Put yourself in the shoes of an applicant. S/he’s submitted her application, been found physically, medically and scholastically qualified. Now it’s time for interviews–with his/her Congressperson’s Nominating committee and later, his/her Blue and Gold Officer.
Today, s/he must impress a committee of knowledgeable interviewers. The Congressman has only a limited number of nominations he can offer to all four service academies. Here’s how it might go:
The day of the interview, you attend morning classes, but your mind is elsewhere. At lunch, you get early dismissal and come home to prepare. You dress conservatively—dark pants and light-colored blouse, with closed shoes and pulled-back hair—not your usual knotted pony tail. Your father drives because you’re too nervous. You arrive early. Before going in, you make sure your clothes are neat, your teeth are clean, and you feel positive and confident.
The first thing you notice as you enter is a room full of nervous potential nominees. You see two people you know, one from your school, and chat for a moment. As you wait, the Congressional assistant pops her head in the waiting room and chats with you, about something the two of you had discussed at the Service Academy night. She puts you at ease, even as you feel all other eyes in the room on you, wondering how you merit special treatment. As you sit, you mull over your reasons for applying and how the country’s investment in you can be returned.
Finally, your B&G officer leads you to the interview room. You enter a large office with five officials—two you have already met. You shake hands, smile, look them in the eye and sit calmly. No fidgeting. No senseless moving. The questions are similar to those you expected. No one tries to confuse you or obfuscate issues. They seem sincerely interested in ferreting out those best suited to Academy life, and most willing to accept the long-term commitment accompanying an appointment. When you answer questions, you reply honestly, calmly, the hardest question being why you selected the Naval Academy as your first choice rather than the Air Force Academy (your family has a history of participation in the Navy). Your dumbest answer confused the nomenclature for Navy and Air Force planes (is the Harrier a Navy or Air Force plane?). Time flies, and it’s over before you know it. As you leave the building, you get curious looks from the candidates still waiting, as they try to read your thoughts.