For the prospective West Point cadet, entrance to the Military Academy involves the overcoming of higher and more strenuous obstacles than those standing before an aspirant Freshman to Harvard or other civilian colleges.
Not only must a preparatory or secondary school man pass entrance examinations equal in scope and demands to those of other institutions; he must, in addition, withstand the rigours involved in the securing of an appointment and the proving of himself as physically fly according to a high standard of fitness. A slip in any one of these pre-cadet requisites spells disqualification.
An appointment to the "Gibraltar of the Hudson" may be obtained in a variety of ways. A certain number annually go to enlisted men in the Regular United States Army and the National Guard, others are apportioned to honor graduates of approved military schools, and still other vacancies are filled through the appointments made by the senators and representatives of the various states and districts. Three candidates are nominated for each vacancy, one principal and two alternates, the alternates being called upon if the first-named fails to meet the other requirements.
Once the appointment in gained, the intellectual standards can be met in either of two ways. A certificate from the preparatory or high school will suffice if the candidate has taken the proper courses; otherwise he must pass the entrance examinations.
Rigorous Physical Exam.
The physical standards to be met are likewise exacting. In addition to freedom from disease and deformity, the applicant must measure up to definite requirements of height and weight. For instance, at the age of 20 a man six feet in height must weigh at least 146 pounds; and the other ages and heights are graded accordingly. No man is admitted of less than five feet four inches in height.
All these barriers being safely surmounted, the candidate must swear the oath of allegiance and pledge himself to serve in the Army for eight years after his admission to West Point.
The scheme at the Academy takes little account of vacations. Except for ten days during the Christmas seasons of his second, third and fourth years, the cadet is allowed but ten weeks respite during the four year term. The summer months are occupied with camp and other military operations.