AN OPEN LETTER TO HIGH-ACHIEVING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Dear High-Achieving High School Students,
Hi. My name is West Point. I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, because my name often gets lost among the myriad of colleges vying for your affection and tuition. Ivy Leagues like Harvard, Yale and Stanford; Public schools like Alabama, Clemson and Penn State. These are all great schools, and no matter where you end up, if you’re willing to work hard, you’ll go far. But before you make your final decision, I’d suggest you add one more name to the list.
It’s true, I’m not an Ivy League. But I consistently rank among the nation’s top colleges, and to be frank, I’m even more selective than the Ivies. In addition to being academically competitive, qualified applicants must be physically fit, have leadership experience, acquire a congressional nomination and pass a rigorous medical exam just to be considered for admission. So if you’re into history, prestige, academic rigor and competitiveness, then I’ve got what you’re looking for.
If you’re attracted to State Schools, then you’re in luck. I’m a state school, only my state is the entire United States of America. Our traditions and school spirit rival any public school in the nation. We’ve got dozens of NCAA Division I athletic teams, and the fiercest rivalry in college sports (Go Army. Beat Navy.). Beyond that, my Long Gray Line of graduates includes presidents, generals, governors, astronauts, CEOs, and captains of industry. As members of that close-knit circle of people, my students are instantly connected to the countless numbers of graduates who are shaping our nation’s future.
It’s possible that you heard about me in your history class. (My location was kind of a big deal during the Revolutionary War. A couple of guys—George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—scouted me out as an essential defensive position against the British.) Yes, I’m a military school and yes, my students wear uniforms. So I understand that some people might assume I’m uptight or stuffy. I get that a lot.
But I promise you this: look beyond the brass, the buttons, and the saluting, and you’ll be amazed.
For starters, my campus looks like Hogwarts, only nothing about me is make believe. My facilities are world-class and my students are on the forefront of cyber technology, international politics, and engineering. They travel the world—not just to Snapchat from Paris, but to study, meet with foreign Ambassadors, become fluent in other languages, or to train with counterparts in other nations. Defense Against the Dark Arts? Yeah. We teach that. My students jump out of planes, shoot targets, climb ropes, forge through rivers, build bridges, explode things, and they have fun while they’re doing it.
All kidding aside, what happens here may look like magic, but it’s a product of more than two hundred years of excellence. I’ve been around since 1802, and I was built specifically for people who want to get the most out of life and be the best they can be. People like you.
No one who comes to me leaves the same as when they arrived. While most colleges exist to convince their students that they’re already the best—I do things differently. I help America’s best students achieve more than they could imagine; I exist to make them better. Around my campus, being better means being a better leader. To me, leadership means putting yourself last and others first.
I know, this isn’t what most people teach about leadership, but like I said, I do things differently.
No, I’m not what you would call a “normal” school. But what is “normal” anyway? And who wants “normal” when you can have exceptional?
When it comes to tuition, my price is steep, but I won’t cost a penny of your money. Tuition here is fully funded—that means free room, board, full medical and dental, and I pay a monthly salary to my students, too. But I require a lot in return: I require mental toughness. I require students to reach their physical limits, and then go a step more. I require dedication, determination, and selfless service. And in exchange for all this—a free education and priceless leadership training—my students serve for five years in a career that matters, as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
I know that you have a lot of options for where to go to college. And no matter where you go, if you’re destined to be a leader, you will find a way to be one. I know that’s true. I also know that I may not be the one for you. And that’s okay if that’s the case. But I would hate for you to miss out on a chance of a lifetime, simply because you didn’t take a second look. So before you decide—before your life changes forever—consider adding my name to your list of options.
What do you have to lose?
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point