Fact Sheets

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Since its founding over two centuries ago, the military academy has accomplished its mission by developing cadets in four critical areas: intellectual, physical, military, and moral-ethical - a four-year process called the "West Point Experience." Specific developmental goals are addressed through several fully coordinated and integrated programs.

A challenging Academic Program that offers 37 majors provides a balanced education in the arts and sciences. All cadets receive a Bachelor of Science degree, which is designed specifically to meet the intellectual requirements of a commissioned officer in today's Army.

The Physical Program at West Point includes both physical education classes and competitive athletics. Every cadet participates in an intercollegiate, club or intramural level sport each semester. This rigorous physical program contributes to the mental and physical fitness that is required for service as an officer in the Army.

Cadets learn basic military skills, including leadership, through a demanding Military Program which begins on their first day at West Point . Most military training takes place during the summer, with new cadets undergoing Cadet Basic Training the first year, followed by Cadet Field Training at nearby Camp Buckner the second year. Cadets spend their third and fourth summers serving in active Army units around the world; attending advanced training courses such as airborne, air assault or northern warfare; or training the first and second year cadets as members of the leadership cadre. Military training is combined with military science instruction to provide a solid military foundation for officership.

Moral-ethical development occurs throughout the formal programs as well as a host of activities and experiences available at the military academy . These include formal instruction in the important values of the military profession, voluntary religious programs, interaction with staff and faculty role models, and a vigorous guest speaker program. The foundation of the ethical code at West Point is found in the Academy's motto, "Duty, Honor, Country." Cadets also develop ethically by adhering to the Cadet Honor Code, which states "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."

Admission is open to all young men and women, and is extremely competitive. Candidates must receive a nomination from a member of Congress or from the Department of the Army. They are then evaluated on their academic, physical and leadership potential. Those candidates who are fully qualified receive appointments to the academy.

The life of a cadet is demanding, but leisure time does permit recreational activities such as golf, skiing, sailing, and ice-skating. Intramural clubs include a cadet radio station, orienteering, rock climbing, and Big Brothers-Big Sisters. A wide variety of religious activities are available to cadets from virtually all religious backgrounds.

From the day of its founding on March 16, 1802 , West Point has grown in its size and stature, but it remains committed to the task of producing commissioned leaders of character for America 's Army. Today, the academy graduates more than 900 new officers annually, which represents approximately 20 percent of the new lieutenants required by the Army each year. The student body, or Corps of Cadets, numbers 4,400, of whom approximately 20 percent are women.

A favorite expression at West Point is that "much-of the history we teach was made by people we taught." Great leaders such as Grant and Lee, Pershing and MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton, Westmoreland and Schwarzkopf are among the more than 60,000 graduates of the military academy . Countless others have served society in the fields of medicine, law, business, politics, and science following their careers in uniform.

Ever mindful of its rich heritage, West Point continues to prepare its graduates to serve as commissioned leaders of character in America 's 21st Century Army.  Guided by its timeless motto, “Duty, Honor, Country,” the Academy is poised confidently to provide the Army and the nation with its third century of service.


The Academy is located approximately 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River . The campus and central post area comprise only a small portion of the nearly 16,000 acre reservation.

To be considered for admission to West Point , a candidate must be at least 17 but not yet 23 years old on July 1st of the year of admission, be unmarried, and have no legal obligation to support children. Candidates must be qualified academically, medically, and physically, and must receive a nomination from an approved source, such as a member of Congress.

Corps of Cadets
The 4,400 members of the Corps of Cadets represent every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries. About 1,200 New Cadets enter the academy on Reception Day each year (about July 1st).

In addition to a core curriculum, balanced in the arts and sciences, and a required five-course engineering sequence, cadets may select from 37 majors. Classes are small, usually 18 students, and the faculty to student ratio is 1:6.

Over 100 extracurricular activities are available, including religious, hobby, and sports clubs.

Upon graduation, cadets are awarded Bachelor of Science degrees and commissions in the U.S. Army. They serve on active duty for a minimum of five years. West Point graduates have served our country in a variety of capacities for more than 200 years, as military leaders, engineers, explorers on land and in space, and as leaders in business and government.


