School Profile: Find Your Personal Greatness at West Point

The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York is not your ordinary liberal arts college. Ranked #33 among colleges in the Veritas Elite College Rankings, the US Military Academy is a prestigious liberal arts college, and one of the oldest military academies in the world, that enrolls over 4,600 students (military cadets) who upon graduation enter the military as officers to serve five year tours of duty. There is no tuition, and student housing and meal plans are free. There is even a small monthly stipend while attending school. Summer sessions are spent in military training.

West Point is dedicated to developing leaders. They combine a rigorous academic life with an equally regimented and disciplined lifestyle. As one of the first engineering schools in the nation, it still offers civil, electrical, environmental, mechanical, systems, and nuclear engineering programs as well as engineering management. Other academic departments include behavioral sciences and leadership, chemistry and life science, English and philosophy, foreign languages, history, law, mathematical sciences, and social sciences. Research at the college is divided into twenty-two centers from the Center for Molecular Science to West Point Center for the Rule of Law. Students participate in research associated with their degree choice at the appropriate centers. Admission is based on the Student-Athlete-Leader (SAL) model, so prospective students should focus their attention on strengthening all three areas prior to application.

All students/cadets live in one of the barracks buildings on campus. They are required to attend meals at least twice daily at West Point’s Washington Hall, or the “mess hall,” where there is a rotating selection of meals. All cadets eat at tables of ten in thirty-minute intervals. There is no Greek life on campus. Clubs and organizations number over 100 athletic and non-athletic clubs including glee, theater, and sailing. Free time is limited due to rigorous academics and multiple military trainings and duties. The campus is located 90 minutes from New York City in a largely rural New York setting. The social scene is limited due to location and the fact that West Point is a regimented military school. Drinking is allowed only for students who are 21 and over, and cadets are randomly and regularly drug tested. The student body is predominately white and male; it is more racially diverse than gender diverse. If you are looking for a laid-back party school, this college couldn’t be further from that. If you are looking for an environment that focuses on excellence, discipline, leadership, and honor, then this could be just the place for you.

Athletics and fitness are important to West Point; it is an NCAA Division I program with 25 men’s and women’s competitive varsity sports teams. West Point Army Black Knight’s biggest rival is the Naval Academy, especially in football, whom they play as the last Division I football game of the season each December. Other rivalries include Notre Dame and Rutgers. The Army Black Knights also compete with Navy and Air Force for the Commander-In-Chief’s Award annually. Attendance at football games is mandatory, and all cadets are required to stand throughout the game. They have not had a winning season in several years. The men’s lacrosse team has won several national championships and is a regular top sixteen contender. The women’s basketball team has also had a number of winning seasons. All students are required to participate either on a sports team or on an intramural team every semester all four years.

West Point is steeped in tradition. Each class designs its own class crest which is put on one side of the traditional class ring. Senior cadets receive their rings on Ring Weekend. Graduates are listed in General Cullum’s Biographical of Officers and Graduates in numerical order from 1802 to the present. Bugle Notes is a collection of songs, poems, stories, traditions, and facts about West Point that first year cadets – or plebes, must memorize during their basic training. The Sedgwick’s spurs superstition is employed by cadets fearing the failure of an exam; they spin the spur on a statue of John Sedgwick and race back to the barracks avoiding capture by Sedgwick’s ghost. The Goat-Engineer game pits the lower half of the senior class against the upper half in an eight-man football game. If the goats (lower half of the class) win, it foretells of a victory over Navy that year; if the engineers win, Navy will beat Army in the big game. These are a few of many proud traditions at West Point.

West Point has a saying, “Much of the history we teach was made by the people we taught,” and there is no shortage of notable historical figures who have come out of the school. Notable graduates include two Presidents of the United States, three International Heads of State, and several members of congress and other high ranking government officials. Over seventy Medal of Honor recipients, 18 NASA astronauts, three Heisman Trophy winners, and several famous military generals. If you are in search of personal greatness and a way to serve your country, West Point is for you.

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By Colleen Hill

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