Last week, I had the opportunity to leave the Naval Academy a few days early for Thanksgiving in order to visit high schools in my hometown, Richmond, Va. My orders were simple: to promote the Navy and the Naval Academy.
Wearing inspection-ready SDBs and carrying a briefcase full of USNA pamphlets, I surprised the schools’ front desk workers who were not used to seeing a service-member in their school. At most of the schools, I set up a table in the school cafeteria during the students’ lunch break. Interested, or just curious, students would trickle over to my table to find out what this guy in uniform was doing in their school cafeteria.
Many students did not understand the purpose of the U.S. Naval Academy. However, what surprised me the most was how little the faculty knew about the Naval Academy. Several high school teachers did not know where the Naval Academy was, or what the institution had to offer. I understand that less than 1% of the nation serves in the military, but I think high school teachers especially should know about the great opportunities offered at the Naval Academy.
Not that the Academy is lacking applicants. Reading through the Naval Academy Class of 2015’s profile reminded me of how selective the Naval Academy is. This year, the Academy will likely have over 17,000 applicants (another new record) and admit 1,400 of them. About 1,200 of those admitted will arrive on Induction Day. Many students left my table when I told them the admission rate. For those who stayed behind, I added how the acceptance rate was 0% for those who didn’t submit an application. I think the increased cost of higher education in the U.S. coupled with the poor economy incentivizes prospective candidates formerly on the border of applying to at least throw their hats in the ring. The free tuition and guaranteed job convinced many of the high school students I spoke with to research the Academy.
One school had me speak for an Air Force JROTC class. Many of the students in that class were in the process of applying to one of the service academies. For this group, I tried to emphasize the difference between the service academies and civilian schools. The service academies stress leadership; civilian schools stress academics. I did have a difficult time answering why a student should chose the Naval Academy over an ROTC program. After stalling for a minute by discussing how military training at the Academy is more intense, I came up with a better answer. I told the student that the lifelong bond between midshipmen at the Naval Academy would be stronger than the bond among students at most civilian schools.
Overall, I enjoyed talking about the Naval Academy with these kids. The experience certainly caused me to reflect on where I was four years ago, and why I came to the Academy.