Admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point is one of the most competitive and rigorous such processes in the Nation. Every year, there are more “fully qualified” candidates pursuing admission than nomination slots available. But thanks to the West Point Preparatory Scholarship Program (WPPSP), established in 1979 and administered and funded by the West Point Association of Graduates, a number of carefully selected and highly motivated candidates and recruited athletes are allowed to continue on the path to West Point.
Each January, the Director of Admissions prepares a list of candidates who have demonstrated outstanding qualities as scholars and leaders, but who might not be deemed “best qualified” because they come from a highly competitive congressional district. This list is then given to the WPPSP Director, who offers a partial scholarship for the coming academic year to these candidates to attend one of four military junior colleges, or Northwestern Preparatory School in the San Bernardino Mountains in California or:
- Georgia Military College (Milledgeville, GA)
- Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, VA)
- Marion Military Institute (Marion, AL)
- New Mexico Military Institute (Roswell, NM)
Each of these schools provide additional financial aid to WPPSP candidates, and all candidates must take courses dictated by the USMA Academic Board:
- American History
- Chemistry (w/lab)
- Math (pre-calculus or calculus)
- English Composition
In addition to the scholar/leader candidates, the Director of Admissions also approves athletes recommended by Army’s varsity coaches for WPPSP. These recruited athletes must attend a preparatory school as a post-secondary student, taking the same academic regiment of courses as the scholar/leaders candidates. Under NCAA rules, only West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy may conduct this type of program, and only a quarter of the total candidates admitted each year may be recruited athletes who need an additional year of academics to prepare for the academic course load at West Point. Also, attending this program allows the recruited athlete to play his or her sport at the post-graduate level without losing a year of college eligibility.
This might sound like the United States Military Preparatory School (USMAPS), but it is not. WPPSP supplements USMAPS, which only teaches math and English and emphasizes student development through USMA’s Center for Enhanced Performance, and offers an alternative path to West Point for candidates who do not need the specialized preparation provided by USMAPS.
A very high percentage of the candidates who are awarded scholarships in WPPSP are offered admission to the Academy, which they have both a moral commitment and a legal obligation to accept. If a candidate doesn’t take the tendered offer or voluntarily leaves the program during the preparatory year, he or she must repay the scholarship grant; however, if a candidate fails to gain admission to USMA, then he or she is not required to repay.
Interestingly, while the academic grades of WPPSP cadets are not statistically different from the average of their USMA class, their graduation rate is higher than cadets entering the Academy from other sources, including USMAPS.