I got my acceptance letter to the Academy one afternoon after school. I came home and mom handed me an envelope I had gotten in the mail. It from the Academy and was one of those 9×11” envelopes and I figured it was way too thick to contain a rejection letter. I tore it open and the first page told me congratulations, I had been accepted. It also came with a thicker sort of certificate-looking thing congratulating you in nicer font on your acceptance. About three seconds after coming in the house and two seconds after mom handed me the envelope, I exclaimed “mom, I have a future!” and darted out with the certificate. I drove up to my girlfriend’s house and caught her in her car as she was pulling up after dropping off a friend at home. I opened my door and just showed her the certificate, which I knew she would recognize as identical as her own. I swear it was one smooth motion how she leapt out of her car and into mine and it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
The next day at school I dropped off a copy of my acceptance letter with my guidance counselor. She was busy so I just dropped the letter off and walked away. No one at the school, except for my girlfriend and the people who wrote recommendation letters for me, knew I was applying. I don’t like people to see me work and I don’t like people to see my failures so I tend to keep projects under wrap until I can see them through. So it was a huge surprise to everyone when they made the announcement over the loud speaker that I had been accepted. It also helped the surprise that at this point I had shoulder-length hair and a huge beard and looked like a total hippy and had never told anyone I had any military aspirations at all, but still. Going from having no future (except for boat thievery) to a Naval Academy future was a huge relief and I had the rest of the school year and a brief bit of summer to make the most of.
If anyone is trying to get into the Academy, here is where I would like to offer my unsolicited advice. The Academy is looking for three major things in potential candidates: physical fitness, academic chops, and leadership potential. They are looking for people who balance all three, so you can’t just rely on one of the pillars, but strengths in one area may make up for weaknesses in others. Make sure you join a school sport or athletic club of some sort. Work hard in school and get good grades, but take challenging classes; easy As will not go as far as hard-earned Bs. The biggest thing I think is proving that leadership potential. When I was doing some recruiting work for the Academy, what I told people is that you don’t have to do anything extra. It is not necessary to join a club for the sole reason of looking good, but in whatever organization you are in, try to get a leadership role. If you are on the soccer team try to be a team captain, or if you are in the chess club try to be the secretary of the chess club. That leadership potential can really set you apart from someone who is smart & athletic but who has never had to lead anybody. The Academy is, at its core, a leadership school.