The following are questions that are frequently asked by candidates and their parents who are applying to -- or interested in applying to -- USNA. Note: Although every effort has been made to be accurate, these have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by USNA. Also, the information below applies to USNA. It may or may not apply to other SAs; if you are applying to USMA, USAFA, USMMA, or USCGA, please consult those forums for information specific to those SAs. Am I competitive? Will I get in? What are my chances? [And similar questions] The answer is that NO ONE KNOWS. Seriously, there is no way anyone on this forum can give you anything more than a general reaction to the information you post. We’ve never met you. We haven’t seen any of your packet; thus, we haven’t seen your teacher recs, your activity sheet, your BGO interview summary, your CFA scores, etc. We don’t know if you’ve been arrested for drugs/DUI or have been suspended from school. Nor do we know if you have special circumstances that might help you – i.e., having to work to support your family, being heavily recruited for a sport. Not to mention, we’re relying on your word/honesty in terms of all that you post. Even if we had all of the relevant information about you, we still couldn’t tell you whether you’ll be appointed. Why? We don’t know whom you’re competing against. Even BGOs see only very limited information on their candidates and thus don't know how you might compare to other candidates across the country. What folks on this site CAN do, based on what you tell us, is let you know if anything stands out as being weak as compared to the TYPICAL candidate who receives an appointment. Again, that advice is given in a vacuum and many successful candidates are NOT typical. Thus, while your record may appear to have a glaring weakness, there may be things about you that we don’t know that, in USNA’s view, make up for it. Or, there may be reasons that we don’t know that explain it (i.e., changing schools three times in h.s. due to moves may make it difficult to have continuity in high school activities). The one thing that is certain is that, if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t get an appointment. What SAT scores do I need to get in? Can’t tell you. Each year, USNA publishes a “class profile” for the entering class. It contains a range of SAT scores. Looking at it, you’ll see that most candidates who were accepted had very high scores – but some did not. Below is more discussion about this topic. First, SAT/ACT scores are only one factor in your application. USNA considers many things, including (but not limited to), the rigor of your high school academic program (classes and levels you take), your grades, class rank, CFA score, h.s. activities, leadership, teacher recs, etc. Thus, a great or terrible SAT score is unlikely, in and of itself, to make or break you. It’s considered along with other factors. Second, the scores you need depend in part on the competition that year. Competition for USNA is fierce and even students with SATs above 1400 who are otherwise competitive may NOT get appointments. Thus, SAT/ACT scores are not the be-all and end-all. Third, if you scored less than 800/800 (or ACT equivalent), there is room for improvement. Realistically, in this hyper-competitive environment, if you aren’t at 650/700 you should probably consider retaking the test. Fourth, USNA is a technical school. Thus, there is a greater focus on the math SAT/ACT . Your math SAT should be a 650 or better. Not saying you won’t be accepted with less, just that it’s harder. Fifth, USNA takes your highest verbal and highest math scores from either the SAT or ACT. Thus, there is no reason not to take them multiple times, other than financial cost and cost of your time. Sixth, being scholastically qualified for USNA is only half the battle. You also need a nom. Depending on where you live, scores good enough for USNA may not be good enough to snag one of the MOC noms. You may want to discuss this with your BGO. If your BGO suggests you retake the SAT, he/she is basing that on experience. The fact you do it and improve your score does not mean your status will necessarily change. It’s just advice, but typically good advice. Should I report all of my SAT/ACT scores to USNA? Yes. USNA takes your highest math and highest verbal. There’s nothing to suggest that a “pattern” of low scores will hurt you with USNA if you eventually get a higher score. That may not be true with civilian schools, so be sure to consider that when making your decision. What high school classes should I take to maximize my chances? As a general rule, you should take the most challenging “core” courses you can handle. That means, if at all possible, your senior year should include English, calculus, science (chemistry or physics), advanced language, and/or history. If you have the English, science, and calc covered, one non-core course – music theory, art history, psychology, etc. won’t hurt. [Not saying those aren’t great courses but they won’t help you in USNA admissions.] Take AP, IB or honors level in as many as you can handle. USNA knows how many AP/IB/Honors courses your school offers and wants to see you challenging yourself by taking these more intensive courses. Grades of A and B are good; As are obviously better. Is it better to get a B in an AP course or an A in a regular course? Well, it’s obviously better to get an A in an AP course. Seriously, no easy answer. How USNA views it will likely depend on the other courses you’re taking and grades you receive, how rigorous your high school is considered to be, what other things may be impacting your school performance (i.e., need to work), etc. My GPA is 3.9 – what are my chances? See the discussion above. Depends on the classes you take, the rigor of your school, etc. Also, USNA