• Robin Glembotzky

Another option for college

Yes, going to college is expensive, but what if I told you there are 5 colleges you could go to, get an amazing education and it not cost you a penny? You'd laugh, right? Well, there is one "catch". You need to commit to serving your country for 5 years, after you graduate.

Yes, I'm talking about the 5 Service academies.

The Air Force Academy

The Naval Academy

The U.S. Military Academy (commonly called West Point)

The Coast Guard Academy

The Merchant Marine Academy

While each of these require a service commitment, there is no doubt about the quality of education you will receive upon attending these schools. You will form a network that will stay with you for life. For those who have always wanted a military career, admissions to one of these schools is a dream come true.

And, getting into these schools is, for the most part, similar to other top colleges. However, it's that "for the most part", that gets a little tricky. Here's the extra things you will need to do, that you don't do for other colleges.

The first is, of course, academically. What does it take to get into these schools?

United State Military Academy (commonly called West Point)

West Point is the Army branch of the service academies. It is situated on the Hudson River in New York State. And it is just as majestic as the picture shows. (I know, my family lives in the town outside the gates!)

West Point has a 10% acceptance rate. (Almost all of the Ivy League colleges are less than 10%. Cornell is the only one, last year, who hit double digits-10.1%)

SAT verbal scores average 620, with math around 650. ACT scores are: Reading-30, English-29, Math-29, Science-28.

United States Naval Academy (commonly known as Annapolis)

The Naval Academy is the Navy branch of the service academies. As such, graduates have the option of pursuing a career in the Navy or the Marines. The acceptance rate at this school is only 9%. SAT verbal scores average 710, with math coming in around 690. ACT scores average, for English-28 and Math-30. This school's majors are predominately geared toward engineering.

Air Force Academy

This is the "youngest" of the service academies, established in 1954. Situated in the beautiful State of Colorado (I should know, I live an hour away from this school!), future Air Force officers are educated here.

The acceptance rate is 12.3%. SAT reading scores average 670, with math coming in at 700. ACT composite scores average 30.

Coast Guard Academy

This academy is the smallest with only 300 cadets entering per year. (compare that to 1,110 who enter West Point!). Like the Naval Academy, the most popular majors are engineering. Acceptance rate is 16%. SAT scores average, Reading-660 and Math-660. ACT composite scores average 28.

Merchant Marine Academy

While not considered military in the way most people think, this academy does produce Naval officers. However, upon graduation, while you still will have an obligation, you will have numerous career choices. including the transportation field. Acceptance is 21.7%. SAT Reading scores average 600, with Math coming in around 650. ACT composite average 28.

Every academy is looking at a GPA (on a scale of 4.0) to be, at least, over 3.5. New cadets entering West Point average 3.8.

So, this is where you start. Your grades. But, unlike many other top schools, you have a couple other hurtles.

Physical Fitness.

Remember, you are joining a SERVICE ACADEMY. Being physically fit is one of the requirements. Since you've been interested in the military for some time, there is no doubt you have been physically active. Keep it up. Check out the service academy's website to ensure you meet their requirements.

Except for the Coast Guard, all service academies require you to be nominated. Nominations can come from a local member of congress, a senator, the Vice President or, even the President of the U.S. The only applicants who do not need a nomination are dependents of Medal of Honor recipients.

Remember these schools put out officers of the U.S. Military, so they look for leadership opportunities. Were you the star quarterback? The head of your student council? Did you lead your volleyball team to State? All these things are added into the equation of your admissions.

So, what do you get out of all this? For the most part (that just keeps coming back, doesn't it??) a free education. I say "the most part" because the Merchant Marine Academy requires you to pay tuition. At the present time, it is, approximately, $3500 for the entire four years. So, while not free, it's a bargain for the education you receive.

All of this takes time. Preparation to attend any of these schools should start in your junior year. This will give you the time to work on achieving the SAT/ACT scores you need, making sure you've done all the extracurricular the schools like, get physically fit and, except for the Coast Guard Academy, obtain that nomination.

While not impossible, it will take more work than attempting to be accepted to most colleges. But the payoff is an educational experience unlike anything else you will find.