An “integrated life experience available at no other college, civilian or military”, the United States Coast Guard Academy, located in New London, Connecticut, stands as the smallest of the five service academies. Founded in 1876 as the School of Instruction of the Revenue Cutter Service, it evolved and, after combining with the Life Saving Service, was the Coast Guard Academy by 1915.
The only one of the five service schools that doesn’t require a Congressional nomination, the Academy also supplies a fully funded tuition in exchange for five years of service (more if the cadet chooses to continue on to graduate or flight school, also funded). As highly selective as the other service academies, more than half of the applicants are declined, ending up with a student body of roughly 1,030 cadets, many starting on the track to officer. With a motto of “the sea yields knowledge” and the notable renowned of being the “oldest life saving service in the world”, graduates immediately join for their five years of service after commencement (with most, 85%, staying on beyond those years).
The academy’s academic side of things offers four year Bachelor of Science degrees in one of 13 programs of study ranging from Electrical Engineering and Management to more Coast Guard specific areas such as Naval Architecture/Marine Engineering and Marine/Environmental Sciences. 100% of students are on campus, as a result no distance education exists here (as it is with other service academies) as academics are provided alongside service instruction that is unable to be accomplished online. There is one faculty member for every 8 students, yielding small class sizes averaging about 19 cadets per course.
Summers are reserved for cadet training programs, beginning with the freshman Swab Summer (a seven week basic training finished by a 7-day voyage at sea, the Coast Guard equivalent of an experiential internship). Each summer program continues increasing in difficulty and expectation, with a third class, second class, and, finally, a first class summer that allows for either a ten week, junior officer experience on an operational cutter, or a split 5 week cutter combined with a 5 week internship. Cadets are required to declare their major of study before leaving on their second class summer and, as a result of these trips, summer academic classes aren’t offered.
As opposed to many other colleges (and secondary schools these days), there is a required athletic aspects of every service academy (as physical education is just as important as academic in the military) and the Coast Guard Academy is no different. There’s a daily sports period every day (two hours), with athletics that range from the typical to maritime related, such as Water Polo, Sailing, and Surfing.
The mission of the USCGA provides 3 interwoven objectives: a well-rounded, undergrad education, providing, by rule and example, a sense of honor, respect, and devotion to duty, and training to prepare each cadet to be junior officers in the Coast Guard. Encouraging belief in yourself, your country, and your fellow cadets over the course of its 135 years, it stands alongside the other service branches providing a complete mental and physical education for aspiring Coast Guard officers.