is more interested in class rank than your GPA. Why? You may have a 3.90, but what if 70% of your class has a 3.91 or better? Great GPA but you’re still in the bottom 1/3 of your class. My high school doesn’t rank. What do I do? There’s nothing you can do. That’s USNA’s problem. Some schools may give ranges (i.e., if a student has a 3.5, that would generally put him/her in the top 25% of the class). USNA indicates that they often call the school and try to get them to provide a rank. If not, USNA may have experience with the school and know what GPAs tend to mean. You aren’t going to change your school; this isn’t the first time USNA has dealt with this issue, so relax. Can I apply Early Decision to a civilian college and still apply to USNA? If you want to attend USNA, do NOT apply Early Decision to a civilian school. [Early Decision is the mutually binding program where you agree to attend the school if accepted.] The reason is that, if you are accepted to that civilian school under the ED program, USNA will require you to withdraw your application from USNA. It does not matter what the civilian school says. USNA is a member of the NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) and must abide by their rules, which require you to commit to your ED school and withdraw applications from all other colleges. There is apparently no exception for SAs. This does NOT apply to Early Action programs, which are not binding. I don't know whether this rule applies to the other SAs -- you would need to check with their Admissions office. How early should I turn in my package? As early as you can and still make it as good as possible. Applications turned in earlier will be reviewed earlier and, hopefully, a decision made earlier. I turned in my package in [pick the month] and I haven't heard anything from USNA. What's taking so long? A couple of points here. First, be sure that everything is complete with your packet, not just the data you personally supply. Are your teacher recs in? Your transcript submitted? Your BGO interview done? If not, USNA hasn't looked at your packet. Even if you're 100% done, it's a LONG line. There’s only one Admissions Board and they meet once a week and have lot of applications to work through. As tough as it is, be patient. Should I turn in an updated resume? You should update your package with any "significant" new information. What's significant? New grades, honors (e.g., attaining Eagle Scout, all-district in sports, scholarship recipient), recognitions (e.g., team captain), etc. The fact that you simply joined another club isn't going to make much difference. One important note: all school-related additions need to be verified by your school counselor or USNA won't consider them. For non-school items, consider sending "objective evidence" such as certificates of achievement. Should I submit 7th semester grades? USNA often requests 7th semester h.s. grades from certain candidates. This is not necessarily a good or bad sign – simply that USNA wants more information. If your grades are great and not requested, consult your admissions counselor (Regional Director) regarding whether to submit them. What's the deal with LOAs? Letters of Assurance were developed in response to civilian college Early Action/Decision programs. LOAs are typically given to very highly qualified candidates. An LOA says that IF you qualify medically and physically (CFA), AND get a nom, and there are no other significant changes (you fail your classes, are arrested, etc.) you will receive an appointment. Two points worth noting: (1) USNA has been cutting back on the number of LOAs in recent years, and (2) the overwhelming majority of admitted candidates do NOT have LOAs. Why do some people get LOAs and others don't? No easy answer. Why are some students admitted Early Decision to civilian schools and others aren’t? Why do some candidates receive appointments and others don't? Ultimately, the reason is that USNA considers the LOA candidate to be a particularly desirable candidate. When are LOAs sent out? Although most LOAs go out in the fall, they can be sent as early as NASS and as late as February (typically if a medical waiver is needed). I didn't get an LOA. Am I doomed? Absolutely not. Your goal is an appointment. Focus on putting together the best package you can because that is the only thing in this process you can control. And, BTW, if you get an LOA and an appointment and decide to attend USNA, NEVER, EVER mention your LOA at USNA. No one cares. No one. Once at USNA, you're all on equal footing on day one. I have an LOA. USNA will "find" a nomination for me, right? Wrong. It is still up to YOU to obtain a nomination. Every year, there are LOA candidates who aren’t able to obtain a nom. These days, they are almost always turned down. So, even if you have an LOA, give 100% to obtaining a nomination. Do I have to participate in high school varsity sports to be accepted to USNA? No. However, ~90% of each entering class participates in varsity sports. Sports and physical fitness are very important at USNA. Thus, you should like to be physically active and to participate in organized sports. The best way to demonstrate this is to participate in sports during your high school years. Must they be school sports? No. You can be active in sports outside of school. What sports does USNA like best? There is no official policy on this. If possible, you should try to participate in at least one team sport. Being a good team member is good preparation for USNA. You may want to pick a sport that will force you to do a fair amount of running, as this will be very helpful at USNA. If you pursue an individual sport -- one where you are essentially competing one on one vs. other competitors (e.g., swimming, diving, gymnastics, martial arts, wresting), it is important to demonstrate your