This is the year you have looked forward to since you arrived at West Point on R-Day just three years ago. Now, as the leaders of the Corps, the First Class is afforded expanded leadership opportunities and chances to demonstrate learning through capstone classroom projects and final papers. This makes the academic schedule the most personal of all four years.
Your final chapter at West Point is an eventful one. You will get your class ring, receive your first Army assignment and duty station, will have laid the groundwork for lifelong relationships, and finally toss your white service cap into the endless Michie sky celebrating graduation. It will be bittersweet and will fly by. This final year will develop heightened levels of pride, confidence, and a unique understanding of the selfless-service of your upcoming career as an U.S. Army Officer.
ACADEMIC Milestones of Firstie Year:
Your Firstie year is tailored to your specific academic interests and includes more elective opportunities. Academic milestones of your Firstie year include:
1. Projects Day - This annual event gives you an opportunity to showcase the project you’ve been working on all year (or perhaps for several years). Participating cadets with majors across all 15 of USMA’s academic and military training departments present their capstone design projects, senior theses, and interdisciplinary research efforts, highlighting the collaborative intellectual capital of cadets, faculty, and external entities from the Army and Department of Defense.
Learn more: Projects Day
2. Graduate Scholarship Program - Although the highly selective program begins with an academic preparatory course your Cow year, if you excel you’ll have the opportunity to apply for and earn prestigious graduate school scholarships your Firstie year. Historically, West Point cadets have had a tremendous track record in the program, becoming Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Gates, Mitchell, East-West, Rotary, Fulbright, Hertz, and Schwarzman scholars.
Learn more: Graduate Scholarship Program
3. Completion of the Academic Curriculum - It’s around the second half of Firstie year that you may really start hearing the phrases “two point oh and go” (referring to the requirement to graduate with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA), “Beat the Dean” (referring to rising to the academic challenges posed by the Dean), or perhaps #CooperateAndGraduate. Regardless of the attitude you assume towards meeting graduation requirements, once you complete all of your core curriculum and major courses (a total of 40 classes), there’s no better time to take a big sigh of relief - you are about to become a graduate of the preeminent leadership institution in the world.
Learn more: Academics
MILITARY Milestones of Firstie Year:
Your Firstie year is the most important militarily, because it will inform the rest of your military career. Military milestones include:
1. ML300 - ML300, otherwise known as Cadet Leader Development Training (CLDT), is a 4 week training program that typically occurs the summer before your Firstie year (although 20% of cadets complete it as a Cow). The training assesses your leadership abilities while conducting platoon operations using the three focus areas: lead under stress, tactical problem solving, and individual technical proficiency. The taxing event culminates with a 12 day / 10 night field problem.
2. Branch and Post Night - Branch Night is a much anticipated evening in November at Eisenhower Hall when you and your classmates find out which branch of the U.S. Army you will serve in. Your branch determines, to a large extent, what job or career field you will serve in as an Army Officer. Once the First Captain tells their fellow Firsties to “Open Envelopes,” everyone tears open their respective envelopes to see if they received their top choice, with excitement and celebration to follow regardless of the outcome. Post Night occurs midway through your final semester at the Academy. On this night you and your classmates from your assigned branch will assemble to take part in a “draft” of sorts for your first Army post. Each cadet in your branch will be called upon in class rank order to take their pick of remaining billets at Army posts around the world. Your post not only determines where you will be moving after graduation, but the type of unit you will first be assigned to. The evening is full of trades, excitement, anticipation, frantic phone calls between friends in different branches trying to get the same post, and plenty of celebration when it’s all over.
3. Commissioning - Your commissioning will be the last formal event of your 47-month journey at the Academy, and the very first of your career as a U.S. Army Officer. On the afternoon of your graduation, you will change into your Class A uniform and take part in a ceremony, either on your own or in a group with friends and family. At the ceremony a more senior Officer of your choice will ask you to raise your right hand, recite the Oath of Office, and formally commission you as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. The commissioning ceremony marks an important moment when the Army passes the mantle of trust and leadership to YOU, the Army’s newest Officer. In taking the oath you will swear to serve our nation faithfully and to defend the Constitution of the United States as a loyal and faithful leader of character.
PHYSICAL Milestones of Firstie Year:
With Lifetime Activity an elective your Firstie year, you may have slightly less pressure in terms of time commitment than previous years, however that doesn’t mean the physical requirements are less strenuous. Physical milestones of your Firstie year include:
1. PE450 - This course, titled “Army Fitness Development” will help prepare you as a future company grade Officer by equipping you with the knowledge to plan, implement, and assess unit physical readiness training programs. You will apply the training principles learned to create specific programs to meet the physical requirements of your future Army units.
Learn more: Fitness Classes Curriculum
2. Lifetime Activity - Although the “Upperclass Lifetime Physical Activities Program” is a required course during your Cow year, you will have an optional opportunity to take another activity as a Firstie. These activities are intended to develop the foundation of skills and knowledge needed to successfully participate in a “Lifetime Physical Activities” such as golf, skiing, rock climbing, badminton, tennis, racquetball, and even SCUBA, lifeguarding and emergency water safety.
Learn more: Lifetime Physical Activity Program
3. Final Testing - Just like with academics, there are physical test requirements that must be met for graduation. The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT), and the Indoor Obstacle Course Test (IOCT) are the three hallmark physical tests Firstie year. In the weeks leading up to these graduation requirements, the Academy will be teeming with cadets squeezing in runs and workouts to prepare. Every morning run, every push-up, every sit-up, and every PE course are designed to aid you in developing the work ethic, routine, and confidence to pass these tests.
Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.