What Are Service Academy Nominations?
In the many years I’ve advised students interested in academies, the topic of nominations seems to be the area that causes the most confusion. A nomination is more than just an endorsement or letter of recommendation. Most nominations involve a competitive process, with deadlines that may be earlier than most college application deadlines.
The process of requesting a nomination is separate from the academy application itself, with different requirements and deadlines for candidates to adhere to. A nomination is not a guarantee of admission to an academy. Many more students will receive a nomination than will gain an offer of appointment. This guide is intended to help you better understand which nominations you might be eligible for and how to get started with the nomination request process.
Nominations are required for appointment to the three Department of Defense Service Academies: the US Military Academy, the US Naval Academy, the US Air Force Academy. A Congressional Nomination is required for appointment to the US Merchant Marine Academy. The US Coast Guard Academy does not require nominations. The service academy nomination requirement is set by law and acts to ensure that appointees come from across the US and reflect many family backgrounds.
Where Can I Get a Nomination?
There are several sources of nominations and candidates should apply for each nomination they are eligible for. For most candidates this will be their members of Congress (two senators and one representative) and the vice president.
Some candidates applying to a Department of Defense service academy may also be eligible for additional nominations based on military affiliation.
Deadlines for requesting nominations are strict; late requests are usually rejected without consideration.
Students can request a nomination from each of their members of Congress. Congressional nominations may also be made by the Delegate for the District of Columbia, the Delegate from the US Virgin Islands, the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico, the Delegate from Guam, the Delegate from American Samoa, and the Delegate from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Each congressional nominator may set their own application process and deadline. Most members of Congress list the application requirements and timeline on their official website under a heading such as Services. If you are unsure of who your members of Congress are, use the Look Up tool for the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Congressional nomination requests might require documents such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume, or an essay. Some members will ask students to rank which academies they want a nomination for or may only allow students to request a nomination for a single academy. Many representatives and some senators hold in person interviews to select final nominees. These interviews are usually conducted by local constituents with military experience and/or staffers for the member of Congress. Students do not have to know the member of Congress personally in order to request or receive a nomination.
Each member of Congress may have five students at each Department of Defense academy “charged” to their office at a time. They may select up to ten students for each vacancy. The service academy nominations slates are submitted to each academy by the end of January.
The US Merchant Marine Academy requires candidates to have a congressional nomination from one of the members of Congress for their state. Members of the House of Representatives may nominate candidates from anywhere in their state, not just their own congressional district. Because of the Merchant Marine Academy’s small size, midshipmen appointments are allocated to the states according to population. For example, Virginia is allocated 5 seats per year, while California is allocated 19 seats. The Merchant Marine Academy does not use Vice Presidential nominations or military connected nominations.
The vice president may have five students at each Department of Defense academy “charged” to his or her office at a time. Any US citizen applicant is eligible to apply for a vice presidential nomination. The vice president nominates without respect to geographic restriction, so students who are US citizens living overseas are particularly encouraged to apply for this nomination.
To apply, candidates complete an online application that is available March 1 – January 31 preceding the date they would enroll at the academy. Candidates may indicate interest in any or all of the three Department of Defense academies. Each academy will screen and rank candidates using information provided to the academy via their application process. Notification to those selected is usually made in February or March of the year the class enters the academy.
Military Service Connected Nominations
Children of career officer and enlisted members of the armed forces (active or reserve), including the Coast Guard, are eligible for a presidential nomination. A request for a presidential nomination is made through each Department of Defense service academy and requires documentation of the parent’s qualifying military service. Students who are interested in applying to multiple DOD service academies must request separate presidential nominations through each academy they are applying to.
Students must have an active duty, reserve, or retired military parent to be eligible for this nomination.
A request for a presidential nomination may be made after July 1 of the year before entering the academy and before January 31 of the year of entering the academy.
There is an unlimited number of presidential nominations, but a cap on the number of students who may be appointed under a presidential nomination. Therefore, it’s important to apply for a presidential nomination in addition to and not instead of congressional and vice-presidential nominations.
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Units
Students who are actively participating in college ROTC units or Junior ROTC may be able to obtain a nomination from their unit. The number of nominations depends on the type of unit. Contact your ROTC unit Commanding Officer or JROTC unit Senior Military Instructor for application information and deadlines.
Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard Enlisted Members of the Associated Service
Enlisted members of the branch of service(s) associated with each academy may be nominated through their Service Secretary. Contact your service Career Counselor or service academy admissions office for information.
Children of Deceased, 100% Disabled, or Missing/Captured Armed Forces veterans or Missing/Captured Federal Civilian Personnel, or Children of Medal of Honor Recipients
Request process for these categories varies by service academy. Consult the Nominations pages of the admissions website for each academy or contact Admissions directly for current procedures. Note that students eligible for service connected nominations must submit an application at each Defense Department academy they are applying to. And remember that the US Merchant Marine Academy only uses congressional nominations.