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Why You Should Consider a Service Academy

Why You Should Consider a Service Academy

Category: Interview

Today we have another special interview! Coach Rob Pryor, Men’s Basketball coach at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, is with us to give us our very first look at Service Academies. If you are considering a Service Academy, this is a great read. If you have not thought of attending a Service Academy, or have written them off, this post may just convince you to reconsider! Before doing this interview I knew almost nothing about Service Academies. Coach Rob’s insight helped me a ton, and I know it will benefit you as well. Let’s jump right in!

What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen? If an athlete personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?

The best thing they can do is contact us by email.  They should send the email to both myself and my assistant coach (  We read every recruit email because you never know who you might discover! Once we receive the email, we will follow up to request game film (or highlights), academic info (grades and test scores), and AAU or high school schedule.

Why should young men and women consider attending a Service Academy?

We are officially a Service Academy as opposed to a Military Academy.  We are the only one of the 5 Service Academies in which graduates do not have to join the Active Duty Military.  In fact, about 65% of our graduates choose to go into the Maritime or Shipping Industry as civilians (choosing this option includes an 8 year commitment to serve in the Reserves). The other 35% join one of the branches of the Military.  Again, we are the only Academy whose graduates have these choices/options.

How is the recruiting process different for Service Academies than for general colleges and universities?

The recruiting process is not much different to be honest.  However, our application requirements are lengthy and potential student athletes must also obtain a congressional nomination.  So it is better if someone we are recruiting is interested in us, that they start the application process sooner rather than later.

What kind of requirements do students need to meet to attend a Service Academy?

Each Service Academy’s academic requirements are high but also slightly different.  For us, potential student athletes need at least a “ballpark” 3.5 GPA and 24 on the ACT or 1120 on the SAT. Medical conditions such as asthma, heart issues, peanut allergies, and color blindness could be potentially disqualifying.

What are the obligations of students who attend Service Academies during college and after graduation?

For the Merchant Marine Academy, graduates have the choice to serve in the Maritime Industry or join one of the branches of the Active Duty Military.  If they choose to go into the Maritime Industry, they have a 5 year commitment to serve in the Maritime Industry or Shipping Industry in some capacity.  A graduate could work on a ship, on shore, on the business side, or as an engineer just to name a few options.  Those who choose this option also have an 8 year commitment to serve in Reserves (they can choose Navy, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, or Marines).  Graduates would have Reserve duty about 2 weeks a year.  If a graduate chooses to join the Active Duty Military, they have a 5 year commitment to serve in the service they choose.

How do academics, character, and attitude affect your decisions about who to offer a spot on your roster?

This is extremely important.  Character is #1! Above all, we want good people in our program.  We are a high academic school so those standards must also be met.  Finally, attitude is very important.  For example, if a recruit does not return phone calls and text messages, we move on.  We have a limited amount of spots on the team and only want to recruit young men who are sincerely interested.

Are classes similar to other colleges or are they focused strictly on becoming a Marine?

I definitely want to clarify that we are not the Marines.  The classes are geared towards educating our students to be prepared for the Maritime Industry, but everyone takes math, sciences, humanities etc.

How is the experience of attending a Service Academy the same and different for students?

I think it is the same in most respects but is somewhat different if you are a student athlete.  I do think if you happen to participate in a varsity sport, it helps your focus.

The Merchant Marine Academy is not familiar to everyone. Could you introduce the Merchant Marine Academy to our high school athletes and their families:

What is the Merchant Marine Academy?

The Merchant Marine Academy is one of the 5 Federal Service Academies.  We are located in Long Island, NY.  About 30 min from New York City.

What is the cost to attend?

Tuition, room and board are free.  There are approximately $6,500 in fees that have to be paid over the course of 4 years, but students make about $12,000 while they are here so this is actually better than a full ride!

What is the Maritime Industry?

The Maritime Industry is the shipping Industry. Basically, any job that facilitates the transport of goods and/or services by sea.  There are several jobs ranging from the engineering and design of ships, to port security, to Navigation.   There are also many business and law related jobs within the industry.

Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes about considering a Service Academy?

As a graduate of the Air Force Academy, I can tell you from personal experience that attending a Service Academy positions you extremely well for the future. Service Academies provide one of the best educations in the country, no student debt, and a guaranteed good paying job.  Not many other schools can make that claim.  You will also grow as a person and experience things that most of your peers will never experience.  In short, the opportunity to attend a Service Academy is amazing and I encourage recruits to take a serious look at these fantastic schools!


If you are interested in learning more about Coach Pryor and the Merchant Marine Academy, click here.

Next, Check Out: 6 Reasons You Have Not Heard Back From a College Coach


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