Mission: "To build, educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets to be commissioned leaders of character committed to the Army Values and ready for a lifetime of service to the Army and Nation."​
Program:​    The four-year integrated academic, military and physical development programs are conducted in a strong moral-ethical environment grounded in the bedrock values of integrity and respect for others.​

Location:​    The Academy is located approximately 50 miles north of New York City on the west bank of the Hudson River in Orange County , New York .  West Point is America 's oldest, continuously occupied military installation, first garrisoned on January 20, 1778 .  The U.S. Military Academy was established by an Act of Congress on March 16, 1802.​

Cadets:​    The 4,400 members of the Corps of Cadets represent every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries.  About 1200 New Cadets enter the Academy on Reception Day each year (about July 1st).  Approximately 15 percent of the Corps of Cadets are women.​

Admission:​    To be considered for admission to West Point , a candidate must be at least 17 but not yet 23 years of age on July 1st of the year of admission, be unmarried and have no legal obligation to support children.  Candidates must be qualified academically, medically, and physically, and must receive a nomination from an approved source, such as a member of Congress.​

Academic:​    In addition to core curriculum, balanced in the arts and sciences, and a required five-course engineering sequence, cadets may select from 37 majors.  Classes are small, usually 18 students, and the faculty to student ratio is 1:6.​

Military:​    Cadets participate in Cadet Basic Training their first summer and Cadet Field Training their second.  During their third and fourth summers, they act as cadre for the first two classes or participate in military or academic programs worldwide.​

Physical:​    Physical education and athletic participation occur throughout the four years, with 25 varsity sports and numerous intramural and club sports available.​

Activities:​    Over 100 extracurricular activities are available, including religious, hobby and sports clubs.​

Graduation:​    Upon graduation, cadets are awarded Bachelor of Science degrees and commissions in the U.S. Army.  They serve on active duty for a minimum of five years.  West Point graduates have served our country in a variety of capacities for more than 200 years, as military leaders, engineers, explorers on land and in space, and as leaders in business and government.​

Contact Admissions:

Director of Admissions, 606 Thayer Road, West Point, N.Y. 10996-1797
(845) 938-4041 
(845) 446-3021 (Fax)


On October 8, 1975 , the President of the United States signed into law a bill directing that women would be admitted to America ’s service academies. The law stated that:

“. . . the Secretaries of the military departments concerned shall take such action as may be necessary and appropriate to insure that (1) female individuals shall be eligible for appointment and admission to the service academy concerned, beginning in calendar year 1976, and (2) “the academic and other relevant standards required for appointment, (admission) training, graduation and commissioning of female individuals shall be the same as those required for male individuals, except for those minimum essential adjustments in such standards required because of physiological differences between male and female individuals.”

In preparation for the entrance of women, Military Academy staff, faculty and cadets visited many locations, such as the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (which admitted women in the Summer of 1974); the Women’s Army Corps Training Center at Fort McClellan, Ala.; Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) summer camps where women ROTC cadets were undergoing rigorous field training along with men; coeducational police academies; women’s sports camps; and civilian colleges. The visits developed as accurate a database as possible, so that decisions concerning women’s admission would be sound.

In the spring of 1975, then-Secretary of the Army Howard H. Callaway issued specific guidance concerning West Point ’s planning for the possible admission of women. He stated that as a basic philosophical approach, men and women cadets would follow one track during their cadet experience with only those minimum essential adjustments demanded by physiological differences between men and women. The Military Academy agreed with that philosophy, since it preserved important strengths of West Point , such as the unity of the Corps of Cadets and the commonalty of experience shared by all cadets.


West Point's role in our nation's history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River . General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America . Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the heroes of Saratoga , to design the fortifications for West Point in l778, and Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in l779. Continental soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and extended a 100-ton iron chain across the Hudson to control river traffic. Fortress West Point was never captured by the British, despite Benedict Arnold's treason. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.

Several soldiers and legislators, including Washington, Knox, Hamilton and John Adams, desiring to eliminate America 's wartime reliance on foreign engineers and artillerists, urged the creation of an institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare.

