LTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.
Try Again! A Strategy for Reapplying to a U.S. Service Academy
Updated: Mar 21
About 25% to 30% of all cadets and midshipmen at each of the U.S. service academies (USAFA, USMA, USNA, USCGA, USMMA) do not enter the school directly from high school. Many spend a year or two at a civilian college, a junior college, a preparatory school, in the military as an enlisted member, or another route to the Academy. As a high school senior, you should think about your alternative plans if you do not receive an appointment.
All of the students that I coach know what I mean by "Plan A - B - C." They are likely focused on earning an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Air Force Academy as their "Plan A." However, students should also apply to an Air Force ROTC scholarship and/or a Naval ROTC scholarship as their "Plan B." ROTC scholarships require that students list their school choices for the scholarship. Plus, they must apply to the schools directly for acceptance and admission. These schools, in effect, serve as your "Plan C." However, the "A - B - C" stategy goes a bit deeper than three simple alternatives.
If you do not receive an appointment, then "Plan B" or "C" will likely come into play. An ROTC scholarship is a great alternative for students. For many, it may be the preferable path to earning a military officer's commission. Some 60% of all military officers obtained their commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corp. With an ROTC scholarship, a student may choose to reapply for an Academy appointment without prejudice. Nominations, in fact, are available for ROTC cadets who desire to earn an appointment to the AF, Naval or Military Academy. This alternative to "Plan B" is clearly a great way to show the service academies your commitment to becoming a cadet or midshipman.
For a candidate reapplying for an appointment using "Plan B," your résumé is directly enhanced by four additions. One, the academies are impressed with students who reapply to the program. You are also one year older and more mature. Two, as an ROTC cadet, you are investing in learning more about the military including its traditions and protocols. Three, as a college student, you are showing the Academy that you can do college-level work and succeed in this academic environment. Finally, as an ROTC cadet, you will typically participate in physical training three times a week. Running, calisthenics, and strength training will likely allow you to improve your Candidate Fitness Assessment score from the previous year.
You should also consider other additions to your record, including approaching your ROTC Commander for a letter of recommendation. Plus, ask the commander for a chance to compete for an ROTC-sponsored nomination. Join some on-campus organizations, including military-oriented groups, such as the Arnold Air Society. With "Plan B," you are, in short, better prepared and will compete at a higher level than you did the previous year.
"Plan C" is the idea that one can attend any of the schools to which you are accepted. You may not have won an ROTC scholarship; however, it is straightforward to join an ROTC unit on campus. The ROTC military course and the associated "lab" are tuition free. Thus, by joining the unit, you may participate as a cadet as if you are on scholarship. You, then, should follow all of the other steps that I outlined above for "Plan B."
You may be wondering, do these 'plans' work? The answer is 'yes.' I have had several students, with and without ROTC scholarships, reapply to an Academy as a college student and active ROTC cadet. They are all now part of the 25% of cadets or midshipman that earned appointments a year or two after high school . . . you can do the same!
[I would welcome a chance to discuss your PLAN A - B - C with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process in high school, or later, in college. Contact me at email@example.com and/or 503.515.7406]