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US Military Academy at West Point/Extracurricular activities vs academics


QUESTION: Hello, I am a sophmore at Paramus High School in New Jersey and I was wondering about the extracurricular actives and academics. I'm did marchingband my freshman year and sophmore year and I decided to do football this year which affected my grades due to fatigue. And I heard for admission and nomination, congressmen and administers look at grades from sohpmore and junior as the main grades for the West Point admission. So my question is should I stop football during my junior year to study to get my GPA and SAT/ACT over with and start football again in my senior year and get varsity letter? Because Im in all honors class and one AP Government course and my grade this first marking period wasn't so great. So should I continue marchingband for 3 years and do football in my senior year so I would have 3 years of marchingband and 2 years of football and hopefully get the varsity letter? I really need advice to choose which one to do. Because I might be able to get a section leadership points in marchingband but in football, I won't be a captain.

ANSWER: It's good to hear from you Peter.  Thanks for your interest in West Point.

As you know, West Point is looking for well rounded young men and women who are good students, good athletes and good leaders.  Having a balance in all three areas is important to maximize your competitive position. The question here is how to best achieve that balance in your situation to maximize your competitive position.  One important point is that success at West Point is predicted by success in high school at academics, athletics and leadership accomplishments.  You need to learn how to maintain your academic standing while at the same time pursuing other activities.

As to academics, keep up the good work.  You will recover from one "off" semester by working harder and smarter than ever.

In the athletic arena understand that almost 90% of all successful candidates have earned a varsity letter.  That also means that 10% have succeeded without that letter, but the odds are not in their favor.  

The leadership accomplishments can come from school, your church or your community.  It is important not only to participate but also to seek our leadership roles.  While marching band will definitely accomplish this, there are many other avenues both in and out of school to demonstrate your leadership.

My best advice is to pursue that varsity letter in football your junior and senior years.  At the same time find activities in your school, church and/or community that you enjoy and that offer the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership capabilities.

When you are successful with this strategy you will most certainly become competitive for admission in your Senior year.

Good luck in your quest, Peter.

Best Regards,

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Is football that good/important in applying for WestPoint? Because I don`t think I can study/keep up good grades and play varsity football. I also don`t start and won`t untill I`m a senior so it won`t give me much leadership points. So should I still continue to play football?

Hi again, Peter.

Football in and of itself is NOT that important.  What is important is earning a varsity letter, no matter the sport, AND demonstrating that you can be successful in your academics, plus athletics, plus leadership activities simultaneously.  The West Point experience is a real pressure cooker where you MUST be able to pursue multiple accomplishments simultaneously and successfully.  Demonstrating that ability in high school is very important towards establishing your competitiveness for admission.

Is there another sport where you might earn a varsity letter?  You have the rest of your sophomore year plus your junior and senior years to pursue that goal.  Also, you don't get leadership credit for achieving a varsity letter, but rather athletic credit.  If you were selected as a team captain that would count for both athletic and leadership accomplishments.

You asked for my recommendations, Peter, and so I strongly recommend that you pursue a varsity letter in your BEST sport.  If that's football, great; if not, then ANY sport counts when you earn a varsity letter.

Good luck in your quest.

Best Regards,

US Military Academy at West Point

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Bill Taylor


I can answer questions about admissions to West Point; about the history of West Point; about how to travel to West Point, where to eat, where to stay, etc.; and about West Point`s alumni organization, the West Point Association of Graduates.


I am a 1970 Graduate of West Point. I served six years on active duty and another 8 years in the active reserve. I have been actively involved as a Field Admissions Representative for over 20 years and have participated on my Congressman's Academy Selection Panel for over 25 years. I am actively involved in West Point Alumni affairs, serving in roles both with the West Point Association of Graduates and the local alumni chapter in Annapolis, MD. I also have two sons who graduated from West Point in 1995 and 2001. Both are veterans of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. The 1995 Grad continues to serve on Active Duty in the Army.

Bachelor of Science, US Military Academy, 1970 Master of Science (Computer Science), The Johns Hopkins University, 1980

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