Federal Service Academies: What You Need to Know

men in black and red cade hats and military uniform
Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

One of the most underrated paths to a great education and career are federal service academies. We’ve helped students get into federal service academies before. With that information, we wanted to make this guide for you all. 

Feel free to check it out and use it on your journey. Or, we invite you to just read through it if you’re curious how the process works!

First off, what is a Service Academy? How is it different from ROTC? Why is it valuable?

Federal Service Academies such as the Naval Academy and West Point are some of the most selective and prestigious institutions in the world. You will have your education paid for along with a stipend! At the end of your time, you will have a guaranteed job offer as a commissioned officer in the United States Military (branch will depend on which Academy you attend). This role thrusts you into a leadership position, where you could be in charge of 16 enlisted service members as a 22-year-old fresh out college. This incredible leadership experience can be extremely favorable to your career and for selective grad schools down the line.

It is a well known fact that top business schools such as Harvard and Stanford love Service Academy graduates. The Service Academies differ from ROTC in that you are immersed in military culture full-time at an Academy, whereas ROTC is a part time gig balancing military training with school. Ultimately, you command greater respect than an ROTC grad if you went to a Service Academy. Most Generals and Admirals attended a Federal Service Academy.

So let’s say you’re interested. What should you do?

Step 1: Medical

Before you even start applying, you need to first check to see if you’re medically qualified. It will save you so much time and potential heartbreak to find out firsthand if you are medically eligible. Unlike popular belief, joining the military isn’t a simple process meant for anyone off the street. The process is incredibly thorough and can be especially difficult if you have any pre-existing conditions. Even though they have the will and passion to serve, thousands of people are disqualified from military service each year due to lack of mental aptitude, physical conditions, or moral history. However, if you’re applying to a federal service academy, you should have the mental and moral aspect in order. Here is a sheet from the Naval Academy for medical considerations for applying.

Find out now if you’re even qualified for the process before investing considerable time and energy. For instance, if you actively have asthma and need an inhaler, you will be disqualified. However, waivers are possible in select circumstances. If you think a waiver will be possible, then start applying! Disclaimer: You may have to fight for a waiver and have plenty of consults with a doctor to prove you are fit to serve.

Step 2: Academics

Federal Service Academies require a high bar of academic excellence. Aim to have a transcript that demonstrates you’ve challenged yourself in the classroom by taking AP and Honors classes. Furthermore, if you have taken any standardized tests, aim to excel on them!

Step 3: Leadership

Service Academies aim to mold the future leaders of the military. Demonstrate you have that potential! Take an active role in sports and try to be the team captain. Participate in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts and try to be the best you can be. Boys/Girls State are highly respected programs by the Service Academies as well.

Set 4: Demonstrated Interest

Many Service Academies have Summer Seminars such as what the Naval Academy offers. Aim to get into one of these summer seminars if possible as they will bolster your application! Additionally, get on LinkedIn. See if you can network with a high ranking officer who can help support you on your way to a Federal Service Academy.

Step 5: Athletics

Participate in sports. You will be expected to be physically fit if you attend a Service Academy. Prepare for that level of fitness by participating in sports now!

Step 6: Congressional Letters of Recommendation and Essays

Since this is a nuanced topic, we’ll refer you to someone who’s already written up a description here. There is a wonderful post here on how the Congressional Letter of Rec process works. 

As for essays, this subreddit has a plethora of resources you should check out! Be sure to check out Empowerly’s reddit page here if you have direct questions on there.

Good luck and feel free to PM us if you have any questions. Additionally, if you would like one-on-one help on your journey to serving as a Commissioned Officer in the US military, we have counselors who can help! Book a consultation to learn more today.

Questions? Let us know!