Congressional Nominations: Your Questions Answered

The fall of your Senior year will be the busiest time of your life. So, the most challenging aspect of this Academy application process is the number of competing requirements during the fall of senior year. Your Congressman and Senator application processes are going on at the same time as your Academy, ROTC, and college early action applications. Meanwhile, you are team captain of your varsity sports team, taking 5 AP classes, and are President of 1-2 clubs. How do you keep it all straight?

The answer is, you can’t. You must get your Academy, Nomination, and ROTC applications done before senior year starts. The sweet thing about the August 31st deadline is it gives you peace of mind for your senior year; meanwhile, it increases your chances of success for Academy admissions. Double win!

The Goal

The goal is to earn one nomination to each Academy you are applying to. Without a nomination, you cannot be directly admitted to an Academy, and instead, are only eligible for a prep school. This Guide clarifies the nomination process to maximize your chance of success.

Top 7 Reasons Applicants Don’t Get The Nomination

Common MistakeAE Strategy
Incomplete/late application– Know the requirements (Resume, SAT/ACT, Transcripts, Letters of Rec, Essays, Photo, Questionnaire, etc)
– If something is unclear, ask the staffer
– Get written confirmation that all your application materials were received.
They put all their eggs in one “nomination” basket.You should apply to every nomination for which you are eligible.
They put all their eggs in one “Academy” basket.Apply to more than 1 Academy to diversify your odds.
They were unprofessional to the staffer.Follow the AE Email Etiquette.
They bombed the interview (showed up late, unprofessional, poor responses)Complete the AE Interview Guide in your Workbook.
Crush the Mock Interviews with Academy Endeavors.
They lived in a competitive districtOutwork your peers.
Maximize your strengths.
Minimize your weaknesses.
They weren’t competitive enough for the Academy to begin with.N/A. All AE clients have been vetted, and are competitive for an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are my chances of winning a nomination?

Title 10 Law states Members of Congress can nominate 10 applicants per Academy per year. 

Example: If 100 people apply for a nomination within your district/state, they have 40 total nominations to give out (10 for USMA, 10 for USNA, 10 for USAFA, 10 for USMMA), then you have a 40% chance. If 200 people apply, there are still 40 total nominations (10 per Academy), then there’s roughly a 15% chance. If your Congressman decides to give 2 nominations to 1 person, then the chances are even lower. Ex: we had a client last year win a nomination to USAFA and USNA from his Congressman. 

Your statistical likelihood is dependent upon… 

  • How many people apply within your district/state
  • How many people put your #1 Academy as their #1 Academy
  1. Who are the decision makers for the nomination?

This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the process. In general, very few Congressman, if any, get involved in the decision making. They appoint an independent selection panel comprised primarily of military veterans. The panel scores the applications and interviews candidates. This panel is administratively run by a Congressional staffer who organizes the panel, answers applicant questions, and delivers interview invites and nomination letters on the Congressman’s behalf. So, to clarify, the Congressman is usually not the one who chooses you. It’s the selection panel that chooses on behalf of the Congressman.

  1. How do I know if I live in a competitive district/state?

The most competitive districts/states are…

  • The ones with the highest military presence (ex. If you live in Fort Bragg area, there are many sons and daughters of Army veterans who want to attend USMA).
  • The highest socioeconomic areas (higher socioeconomic areas suggest higher performing high schools, which means more students applying for prestigious colleges)

Check your Assessment Tab in your AE Workbook to see AE’s assessment of your competitive environment. 

  1. Which is better odds, winning a Congressional nomination in my district or winning a Senator nomination in my state?

The odds are significantly higher to win at the district level, for 2 reasons:

  • Your Congressman has just as many nominations as your Senator (10 per Academy)
  • Your district is much smaller than your state; therefore, less applicants. Each district covers 500,000-700,000 voters, whereas states have millions (ie. North Carolina has 10 million people). 
  1. Does it help me if I get two nominations to USAFA (or USMA, USNA, USMMA)?

The requirement is that you get 1 nomination. The second nomination can help a little, but not nearly as much as the first. We’ve heard the Dean of Admissions say it gives Admissions a bit more flexibility in granting you admission if you are on multiple nomination lists. But by far, getting the first one is the most consequential. 

  1. If I’m applying to multiple Academies, how do I win multiple nominations?

While we have no way to guarantee you will win multiple nominations, the best way to maximize your success is with a strong application and interview. This is why we begin with clients doing their Congressional essay and Recommender Guide, and end with clients doing their Interview Guide, followed by mock interviews. For further details, see question #7.

