What is it Like to Attend United States Military Academy?

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5 min read

Courteney earned her bachelor’s degree in Portuguese from the United States Military Academy. She specializes in English tutoring, study skills tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, she shares her experience at the United States Military Academy:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Courteney: The United States Military Academy (also known as West Point) is located on a military base, so the campus is extremely safe. All classes are within walking distance, and buses run to the athletic fields and the small shopping center on post. Unfortunately, students are not permitted to have cars on campus until after spring break of junior year, but you can borrow an upperclassman’s car or take cabs. In the summer months, you can even take a ferry to the train station and ride into Grand Central!

How available are the professors, academic advisors, and teaching assistants?

Courteney: West Point does not have academic advisors or teaching assistants, but they have civilian and military professors. Both types of professors are incredibly dedicated to their students. I even had a teacher who came to campus on a Saturday to help me prepare for a test!

How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Courteney: Dorm life at West Point is regulated by strict standards. Everyone has at least one roommate, and your rooms must be up to inspection standards every morning. It is not for everyone, but at least you will not have to worry about messy roommates! West Point serves family-style meals and some “grab-and-go” (buffet-style). These meals are free to students. If you prefer something else, you can purchase food at Grant Hall or order food from restaurants in Highland Falls (the closest town).

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Courteney: The United States Military Academy offers a wide range of subjects to major in. One of the most popular academic fields is engineering. Every student at West Point is actually required to take three semesters of engineering classes, called “tracks,” regardless of their major. I was a Portuguese major with a Systems Engineering track. The school strongly encouraged the development of my language skills. My sophomore year, I spent Spring Break in Rio de Janeiro on a departmental trip. The summer after my sophomore year, I spent several weeks on an academic trip to Cape Verde, Africa. Finally, I spent first semester of my senior year attending the Military Institute of Engineering in Rio de Janeiro. I did not incur any personal expense for these academic pursuits, and my language proficiency greatly benefited from them.

How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Courteney: Cadets spend their first six weeks at the United States Military Academy adapting to military life. They are tested physically and mentally alongside their classmates. A popular motto there is, “Cooperate and graduate.” It’s a sentiment they instill in you from the very beginning. Shared hardship might not be how everyone imagines making friends, but it forms a strong bond that remains years after graduation. After freshman year, it is much easier to socialize. There are no sororities or fraternities at West Point, but everyone plays on a sports team—whether it be club, corps squad (the official school teams), or intramural teams. There are also clubs centered around academics, religions, and cultures.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services?

Courteney: We do not have a career center at the United States Military Academy, but every student who graduates meeting the military, physical, and academic standards is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. We consistently rank on Forbes because our students do not have to pay to attend (no student loans!), and they graduate with full-time salaried positions that have complete benefits packages for students and their future families.

How are the various study areas, such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Courteney: The corps of cadets is organized into many “companies.” Each company has a study room located where those students live. Additionally, some departments, like psychology, offer study rooms in their academic buildings. The best place I found to study, however, was the library. The current library was built while I was attending. It has a coffee shop, conference rooms with IT capabilities, sitting areas, and study tables throughout the floors. I’ve never had an issue finding a place to study in the library.

Describe the surrounding town.

Courteney: The town of Highland Falls is located right outside of the West Point gates. Highland Falls has several restaurants and small businesses. The installation itself has beautiful running trails, a golf course, and even a ski hill. West Point is also only an hour’s train ride north of New York City. Sometimes the campus can be boring because not all weekends are open for travel, but if you enjoy the outdoors, you will find plenty to do!

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Courteney: My entire class entered with approximately 1,600 new cadets. By the time we graduated, only 1,300 remained. The class sizes at West Point are incredible. The largest class I had consisted of 24 people. This enables the professors to interact with each student during every session. The intimate classroom setting was one of my favorite things about the United States Military Academy.

Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Courteney: One of my favorite experiences at West Point was the completion of the Indoor Obstacle Course Test (IOCT—check it out on YouTube!). You cannot wear a watch during the test, and I was very nervous about not finishing the course on time. I had trained for months! When I reached the ropes, one of the last obstacles, I turned to look at my friends who were timing me, but I could just see their arms flailing. The gym was so packed with students who came to cheer us on. I climbed the rope as quickly as I could, and completed the necessary laps to finish. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, but as soon as I finished, my friends all rushed around me, hugging me, because I had beat the goal I set for myself. Those are the types of memories you will make at West Point.

Check out Courteney’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.