The process to go to one of our military academies is a lengthy and difficult process. This process should begin in the spring of a student's junior year of high school. Student must apply for admission to the academy of their choice and also apply for nomination for appointment from Vice President of the United States, State's US Senators and US Representative of district student resides. Please work with counselor through this process. Below are links to the Military Academies and to the Offices of Individuals that can nominate Jones High School Students. Also below are some FAQ's about the nomination process and military academy.
Nominations are a fairly complex subject. This FAQ is intended to provide a basic explanation of the process and answer some common questions. However, there are intricacies in the process that go beyond the scope of this FAQ.
What is a nomination and why is it important?
Nominations are important for USNA, USAFA, USMA, and USMMA. USCGA does not use a nomination process. USMMA’s process is slightly different from the other services as will be discussed below. Thus, when the term SA (Service Academy) is used in this sticky, it refers to all SAs other than USCGA, unless otherwise indicated.
In order to secure an appointment, a candidate must be triple qualified (scholastically, medically, physically) AND obtain a nomination. Thus, if you don’t have a nomination, you have zero chance of receiving an appointment.
What governs nominations?
Law, established by Congress and NOT the SAs. This means SAs and candidates must follow the process outlined in the law even if it’s confusing, doesn’t seem to make sense, etc.
What are the sources of nominations?
There are many sources of nominations; some are available to everyone and some only to certain candidates. The following sources are available to all candidates: Vice President, 2 Senators, US Representative. NOTE: You can only apply to the Senators and Representative where you are domiciled (i.e. one cannot choose which Senator or Representative to whom to apply for a nomination). Other sources of nominations include the President and ROTC/JROTC. Those living in the District of Columbia or in U.S. territories or possessions (e.g., Puerto Rico, Guam) apply to various officials in those areas. Contact your SA nominations person if you have questions.
There are a few additional sources that apply to very few individuals, such as for children of Medal of Honor recipients, POWs, or deceased/disabled veterans. Also, there is a process for active duty enlisted applying to SAs. There are also noms available to ROTC participants. Because these groups are small and specialized, this FAQ will not cover these topics. If you believe you are eligible for one of these nominations, visit the SA admissions website or contact them directly.
Tell me more about Member of Congress (MOC) nominations
The discussion below relates only to USNA, USMA and USAFA. USMMA will be covered later. As discussed above, everyone is eligible to apply for a MOC nomination from each of his/her MOCs, which for most includes their two US senators and their US representative. Each MOC can have up to five midshipmen/cadets at each SA at one time. These five can be spread out among the four classes as the MOC sees fit. Generally, each MOC has one mid/cadet for three class years “slotted” (or “charged”) to that MOC and two mids/cadets in one class year. When one of those mids/cadets graduates or otherwise leaves the SA, a spot opens up for the next year.
For obvious reasons, MOCs try to ensure that they have at least one slot open each year – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to nominate anyone to that SA which would leave constituents very unhappy. This “management” process is beyond the scope of this FAQ but suffice it to say that the MOCs and SAs work closely to ensure that there is at least one slot for each SA for each MOC each year. Every so often, the MOC will have 2 slots in a year for a SA. And, unfortunately, some MOCs “mismanage” their slots leaving no noms for a particular year.
Each MOC can nominate up to 10 candidates for each available slot that year. So, if the MOC has one opening, he/she can nominate 10 people; if this is a year with two openings, the MOC can nominate a total of 20 people – 10 for each of the two slots.
For USMMA: MOCs can have an unlimited number of mids at the SA; they are not subject to the limit of 5.
How does the MOC nomination process work?
Each MOC decides how to run his/her nomination process. What is described below is how MOST do it. However, this is by no means universal and you may find that one or more of your MOCs does things differently.
MOCs posts nomination application instructions online. Most request items similar to what you provide to the SA – grades, test scores, activities, etc. Many also want you to complete one or more essays. MOCs set their own application deadlines and some can be VERY EARLY (i.e., Sept. 30). There is generally no advantage to turning in your application early (other than it's done). However, do NOT be late as that is the easiest way for the MOC to reject your application.