President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802. He took this action after ensuring that those attending the Academy would be representative of a democratic society.

Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, the "father of the Military Academy ," served as Superintendent from l8l7-l833. He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Aware of our young nation's need for engineers, Thayer made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the bulk of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads.

After gaining experience and national recognition during the Mexican and Indian wars, West Point graduates dominated the highest ranks on both sides during the Civil War. Academy graduates, headed by generals such as Grant, Lee, Sherman and Jackson, set high standards of military leadership for both the North and South.

The development of other technical schools in the post-Civil War period allowed West Point to broaden its curriculum beyond a strict civil engineering focus. Following the creation of Army post-graduate command and staff schools, the Military Academy came to be viewed as the first step in a continuing Army education.

In World War I, Academy graduates again distinguished themselves on the battlefield. After the war, Superintendent Douglas MacArthur sought to diversify the academic curriculum. In recognition of the intense physical demands of modern warfare, MacArthur pushed for major changes in the physical fitness and intramural athletic programs. "Every cadet an athlete" became an important goal. Additionally, the cadet management of the Honor System, long an unofficial tradition, was formalized with the creation of the Cadet Honor Committee.

Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Arnold, Clark, Patton, Stilwell and Wainwright were among an impressive array of Academy graduates who met the challenge of leadership in the Second World War. The postwar period again saw sweeping revisions to the West Point curriculum resulting from the dramatic developments in science and technology, the increasing need to understand other cultures and the rising level of general education in the Army.

In 1964, President Johnson signed legislation increasing the strength of the Corps of Cadets from 2,529 to 4,417. To keep up with the growth of the Corps, a major expansion of facilities began shortly thereafter.

In concert with the increasing role of minorities and women in society and the military over the past three decades, greater numbers of minorities and the first women were brought to the Military Academy and the Corps of Cadets. Their presence has enhanced the quality and maintained the traditional representativeness of the institution.

In recent decades, the Academy's curricular structure was markedly changed to permit cadets to major in any one of more than a dozen fields, including a wide range of subjects from the sciences to the humanities.

Academy graduates are awarded a bachelor of science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving a minimum of five years on active duty.

The Academy celebrated its 200th year anniversary in 2002. Today, it continues to ensure that all programs and policies support the needs of the Army and nation now as well as in the foreseeable future. The Academy, with its long and noble history, remains an energetic, vibrant institution that attracts some of the best and brightest young men and women. It offers a challenging and comprehensive array of opportunities while retaining its enduring commitment to Duty, Honor, Country.


“Duty, Honor, Country,” a striking expression of West Point ’s time-honored ideals, is the motto of the U.S. Military Academy and is imbedded in its coat of arms.

Though not as old as the institution they represent, the USMA coat of arms, also referred to as the seal, and motto have a long and interesting history.

According to archival records, the coat of arms and motto were adopted in 1898. Col. Charles W. Larned, professor of drawing, headed a committee to design a coat of arms for the Academy and stated several criteria for the design. The committee decided that the design should represent the national character of the Academy, its military function, its educational function and its spirit and objectives.

Symbolism in the Coat of Arms
The committee began with the creation of an emblem that consisted of a sword, a universal symbol of war, and the helmet of Pallas Athena. Athena, a fully armed mythological goddess, is associated with the arts of war, and her helmet signifies wisdom and learning. The emblem is attached to a shield, bearing the arms of the United States, and on the shield’s crest is a bald eagle, the national symbol. The eagle’s claws hold 13 arrows representing the 13 original states and oak and olive branches, traditional symbols of peace.

Duty, Honor, Country
The eagle is grasping a scroll bearing the words “West Point, MDCCCII (1802), USMA,” and the motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.” The motto as such was never previously stated, but in writings of early superintendents, professors and graduates, one is struck by the recurrence of the words “duty,” “honor” and “country.” Colonel Larned’s committee believed Duty, Honor, Country represented simply, but eloquently, the ideals of West Point.