level of competition. Thus, to the extent you are all-district, or a league MVP, or have the tenth best time in the state, etc., be sure USNA knows about this. Does marching band count as a sport? Not in the eyes of USNA. It counts as an ECA (extra-curricular activity) discussed below. I’m home schooled or my school doesn’t have a sports program. If you’re home schooled, it’s even more important to demonstrate that you have the requisite level of physical fitness and team-oriented approach. Look for community leagues (police youth leagues, Catholic leagues, city leagues, etc.) that you can join. Or consider a sport such as swimming, where you can demonstrate your athletic prowess by your times in various events. If you are in this situation I suggest you avoid making martial arts your only sport, as it connotes (accurately or inaccurately) a “loner.” I think I’m good enough to play varsity at USNA. What should I do? Contact the USNA coach for that sport; his/her contact info should be on the usna.edu website. What’s the scoop on the CFA? The Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) is a test that applies for USNA, USMA and USAFA; you need only take it once even if you’re applying to multiple SAs. However, different SAs may score it differently. If you want to know exactly what it consists of and how it’s administered, go to the usna.edu website and search under Admissions and then CFA. It has all the details. What is the max score? What is the average score? What score do I need to pass? The usna.edu website gives the maximum repetitions or time for each event (after which you get no additional credit). If you “max out” each event, you will have the max score. USNA does not publish the minimum, average or passing score nor does USNA provide this information to BGOs. How do I know if I've passed or failed the CFA ? USNA will notify you if you have failed. Your BGO also is informed whether you have passed or failed but does not see your scores. As noted above, "passing" may not be good enough. In this era of super competitive admissions, it's more important than ever to do well -- not merely pass -- your CFA. If you haven't maxed out, or come very close, consider retaking the CFA and submitting the new scores. Every little bit helps! Can I get “bonus points” for doing really well on the CFA? Yes. Doing extremely well will give you a slight “bump” in the admissions process. However, it will not make up for an otherwise sub-par package. Can I retake the CFA? Should I? Yes, you may retake the CFA as many times as you want until the final submission deadline of January 31. If you believe you can significantly improve your scores in one or more areas, then you may wish to retake it. Note, however, that USNA does not "superscore" the CFA. Rather, if you decide to retake, your old scores are erased and the new scores take their place. IOW, regardless of whether you do better . . . or worse . . . on your retake, those new scores are the ones that count. What do I do if I want to retake the CFA? If you want to retake the CFA, you contact your RD and let him/her know. The RD will "reset" the system to allow a new score to be substituted. I’m female and I can’t do any pull-ups. Is this a problem? Technically, no. Realistically, maybe. Females who cannot do a single pull-up may do the flexed arm hang instead. However, the max score for the hang is lower than the score for a single pull-up. So start now and try to squeeze out at least one! Does the CFA I took at NASS count? Yes. If you’re satisfied with it, you’re done. If your score was below the max, you have plenty of time to improve your fitness and retake it. When do I schedule my medical exam? Generally, if you are an official candidate and have 50% of your packet complete, you will be notified by DODMERB about scheduling your medical exam. Help! I’m in the DODMERB morass. What do I do? First of all, your BGO cannot help you. For privacy reasons, BGOs are told not to get involved in the medical part of the admissions process. You should contact DODMERB and/or the person at USNA responsible for addressing medical waiver questions. I have asthma but don’t use an inhaler [or any other specific medical situation]. What are my chances of a waiver? There is no way anyone on this site can answer your question as every situation is unique. The fact that 99% of people with a certain condition do (or don’t) get waivers means nothing in terms of whether you will. The ONLY thing to do is to go through DODMERB process. If you need a waiver, you’ll be automatically considered for one – you don’t need to do anything to apply. What are ECAs? ECAs are your “extra-curricular activities” and include what you do outside of academics and sports. They include in-school activities as well as those outside of school. Which ECAs are best? The ones that appeal to you. Life is too short for you to spend your free time doing things you hate in the hopes of getting into USNA. And, there are no “right” or “wrong” activities. Like most colleges, USNA is looking for a diverse group of people, so it’s fine if you’re a musician or artist in your spare time. It’s fine if you work on your school paper, are a member of the debate club, class treasurer, volunteer for the fire department or at a homeless shelter, work a job, tutor, teach Sunday School, and on and on. Then what is USNA looking for with ECAs? Two things. First, consistency. It’s better to do one or two ECAs for four+ years and be very involved than just to be a member of 10 ECAs. Second, and this is MOST important, leadership in your ECAs. Sometimes, leadership appears obvious – for example, class or club president. However, there is a difference between leadership and popularity. Thus, you should be able to discuss what you have actually done to lead – recruited more members than in the past 10 years, put