Most MOCs use “nominating committees” made up of general citizens, active or retired military personnel, and government leaders from the MOC’s state or district. These individuals are volunteers and generally have some tie to one of the SAs but may not be grads. Less populous states/districts may have a single committee handling all SA noms; other states/districts have separate committees for each SA. It’s up to the MOC.
The committee reviews the application packages. Some MOCs make their decision entirely based “on the paper,” meaning they do not conduct interviews with candidates. However, many MOCs conduct interviews; the interviews are almost always with the committee personnel. Based on the information from the package and the interview (as applicable), the committee recommends a “slate” of nominees to the MOC, who makes the final decision.
What are “principal” noms?
MOCs can submit their slate in one of three ways. It is ENTIRELY up to them; they can do it differently for different SAs and they can change their approach every year. Some may tell candidates how they do it but they aren’t required to.
The first way is “Principal Nominee with Competitive Alternates.” Here, the MOC makes one candidate his/her “principal nominee.” That means that, if that candidate is fully qualified, the SA MUST offer him/her an appointment. [Several years ago, a very small number of 3Qed candidates with principal noms to USNA did NOT receive appointments -- the law describing USNA admissions is worded slightly differently than for USAF and USMA. Thus, for USNA only, 3A+ a principal nom is almost a guarantee but not 100%]. Competitive alternates means that, if the principal nominee is not fully qualified, the SA has discretion in choosing the remaining 9 (or fewer if there were fewer than 10 nominees) if they are otherwise qualified.
The second way is “Principal Nominee with Ranked Alternates.” This differs from the above in that the MOC ranks all 10 of his/her nominees. The SA must go down the list. So, if the principal nominee isn’t qualified, the SA must offer the nomination to the next highest ranked, fully qualified candidate on the list and so on.
The third way is a competitive slate. Here, the MOC gives a list (or “slate”) of 10 (or fewer) candidates to the SA and lets the SA decide which one they think best for the offer of appointment. This is the MOST common method among MOCs.
Will I know if I’m the principal nominee?
Most MOCs who give principal noms tell the nominee of his/her status. But it’s up to the MOC to do so, although your RD also has that information.
Do I have to know my MOC to get a nom?
ABSOLUTELY NOT! Your parents don’t have to belong to the same political party as the MOC; they don’t need to be huge donors, etc. The reason MOCs use committees to make the decision is to de-politicize the process.
The above said, no one is naïve enough to believe that, if your MOC is your next door neighbor and has known you since you were 2 years old, that this wouldn’t help your cause. However, almost everyone who has gone through the process considers it “fair” in terms of not needing to know the MOC and virtually everyone who receives a nom gets it on merit without any connection whatsoever to the MOC.
Does the MOC have to nominate 10 people for each slot?
No. He/she can nominate up to 10. In some areas of the country, there may not be 10 applicants, let alone qualified applicants, for each slot. If there are no applicants from the MOC’s state or district to a particular SA in a given year, the MOC would not be able to nominate anyone.
How do I know to which MOCs to apply?
Under the law, MOCs may only nominate individuals who are legal residents of their state/district. For most candidates, your state/district of residence is where your parents own/rent property, vote, pay taxes, register their car, etc. Because you are a dependent, your residency is based on that of your parents.
If your parents are divorced or otherwise live and vote in separate districts or states AND they share legal custody of you, you are eligible to apply to the MOCs from either state/district. It doesn’t matter where you live provided you meet the above criteria. So, if you live in MD with your mother but your father, living in TX shares legal custody of you, you can apply to the MOCs in MD or TX. You can choose. However, you may NOT apply to BOTH.
Can MOC’s trade, swap, borrow slots? IOW, if one MOC doesn’t have enough applicants or nominees to fill his/her slot at a SA, can another MOC with far too many candidates take those unused slots?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions and the answer is “no” because it’s against the law. MOCs can only nominate candidates who are legal residents of their state/district. If you don’t live there, they can’t nominate you.
But I’ve heard that this happens all the time
There are rumors about almost everything. I’m not sure anyone can ever prove it doesn’t happen. But it is against the law. At the end of the day, if an MOC doesn’t have his/her full quota of mids/cadets, those slots do get filled with candidates from other states/districts who come out of the “national pool.”
