Posted by: Jacqui Murray | October 17, 2016

How to Prepare for the Congressional Interview–Part III

USNA Crest

There are a couple of givens–requirements without which you will not succeed at a congressional interview:

  • Be sincere. Let the committee see who you are and make a decision. A Military Academy is a big decision. If something comes out that excludes you–but you were honest–it might be the right decision. Trust the process. No one will be out to get you.
  • Be prepared. Are you prepared physically, scholastically, mentally, medically. They’ll want to know. They’ll have your file and will know. Make sure you’re not wasting their time.
  • Know what it means to apply for and be accepted into the Naval Academy. Understand the demands, the rigor, the expectations and the commitment you are signing on to. Know what you’re getting into and that it’s the right move for you.
  • Know you can succeed in one of the toughest schools in the country. Few Universities require a physical  and medical commitment as well as scholastic success. All the Military Academies to. Be absolutely sure you can succeed in this environment and communicate it to the committee. It’ll take more than words–lots of positive body language to back up your verbal.
  • Be committed to the success of your country. Patriotism and loyalty aren’t trite words at Service Academies. Believe them and adopt them as yours.

If you get through this bullet list, here are some of the questions you may be asked by the committee:

Here are questions that are suggested as possibles. Review them. Make sure you have good answers to each:congressional interview

  • Why do you want to go to the Naval Academy
  • What are your alternatives if you do not get into the Naval Academy
  • Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years
  • How are you going to handle the pressure of the Academy
  • How are you preparing physically for the academy
  • Tell us what you think of (a current event)
  • What sparked your interest in the Naval Academy
  • Who would you most like to be
  • What is leadership, and what makes you think you can be a leader
  • How have you handled failure and stress in your life
  • What are your best and worst characteristics
  • What do you know about the honor code?

Here are questions that the applicant in Building a Midshipman was asked. Print out the sheet and write your answers next to each question:

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | October 13, 2016

Happy Birthday to the World’s Greatest Navy!

ImageSunday, October 13th is a day to celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Navy and the freedom it guarantees our country.  No other force for so long has been projecting power across the ocean and around the world to ensure America’s protection, provide humanitarian assistance to struggling countries… and sometimes to drop a Tomahawk on someone who deserves it.  The Navy exercises a unique ability to extend our borders further from our shores and buttress them with steel and hardened warriors.  Thanks to the Navy, Americans rarely have to consider the possibility of attack on our own soil.  This is a benefit of American citizenship that is such a rarity in history.  America is so blessed to wake up every morning under the blanket of protection provided by the United States Navy.

Speaking of the hardened warriors standing watch around the clock on our Nation’s warships, these Sailors are the smartest, fittest, most educated Sailors in our history.  They work long hours whether in port or in harm’s way.  They leave their families for 9 months at a time and can’t tell their families where they’re going.  These Sailors are reminders that America is made of strong stuff; America’s greatest generation made some good kids!  These kids are going to college part-time while learning to repair electrical circuits embedded in a motor required to operate a sea water service pump so the ship has flushing water.  And thank goodness for their excellent multi-tasking capability because never has America demanded more from them.  Warfighting has evolved rapidly in the past decade.  Despite the evolution, the joint operations of the U.S. military hinge on the ability of the Navy to be on site, on time and put warheads on target.  Who else could pull that off?  A Firecontrolman Third Class Petty Officer on a Guided Missile Cruiser operating in the Arabian Gulf is trained and empowered to pull that off, that’s who!  The fast evolution of war and new terrains on which we fight complicate every operation and every maneuver, requiring even faster and more intelligent action at every level of the Chain of Command, from a 4-star Admiral to that Firecontrolman Third Class during the “mid watch” on her ship.

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | October 10, 2016

Happy Birthday, USNA!

On October 10, 1845, USNA was established! ph-10044

By Commander William Marks, USNA Class of ‘96

With the Naval Academy’s birthday on October 10th celebrated each year just three days earlier than the U.S. Navy’s, now is the perfect time to reflect upon the parallels of the two institutions through the years.

Founded in 1845, the Naval Academy and its graduates are immersed in the history of our nation. Our heritage and our warfighting are inseparable, for in our history of daring and courage is a foundation of warfighting and readiness.

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | October 7, 2016

How to Prepare for the Congressional Interview–Part II

interviewPut 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, interviewone 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.

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | October 3, 2016

October To Do List for USNA Applicants

usnaDepending upon where you are in the process, you may have done some of the items on this list. Skip them. Be happy you’re done. Move on to the next:

First Steps:

If you’re serious about attending the USNA or any other military academy, buy a few books (or check them out of the library) on the process. It’s worth the investment because if you pursue this dream, you will be investing much more of your time and money before you achieve your goal. Better to make sure this is the direction you want to go.

Here are two books to get you started:

From the perspective of a woman who was accepted and how she accomplished it. Down-to earth, personal, definitely not dry, and should give confidence to any teen, male or female, considering a military academy as their college of choice.

