Have you ever dreamed of sailing the high seas, exploring the world, and serving your country? If so, you might be interested in the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), one of the five federal service academies in the United States. The USMMA, also known as Kings Point, is located in Kings Point, New York, about 20 miles east of New York City. It is a prestigious institution that educates and graduates licensed Merchant Marine officers who can serve as leaders in the maritime industry, the military, and the public sector. In this article, I will give you an overview of the history, admission process, tuition fees, rankings, academic programs, campus life, athletics, notable alumni, and frequently asked questions of the USMMA.
History of The United States Merchant Marine Academy
The United States Merchant Marine Academy traces its origins to the early 20th century when the U.S. Congress recognized the need for a well-trained and standardized merchant marine workforce. Between 1874 and 1936, various federal legislation supported maritime training through school ships, internships at sea, and other methods.
However, after a disastrous fire in 1934 aboard the passenger ship SS Morro Castle, which killed 134 people, Congress decided that direct federal involvement was necessary to ensure the safety and efficiency of the merchant marine. In 1936, Congress passed the landmark Merchant Marine Act, which authorized the creation of the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, the predecessor of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Two years later, the first class of cadets was admitted and trained aboard merchant ships and at temporary shore facilities.
In 1942, the United States Merchant Marine Academy acquired its permanent site in Kings Point, New York, formerly the waterfront estate of automobile magnate Walter Chrysler. The campus was constructed in 15 months and dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. During World War II, the United States Merchant Marine Academy was vital in supplying the Allied forces with troops and materials and suffered the highest casualty rate of any U.S. service academy. After the war, the USMMA continued to expand its curriculum and facilities and became fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in 1952.
In 1974, the United States Merchant Marine Academy became the first federal service academy to admit women. Today, the USMMA is a modern and diverse institution that prepares its graduates for a variety of careers in the maritime and related fields.
How to Join the United States Merchant Marine Academy
Admission to the USMMA is highly competitive and selective. Only about 15% of applicants are accepted each year. To be eligible for admission, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident who can obtain citizenship by graduation
- Be at least 17 years old and not have passed your 25th birthday on July 1 of the year of entrance.
- Be of good moral character and have no criminal record.
- Be unmarried, not pregnant, and have no legal obligation to support a child or dependent.
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Have a nomination from a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, the Vice President, or the Secretary of Transportation.
- Meet the physical, medical, and academic standards of the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
To apply for admission, you must complete the following steps:
- Submit an online application through the United States Merchant Marine Academy’s website
- Request a nomination from a qualified source
- Take the SAT or ACT and send your scores to the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
- Submit your high school transcripts and letters of recommendation
- Complete the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), which tests your physical abilities in various exercises
- Complete the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) physical exam, which evaluates your health and vision.
- Complete the Personal Data Record, which includes a personal statement and a resume.
- Complete the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program, which educates you on the dangers and consequences of substance abuse.
- Complete the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, which informs you of the policies and resources regarding sexual assault prevention and response.
- Complete the Honor Code and Conduct System Program, which explains the ethical standards and expectations of the USMMA.
- Complete the Service Obligation Program, which outlines the service commitment you must fulfill after graduation.
The application deadline for the Class of 2028 is February 1, 2024. You can check your application status online and contact the Admissions Office with any questions or concerns.
As a federal service academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy covers most of the costs associated with your enrollment, including tuition, room and board, uniforms, and textbooks. You also receive basic medical and dental care through the Academy’s Health Services. However, you are responsible for some personal expenses, such as transportation, laundry, barber, tailor, and computer fees.
These fees amount to about $1,000 annually and are payable in full at the beginning of each academic year. You can apply for financial aid to help cover these costs, as well as any additional expenses you may incur during your sea year or leave periods. The USMMA offers various types of financial aid, such as scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. You can apply for financial aid by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the USMMA Financial Aid Application. You must reapply for financial aid yearly and maintain satisfactory academic progress to remain eligible.
Current Rankings of the United States Merchant Marine Academy
The USMMA is widely recognized as one of the best colleges in the nation, especially for its engineering and maritime programs. According to the U.S. News & World Report, the USMMA ranks
- #3 in Regional Colleges in North
- #2 in Top Public Schools
- #30 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (tie)
- #23 in Top Performers on Social Mobility
The United States Merchant Marine Academy also ranks highly in other publications, such as Forbes, Money, and Washington Monthly, for its academic quality, affordability, and social impact.