on a major fundraiser, set up a new program, etc. Sometimes, you can lead without officially being a leader – for example, you may work for a dog rescue group and you become responsible for organizing adoption days, etc. I’ve switched high schools three times in four years. I have no continuity. First, USNA will take this into account in evaluating your application. What you want to do is find a type of activity in which you can demonstrate continuity – for example, you participate in the same club at each school. Second, you can lead in less than a year. Volunteer to head up a project. Come up with a new idea/project for the group and take charge of it. You don’t have to be an elected officer to be in charge. Do I have to do military-oriented ECAs? No. Honestly, I’m not even sure they help all that much from an ECA standpoint. If they interest you and are available, great. If you’d rather do something else, do that. You’ll have plenty of time at USNA to do military stuff. Should I use consultants? Over the years, various consultants have appeared on the horizon, offering (for a fee) to help candidates through various elements of the SA admission process. There are (or have been) consultants who claim special insight into SA admissions, consultants who help with essays, consultants who help with medical issues, and on and on. Obviously, the decision whether to hire consultants is an individualized one. However, before you hand over your hard-earned money, consider the following. First, for the overwhelming majority of successful candidates, the process that currently exists (without consultants) works just fine. There are free (or very cheap) resources, such as books, BGOs, USNA Admissions personnel, DODMERB help line, a medical person within USNA Admissions, etc., who can answer questions and help guide you through the process -- and, as noted, this works for almost everyone. Second, consultants have come and gone over the years. Some have been raved about and others railed against. Some probably provide great advice but others have taken the money and run. The bottom line is that you don't need a consultant to be a successful applicant; if it makes you or your parents feel better to use one, then be sure to do the research so that you choose (and spend your money) wisely. What does it mean to be "triple qualified?" That means USNA considers you qualified by the Admissions Board (academics, leadership, etc.), medically, and physically. This, along with a nomination, makes you eligible to compete for an appointment. Being triple Q'ed is necessary to obtain an appointment; however, it does not mean you will automatically get one. Will USNA tell me if I'm triple qualified? USNA does not send a letter or update your portal or otherwise notify you that you are triple Q'ed. However, you will know if you're medically qualified and you will be told if you didn't pass your CFA. Thus, you know 2/3. USNA does not inform candidates of the decision of the Admissions Board (Board qualification, the third "leg" of the process). When will I hear from USNA whether or not I've received an appointment? USNA commits to notify all candidates by April 15 whether they have an appointment, have been turned down, or are waitlisted. Most candidates will hear in February and March but, for quite a few, it will be early April. Very few candidates will get the good, or bad, news before Jan. 1. What's the deal with the waitlist? A formal "waitlist" has been used by USNA for at least the past decade. Like most schools, USNA puts out a certain number of offers to form a class of the desired size. If more candidates than expected decline, USNA will go to the waitlist and make additional offers until the desired class size is reached. The waitlist is NOT ranked so you won't know where on the waitlist you stand and neither will your BGO. How many waitlisted candidates will be offered appointments? That depends entirely on how many candidates with offers of appointments turn them down. As the acceptances and rejections come in, USNA will have a sense of whether or not any waitlisted candidates will be offered appointments and will start sending turndown letters to the less competitive candidates on the waitlist. How do I apply for NAPS/Foundation? You don't. USNA automatically considers every candidate deemed not qualified by the Admissions Board for a direct appointment for an offer to NAPS/Foundation. Your BGO will ask if you're interested in one or both -- there is NO disadvantage to saying yes. What types of candidates end up at NAPS/Foundation? Generally, those who need additional academic preparation to ensure they are successful at USNA. Things that MAY make you more likely to get NAPS/Foundation are high grades/class rank coupled with low SATs or high SATs coupled with low grades/class rank along with proven leadership, etc. Will saying I would take NAPS/Foundation hurt my chances for a direct appointment? No. You'll only be offered NAPS/Foundation if, at the time of the decision, you aren't academically qualified for an appointment. They are thus somewhat mutually exclusive. Will accepting an offer to NAPS/Foundation doom my chances for a direct appointment? Some candidates may be offered NAPS/Foundation relatively early in the admissions cycles and wonder whether accepting that offer means they are no longer eligible for an appointment. The answer is NO. Some people who are initially offered NAPS/Foundation will later be deemed qualified for a direct appointment -- often due to subsequent SAT/ACT scores or new grades. In that case, USNA will typically offer the candidate the choice of sticking with NAPS/Foundation or declining that offer in favor of a direct appointment. I've heard of NAPS. What a Foundation school? The USNA Foundation helps financially support a number of students at civilian prep schools