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Prospective plebes start early

Military academies suggest students apply during junior year

Military academies suggest students apply during junior year

February 10, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Leadership roles, copies of old X-rays and Congressional nominations are only a few of the requirements that set military academy hopefuls apart from the ranks of college applicants.

West Point, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Coast Guard Academy all suggest prospective students start applying to the academies of their choice in their junior year of high school.

Applicants must first fill out a candidate questionnaire, which asks hopefuls to list out their qualifying accomplishments: above average grades in college preparatory courses, high class rank, high SAT/ACT scores, various leadership roles and teacher recommendations.

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To be eligible for academy appointment one must also be between the ages of 17 and 23, be unmarried and without children.

If students meet the academies' eligibility standards they are then given the go-ahead to seek a congressional nomination, except for the U.S. Coast Guard, which does not require one.

Academy applicants can seek nomination from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate or from the Vice President of the United States. Nominating officials may select 10 students for each academy, according to the West Point Web site.

Boonsboro High School Senior Paul Feldmeyer, 17, was nominated his junior year by U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. for the Air Force Academy, but not for the Naval Academy, which was his first choice.

"He said I'd have a better chance of flying if I go to the Air Force," he said. Feldmeyer, 17, has perfect vision, one of the Air Force's distinguishing requirements, and hopes to fly fighter planes - a desire he's had since middle school.

Once a prospective has turned in an eligible questionnaire and has received a Congressional nomination, he or she must then arrange to complete a physical aptitude exam.

While each academies' requirements vary slightly for physical tests all have basically the same format. Male students must do a number of pull-ups and female students must hold a flexed arm hang. Applicants also must perform a standing long jump, basketball throw, a number of push-ups and run a 300 yard shuttle.

In addition to the physical test, academy hopefuls must also pass a thorough medical exam - the last step in the process.

Feldmeyer, a four-year high school football player, said since his exam he has been required to send copies of X-rays and MRIs taken when he injured his knee his sophomore year.

For Feldmeyer, who is also waiting for his Eagle Scout badge, the wait for acceptance is the only thing worrying him these days. He has also applied to Pennsylvania State University and Virginia Military Institute among others colleges, he said, but the Air Force remains his first choice.

All academy appointees receive a free college education.

He said he found since he applied early for the military academies that the deadlines for regular college applications seemed a lot less stressful.

Naval Academy graduate Jason Karap, now Naval officer, said he knows a lot of officers who did not get accepted initially into the academy, but instead enlisted first into the service or went first to the Naval Academy's preparatory school in Rhode Island before making the move to the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Karap, 23, who received his Bachelor of Science degree in quantitative economics, said students should at least arrange a weekend stay at the academy to which they are applying. The Naval Academy allows applicants to participate in daily activities for a week, he said. During that week-long session, hopefuls will experience everything from getting yelled at to attending classes, he said.

"You really need to learn what you're getting into," Karap said. "It's not something you want to walk into blindly."

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