Academic Programs Offered at the United States Merchant Marine Academy
The USMMA offers a rigorous and comprehensive academic program that leads to a Bachelor of Science degree, a license as a merchant marine officer, and a commission as a reserve officer in the U.S. Armed Forces. The academic program comprises four main components: general education, professional development, sea year, and major courses.
- General Education: You must complete a core curriculum of courses in mathematics, science, humanities, naval science, and physical education. These courses provide a broad and well-rounded education that prepares you for your professional and personal endeavors.
- Professional Development: You must complete courses and activities that develop your leadership, communication, and management skills. These include military training, regimental duties, ethics, career counseling, and service selection.
- Sea Year: You must complete over 300 days at sea, working aboard commercial, passenger, or military vessels actively engaged in global operations. You will gain hands-on experience in the mariner’s environment and visit, on average, 18 foreign countries. You will also earn a monthly stipend and sea pay during your sea year.
- Major courses: You must select one of the five major programs offered by the USMMA and complete the required methods and examinations for that program. The five major programs are:
- Marine Engineering Systems: This program focuses on the design, operation, and maintenance of marine propulsion systems and auxiliary machinery. You will learn about thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, electrical engineering, naval architecture, and marine engineering. You will also have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and simulators replicating real-world scenarios. Upon graduation, you will be eligible for a license as a Third Assistant Engineer of Steam, Motor, and Gas Turbine Vessels of Any Horsepower.
- Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management: The Marine Engineering program emphasizes the management and administration of shipyards and large engineering projects. You will learn about industrial engineering, production management, quality control, safety, and environmental issues. You will also have opportunities to visit and intern at various shipyards and engineering firms. Upon graduation, you will be eligible for a license as a Third Assistant Engineer of Steam, Motor, and Gas Turbine Vessels of Any Horsepower.
- Marine Engineering: This program concentrates on the operation and maintenance of shipboard engineering systems and equipment. You will learn about marine boilers, diesel engines, steam turbines, gas turbines, refrigeration, and electrical systems. You will also have extensive practical training aboard the Academy’s training ship and other vessels. Upon graduation, you will be eligible for a license as a Third Assistant Engineer of Steam, Motor, and Gas Turbine Vessels of Any Horsepower.
- Marine Transportation: This Marine Transportation course combines nautical science and maritime business management. You will learn about navigation, seamanship, meteorology, cargo handling, ship stability, maritime law, and economics. You will also have access to advanced simulators and bridge trainers that mimic real-world situations. Upon graduation, you will be eligible for a license as a Third Mate of Steam, Motor, and Sail Vessels of Any Gross Tons Upon Oceans.
- Maritime Logistics and Security: This course integrates nautical science and logistics and security management. You will learn about maritime transportation, supply chain management, port operations, security, and emergency response. You will also have opportunities to participate in research projects and internships with various maritime and security agencies. Upon graduation, you will be eligible for a license as a Third Mate of Steam, Motor, and Sail Vessels of Any Gross Tons Upon Oceans.
Campus life at the United States Merchant Marine Academy is both challenging and rewarding. As a midshipman, you become an integral part of the Regiment of Midshipmen, which instills discipline, honor, and professionalism. Your daily routine includes academic classes, military training, regimental duties, physical fitness, and extracurricular activities. You will be uniform, adhere to grooming standards, and follow a chain of command. Accommodation-wise, you’ll reside in one of the six barracks on campus, each named after renowned maritime heroes.
Your living arrangements involve sharing a room with one or two roommates, and you’ll have access to common areas like lounges, laundry rooms, and study spaces. Meals will be served at Delano Hall, the Academy’s dining facility, offering various food options. Additionally, you’ll have easy access to the library, bookstore, barber shop, tailor shop, health center, chapel, and gymnasium. Your liberty and leave privileges will be determined by your class year and academic performance. Opportunities to explore nearby attractions, including New York City, Long Island, and West Point, will also be available.
Furthermore, campus life at the United States Merchant Marine Academy is dynamic, diverse, and supportive. You’ll forge lifelong friendships and connections with fellow midshipmen, hailing from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries. Participation in various clubs and organizations, such as the band, choir, drill team, honor guard, sailing team, scuba club, chess club, and more, will be at your fingertips.
