Update: Applications for the 2021 service academy summer programs have closed. Applications for the summer 2022 programs will be announced in the fall.
US Service Academies are federal colleges that offer an undergraduate education and military training for future officers. Students attend classes, gain leadership experience, and go on summer military training. After four years, they earn a bachelor’s degree and are commissioned as officers with a commitment to serve a number of years on active duty. Students are each on a 100% scholarship that covers tuition, room & board, and a monthly stipend. There are five federal service academies: US Naval Academy (Navy & Marine Corps), US Military Academy (Army), US Air Force Academy (Air Force & Space Force), US Coast Guard Academy, and US Merchant Marine Academy (civilian maritime professions or a military commission). Applications are competitive and are best started in spring of junior year.
For most high school students, exposure to the military is limited to books and movies. Even those from military families may wonder what it would be like to personally have the restrictions and responsibility of military life. Service academy summer programs can help answer if attending an academy is the right choice for a student.
The following programs are one-week orientations for rising seniors, usually held before the incoming freshman class arrives. Training is primarily led by current midshipmen and cadets, along with recent graduates. The cost includes room and board, but students are responsible for their own travel arrangements. Coronavirus restrictions required most of the 2020 programs to be cancelled or held virtually. Intentions for 2021 are indicated where possible.
US Naval Academy – Annapolis, MD
Naval Academy Summer Seminar –Introduction to “academic, athletic, and professional training.” Three sessions at the beginning of June. Application usually opens in January. Cost approx $550.
US Military Academy – West Point, NY
Summer Leadership Experience –Immersion in cadet life for rising seniors. Classes, physical and military training held in the first two weeks of June. Rolling admission application usually opens in January. Cost approx $460.
US Air Force Academy – Colorado Springs, CO
Summer Seminar –Opportunity to experience life as a cadet. 2021 dates are pending, but are typically mid-June. Applications usually open December 1– January 15. Cost approx. $300.
US Coast Guard Academy – New London, CT
Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) – Held in July, this summer program has a reputation for its realistic exposure to life at a service academy. Application usually closes in April. Cost approx $525.
US Merchant Marine Academy – King’s Point, NY
USMMA does not have a summer orientation camp.
Capacity in these summer programs is limited and they are in high demand, with some giving priority to students who live far from the school or in under-represented geographic areas. Applications typically ask for test scores (may be waived for Class of 2022), grades in key academic courses, an activities list, and an essay. Programs may have physical requirements that are similar to military medical qualification standards. Some applications require a letter of recommendation. Students should submit a well-prepared application early in the application window, but should not assume a turn-down letter for a summer program implies a lower chance of an appointment to that academy.
Other Related Summer Programs
In addition to the academy camps for rising seniors there are other opportunities to get exposure to a service academy or the military. Some are open to students in earlier grades.
Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) conducts STEM Summer Camps at military bases around the country. These camps focus on military construction and engineering. Open to rising 10th-12th grade students. Application opens in December. Cost $100-600 depending on camp. (Sponsorships may be available.)
Naval Academy STEM Camps – One-week STEM intensive camps for rising 9th-11th grade students in June. This camp focuses more on STEM experiences than military orientation. Each week is restricted to a particular grade level. Application usually opens in January. Cost approx $900.
Students interested deeper exposure to the military might consider a year-round program.
Sea Cadets – Run by the Navy League of the United States and supported by the Navy and Coast Guard, Sea Cadet units have regular meetings through the year, as well as a two-week summer training camp and additional advanced training opportunities focused on seamanship and seagoing topics.
Civil Air Patrol – Part of the Air Force Auxiliary, CAP Cadet squadrons typically meet weekly with a longer event once a month on a weekend and a one-week summer encampment.
Many high schools have Junior ROTC units associated with a branch of the military. Students in these units usually have a JROTC class as part of their school schedule, as well as associated after school and weekend training. Activities may include fitness and obstacle course training, flight familiarization, marksmanship, cyber security competitions, and ceremonial events.
Sea Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, and Junior ROTC do not have a military commitment. They do offer opportunities for doing hard things and being active in small group leadership experiences. 8-15% of incoming service academy freshmen participated in one of these organizations.
The military is a great choice for many students. Paths to an officer commission include not only attending a service academy, but also enrolling in a college Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit with a scholarship or as a college program student. If you would like help applying to one of these programs, please contact me.
Updated: May 1, 2021