. Good luck!
     
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  4. usna1985

    usna1985 10-Year Member

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    I've not heard anything to suggest BGO interviews play a larger role for homeschoolers than for other candidates. However, this is an excellent time for a homeschooler to describe what he/she has done in terms of leadership, athletics, ECAs, etc. as a homeschooler's situation may be different from that of a traditional student. In some areas, there may be a BGO dedicated to homeschoolers who is thus very familiar with how homeschooling works. In other areas, you may be the first homeschooled student a BGO has ever worked with. If that is the case, be prepared to describe how the process works for you -- don't assume the BGO is an expert.
     
  5. Dwight02

    Dwight02 Member

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    Random question, but does everyone who sends in a preliminary application receive a packet for the real application process?
     
  6. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Moderator 5-Year Member

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    No, not everyone becomes an official candidate for admission.

    If a preliminary application is opened (usually by applying to NASS also known as Summer Seminar) and is deemed not to be reasonably competitive, that applicant will not receive the "official candidate" notification.

    USNA admissions has posted in the past:
    "If the information provided in your Preliminary Application indicates your record is strong enough, you will become an official candidate for admission and you will receive a candidate information letter as early as the July prior to your high school senior year. Upon completion of your candidate file, the Admissions Board will review your record."

    This link should be helpful:
    https://www.usna.edu/Admissions/Steps-for-Admission/index.php#panel66OfficialCandidate
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
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  7. Dwight02

    Dwight02 Member

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    Ok, and how can I find the general standards for how competitive my preliminary application is?
     
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  8. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Moderator 5-Year Member

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  9. usna1985

    usna1985 10-Year Member

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    They usually base your initial determination on SAT scores. 600/600 will definitely do it. I’ve seen lower verbal scores. And, if you’re a recruited athlete, you can become an official candidate with much lower scores. That doesn’t, however, mean you’ll be admitted.
     
  10. redwhitebluemom

    redwhitebluemom Member

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    This was extremely helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write this post.
     
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  11. usnausafa2023

    usnausafa2023 Member

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    After the BGO interview, you are given a not recommended or recommended status, but does the recommended status go into any more depth? Strongly recommended, highly recommended, etc.
     
  12. A6E Dad

    A6E Dad BGO

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    Short answer is 'yes'
    This is usually the only part of the application process where a representative of USNA actually meets and observes the candidate firsthand. As such, the BGO interview writeup that gets submitted is a fairly comprehensive, much more that just checking a recommended/not recommended box.
    Don't get hung up on the specific metrics, just put forth your best 'you' and the rest will take care of itself.
    Another way to look at it - make sure, through your research, that you have a very good understanding of the things that USNA is looking for in an ideal candidate, then make sure that these things come across loud and clear in the interview.
    Best of luck
     
  13. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    The BGO input form includes evaluation in number of categories, with a graduated scale from Top 5% to Not Observed, and an Overall Evaluation that ranges from Top 5% to Not Recommended. There is also a narrative section for details, and the narrative is used to support the ranking.

    Agree 100%. The BGO ranking is pretty subjective, without any objective criteria for what is Top 5%, Above Average, Average , etc. One BGO's Top 5% maybe another BGO's Above. Admissions knows this as well, and I would expect that they take the ranking with a grain of salt, and look more closely at the narrative and the other more objective factors like WCS, SAT/ACT's , activities in the applications than the rank assigned.
     
  14. S_Austin

    S_Austin Member

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    My DS had almost a three hours with his BGO. We were next door at the neighbor watching anxiously to see when the BGO car would leave. It was way past my bedtime. Is 3 hours interview normal and a good sign that the two connected? DS keeps me up to date with the process but very hush-hush about the content. Thank you very for the contents.
     
  15. MidCakePa

    MidCakePa Member

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    BGO was at our place for almost three hours, with first 30 minutes focused on parental units’ questions and concerns. For comparison, USAFA interview went two hours via Skype, without parent time. Both SAs offered appointment. So seems normal and promising. Best wishes to your DS.
     
  16. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    You might get more response in the Main Forum below, but the short answer is no one really knows. Every BGO is different, and every candidate's experience is different. From my perspective, 3 hours is long - especially late in the evening. My interviews are usually 1-1.5 hours, without Parents.
     
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  17. GoCubbies

    GoCubbies Member

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    The BGO chatted with my DD and us for about 50 minutes. He then interviewed DD for another 70-75 mins.
     
  18. OldRetSWO

    OldRetSWO USNA 78/parent 11/BGO for >25yrs 5-Year Member

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    I have had interviews take 3 hours in the past. . . especially with parents not familiar with USNA
     
  19. ders_dad

    ders_dad Member

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    BGO chatted with DW and me for about 25 minutes up-front and with me for about 10 minutes after the interview. Interview with DS was about 90 minutes. BGO told DS ahead of time how long it would be and he was nearly spot-on.
     
  20. MidCakePa

    MidCakePa Member

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    One way to dramatically shorten the BGO interview is to say how much you look forward to attending college along the Hudson.