A general and useful overview of the USNA application and the academy in general

Seniors–Check for Letter of Assurance

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 27, 2016

The Congressional Interview–Part I

buildHere’s my previous post about an introduction to the importance of the Congressional Interview to attending Military Academies. Thanks to the Structured Learning workbook on Building a Midshipman for this:

The final stage in your pursuit of a Congressional nomination to a United States Service Academy is a personal interview…” This letter, received April 30th of your Junior year, confirms that your Congressman remains aware of your continued interest in the Service Academy interview and nomination.

A year ago, at the Service Academy night, you listened to the presentations from each of the five Service Academies, and then introduced yourself to Congressman Cox’s assistant, Ms. Leslie Duvall, to let her know you would be applying for a nomination. She suggested you get in touch in spring for a packet. Interviews would be the following November. On April 30th, you received a confirmation letter, outlining what the Congressional Nomination packet would include:

  • a completed Application for Nomination
  • a resume (based on an enclosed sample)
  • a short essay discussing your reasons for seeking admission to a Service Academy
  • a photo
  • SAT examination results
  • three letters of recommendation.

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 20, 2016

The Congressional Interview

American Flag idea illustrationThe Congressional Interview is required for a high school student to apply for nomination to the USNA. Here’s how the Naval Academy website says it:

To receive an offer of appointment to the Naval Academy, an applicant must obtain a nomination from an official source. There are many nomination sources and applicants are encouraged to apply to all available sources. This normally includes a U.S. Representative, two U.S. Senators and the Vice President of the United States.

The nomination application process is similar to applying for a school, and being personally acquainted with the person from whom you are seeking a nomination is not required. 

The nomination process and your USNA application are separate processes, however they should be accomplished simultaneously.  DO NOT wait until you have received a nomination to begin your formal USNA application.  Many nomination notifications do not go out until early to mid January, even though nomination interviews are conducted much earlier. The deadline for your USNA application is January 31st.

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 17, 2016

Constitution Day!

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_StatesConstitution Day and Citizenship Day is a combined event that is annually observed in the United States on September 17. This event commemorates the formation and signing of the Constitution of the United States on September 17, 1787. It also recognizes all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become US citizens.

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 16, 2016

POW/MIA Recognition Day

The United States’ National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. This year, that’s September 16, 2016. Many Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW) and those who are missing in action (MIA), as well as their families.

You will never be forgotten.

pow mia

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 11, 2016

America I Love You

9/11, a day of remembrance.

We won’t forget.

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 5, 2016

Labor Day–Honor American Warriors

Labor Day is a US holiday dedicated to workers across the country. The public holiday always falls on the first Monday in September. The first federal observation of the holiday occurred in 1894 however the first Labor Day observed in a state was in Oregon in 1887.

Today, I honor the warrior, his job to fight for America’s way of life, invisibly and heroically, across the globe.

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 1, 2016

September To Do List for USNA Applicants

image partial credit: NemoDepending upon where you are in the process, you may have done some of the items on this list. Skip them. Be happy you’re done. Move on to the next:

First Steps:

If you’re serious about attending the USNA or any other military academy, buy a few books (or check them out of the library) on the process. It’s worth the investment because if you pursue this dream, you will be investing much more of your time and money before you achieve your goal. Better to make sure this is the direction you want to go.

Here are two books to get you started:

From the perspective of a high school student who was accepted. Down-to earth, personal, definitely not dry, and should give confidence to any teen, male or female, considering a military academy as their college of choice.

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | August 27, 2016

Navy Colors Born Today–Over 200 Years Ago

billgoatThis day in USNA history:

Navy Colors Blue and Gold were born, 27 August 1802

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and To Hunt a Sub, her debut thriller. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for TeachHUB, a program reviewer for ISTE, and freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing the sequel to To Hunt a Sub, which should be out next summer.

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | August 24, 2016

Five Popular Excuses for NOT Going to USNA–Still

group5Building a high school grad worthy of being anointed ‘USNA midshipman’ isn’t easy, but nothing worth your effort is. As President John F. Kennedy said,

A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living.

Still, many who are completely capable of qualifying will claim they can’t do it, using the most mundane overused excuses. Read these top five, and then say, Bring it on!

I wasn’t smart enough

C students rule the world. John McCain finished almost last in his class. Smart isn’t the barometer for success in the world. Hard work, persistence, getting along with others, problem solving certainly makes any plan work better.