The committee did not express an opinion as to the relative importance of the three words; however, there is perhaps significance in the fact that “honor” is in the center of the motto. As Maj. Gen. Bryant Moore noted in a 1951 article in Assembly magazine, “honor” forms the keystone of the arch of the three ideals on which West Point is founded.

The coat of arms was used without change until 1923, when Captain George Chandler, of the War Department, pointed out to Superintendent Brig. Gen. Fred Sladen that the eagle and helmet faced to the heraldic sinister side. The helmet, eagle’s head and sword were soon turned to their current position.

Since 1923, the coat of arms has been in regular use at West Point and is carved on many of the older buildings. In 1980, the coat of arms was registered with the Library of Congress as an “identifiable logo” for the Academy.


From the outset, military organizations have carried distinctive symbols; for many centuries these were banners. As military organizations were refined, regiments were formed and flags, which used distinctive colors and devices, were designed to represent the different regiments. These flags became known as Colors. Important in early military tactics, colors were used as a means of controlling the unit, as a symbol of its spirit, and as a rallying point, if need be, in battle.

Although the U.S. Military Academy was established in 1802, Corps Colors weren’t established until 1812, when regulations for parades and drill at the Academy were established.

In 1831, a stand of colors was issued to the Corps of Cadets, patterned after the flags given by the City of Boston , but differing in detail. The motto, “Essayons,” which is the slogan of the Corps of Engineers, the branch of the Army that administered the Military Academy at that time, appeared on this flag. This flag is located today in the West Point Museum.

Coat Of Arms and Emblem of the U.S. Military Academy

In 1899, because of a need for distinctive colors to represent Academy intercollegiate athletic teams, the colors black, gold and gray were officially adopted.

The Corps of Cadets first carried a flag similar to the Corps Color of today in 1902 during the Centennial Celebrations of the U.S. Military Academy.

In 1922, the orientation of the eagle and helmet on the shield of the Academy’s Coat of Arms was changed for symbolic and heraldic correctness.

Colors were presented to the Corps of Cadets by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1928 and 1929. The plaque and staff “pike heads” presented by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are on display in the office of the Commandant of Cadets.

Many of the former members of the Cadet Color Guard have lead distinguished military careers and made significant contributions to our nation’s history. Notable among these have been Dwight David Eisenhower, thirty-fourth president of the United States.

On May 11, 1957 , then Secretary of the Army, Wilber M. Brucker, presented the Army Color to the U.S. Military Academy.

The Army flag has been carried by the Academy’s Color Guard since that time. The Army flag now has 174 battle-streamers that commemorate battles from Yorktown to Kosovo.

The Bicentennial flag was added to the colors on Aug. 18, 2001 . The flag consists of the Bicentennial Crest. The crest is an update of the crest that was used when the Military Academy celebrated its 150-year anniversary in 1952. The crest consists of the USMA emblem, the years 1802 and 2002, and the words “ West Point ” and “Bicentennial.” A sword, a universal symbol of war, and the helmet of Pallas Athena, signifying wisdom and learning, constitute the emblem.

Today the Color Guard carries the “Colors” of the United States, our Army and the Military Academy in a long line of tradition.


Federal Service Academies' Sexual Assault Prevention Program


The mission of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is "to build, educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets to be commissioned leaders of character committed to the Army Values and ready for a lifetime of service to the Army and nation."


See the Notable Graduates page. 


Since the first cadets at USMA belonged to the artillery and engineers, they wore their uniform--a dark blue cutaway coat with scarlet facings, brass buttons, white or blue waistcoat and tight pantaloons, black leather boots, a large cocked hat with a black cockade and a scarlet feather.

In the summer of 1814, a small American Army, led by General Winfield Scott wearing gray, decisively defeated the British in upper Canada . Gray uniforms at once became badges of honor and the Academy decided to utilize the color gray in memory of Scott's victory. In 1816, the Secretary of War formally approved the use of gray uniforms for the Military Academy in recognition of General Scott and his gallant troops. There are few uniforms the world over so renowned as "cadet gray."

