Posted by: Jacqui Murray | September 29, 2015

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.

Is she pleased with the outcome? Did they assure her of a nomination?

You think you did fine, but you can’t be sure because you can’t compare your performance with the other top teens that applied. Your B&G officer calls that evening to say you did great—number one out of all applicants! Your calmness, maturity and confidence impressed everyone on the panel—and no one mentioned your Harrier confusion. He tells you he’d be struck “deaf, dumb and blind” if you didn’t get the nomination. You end your important day very happy.

Not even a month later (19 December) you receive the official notification: “I am very proud to offer you a nomination to both the United States Naval Academy and the United States Air Force Academy for the classes entering in 2004.” You bound up the stairs in excitement, yell for your parents, and IM all of your friends—what a great Christmas gift! One more piece of the puzzle in place! You check the CIS website to see if the Academy shows receipt of your nomination. Not yet…  You know it takes six to eight weeks to process and post information, so you’re not surprised, but you are impatient.

It requires almost three months before the Naval Academy sends official notification:

“Congratulations! You have received a nomination from the Honorable Christopher Cox.”

Somehow, although you already knew this, coming from the USNA makes it more official… and important. Yes, you competed with thirty-seven local high school seniors, seeking nominations for the five service academies, and your name received the nod.

“I commend you for your commitment to the pursuit of an excellent education and your desire to serve our Nation.”

Congressman Cox bestows his official and personal imprimatur: That you will succeed at one of the most challenging educational environments in the world. His trust and confidence in you bears great weight and demands much of you as you move forward.

To recognize the honor and importance of the nomination and appointment, your Congressman invites all appointees to a June pre-Plebe Summer reception in their honor. This provides local Appointees a chance to meet others, affording them an opportunity to develop acquaintances—maybe a friendly visage in that sea of faces on Induction Day. You meet four others going to the Naval Academy, as well as nine going to other Service Academies. All in all, an exciting step in the arduous application process.

–from Building a Midshipman


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. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for TeachHUB Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, and freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers next summer.

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