Every November, just before Thanksgiving, the United States Service Academies begin their recruiting process in high schools across America.
A key facet of their marketing campaign involves deploying current academy students – Cadets from West Point and the Air Force Academy, Midshipmen from the US Naval Academy – to hit the bricks in their hometowns, making presentations and answering questions for potential candidates at their alma maters and other local schools.
Enterprising, aspiring officers at the US Naval Academy who manage to schedule six such visits (or five plus a media interview) in their states are granted an early holiday leave from the rigors of academy life. One such young man, Colin Freeh, a 2016 graduate of Archmere Academy now in his second year at Annapolis, recently made the rounds at Sanford School, Tower Hill School, St. Mark’s, St. Georges Tech and, of course, Archmere.
We spoke with Colin to learn more about what it takes to gain admission to one of our country’s service academies and what life is like if you are lucky enough to get there.
TSD: What attracted you to the US Naval Academy? And were other schools or service academies in play as you considered college options?
Colin Freeh: I grew up around the Naval Academy from a young age. I attended the summer soccer camps throughout my middle school days, and I attended football games as well.
My brother graduated from the Naval Academy’s class of 2006, and I was able to meet and talk with a number of his friends about the Academy.
The opportunity to serve my country and complete a degree at the same time attracted me to the Naval Academy. I did not apply to other service academies but Georgetown University and the University of Southern California were among my other top choices. Navy was my number one choice.
TSD: Did you go straight to the Naval Academy upon graduation from Archmere? Would you recommend this path to others?
CF: After graduating from Archmere, I went to the Naval Academy Preparatory School, located in Newport Rhode Island, for a year to strengthen myself academically and physically. I would recommend this path because it gave me another year to mature, learn about the Navy/Marine Corps, and grow as a leader.
TSD: Are there specific things — classes, clubs, leadership activities, work experience — that the Naval Academy is looking for in successful applicants?
CF: The Naval Academy’s admissions board does an in-depth assessment of the various applicants. Although there are many routes an applicant can take to achieve success there is no set amount of clubs, classes, etc. I would recommend trying to become the captain of a sports team, or becoming the president of a club/student government. I would recommend taking AP classes especially those that are STEM-related.
TSD: What are the physical requirements for admission?
CF: The Candidate Fitness Assessment consists of a basketball throw, pull ups, 40-yard shuttle run, sit ups, push ups, and a one-mile run. This test can be administered by a physical education teacher, commissioned officer, Blue and Gold officer, or a team coach.
TSD: Explain the nomination process, including timing and what students need to navigate in order to apply.
CF: Nominations are required for admittance to the Naval Academy. Most students are eligible to apply to at least four nomination sources – the Vice President, their US senators, Congressional representative or for students residing in US territories, their delegates to Congress.
The nominating sources have varying deadlines with interviews associated with them. I would recommend checking your nominating sources for individual deadlines. Congressional websites are good sources for information.
TSD: What is life like for Midshipmen? What are the things about the Academy that bring you the most joy or that you are most proud of? And what are the realities of being a midshipman that high school students should be aware of?
CF: Life as a Midshipman is both challenging but rewarding at the same time. We are up early in the morning and work to the late hours of the evening. Balancing your time is the name of the game as we are expected to excel academically, physically, and develop leadership characteristics during our time at school.
The thing that brings me the most joy from the Academy is the people which make up the Brigade. The Naval Academy is a very special place filled with people with the same goals, and we help each other achieve those goals.
The realities that high school students should be aware of is that the class schedules are very similar to high school class periods. The Naval Academy is not like regular college and there are rules and regulations that you must follow as a Midshipman. It is very challenging but has been the most rewarding experience I have gone through at such a young age.
TSD: What is your commitment to the US Navy upon graduation? And will you have a choice of assignments?
CF: Upon graduation, you owe five years of service in either the Navy or Marine Corps. You have preferences rated one through five of what you would like to do after graduation but, ultimately it’s what the Navy and Marine Corps need.
TSD: A question about life after required service: What does your brother now do who graduated from the US Naval Academy? And have you thought about your professional goals after your required service?
CF: Justin is now a lawyer in Washington D.C. I have thought about what I want to do after my service but only a little. I am hoping to go back to graduate school and earn a degree to further my education and potential for work.
For additional questions about the Naval Academy, please contact the Delaware State Blue & Gold Officer Brad Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.