Cadets spend much of their time in some type of uniform or other. There is a different uniform for just about every activity and phase of a cadet's daily program. The basic uniform is the dress gray uniform.

In 1889, the gray blouse (jacket), trimmed down the front, around the bottom and up the back with black mohair braid one inch wide, was adopted to replace the gray shell and riding jackets. This same coat is worn today as a semi-dress uniform with either white or gray trousers. For many years it was the coat cadets knew best, for they wore it to class and most of the day.

The full dress coat was adopted in 1816 and has remained almost the same throughout the years. It is of swallow-tailed style and many of the small details of 1816 still exist today: black silk core on the breast, cuffs and coat-tails in herringbone form and three rows of gilt bullet buttons. This coat is made by hand in the Cadet Store Tailor Shop by highly skilled master craftsmen in much the same manner as their predecessors did a century and a half ago.

The cadet white uniform has been worn here since 1886. White pantaloons and trousers of various cuts and designs have been worn at the Military Academy since 1802. Authorized in 1913 and redesigned in 1959 to provide for conventional length and single rear vent, the current white uniforms are used primarily for social occasions during the May- September period. At the summer Camp Buckner encampment, they are worn for Saturday inspections and parades.

A combination of both the dress gray and white uniforms, the dress gray over white uniform is a familiar sight to visitors during the summer period. It is authorized for a multitude of occasions ranging from escorting to off-post wear. It consists of the dress gray coat worn over the dress white trousers or skirts if women cadets prefer.

Traditionally, cadets wore their dress gray uniform trousers and a gray flannel shirt to class. In 1947 the gray flannel was replaced with a tropical worsted wool shirt colored dark blue. Since that time it has been worn with the dress gray trousers as the regulation class uniform in lieu of the traditional dress gray uniform. When weather conditions necessitate, the gray gabardine jacket, authorized in 1946, is required for class formations. In 1980, the black pullover cardigan was authorized for wear when not in formation.

The drill uniform is the same as the class uniform except that it is worn under arms. The expression "under arms" mean that the cadets are carrying certain weapons and equipment, which may include sabers and sword belts, rifles, bayonets, first aid kits and cartridge belts.

The winters are long and hard at West Point so some type of heavy overcoat is needed much of the academic year. Overcoats were first issued to cadets in 1828; before that they wore any kind they pleased. "Such a mixture of scotch-plaid and camlet cloaks and cloth surtouts was probably never seen elsewhere on parade," one graduate recalled. Superintendent Thayer adopted the long gray overcoat in 1828 and it has changed only in the fact that the present overcoats are double-breasted. Women cadets have the option of wearing high leather boots with overcoats in winter.

The long gray overcoat is a traditional part of the cadet's uniform and has been copied by military schools throughout the country. It, like the full dress coat, is still made by hand in the Cadet Store Tailor Shop.

A short overcoat supplements the long overcoat and is generally prescribed for all informal occasions. First authorized in 1926 and worn until the early thirties, it was reintroduced in 1948. Accessories worn with it are the dress cap, gray leather gloves and muffler.

Rubberized raincoats (called mackintoshes) were first introduced in 1894 to supplement the long overcoat. Worn today with a dress cap and rubber cap cover, it still supplements the long overcoat, as well as the short one, in inclement weather. The raincoat is the only article of clothing that may be loaned to visitors.

In addition to the purely cadet uniforms, cadets also wear uniforms that are utilized Army-wide.

Cadets have a uniform for physical workouts and games called the gym uniform. It consists of black gym shorts and a white T -shirt with tennis shoes.

The admittance of women to the Military Academy necessitated the need for a uniform that was compatible with the traditional uniform worn by male cadets yet maintained a feminine style. Most of the uniforms of women cadets include a trousers/skirt combination with trousers worn in formation and skirts permissible for non- formation wear.

The cadet at West Point is nearly always in uniform during the academic week, and the United States Army sees to it that his or her uniforms are always the smartest and best uniforms that can be made. "A uniform for every day and the pride to wear it standing tall."


Cadre (Officers and Enlisted)    Blue
Firstie    Black
Cow    Gray
Yearling    Yellow
Plebe    Nothing