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cadet blogs

Q&A with 2c Nolan

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link   All Posts
 Stephen Nolan I am always grateful when I receive an email from a prospective cadet who has read an entry of mine and has reached out to me to ask a few questions. It lets me know that somehow, I’m connecting with someone, and perhaps making an impression on some of you as well. As the coordinator of the blogging program is always encouraging us to write more, I felt as though I would take the opportunity today, while I’m traveling home on leave, to write an entry that addresses the most common questions I get from people who are preparing to start, or have already initiated, the application process. Although this blog differs stylistically from the manner in which I typically write my discourse, I hope you’ll bear with me and gain a kernel or two of knowledge about the application process: from a cadet’s perspective of course.

I’m not the top of my class, but my grades are still pretty good. What can I do to make my application look better?

I can assure you that your grades, while extremely important, do not have to be perfect in order to get into the Academy. They must be strong, especially in the math and science areas, but it is by no means a requirement to have a perfect 4.0. What is helpful is that you show Admissions that you are a well-rounded individual. A person who shows community involvement through volunteering, a person who plays sports and has a leadership role on the team, and a person who is employed: is a person who has demonstrated that they are capable of prioritizing their time, and has already taken the first steps necessary to becoming leaders of character. Now, it is important to note that although being involved is important, being a member of 50,000 organizations, but not really having a leading role in them, doesn’t say much about your prospects of becoming a leader. Ensure that you’re getting involved and leading the way, that will impress Admissions.

How important are high SAT scores to getting into the Academy?

Although I don’t work in Admissions, I have talked to several people regarding this matter. Over the years the Academy’s Admissions division has collected enough data that they can fairly accurately predict how a cadet will do at the Academy based solely on the math and science sections of the SAT. I personally never took the SATs, in my area of the country it was ridiculously hard to schedule a session, so I took the much more prevalent ACT. So for those of you who were wondering, it is most definitely possible to get in with just the ACT score.

I’ve never been on or near the water before. How will that affect my performance at the CGA?

Once again I speak from personal experience in order to address this question. I spent my entire high school career in the Great State of Kansas, about as far away from an ocean as you can possibly be. Despite this, what some might consider, setback I am on the offshore sailing team and doing just fine at the Coast Guard Academy. It’s only a hindrance if you let it be so. Although some people start off with a bit more knowledge, there is so much to learn that the playing field is pretty much level to start with.

I know old CGA Alumni, should I have them write my letters of recommendation? Can I get a Congressional Nomination and send it in with my packet to improve my chances of getting accepted?

Although it never hurts to have your letters of recommendation come from alumni, it doesn’t really throw around much clout. The Academy is extremely protective of its reputation as the only service Academy that doesn’t require congressional nomination. We pride ourselves on being an Academy that is completely merit-based: so in short, don’t focus on whom you know, focus on who you are. Don’t try to bulk up your application with reputations and names, build it up with accomplishments and activities. Those things are far more likely to impress an Admissions Officer than a name on a page.

I would like to reiterate the point that all of these answers are only my personal opinions on the matter, generated from my own observations. I highly encourage that you take the time to pose your questions to not only cadets, but to the Admissions Officer assigned to your area of the country. They are the ones who should best be able to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. That being said, if you still have any questions you would like to hear my perspective on, I would love to answer them, so please, keep them coming!

As always,
Semper P

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