Let me cover the nomination and admission process.
Each member of Congress (MOC = Senators and U.S. Representatives)
and the Vice President can have a total of five cadets at West Point
at any one time. (I will talk about West Point, but this procedure
would also apply to all the other service academies, except Coast
Guard which does not require a Congressional nomination. I will also
refer to members of Congress - MOCs; but, the Vice President's quota
and method of nomination is identical to the MOCs). Usually, each
MOC allocates their chargeable quota at each academy by appointing
one candidate per year. That way, there would be four or five cadets
at West Point at any one time - usually one in each class. When those
cadets appointed by the MOC graduate or drop out, another slot or
slots are available for the MOC to fill. That's why in some cases
a MOC can send more than one person to an academy in a given year.
For each vacancy, the MOC can nominate up to ten candidates. They
are not obligated to nominate ten, but the MOCs are encouraged to
nominate a "full slate." There are three possible ways for
the MOC to nominate candidates:
1. Principal with numbered alternates: The MOC "nominates"
one candidate as his/her principal nominee. The other nominees are
in ranked order - first alternate, second alternate, third alternate,
etc. If the principal is qualified, that person gets "appointed"
to West Point and that MOC is charged with that appointment which
counts against the MOC's quota. The principal nominee may be actually
a weaker candidate than some of the other alternates. But if that
person is qualified - as determined by West Point's objective Whole
Candidate Scores - that person is in. If the principal does not qualify
for any reason (academic, medical, recent robbery of a 7-11), the
next numbered alternate gets a crack at admission, and so on. The
principal and numbered alternate method is not used very much any
2. Principal with competing alternates: Same as #1 above,
but if the principal fails to qualify for admission, the alternates
compete for the slot.
3. Competitive: The MOC give WP ten names. West Point rank
orders the candidates and picks the best one for admission. If that
person isn't qualified, West Points continues to go down the list
until a qualified candidate is found.
Qualified candidates who are not picked for admission on this intitial
round are put into a national waiting list and are picked up in order
of merit until the class is full.
Somewhat independent of this Congressional nomination process is West
Point's own method of "locking down" highly qualified candidates
early. Since West Point competes for the same pool of kids that the
Ivies, other service academies and top-tier schools also want, they
resort to the LOA method. When a candidate first applies for admission,
West Point classifies them into one of four categories: Admissible,
Competitive, Risk, and Screened. Most Admissible candidates get LOA
(Letters of Assurance) which means that conditioned on the candidate's
meeting of all the admission standards, the candidate is assured of
getting an offer to be admitted. Strong candidates get LOAs very early,
even before the Congressional nominations. This LOA line is adjusted
up or down by COL Jones, the Director of Admissions, depending on the
progress of the admissions process.
Now you might ask if it is possible for more than one candidate in
a Congressional District to get an LOA. The answer is "Yes."
In fact, theoretically, it would be possible for all ten candidates
whom the MOC nominates to have LOAs, just as it is possible the no candidates
qualify. That means that if all of the candidates seeking nomination
from that MOC qualify for admissions, they will ALL get admitted. But,
the MOC will only be charged for one slot. The other slots may be charged
to some other category or MOC. For example, a Representative in North
Dakota may not fill all chargeable slots because there are few candidates
applying for nomination in that Congressional District. And, perhaps
those applying are not qualified.
The formal step before admission is the offer stage. Once a candidate
completes his/her file and has a nomination, WP will offer them admission.
West Point will offer admission, of course, if the candidate is above
a certain admissions criteria. Early in the admissions process that
"offer line" may be above the LOA line, meaning that the first
candidates offered admission will be the top contenders. Usually the
offer line is also the LOA line. That offer line will drop as the rolling
admissions process continues and candidates accept or decline offers.
That is where the Competitive candidates begin getting offers.
You may also hear of others getting offers early. Remember, there
are other non Congressional service-connected nomination categories.
The number for "nomination" to these non-Congressional nominating
sources is unlimited. The candidate only needs to qualify to be nominated
in that category (eg., Presidential nominations for candidates with
active or retired parents, sons/daughters of disabled veterans, sons
and daughters of Medal of Honor recipients, Regular Army, Reserves and
National Guard, etc).
If a candidate is in one of these non-Congressional service-connected
nomination categories, is qualified for admission, and is within the
quota set aside for these categories, they will get offers of admission.
These candidates need not even have an LOA, but must be qualified.
