Guide to Military Academy Nominations

January 24, 2024

What Are Military Academy Nominations?

When students apply to military service academies, the nomination requirement often causes confusion. This guide will help you better understand which military academy nominations you are 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. The US Merchant Marine Academy accepts only congressional nominations. The US Coast Guard Academy does not require nominations. 

A nomination may have similar requirements to a college application, with deadlines in early fall. Requesting a nomination is separate from the admissions application to each academy. A nomination is not a guarantee of admission to an academy. Many more students will receive a nomination than will eventually be offered an appointment. 

A nomination is more than just an endorsement or letter of recommendation. It’s the formal designation of a slate of nominees from an official source to an academy. The service academy nomination requirement is set by law and ensures that appointees come from across the US and reflect many family backgrounds.

Pro Tip

Complete your nomination requests early – at the end of junior year or the summer before senior year. Don’t wait to find out if you got a nomination to complete your academy admissions application. These are separate applications you will probably need to work on at the same time.

Sources of Military Academy Nominations

Congressional Representative1Senators1Vice PresidentPresident,Service Connected 
US Military AcademyYesYesYesYesYes
US Naval AcademyYesYesYesYesYes
US Air Force AcademyYesYesYesYesYes
US Merchant Marine AcademyYes2Yes2Not AcceptedNot AcceptedNote 3
US Coast Guard AcademyDoes Not Require Nomination
1 The  Delegate for the District of Columbia, the Delegate from the US Virgin Islands, the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, the Delegate from Guam, the Delegate from American Samoa, and the Delegate from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands may also nominate candidates from their respective areas.
2 The Merchant Marine Academy requires a nomination from a member of Congress from the applicant’s state of residence/domicile. Representatives may nominate applicants from outside their district as long as they are residents of the same state.
3 The Secretary of Transportation can also nominate applicants to the US Merchant Marine Academy. Contact your USMMA admissions representative for more information.

If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, keep reading and I’ll explain each nomination category.

Congressional Nominations
Vice President
Reserve Officer Training Corps & Junior ROTC
Nominations for Enlisted Service Members
Children of Deceased, Disabled, Missing Veterans, POW, and Medal of Honor Recipients

Graphic explaining military academy nomination requirements

Congressional Nominations

Students can request a nomination from each of their members of Congress. This includes both senators and the representative for their congressional district. You do not have to know a member of Congress personally, contribute to their campaigns, or be of the same political party in order to get a nomination from them.

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 member of Congress controls their own application process and deadline. Most use a competitive selection process that is similar to a college application. They might require transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume, or essays. 

Many representatives and some senators hold interviews to select final nominees. These interviews are usually conducted by local constituents with military experience and/or staffers for the member of Congress. 

Usually you can find nomination application requirements and timeline on a member of Congress’ official website under a heading such as Services. If you are unsure of who your members of Congress are, use the Look Up tools for the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Some members will ask students to rank which academies they want a nomination for or will only allow students to request a nomination for a single academy. Sometimes, representatives and senators coordinate their nomination slates so they can offer nominations to a larger number of candidates. 

Each member of Congress may have five students at each Department of Defense academy “charged” to their office at a time. They may nominate up to fifteen students for each vacancy.

Nominees who are not selected as the appointee charged to that member of Congress can still be offered an appointment by the academy. Each qualified alternate nominee will be ranked by order of merit, and the top 200 will be offered an appointment.

Note: Recent changes increased the number of nominations that each member of Congress can make. Read more about the recent changes to nominations and how it might affect your application.

Pro Tip

Don’t get bogged down trying to figure out if you were a primary nominee, alternate nominee, or ranked nominee. This is totally outside your control, and you might never know how your nomination was labeled. Instead, concentrate on items you CAN control, like grades, test scores, and physical readiness.

Nominations for the US Merchant Marine Academy

The US Merchant Marine Academy requires candidates to have a congressional nomination from a member 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 the Merchant Marine Academy is small, 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 service connected nominations. But, the Transportation Secretary can nominate up to 50 cadets to USMMA. Contact your USMMA admissions representative for more information.

Related Article: Military Academy Summer Programs

Vice President

Any US citizen candidate can apply for a vice presidential nomination. The vice president nominates without geographic restrictions, so students who are US citizens living overseas should be sure 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.  Notifications are usually made in February or March of the year the class enters the academy.

Vice Presidential Nomination Application

Service Connected Military Academy Nominations

Graphic listing different types of academy nominations related to military service

Presidential Nominations

Children of active duty, reserve, and retired members of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard, are eligible for a presidential nomination. A request for a presidential nomination is made through each Department of Defense (DOD) service academy (West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy). 

Applicants must submit documentation of the parent’s qualifying military service. Students who apply to multiple DOD service academies must request separate presidential nominations through each DOD academy.

These military academy nominations are for children (including adopted) of active duty, reserve, or retired military members. Grandchildren and other relatives are not eligible for this nomination.

The US Merchant Marine Academy does not accept service connected nominations. And the US Coast Guard Academy doesn’t require nominations from any applicant.

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, you should still apply for congressional and a vice presidential nomination, even if you are eligible for a presidential nomination. 

Additional Categories of Military Academy 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. Students nominated under this category are not eligible for the Presidential nomination described above.

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.

Final Tips

  • Apply for every nomination you are eligible for.
  • Read each application carefully. Requirements may be different.
  • Pay attention to deadlines. Late requisitions are usually rejected without consideration.

Related Article: ROTC Scholarships for College