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United States Military Academy

Occupying about 16,000 acres on the west bank of the Hudson River, West Point prepares cadets for careers as officers in the U.S. Army, which oversees its operations. Graduates are automatically commissioned into the U.S. Army, usually as a Second Lieutenant.

view of the United States Military Academy


The idea of a military academy was first proposed in the late 1700's by George Washington and other prominent leaders. On March 16, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed an Act of Congress establishing the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the Academy officially opened in July of the same year. West Point was chosen because the military post that occupied the site had played an important role during the Revolutionary War, and it is now the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.

Under Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, who served as Superintendent from 1817 to 1833, the Academy became a pioneer in civil engineering. Thayer also introduced many educational reforms that remain a major part of Academy life today, and it was he who instituted the honor code by which every cadet still lives. Since the Civil War, the Academy has reduced its emphasis on civil engineering and added courses in a variety of physical and life sciences, social sciences, electrical and mechanical engineering, English and foreign languages, philosophy, geography, and history. The first African-American cadet was admitted in 1870, and the first female cadets were graduated in 1980.

Admission Procedure

A maximum of 4,000 cadets are admitted to the Academy in any given year. A candidate for admission must be at least 17 years old, and not yet 22 years of age on July 1 of the year of admission, and must also be unmarried. A candidate must be nominated for admission before being allowed to take the academic, physical aptitude and medical examinations. About three-fourths of available vacancies are filled by nominees of U.S. Representatives and Senators. In addition, qualified enlisted members of the regular and reserve components of the armed forces may be nominated, and other candidates may be nominated by the President or Vice-President. Quotas have also been established for the sons and daughters of deceased or disabled veterans, and for certain other categories.

The official website of the United States Military Academy is

official seal of the United States Military Academy

George Washington
March 16
President Thomas Jefferson
Revolutionary War

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This page was last updated on 06/15/2018.