across the country. As with NAPS, if the student successfully completes the program, he/she is virtually guaranteed an offer of appointment. Students have a choice of Foundation schools. Parents are asked to share the financial burden with Foundation, based on their ability to pay. Can more than one candidate be admitted from the same high school? Yes. More than one candidate can be admitted from the same congressional district, school, or even household. Every year there are many twins at USNA, who obviously live in the same home and usually attend the same school. So the fact that someone else at your school or on your MOC slate of nominees received an appointment does not mean that your chances are doomed. In terms of how it works, one person usually wins the MOC slate. The other person will receive a nom from a different source, such as another MOC, Presidential, or from SecNav coming out of the National Pool. Why does it take USNA so much longer to make a decision than [pick your civilian school]? Civilian schools don't have to deal with the nomination process. Member of Congress ("MOC") noms aren't due to USNA until Jan. 31. Some MOCs may turn in their slates much earlier; others may turn them on that date. Thus, USNA generally has to wait until Feb. when the majority of the MOC slates are in to start forming the class. This is why most people hear in Feb. and March. It's only November and I know someone who already has an appointment. How did that happen? Very strong candidates who are eligible for a Presidential nomination may be offered an appointment in the fall based on that nom. Also, some MOCs may turn in their slates much earlier than the deadline and USNA can begin offering appointments based on those slates. It's [pick your winter month], I turned my package in months ago, and I still haven't heard anything. What's up with that? Be patient. I wish I could tell you something more comforting but it's a long process with a lot of applicants. There aren't that many admissions officers to do all of the work. With the nomination process in the mix, it takes a long time. No news is not necessarily bad news -- an appointment that comes in April is just as valid as one that comes in November. I realize the November folks sleep better but that's how the system works. How late could I be offered an appointment? If you're waitlisted, the offer could come as late as a week before I-Day. In general, USNA tries to notify everyone on the WL by early June but that doesn't always happen. If I don't get in, should I just show up on I-Day and hope to take the slot of someone who doesn't show up or quits? NO. For any number of reasons USNA cannot simply grab someone off the street (even a waitlisted candidate) and plug him/her into a slot left vacant b/c someone doesn't show up for I-Day or quits before taking the oath of office. If you're waitlisted and don't get in, it means you were a very well qualified candidate. If USNA is still your goal, find out where you can improve, do so, and apply again. You have a good shot of being admitted for the following year. See the sticky on "Reapplying." Can I call my BGO to find out if I received an appointment? You can, but you’ll know first. Here's how the process works: USNA decides to offer you an appointment; USNA contacts your MOC and gives him/her one week to tell/congratulate you; at the end of that week, USNA uploads the good news onto the CIS portal; after that, the info is loaded into the BGO system and we learn of it. The same is true of turndowns (other than the MOC doesn't call). Should I study Reef Points before Plebe Summer? This is a hotly debated question among alums. Some consider it “cheating;” others believe it's a great way to get a leg up. If you’re not at all familiar with the military or USNA, you may want to skim through a copy to familiarize yourself with things like military ranks and some of the history of USNA and the military. However, I don't think it makes sense to start memorizing Reef Points for several reasons. First, you don't know what items you'll need to memorize or which ones will come early/late in the summer. Second, it's one thing to be able to spit things out in the privacy of your own room and something else entirely to do so when a 1/C is standing inches from your face yelling at you. Third, it is not good to show up your classmates on day one. Fourth, there are much better and more productive things you can do with your time senior year and in June (see below for more on this). Bottom line: At least as of now, no one expects you to have opened Reef Points before I-Day. If you never memorize a word of it before you set foot at USNA (beyond what you're told to memorize in your Permit to Report packet), you'll be fine. Really. So what should I do senior year and in June to prepare? Run. No, seriously, what should I do? Run. Ok, seriously. You should run. Getting in good shape during senior year and June is a MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE way to spend your time than memorizing Reef Points. Folks who come to I-Day in poor physical condition find plebe summer much more miserable than it needs to be. Most h.s. seniors stop organized sports in April. They then do senior projects, graduation week, beach week (or two or three) and quickly get out of shape. Be sure to keep running in May and June. In terms of where you should be . . . guys should be able to run a mile in 6:00 and maintain a 6:30-7:00 pace over three miles. Women should be able to do a mile in 7:00 and maintain 7:30-8:00 across three miles. What else should I do to prepare? Enjoy yourself. Spend time with your friends and family. Go on vacation. Read, play video games, whatever you find enjoyable. Starting I-Day, your life will no longer be your own. So take advantage of having a free June to do things that you enjoy.