Staying Home to Go to College

Community colleges make the grade for Valley students looking to save a little cash and prepare for their careers — without sacrificing the A-plus education


(page 14 of 15)

West Point campus and color guard
Ten-hut: Cadets march on the famous Plain at West Point

United States Military Academy

By: Evan Sparling

The tuition required to attend the United States Military Academy may be zero, but that doesn’t mean students (known as cadets) get a free ride. To gain admission to the prestigious institution, applicants must possess superior grades, be in top physical shape, and gain the nomination of their U.S. senator or Congressional representative. Once they arrive at the Point, cadets’ schedules are carefully regimented. Students are ranked by their academic performance (which comprises 55 percent of their total ranking), military performance (30 percent), and physical fitness level (15 percent). The rewards are many, however, for those strong enough to survive four years on campus. First, they gain entry into an exclusive group of Americans which includes many of history’s most respected military leaders (think Ulysses S. Grant) stretching back to the War of 1812. Secondly, they get one of the best educations available: U.S. News & World Report ranked West Point the number one public liberal arts college in the nation for 2009. The Academy was also ranked as having the fifth best undergraduate engineering program in the nation. Upon graduation, cadets are expected to give back: They are required to serve five years of active duty in the military, and three years of inactive reserve.

Today, life on the beautiful riverside campus remains the same, in many ways, as it was a hundred years ago, and the school grapples constantly to maintain a balance between tradition and modernization: a new $65 million, glass-walled library, which houses a coffee shop, was the school’s first new academic building in 36 years. Students in the academy are required to participate in sports, and Army’s varsity teams rank among some of the best in the nation. Recently, the USMA has been making some major changes, especially to its football program, which was shut out 34-0 this year by archrival Navy and has won only six of its last 24 games. A panel of alumni recently recommended a new offensive strategy, a shuffling of class schedules so that football players spend more time on the field in the fall and then make up missed classes in the spring, and a reorganization of West Point’s mandatory summer military training. “Winning is important,” wrote West Point Superintendent F.L. Hagenbeck in a letter to Army football fans. “The winning habit our cadets learn here at West Point translates into victory on our nation’s battlefields.”
626 Swift Rd., West Point. 845-938-2703;


Up next: Vassar College


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