  1. Which Academy should I put as my #1 choice for each nomination application?

Remember, the goal is to get a nomination to each Academy you are applying to. For your Congressman, which is the most likely nomination, put your #1 Academy as your top choice. 

But what about for the Senators? This strategy will vary from client to client, depending on their preferences. Frequently, for one of the Senators, we advise clients put their #2 Academy as their #1. Since Senators are more likely than Congressman to only give you a nomination to your #1 choice, putting your #2 Academy as your #1 furthers your chances of getting another nomination. If you are equally excited about USNA as USAFA, then perhaps you put USNA #1 on both Senators. The strategy varies per client. What you don’t want to do is put USMA #1 on all 3 nomination applications when you also would love to attend USNA.

  1. Am I eligible for other nominations besides Congressional?

Below are the other nomination sources (besides Congressman/Senators) to see if you are eligible:

  • Vice President. All applicants are eligible. Only 1 person per year per Academy gets the VP nomination. We recommend all clients apply.
  • JROTC/ROTC. Do you participate in JROTC or ROTC? If so, then your Commander can submit you a nomination. Up to 5 people per Academy class can receive a ROTC nomination.
  • Enlisted. Are you currently enlisted? If so, then your Commander can write you a nomination. Up to 40 people per Academy class can receive an Enlisted nomination.
  • Presidential. If yes to any of the below, then you are eligible for a Presidential nomination. Up to 40 people per Academy class can receive a Presidential nomination.
    • Did either of your parents serve in the military for 8+ continuous years?
    • Medal of honor?
    • KIA/MIA/100% disabled? 
  • Superintendent. Are you a recruited athlete? Up to 50 people per Academy class can receive a Superintendents nomination. 

Figure 1. Estimation of Nomination Sources Per Class

  1. What do I do if something in my nomination application is unclear? 

There are 535 congressional offices, and these offices are not standardized. Each office might be a little different. If requirements are unclear, you should contact the Congressional staffer to verify their specific process, and follow the AE Email Etiquette

  1. When do I find out if I won the nomination? 

Here’s the Congressional Nomination Timeline in 4 phases: 

Preparation -> Application -> Interview -> Notification

  • Preparation. During AE Curriculum & Consultations, Completing Nomination tab to understand requirements and deadlines, writing essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, to prepare for Bootcamp.
  • Application. During May/Jun, the applications open. All clients are required to submit their nomination applications by Aug 31. Between Sept-Dec of your senior year, your application will be due. 
  • Interview. 2-4 weeks after the application deadline, you will be notified if you are invited for an interview. Most Congressional offices interview candidates for the final round. Depending upon your district, it could be virtual or in-person. 
  • Notification. 2-4 weeks after the interview, you will be notified if you earned a nomination, and to which Academies you were given. With the exception of Coast Guard Academy, you must earn a nomination for each Academy you are applying to; otherwise, you will only be eligible for the Prep School.

Figure 2. Congressional Nomination Timeline

  1. What are the Congressional nomination methods?

There are primarily 2 methods that Congressman can use to nominate applicants, depending on the district. 

  • Competitive method – is when your Congressman nominates 10 nominees to, lets say, USMA, and you are one of them, but s/he submits all 10 names in no particular order. So, West Point gets to review all 10 and make the decision entirely up to them. This is by far the most common method today. 
  • Principal method  – the Principal nominee is the Congressman #1 choice, and if s/he is qualified, they are almost guaranteed an appointment to the Academy. It’s the Congressman’s way to ensure s/he gets at least one person from their district in. It’s very uncommon, but if you get your nomination, and it’s a principal nomination, that’s a very good thing. 
  1. If I don’t get the nomination, should I quit?

Even if you don’t get it….finish your Academy application! Every year, folks dont finish their applications because they don’t get the nomination. This is unwise. 

Below are a few reasons you should complete the application process: 

  • You might get into prep school!
  • You’ll have completed the DODMERB process, which makes it easier next time. DODMERB is good for two years.
  • You’ll be a re-applicant, which shows perseverance and passion, which Academies value highly.
  • You’ll have gone through it before, which will make you more experienced next time you re-apply
  • You can ask admissions for feedback, which only makes you better.
  1. Do I need to donate to my Congressman’s office or vote a certain way in order to win?

No, this is a myth. This is a merit-based process. If your politics don’t align with my Congressman or Senators, you don’t need to start “voting a certain way.” The Selection Panel is trying to send the most competitive candidates from their district into the Academies, so they are picking the best candidates.