You’ll have the chance to partake in various events and traditions, such as the Ring Dance, Sea Year Ball, Regimental Review, Parents Weekend, Homecoming, and Graduation. Faculty and staff at the Academy are not only experts in their respective fields but also committed to your success, offering guidance and mentorship. In addition, the Academy’s alumni network stands as one of the most loyal and influential in the nation.
While campus life at the USMMA isn’t suited for everyone, those willing to embrace the challenge will find it an enriching experience, one that prepares them for a promising and bright future.
The United States Merchant Marine Academy is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and competes in 27 varsity sports. The Academy’s mascot is the Mariner, and the school’s colors are blue and gray. The Academy’s main rivals are the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy. The Academy’s athletic teams are:
- Men’s sports: baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and wrestling
- Women’s sports: basketball, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball
- Co-ed sports: crew, sailing, and rifle
The Academy’s athletic program aims to develop the physical, mental, and moral attributes of its midshipmen. The Academy believes that participation in sports fosters teamwork, leadership, discipline, and sportsmanship. The Academy also encourages its midshipmen to pursue excellence in both academics and athletics. The Academy has won several national and conference championships and produced many All-Americans and Academic All-Americans.
Notable Alumni of the United States Merchant Marine Academy
The USMMA has produced many notable alumni who have distinguished themselves in various fields, such as the maritime industry, the military, the government, the business, the science, the arts, and the sports. Some of the most famous alumni are:
- Mark E. Kelly, Class of 1986: A former NASA astronaut and U.S. Senator from Arizona
- Robert J. Papp Jr., Class of 1975: A former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic
- William J. Hughes, Class of 1957: A former U.S. Representative from New Jersey and U.S. Ambassador to Panama
- John B. Anderson, Class of 1943: A former U.S. Representative from Illinois and independent presidential candidate in 1980
- John M. Will, Class of 1942: A former U.S. District Judge and Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- William F. Readdy, Class of 1974: A former NASA astronaut and Associate Administrator for Space Flight
- Robert D. Ballard, Class of 1965: A renowned oceanographer and discoverer of the Titanic, the Bismarck, and the Lusitania
- John A. Gaeta, Class of 1986: An Academy Award-winning visual effects designer and inventor of the bullet time effect in The Matrix
- Mark R. Warner, Class of 1977: A former President and CEO of Nextel Communications and U.S. Senator from Virginia
- David G. Wallace, Class of 1973: A former Mayor of Sugar Land, Texas and U.S. Representative from Texas
- James A. Watson Jr., Class of 1978: A former Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and Rear Admiral of the U.S. Coast Guard
- Lori A. King, Class of 1983: A former Deputy Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy
- John J. Cullinane, Class of 1955: A pioneer of the software industry and founder of Cullinet Software
- John W. Magaw, Class of 1959: A former Director of the U.S. Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Transportation Security Administration
- Robert R. Bennett, Class of 1966: A former President and CEO of Liberty Media and Director of Discovery Communications
- James A. Helis, Class of 1979: A former Superintendent of the USMMA and Brigadier General of the U.S. Army
- Thomas B. Fargo, Class of 1970: A former Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and Admiral of the U.S. Navy
- John R. Ryan, Class of 1967: A former Superintendent of the USMMA, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy and Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy
- Robert Kiyosaki, Class of 1969: A best-selling author and financial educator known for his Rich Dad Poor Dad series
- Phil McConkey, Class of 1979: A former NFL wide receiver and Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants
The United States Merchant Marine Academy is a unique and prestigious institution that offers a challenging and rewarding education and career path for those who aspire to become leaders in maritime and related fields. The USMMA combines academic excellence, professional development, sea experience, and service commitment to produce graduates ready to serve their country and industry with honor, integrity, and skill. The United States Merchant Marine Academy is not for everyone. Still, for those with the passion, the courage, and the determination, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can open the doors to a world of possibilities. If you want to apply to the USMMA, you should start preparing as soon as possible and follow the steps outlined in this article. You should also visit the USMMA website and contact the Admissions Office for more information and guidance. The United States Merchant Marine Academy is waiting for you. Are you ready to answer the call?