Military Academy Summer Programs

October 13, 2023

What most high school students know about military life tends to come from movies or books. Even those who grew up in military families may wonder what it would be like to personally serve under military restrictions and responsibilities. Military academy summer programs offer rising seniors a taste of life as a cadet or midshipman. This helps students decide if a military service academy is really a good fit.

These programs are relatively small and can’t accept every student who applies. Take the time to submit a quality application, don’t procrastinate either. The applications may require essays, transcripts, and recommendations that you can’t produce at the last minute. Applications are usually open in winter to spring of junior year, but vary by program.

Military Academy Summer Programs
Benefits of Military Academy Summer Programs
Air Force Academy Summer Seminar
Naval Academy Summer Seminar
West Point Summer Leader Experience
Coast Guard Academy Introduction Mission
How to Apply to Academy Summer Programs

Other Military Summer Programs
Naval Academy STEM Camp
West Point STEM Camp
Aim High Flight Academy – Air Force
Navy ROTC Summer Seminar – Villanova University
Military Engineering Summer Camps – Society of American Military Engineers

Benefits of Military Academy Summer Programs

Gothic style exterior of the Cadet Chapel at the US Military Academy - West Point
Photo credit: Lisa Rielage

Learn What Military Academy Life Is Like

Service academy summer programs are packed with presentations from academy leaders, demonstrations of military gear, and tours of academic facilities. But it’s not all passive watching. There is hands-on training too: obstacle courses, basic squad tactics, damage control exercises, and more.

Meet Current Cadets & Midshipmen

High school students train in small groups, led by current cadets or midshipmen. These academy students may have just finished their own first year or may be rising seniors who are looking towards what they will do after commissioning. Their descriptions of academy life are up to date and often less nostalgic than stories from older alumni. They can explain why they chose their academy over other opportunities and describe the pros and cons of academy life. There are other opportunities to meet cadets and midshipmen, like admissions information events, but military academy summer programs offer several days of interaction, not just a chance to ask one or two questions.

Test Yourself Physically

Service academy summer programs typically start with morning fitness training and include other physical activities throughout the day. Just getting from one side of campus to another may involve a fair amount of marching or jogging. In addition, academies usually run students through the Candidate Fitness Test (or the Coast Guard Academy fitness test at AIM). If your score is strong, you might not need to take the fitness assessment again. If it’s not so great, you can go home knowing where you need to improve.

Service Academy Summer Programs for Seniors

The following service academy summer 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.  I’ve put these in rough order by application deadline. Because of the high number of applications, late applications are not usually considered.

US Air Force Academy Summer Seminar

The US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO trains officers for the Air Force and Space Force. Its Summer Seminar gives seniors an opportunity to experience life as a cadet. Seminar dates are typically mid-June.  The Air Force Academy Summer Seminar applications open December 1 and close January 15.  The program costs approximately $300, but students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the Academy. Limited scholarships may be available.

2024 Air Force Academy Summer Seminar Dates:

Session 1June 4-6Virtual
Session 2June 11-14In Person
Session 3June 18-21In Person

Related article: Learn about Air Force ROTC Scholarships

The US Naval Academy Chapel copper dome gleams against a blue sky.
Photo credit: Lisa Rielage

The US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD prepares future Navy and Marine Corps officers. It hosts the Naval Academy Summer Seminar or NASS. Students are introduced to “academic, athletic, and professional training.”  The Naval Academy Summer Seminar application opens January 4 and closes April 15. Cost: approximately $550. There are three typically sessions in June. 

2024 Naval Academy Summer Seminar Dates:

Session 1June 1-6
Session 2June 8-13
Session 3June 15-20*
*Session 3 runs during a federal holiday.

US Military Academy Summer Leaders Experience

Beat Navy Tunnel at the US Military Academy - West Point
Photo credit: Lisa Rielage

The US Military Academy in West Point, NY holds a Summer Leaders Experience (SLE) that offers an immersion in cadet life for rising seniors.  Classes, physical and military training are held in the first two weeks of June.  Rolling admission application for the Summer Leadership Experience opens February 1 – March.  Cost is $625 and need-based scholarships are available.

2024 West Point Summer Leader Experience Dates:

Session 1June 1-7
Session 2June 8-14

US Coast Guard Academy Academy Introduction Mission

The doors of Chase Hall at the US Coast Guard Academy.
Photo credit: Lisa Rielage

The US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT holds the latest of the academy summer programs. The Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) runs in July. This summer program has a reputation for its realistic exposure to life at a service academy.  The application for AIM is open February 1 – April 1.  Cost for in person sessions is $750, and the Virtual Session IV is free. Some need based scholarships are available. 