What are the MOC interviews like?
There are more than 500 MOCs, with different committees and individuals meaning there are an infinite possibility of interview styles, questions, etc. Most ask the “obvious” questions about why you want to attend the SA, what makes you a good candidate, etc. Some ask about current events. Others have questions from out in left field.
I’ve heard some states/districts are really “competitive.” What does that mean?
Certain states and/or districts are considered competitive because there are so many applicants for the nominations in those areas. A few things to keep in mind. Some districts/states are competitive for one SA but not for another (for example, CO is popular for USAFA and not as much for the other SAs). States can be competitive because they are populous (e.g., CA, TX) as compared to less populated states such as MT, ND, WY. Districts are often competitive because there it contains one or more large military base (kids of military parents tend to apply to SAs in higher numbers and/or the presence of the military generates interest in SAs among civilians) or because there are a large number of excellent high schools in that district.
For 99% of you, there’s nothing you can do about where you live. Would it help to move to North Dakota? Maybe. But remember those candidates still must be fully qualified and they are – two recent USNA Superintendents (3-star Admirals) were from ND. IOW, it’s not that candidates from less populous states are less qualified, there simply are fewer of them competing for nominations.
The good news is that candidates from competitive districts tend to have strong records and thus compete very well in the National Pool. Thus, it's possible that 6, 7, 8 or even all 10 nominees from a slate in a super-competitive district will ultimately receive appointments. One "wins" the slate and the others are charged to other entities, such as the SecNav/SecAF, etc.
Can I get more than one nomination to the same SA?
Theoretically, yes. In reality . . . maybe, maybe not. In theory, each of your MOCs could nominate you to each SA to which you’re applying. So, you could have 3 noms to 4 SAs! However, in competitive states/districts , MOCs are generally unwilling to do this. The reason is they want to ensure as many candidates as possible get at least one nom to one SA. Some will ask you if you already have a nom to the SA from ANY source and, if so, not even consider you. Some will get together with the other MOCs in the state and ensure no one gets more than one nom to any particular SA. And some will get together such that a candidate will receive only 1 nom to 1 SA, period.
Again, you likely will have little to no idea how your MOC approaches things, although you can certainly ask your MOC’s representative. You may get a clue if your MOC asks you to rank your SAs or to pick only one – that’s a good sign that there is “rationing” of nominations. The above said, those in super-competitive district may still receive multiple MOC noms to the same SA as some MOCs want to give noms to those they consider the "best" candidates, regardless of what the other MOCs have done.
MOCs can approach this however they like. And, the fact things worked a certain way last year does not mean they’ll work the same way this year. MOCs change (retire, are defeated) and the same MOC can change his/her approach from year to year. So while it may help to understand the system, there is nothing that you or the SAs can do to impact/change it.
I didn’t get a nom. Am I doomed?
Probably. In order to receive an appointment, you must have a nomination. The SAs hope that you will secure one on your own from one of the sources available to you. As a result, the overwhelming majority of candidates who don’t obtain a nom get turndowns. However, in VERY RARE cases where a SA really wants a candidate and where the candidate didn’t obtain a nom, the SA may be able to “find” one from a source to which you can’t apply but which can hand out noms. For USNA for example, the primary source is the Superintendent, who can appoint up to 50 candidates each year. However, normally fewer than 5 of those Supe's nominations are used.
The VP is also a potential source, but like MOCs, can only have up to 5 mids at each SA at one time.
I got a nom from one of my Senators. Should I withdraw my application from my other MOCs?
No – with one exception. Having multiple MOC noms gives you more chances to "win" your slate and thus gives the SA more opportunities to charge/“slot” you and thus to offer you an appointment. Let’s say Candidate A “only” has a nom from her Senator whereas Candidate B has a nom from his Senator, his Rep, and the President. If USNA doesn’t charge Candidate A to her Senator, she goes immediately into the national pool. If USNA doesn’t charge Candidate B to his Senator, they can still slot him to his Rep or to the Pres – two more places to fit him before sending him to the national pool. Also, MOC noms in most areas of the country are competitive and getting two shows you competed well against your peers.