West Point's student body therefore is distributed according to the
1. Vice President - 5
2. Senate - 500 (100x 5)
3. House of Representatives - 2175 (435 x 5)
4. Virgin Islands - 2
5. Guam - 2
6. Puerto Rico - 6
7. Samoa - 1
1. President - 400
2. Regular Army/Reserve Components - 340/340
3. ROTC - 80
4. Medal of Honor - Unlimited
Other Qualified Candidates
(Rounds out the size of the Corps of Cadets to
bring them up to the authorized strength of 4,400; West Point's
authorized strength has been increased from 4,000 to 4,400, so these
and other categories will be increased accordingly.)
1. Qualified Alternates
(Those chosen from qualified candidates who are
not admitted in one of the above Congressional nominating categories.)
2. Additional Appointees
(A limited number given to the Superintendent
USMA to use at his discretion - usually given to varsity athletes
and as a means to try to conform the demographic mix of USMA with
the U.S. Army's.)
You can see, therefore, that the number of service connected slots
available each year depends on the number of vacancies available, but
is generally one-fourth of the total authorized cadetships in that category.
So, although someone may have an LOA, it does not necessarily mean
that they should receive an offer immediately. For Congressional nomination
categories, depending on where they stand relative to the offer line
will determine when they actually get their offer.
And, of course, offers are not tendered until there is a full evaluation
which cannot happen until the candidate has a completed file. But, an
LOA can still be given without a completed file. The purpose of the
LOA is to assure an outstanding candidate that they will be admitted
if they are qualified and lessens the chance that they will make a big
mistake and go to Annapolis or some other inferior institution :-)
An offered candidate has a little bit of time to contemplate whether
or not they will accept the offer - usually until around the first part
of May. When they accept, they accept their "appointment"
and become accepted candidates. On R-Day they become New Cadets. After
Beast Barracks and when the Corps returns in the late summer and accepts
them into the Corps, they become full-fledged Cadets.
If your candidate is designated a "principal" (which will
apply only in nomination methods #1 and #2 above), they are in if they
are qualified, whether or not they are the best according to West Point's
own ranking. And if your candidate has an LOA, they are also in if they
meet the admissions requirements - West Point will find them a slot,
and if they don't yet have a nomination, a nomination source will be
found for them.
Washington State Admission Field Force
Addendum # 1 (By Joe Brillante)
The number of candidates applying for admission varies from year
to year, based on factors such as the standing of the military with
the general public, the possibility of war, the economic situation,
and even the fluctuations that you see from high school year group
to high school year groups. Generally, between 11,000 and 15,000 candidates
In some admissions literature distributed by West Point, it was illustrated
that in one representative year in which 12,000 applied, 4,000 were
nominated, 2,500 were fully qualified, and 1,180 were admitted. The
yield - that is the ratio of acceptances to offers - is generally
high, probably about 80%. So, under the above scenario, there would
have been at least 1,475 offers to yield 1,180 acceptances. That means
that about 1,025 candidates did not receive offers.
When a class is being filled, West Point is bound by certain Federal
statutes. Congressional and service-connected appointments account
for about 841 cadetships.
Title X, U.S. Code specifies that West Point must admitted 150 from
the National Waiting List as "Qualified Alternates" - those
candidates who have Congressional nominations - and these appointments
must in the order of their Whole Candidate Scores (strictly objective).
That makes the running total 991.
West Point may select a number of candidates not based on the WCS
to fill the class with "additional appointees" and these
appointments must be in a 3:1 ratio of Congressional to service connected
nominations. With 89 remaining slots, that means that 67 slots that
may be filled without regard to the WCS will be from Congressional
nominees, and 23 from service connected nominations.
Congress has recently allowed the Federal service academies to return
to their previously authorized strength of 4,400 - up from 4,000.
That means there will be a slight adjustment in the numbers above,
although the number of Congressional appointed cadetships will probably
remain the same.
Addendum #2 (Compiled
Children of military parents are able to apply for nominations with
the Congressional delegations of either their local residence or their
parents' legal residence. The recommendation is to apply where the
applicant can attend an interview ... otherwise the Congressperson's
Selection Committee is comparing a paper file to real (usually impressive)
candidates. This is one reason Presidential Nominations are so important
to children of military parents.
(Compiled from sources.)
The USMA Admissions Committee, which is the body that makes offers
of admission to West Point, meets almost every Tuesday during the
Fall and Spring. As a courtesy, the USMA Admissions Office calls each
Senator/Congressmen whose nominee will receive an offer before the
offer is sent to the nominee. This allows the Senator/Congressmen,
if they so choose, to call the nominee and be the one giving the good