2024 Coast Guard Academy AIM Dates:

Session IJuly 7-12
Session IIJuly 14-19
Session IIIJuly 21-26
Session IV (Virtutal)July 30-31

US Merchant Marine Academy

The US Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, NY does not hold a summer camp for high school students. Contact USMMA directly for information about touring King’s Point.

How to Apply to Service Academy Summer Programs

Applications may ask for grades in academic courses, an activities list, an essay, and PSAT, SAT, or ACT test scores (if available). Some applications require a letter of recommendation. Students should prepare to be physically active in a military setting during the summer programs. 

Due to limited capacity in these service academy summer programs, they may prioritize students who live far from the school or in under-represented geographic areas. Students should submit a well-prepared application early in the application window. While you don’t need to submit an application the moment it opens, some programs are rolling admission. So don’t wait to the last minute to complete your application.

Academy summer programs are not prescreening or preselection programs. Attendance is not required to be offered an academy appointment, so you shouldn’t view selection results as an indication of your chance of being offered a spot at an academy. If you are interested in attending an academy, you should lean in to complete your full application early in the fall of senior year.

Other Military 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.

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 grade level attends during a specific week of camp. Application opens January 4 and closes April 15, 2024. Cost $700 (includes food and lodging at the Naval Academy). 

Many students are still in school during early June, when this camp occurs. Consider asking your school if they would approve an early release or excused absence for this STEM opportunity.

2024 Session Dates:

Rising 9th GradeJune 3 – 8
Rising 10th GradeJune 10 – 15
Rising 11th GradeJune 17 – 21*
*This session runs during a federal holiday.

Note: Sessions vary by grade level. Students may only attend the session designed for their grade.

US Military Academy STEM Camps

West Point STEM Camps – Week-long, hands on STEM camps for middle school (rising 7-8th grade) and high school (rising 9-10th grade) students. West Point faculty and cadets teach classes and hands-on workshops. All participants must show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination. Application usually closes in March. Cost: The Center for Diversity and Leadership in STEM pays the costs of tuition, food, and housing. Participants must pay for transportation to and from West Point or Newark Airport.

Many students are still in school during early June, when this camp occurs. Consider asking your school if they would approve an early release or excused absence for this STEM opportunity.

Application deadline: February 23, 2024

2024 Session Dates:

Rising 7-8th GradeJune 3-7
Rising 9-10th GradeJune 10-14

Introduction to Flight Training from the Air Force

Aim High Flight Academy – This is a 3-week introduction to flight sponsored by the US Air Force in partnership with a number of colleges. Participants learn more about aviation and the Air Force, while earning up to 15 flight hours. The program is open to high school students who will be at least 16 years old in the summer, as well as to current Air Force Academy and Air Force ROTC cadets. 

This flight program is funded by the US Air Force, including flight training, housing, and meals.

Applications for Summer 2024 were open September 1 to October 15, 2023. Notification decisions were released in December. Because the application window is short, students should read the FAQ and How to Apply information ahead of time. 

Villanova University Navy ROTC Summer Seminar – This is a multi-day introduction to Navy ROTC on the Villanova University campus for rising high school juniors & seniors. This is the only Navy ROTC specific summer program for high school students I’m aware of. Cost $625 includes food and lodging on campus. Dates and application for 2024 should be released in early spring. Usually the application deadline has been in mid-May.

2024 Villanova Navy ROTC Summer Seminar Session Dates

Navy ROTC Summer SeminarJune 23-27

Military Engineering Summer Camps

Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) conducts STEM Summer Camps at military bases around the country.  These camps focus on military construction and engineering, and are open to rising 10th-12th grade students who are at least 15 years old.  Applications open December – April 15.  Cost $100-800 depending on camp, but sponsorships may be available for some camps.

Related article: Learn about Military Academy Nominations

Service Academy Applications Help

The military is a great choice for many students. Military college programs include military service academies as well as Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at civilian colleges. 

When I applied to the Naval Academy, I filled out a packet of paper forms with space for hand-written essays and bubbled in activity listings. The format has changed over the years, but the need for organization and timeliness remains. Applying to any military academy or ROTC scholarship requires organization and attention to detail and deadlines. If you’d like guidance with this process, please fill out my contact form.