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | August 19, 2016

USNA Midshipmen Sign 2-for-7 Contract

What is 2-for-7? From the USNA Parent Network:

The “Point of No Return,” is called Two for Seven, meaning two years down and seven more years to serve – two more at the Academy and 5 more in the fleet after graduation. This is a big decision made at the beginning of the Second Class academic year. Many Mids consider both options – to stay and to leave. Midshipmen can leave at the end of their Second Class summer training without incurring any further military obligation. They walk away with two years of undergraduate study completed and no debt owed. However, the hardest years are behind them. They have seen and understand the many career options available to them and they have experienced the teamwork and pride of belonging to their company, their class and to the Navy. They sweat the committment to what seems to be a very long time in their young lives. Once the decision is made, they relax and feel comfortable with their choice, but crossing that line looms large for some.

Here are some images of Second Class Mids, recommitting to USNA:

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | August 17, 2016

You Want to Be a USNA Midshipman? Start Today

USNA Midshipman--is this you?update

You’ve had the summer off to reflect and plan and now it’s time to start the most seminal period in your lifetime to date, the years that will decide what happens After High School. Do you get accepted to the college of your choice, a second-tier choice, or a safety school? Do you end up in vocational school following a technical dream, or do you end up thrown into a job market which is hopefully better in four years than it is now.

One bit of information I know about you is you are interested in the Naval Academy. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. With classes back (or almost there), I’ll make the following assumptions:

  • You’re enrolled in the hardest classes possible for you. They might be honors, AP, IB–but it is the best you can do at this point in your education. If they aren’t AP, work towards those. If your school only offers honors, don’t worry about it. The Admissions Board only asks that you take the hardest courses available to you.
  • You’re trying out for a challenging sport. It might be Varsity or JV. It might be a team sport or golf. Whatever it is, it’s the best you can do, and that’s good enough. The Navy likes physically-fit members, and the way they can judge that on the application is that you participate to the highest level possible.
  • If you have a unique hobby, continue it. The Admissions people want to know you’re busy, pursuing a passion, striving for the best that you can be. Read More…


If you didn’t like football before your child became a Mid, you will after. Football games are an experience, with the Mid’s march on (through Annapolis if it’s a home game), the stadium with its free food for Navy fans, the Mid section that never looses its enthusiasm, the fly-over by the Blue Angels for the Really Big Games. You’ll either attend or watch it on whatever station plays it, even if it’s an internet station. You’ll get good at sleuthing out those websites.

I’ll get you started. Here’s the 2009 schedule:

usna football schedule They’ve had an exciting team for years–they beat Notre Dame a few years ago and they have been invited to Bowl Games for over five years in a row. Here’s a YouTube of 2008 highlights:

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Posted by: Jacqui Murray | August 17, 2016

Headed for USNA? Prepare Yourself–Senior Year


Here’s a summary of what your senior year in high school might resemble if your goal for college is USNA. This is based on the real experiences of a successful Naval Academy applicant, what she did

building a midshipmanfor the four years of high school to make sure she was offered a slot at the college of her choice:

  • You spend a week at the Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar
  • You spend a week at the Air Force’s Summer Seminar
  • You take the mandatory health class—required to graduate (you sneak it in the eight days between NASS and UND Summer Science Program)
  • You spend three weeks at the University of Notre Dame’s Summer Science program
  • You spend a month with your UCI mentor completing background for your science project
  • You complete the Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology project—“Genotypic and Phenotypic Variation
  • Between Brassica rapa Populations on the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate”
  • You sign up for two more SAT examinations, giving you a last chance at the best score possible. And, you study as much as you can in your summer free time
  • You get your driver’s license

Read More…

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | August 16, 2016

Plebe Parent Weekend is Past; Reform is Coming


The physicality of plebe summer is over. Now that exercise moves to the brain. Reform is coming and classes will begin. You probably saw lots of videos of USNA’s weekend, but did you see West Point’s? Zoe wouldn’t consider any Academy other than USNA, but watch this. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s inspirational:

During Cadet Basic Training (CBT) also known as “Beast,” plebes have to memorize lots of different bits of information and military phrases, mottos, and quotes. One of them is the Soldier’s Creed. With no disrespect to the Soldier’s Creed, I thought that Plebes needed something of their own, so I changed up the words, and this is what turned out.
Hope you enjoy it.

Posted by: Jacqui Murray | August 15, 2016

Navajo Code Talkers Day

Great post on the mysteries of the Code Talkers, well-suited to August 14th, the day we honor these folks.

Pacific Paratrooper


During WWI, the Choctaw language had been used to transmit U.S. military messages. With this thought in mind, Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary grew up on a Navajo reservation and spoke the Diné tongue fluently, brought the suggestion of a similar code to General Clayton Vogel early in 1942. The Diné language has no alphabet, uses no symbols and one sound may hold an entire concept. The idea was tested and proved to be faster and more reliable than the mechanized methods. The language has more verbs than nouns, that helps to move the sentences along and makes it far more difficult for outsiders to learn – making it the most ingenious and successful code in military history.

platoon The 382nd Platoon, USMC

The original class, the 382d Platoon, Navajo Communication Specialists, USMC, developed their code at Camp Pendleton. Once a unit of code talkers were trained, they were…

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