Military Academy: Tips from a Mom Who Went Through Admissions With Her Son

Last night I sat with my son as he signed his commitment paperwork for the United States Coast Guard Academy. What a ride it has been as a parent helping him navigate this process.

If your teen is considering service to country, I am offering tips and timelines to help you on this journey. This is the document I wish I had a few years ago. There are so many ways to serve our country! All these options are GREAT options make sure you and your child do your research.

My son chose the Coast Guard. (Photo credit: Lori Hart)

1. There are five federal military academies. Get to know them and be open to what they all have to offer

Their websites are robust and will answer all your questions.

*USCGA does NOT require a congressional/senator nomination. The other four academies DO require a nomination. 

In addition to the academies, there are six Senior Military Colleges 

And there are hundreds of ROTC opportunities at colleges and universities across the country. Personal plug: the ROTC Army program at the University of Tennessee is amazing. 

2. Everybody is going to know somebody

There will be a phase when talking to people who attended the academies or served our country is helpful but none of these people are going to get your kid in the academy, so use these resources to help interview prep, get them excited about the opportunity and then get to work. 

3 Many Members of Congress offer an “Academy Day”

This is a fantastic way to learn about academies and ROTC programs all in one place. It is never too early to attend events like this. In addition, each military academy offers state/regional admissions events, and you must be intentional to seek out the information. 

4. Academy and ROTC applications want DETAILS

Beginning freshman year, have your child document every volunteer hour, date, time, organization. It is much easier if this information is recorded. 

5. Online resources 

  • There are lots of great online resources for parents: United States of America Service Academy Forums. BUT, the real answers are sitting on the websites for the respective academies. 
  • I also found good Facebook groups but so many people could have found the correct questions by simply going to the respective websites versus other parents answering with opinions.
  • Instagram is where my son learned how good the food is at USCGA because many cadets post about their actual experiences. 

6. ROTC versus Military Academy

Explore both. The reality is there is a free education in both avenues, vastly different lifestyles and both options allow you to graduate as a commissioned officer. It’s an easy Google search for each branch (Army example: ROTC Scholarships |

Every time you do a campus visit at a traditional college, have your child set up a meeting with the ROTC branch of their interest. We visited traditional campuses back-to-back to compare the ROTC programs as much as the institutions.

7. Junior Year 

  • See academies before junior year (if not earlier). This will allow your child to apply for Summer Seminars (High School Summer Seminar Program | U.S. Air Force Academy (, Candidate Visit Weekend (Candidate Visit Weekend :: Candidate Visit Weekend… ( or Cadet for a Day (Visit – United States Coast Guard Academy ( Each academy is different in their approach, but my recommendation is a visit junior year, and go back a second time and possibly spend the night with a cadet. 
  • Complete the pre-candidate / preliminary application (which is often the Summer Seminar registration).
  • Over the summer into senior year, your child will move from pre-candidate to candidate. 
  • West Point has the Summer Leaders Experience (SLE), Navy and USAFA have the Summer Seminar (in person and virtual) and finally, Coast Guard has the Academy Introduction Mission (AIM). Application timeline is Dec/Jan. 
  • Boys State / Girls State – Junior year spring semester, your child should apply for this program in your respective state! It was a wonderful experience for my son.
  • Each academy recruits differently! Navy invited my son to a Candidate Visit Weekend (Candi)date Visit Weekend :: Candidate Visit Weekend… (….do this! It was his second visit and he walked away and decided this wasn’t his path. 
  • Pushups, sit ups, running…. get ready for the physical part of the test that will be required as part of the application. It’s easy to find this information online based on where your child is applying. (USCGA example: 2028 PFE Manual (

8. Summer before Senior Year

  • Attend Summer Seminar
  • Attend Boys State/Girls State 
  • Complete the resume. 
  • Take the time to get a good headshot as it will be required for some of the applications. 
  • The nomination process is different for each Congressperson/Senator. Anticipate 7-8 essays before your child even begins to apply to academy and these can be done before school begins. 

9. Senior Year 

  • There are a LOT of recommendation letters as part of this process. Sending a resume with the ask is always good because sometimes the mentor does not remember all the details. 
  • Each application has 3-4 essays. If it says, “optional essay,” it’s not optional. Helping your child find time to write and write and write. As a parent, my job was to help him think, talk out loud to form ideas. I will tell you, this part was the hardest part because of senior year academics and extracurriculars! 
  • Each academy has a fitness test. Have a coach at the school administer. 
  • USCGA has a Cadet for a Day program for Seniors. Visit – United States Coast Guard Academy (

10. Takeaways

  • We raise kids and tell them not to brag but this process is about bragging in what they write and in how they show up. Part of the process that shocked me was hearing my son being told by grown adults in the military to pick a major where he can get a 4.0.  
  • The “old military” valued a 3.0 and someone in physical shape. The “new military” wants a 4.0 kid, and they can get you physically ready. So that 4.0 your senior year of college gets you to top choice of military training post-graduation. 
  • As a parent, do not forget to pause and remember who owns the dream. An 18-year-old making this type of commitment is admirable and amazing and you have raised a great child. But IF this is not their dream, this is not the path they should be taking. I constantly had to check myself in this process to make sure this is what my son wanted, and I was supporting him versus the opposite. 
  • Will your child get in? This is the best comment I read from a parent group. 

There are no hard lines. The best description I have seen is that each class is a puzzle, and the admissions team has to find all the pieces to build that class puzzle. Each piece is unique but important to the whole. The classes are small but extremely diverse.

Every class needs musicians, athletes for dozens of sports, a variety of past life experiences, multiple languages, skill diversity, multiple career plans, etc. It’s a formula that no one on the outside knows, but it is so much more than test scores. And if an academy wants you, but thinks you need an academic boost first, the prep/foundation schools are a definite option.

My son experienced a lot of success and some disappointments and that is just part of it. He had options and for that I am grateful. Before he received any acceptances, there were THREE paths, and he didn’t rank order them. He knew he wanted to serve his country which was bigger than his desire to land at a certain place. 

My son will report for duty on July 1, 2024, to the United States Coast Guard Academy. It takes a big heart to choose to serve our country and I am so fortunate to be the mom of an incoming cadet. 

More Great Reading:

When Your Teen Joins The Military, “Thank You For Your Service” Takes on a Whole New Meaning

About Lori Hart, Ph.D.

Lori Hart, Ph.D. is a sorority woman, a parent, a college speaker and likes to call it like she sees it. She has tremendous hope in college students and their abilities to figure things out and becoming thriving citizens in the world!       

Read more posts by Lori

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