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.
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
Benefits of Military Academy Summer Programs
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 1||June 4-6||Virtual|
|Session 2||June 11-14||In Person|
|Session 3||June 18-21||In Person|
Related: Learn about Air Force ROTC Scholarships
US Naval Academy Summer Seminar
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 1||June 1-6|
|Session 2||June 8-13|
|Session 3||June 15-20*|
US Military Academy Summer Leaders Experience
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 1||June 1-7|
|Session 2||June 8-14|
US Coast Guard Academy Academy Introduction Mission
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 usually open early February – April 15. Cost for in person sessions is around $750. Some need based scholarships are available.
2024 Coast Guard Academy AIM Dates:
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 typically ask for grades in academic courses, an activities list, an essay, and PSAT, SAT, or ACT test scores. 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.
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.
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 reach out.