What about the exception you mentioned?
IF you have a Letter of Assurance (LOA) and are otherwise fully qualified, ANY nomination is sufficient for an appointment. Thus, if you receive an LOA, once you know you have a nom, you could withdraw your application from other nom sources. That said, BE SURE that you have the nom first. Not only confirm it with the MOC’s office but also contact the SA to make sure THEY have it. The last thing you want is for the MOC not to submit his slate, etc. The surest thing to do is wait until you have that appointment certificate in hand and then pull any remaining nom submissions.
What about USMMA?
The application process for US Representatives is a bit different. For the “big 3,” SAs you can only apply to the Rep for the district in which you reside. For USMMA, you can apply to any Rep in the STATE in which you reside. Thus, if you reside in CA 13 (13th district of CA), you can not only apply to that MOC but to all of the Reps in CA. Also, there is no limit of 5 mids per MOC for USMMA purposes.
Who can apply for a Presidential nom?
As a general premise, Presidential noms are available for children with a parent/legal guardian who either is retired from the military or is currently on active duty or in the Reserves and has spent at least 8 continuous years on active duty or in the Reserves. The specific requirements are listed on the SA websites. If you have at least one parent who meets the requirements listed, you can apply for a Pres nom. It is done on-line and basically consists of providing documentation (which your parent will have) to support your eligibility. No essays, recommendations, etc. are required.
The President can appoint up to 100 candidates per year. Presidential noms are NOT competitive, meaning that, if your parent meets the requirements, you will receive one. Thus, an unlimited number of candidates can receive a Presidential nomination (typically, it's 700-800 per year) -- only 100 can be charged to the President. Those not charged to the President or another source will go to the National Pool.
I have a Presidential nom so I don’t need to apply for MOC noms, right?
Wrong. There are MANY more candidates with Pres noms than there are slots. Thus, you give the SA much more flexibility in slotting you if you also obtain an MOC nom. In addition, Pres noms aren’t competitive and SAs like to see that you competed favorably against your peers. Finally, your BGO, ALO, etc. will likely ask what noms you’re seeking and it looks bad if you aren’t even trying for an MOC nom.
Tell me about the Vice Presidential nom?
Like the MOCs, the VP can have up to 5 candidates at each SA at any given time. The SAs themselves decide who gets these noms. Some wonder if the work required is worth it, given that on average only one person per year will get a VP nom. Well, someone has to get it and, if you don’t apply for it, it won’t be you!
If I have an LOA am I more likely to get an MOC nom?
Probably but not always. First, the SAs notify MOCs of LOA candidates. Most MOCs like to nominate LOA candidates because they’re certain that those individuals (if otherwise qualified) will receive appointments. However, there a few MOCs prefer not to nominate LOA candidates in the (mistaken) belief that the SA will “find” a nom for all LOA candidates. As you can see from the above, there aren’t enough “extra” noms for SAs to find them for all LOA candidates. Thus, most LOA candidates without noms will receive a turndown. So, just because you receive an LOA, don’t assume you can rest on your laurels – give 100% to securing a nom.
Also, MOCs make their own decisions about the "best" candidates and their views may not always agree with those of the SAs. So, just because the SA thinks you're worthy of an LOA doesn't necessarily mean the MOC thinks you're one of his/her top candidates.
In my district, I have a nom but another candidate with a nom also has an LOA. Will that person definitely get the appointment and do I have a shot?
The LOA candidate with the nom will receive an appointment if he/she is fully qualified. Whether that individual is slotted to the MOC is up to teh SA and depends on what other noms that person may have. If that person is slotted to the MOC, the other 9 go into the national pool and can still be offered an appointment. People selected from the national pool and not slotted to another source are slotted to SecNav/SecArmy, etc. Those offices are not sources of nominations but are sources of appointments.
What if 2 people on an MOC nom slate have LOAs?
Assuming they have no other sources of noms (such as the President) in all likelihood, one will be slotted to the MOC and the other to SecNav/SecAF, etc. The other 8 go into the national pool and compete for an appointment