Cow Year

Cadets in their third year of study are called "Cows" or "Second Class Cadets."

Cow Year

Cadets in their third year of study are called "Cows" or "Second Class Cadets."

Junior, Second-Class, Sergeant, “Cow.” By Cow year you are finally an upperclassmen! Along with the added privileges of being an upperclassman comes additional responsibilities. Your Cow year begins the summer before your third academic year, either with a summer leadership detail or an Individual Advanced Development program. The academic year then kicks off with your Affirmation Ceremony where you will commit to serving in the United States Army and defending the Constitution. For the next two years, your time at West Point will be focused on learning and developing as a leader of character.  

Cow year is marked by several poignant events, including the celebration of having only 500 days left at the Academy, picking out and ordering your class ring, taking your final Howitzer (yearbook) photo, and receiving your Cow loan. Additionally, opportunities for growth and development inside and outside of the classroom, both at the Academy and abroad, are widely available your Cow year, so it is critical to take advantage of those that interest you. 

Affirmation Oath Ceremony

On the night before the first day of classes of your Cow year, the entire class reports to a specific location to take the Oath of Affirmation. This ceremony affirms your commitment to complete the next two years of study and your active-duty service requirements as a U.S. Army Officer. Once you’ve affirmed, you incur an obligation to the nation to complete your service. 

500th Night and Ring Melt

A tradition started with the Class of 1965, 500 is the number that marks how many days the class has remaining until graduation and commissioning as Army officers. Your class will celebrate 500th Night with a formal banquet inside Washington Hall, the prestigious dining facility. The Ring Melt happens just before the weekend begins. In a moving ceremony, donated USMA Class Rings from graduates are placed into a cauldron, melted down, and the gold (along with shavings of Legacy Gold from over 800 previously donated rings) is used in future Class Rings – truly a physical embodiment of the Long Gray Line gripping hands. 

Career Starter Loan

Several financial institutions offer optional career starter loans to cadets starting in their Cow year. This low interest rate loan is a tremendous way for cadets to start to build a solid financial future. Some cadets choose to use the loan to help purchase an automobile as part of their expanding privileges.

Increased Privileges

After Affirmation and 500th Night, Second Class cadets increasingly experience events that point their way to graduation and service in the United States Army.  Some cadets have greater privileges – more opportunities to leave campus and the ability to park a privately owned vehicle (POV) on the post.  The Career Starter Loan (Cow loan) helps you start to think about your financial future and economic resources after graduation; while the Ring Show is filled with excitement as each Cow chooses their Class Ring design (the Class Crest and Academy Crest are on the sides of every ring, but the stone and embellishments are individually chosen). With privileges come responsibility, and Cadet Sergeants have responsibility at the squad, platoon, and company levels besides working with a cadet officer (Firstie) in various staff assignments that run the Corps of Cadets.