As the nation's top public university and America's oldest service academy, West Point has a lot to offer to many different students from across the globe. All four years at West Point are academically rigorous and physically demanding, and focus on preparing students to serve as officers in the U.S. Army after graduation. So, how do you know if you’re cut out for the West Point experience? Ask yourself these eight questions. It’s a great place to start.
1. Are you a leader?
This may seem like an odd question to start with, but it cuts to the very heart of West Point. The entire reason West Point exists is to attract and build leaders of character. And leadership doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the captain of every sports team or the president of every high school club. Leadership means making an impact on people and the progress of an organization or cause. So whether you’re at the front leading with a title, or in the mix leading by example, it’s important that every West Point candidate have a desire to become an even better leader than they are today.
2. Do physical challenges excite you?
We can’t sugar-coat it. Spending four years at West Point will expose you to a string of strenuous physical challenges. Starting with Beast Barracks, plebes at West Point complete a six-week training exercise that ends with a 12-mile ruck march carrying nearly 50 pounds of gear on your back. Cadets have to complete regular Army Physical Fitness Tests. And then there’s the notorious Indoor Obstacle Course Test (IOCT), that recently, even the Superintendent and Commandant completed. If athletic challenges make your heart race with excitement, then you’ll be in good company here.
3. Are you comfortable with small class sizes?
According to the Princeton Review, West Point ranks first in the nation for Best Classroom Experience and second for Most Accessible Professors. Part of the reason we’re able to maintain that high status is because West Point is committed to keeping our class sizes small. The student-to-faculty ratio is an incredible 7:1, and students often keep in touch with their professors long after graduation. But it also means that there’s no hiding in the back of the classroom. After all, in classes this small, everyone has a front row seat.
4. Do you feel energized when you work as part of a diverse team?
Perhaps one of the best things about the West Point experience is the diversity of our student body and faculty. In fact, the Corps of Cadets is comprised of students from every State, U.S. Territory, and many partner countries. Every year, West Point admits the best of the best from across America, which means that you’ll work on a daily basis within a student body team that reflects the inspiring diversity of our country. If you’re looking for a college that exposes you to people from many different places and backgrounds, West Point is the place for you.
5. How good are you at managing your time?
West Point intentionally overloads Cadets with far more duties, tasks and responsibilities than can realistically fit into any 24-hour day. That’s because it’s essential for America’s future leaders to learn how to manage their time, prioritize tasks, and cooperate with their teammates to get things done. If you struggle with managing your time, West Point will challenge you to improve your skills. And if you’re already great at managing your time, West Point will take you to a whole new level.
6. When was the last time you did something you were bad at?
The truth is, many high-achieving students find it easy to navigate through the so-called “challenges” of high school. But part of going to West Point is learning to turn failure into character building experiences that strengthen you as a person and as a leader. Rather than avoid the things you aren’t good at, West Point will put you face-to-face with your weaknesses. Whether it’s long-distance running, survival swimming, challenging Engineering coursework, or memorizing long passages of Plebe Knowledge, every cadet has overcome failure during their college experience at West Point. If you’re afraid to fail and grow, you might want to apply elsewhere—because here at West Point, you will face fear and conquer it. To us, that’s part of the joy of learning.
7. How do you feel about serving as an officer in the U.S. Army?
In exchange for West Point’s unparalleled academic and military experience, all cadets entering their Junior year at West Point must sign an eight-year commitment to serve as officers in the U.S. Army – five on active duty and three in the inactive reserve. Starting as Second Lieutenants, West Point graduates typically receive branch specialty training before becoming platoon leaders, where they put to use the lessons they learned in college leading America’s soldiers.
8. In ten years, what will your class ring mean to you?
No matter where you attend college, one thing is certain: one day, you’ll be looking back on the decision, instead of forward. West Point’s Long Gray Line of graduates is second-to-none. The camaraderie that grows among classes extends in both directions, meaning that people who graduated 50 years before you and 50 years after you will all share a common bond, symbolized in the coveted class ring, unlike any other that exists in an undergraduate program. Whether it’s looking for help in transitioning to a new career, or simply running into someone else along the road in the future who shares the West Point experience, members of the Long Gray Line hold up and honor one another because of the special bond they share in the unique experience of West Point.