The United States Coast Guard Academy, also known as the USCGA, is one of five academies in the country that train enlisted officers for the American military. These academies operate under the care of the federal government, and the government covers most of the expenses associated with the running of those schools. While the USCGA does not charge tuition costs or fees for room and board, you must commit to spending at least five years as a Coast Guard officer after graduation. The academy is in New London, Connecticut and allows students to major in one of eight topics. All graduates earn a Bachelor of Science in their chosen fields.

Before becoming the USCGA, the academy opened in Massachusetts as the School of Instruction of the Revenue Cutter Service. This school moved several times before settling in New London. When the government built a new campus and took over the operations of the school, it became the USCGA. The academy is extremely selective and admits around 16% of students who apply. Students, which the school refers to as cadets, can participate in more than 20 intercollegiate sports, join one of the more than 10 singing and band groups or sign up for cultural clubs. The USCGA accepts around 900 new cadets every year.

United States Coast Guard Academy Accreditation Details

The Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology, Inc. (ABET) offers specialty accreditation for the United States Coast Guard Academy degree programs in civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and naval architecture and marine engineering. It also has regional accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The NEASC requires that the academy renew its accreditation and go through a new process every decade to ensure that it continues meeting all the basic requirements for accreditation. With regional accreditation, you may have an easier time applying to graduate school or transferring to a different college.

United States Coast Guard Academy Application Requirements

The United States Coast Guard Academy looks for well-rounded students who demonstrate strong skills in both math and science. Applicants should also demonstrate strong leadership skills, community service or volunteer experience and strong physical strength. The academy offers its application online and does not charge a processing fee, but you must apply by January 15 in the year you want to start classes. Early admission is also available for those who gather the required documents and submit their applications earlier in the year.

Prior to applying, you should ensure you meet all requirements. Only those who are at least 17 years old but no older than 22, are unmarried, have a high school diploma or GED and have no dependents qualify. When filling out the application, you’ll need to answer several essay questions to tell the academy more about your reasons for attending and background. The academy asks for letters of recommendation from a math teacher, English teacher and guidance counselor, an official score from the SAT or ACT, your high school transcript and written proof that you passed a physical examination.

Once accepted into the academy, you must complete a separate physical exam that requires you do push-ups and sit-ups before running 1.5 miles. Instructors will give a score on a scale between zero and 100 for each section. If you score below 130 on the exam, the academy will drop you from the program. Those who score below 165 will land on the academy’s probation list.

Tuition and Financial Aid

The United States Coast Guard Academy operates in a different way than most colleges do. If accepted into the academy, you do not pay any money out of your own pocket. The government will handle the cost of your tuition, room and board. You must have a personal checking account and register details of your account with the academy when you enroll. The academy will put a small deposit into that account every two weeks. Students use that money to pay for uniforms, school supplies and any other expenses they have. The government awards students approximately $12,000 a year, though this figure rises as the cost of living increases.

Before applying to the United States Coast Guard Academy though, keep in mind that students must agree to serve in the Coast Guard for a minimum of five years. You’ll enter the Coast Guard as a commissioned officer and can skip basic training and other requirements for newly enlisted military personnel. Around 80% of students who leave the academy serve overseas or work on military ships, but the remaining students work on Coast Guard bases. If you leave the academy before completing your degree, or you leave the Coast Guard before your commitment time ends, the government may hold you responsible for the money it spent on your education.

Degrees Available

The United States Coast Guard Academy is unique because it only offers undergrad programs designed to assist cadets with their future career goals within the Coast Guard. One of the eight majors you can choose from is in professional maritime studies. Designed for those who want to captain ships and work at sea, it features classes like ship and maritime systems knowledge, directed studies in professional maritime studies and applications in navigation lab. It also includes a class on maritime watch officers and Coast Guard division officers that will give you an idea of what the military expects from you on the job later.

Related Resource: 50 Most Technologically Advanced Small Colleges 2015

Mechanical engineering is one of the top majors available at this academy. This accredited program requires that you take five or more classes each semester and that you take two semesters every year for four years. It includes general education courses like introduction to literature, history of the United States and English composition. Like other programs offered by the academy, it includes a number of physical fitness courses too, including swimming, personal defense, physiology of fitness and lifetime sports. Other courses include advanced engineering math, maritime law enforcement, machine design, experimental methods, calculus and leadership and organizational behavior. The academy can help you find internships with government agencies and departments like the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and NASA. The United States Coast Guard Academy expects all students to complete a capstone project relating to their majors too as part of their last semesters.