West Point – The Path to Becoming an Army Officer

Do you want to serve as an Army officer?  Commissioning through the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, is the best route to this career path.  Joining “The Long Gray Line” is an honor for all cadets who pass through West Point.

West Point admission
Lt. Col. Robert O. Kirkland, U.S. Army, Ret. offers his advice for students interested in West Point admission.

You’ll also have a lot of different career options after graduation including:

  • Air Defense Artillery
  • Armor
  • Aviation
  • Chemical Corps
  • Cyber
  • Engineers
  • Field Artillery
  • Finance
  • Infantry
  • Medical Service Corps
  • Military Intelligence
  • Military Police
  • Ordnance
  • Signal Corps

You can learn more about these job specialties at the Army’s Officer Careers and Jobs website.

The goal for each West Point graduate is to create leaders of character, preparing graduates for professional excellence.  If admitted, you’ll spend 4 years honing your leadership and critical thinking skills to prepare for your Army career.

What it takes for West Point admission

Competition is fierce for West Point applicants – here are some benchmarks for what you should strive for.  Overall, the academics portion makes up 60% of your application, fitness is 10% and leadership is 30%.  Here’s a complete guide on applying to West Point.


You’ll need SAT scores above 600 in both the math and verbal sections, or an ACT score above 29 composite.  The average high school GPA for recent West Point cadets is 3.9.  However, if your GPA is lower you can show improvement and potential through other means, such as achieving higher test scores.


You’ll need to take a fitness test to measure your fitness capability, known as the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA).  This is a series of 6 exercises that your PE teacher or military officer can administer.  Practice early and often on these events and strive to achieve maximum scores for each event!


Leadership potential is huge for West Point admissions.  Since you’ll be leading soldiers, developing this skill set is critical.  Taking on active leadership roles in activities you are interested in throughout high school is a great way to start practicing.

One important step in the West Point application is a Congressional nomination.  You’ll need to interview with your local Senator or House Representative to receive a Congressional nomination.  Competition is fierce as each Representative or Senator only has 5 slots per service academy at any time, with typically only 1 slot opening up per year.  You can find your local Representative or Senators here, and most of the time they will list their Service Academy process on their website.

If you want to serve the nation as an officer in the U.S. Army, West Point may be for you!  You can start the application process Junior year.  We recommend attending the Summer Leaders Experience the summer of your senior year of high school, in order to get a feel for what your West Point career would look like.

Special thanks to Lt. Col. Robert O. Kirkland, U.S. Army, Ret., for this guest blog post.  Lt. Col. Kirkland was one of the few officers ever to lead two separate Army ROTC programs–Claremont McKenna College from 2006 to 2009 and the University of Southern California from 2010 to 2013.  He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, was an instructor in its Department of History, and he also earned a MA and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh.  He appeared as an expert on the History Channel’s show Americas Book of Secrets: West Point in 2012. He served over 25 years on active duty as a Field Artillery Officer.  You can learn more about how Lt. Col. Kirkland assists students interested in admission to West Point and the other service academies here

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