MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Columbia High School (CHS) senior Rebekah Adams has been accepted into West Point, the premier United States Military Academy. Boasting a 10% acceptance rate that puts it ahead of several Ivies in selectivity, West Point requires stellar SAT scores, first-rate grades, a physical fitness exam, and a required letter of recommendation from a U.S. senator or congressperson. It also requires a staunch commitment to service, and commitment is something Adams has shown in every step of her journey to West Point.
The idea to apply to West Point came when Adams started their Summer Leaders Experience program (SLE) for high school juniors. SLE is a weeklong, highly competitive program that gives students a chance to experience life as a cadet, and to decide if a military academy is the place for them.
“My dad made me apply there, and I didn’t think I was going to get in, but surprisingly I did. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of camaraderie, as well the educational program,” says Adams. This first taste of West Point impressed Adams with what she calls “the opportunity to serve in any capacity.” After that, she was interested in a military career, preferably in the medical corps.
Next up: the application process. Adam's passion is academics, on which she says she spends most of her energy, even though she “makes it an obligation to set blocks of time for other things.” She took several AP courses in her time at CHS, and says that that class experience, and interaction with other academically inclined students, inspired her to push herself further.
One of the most distinguishing features of applying to a military academy is the physical fitness test. West Point’s includes a basketball throw, flexed arm hang, 40-yard shuttle run, abdominal crunches, push-ups, and a timed one-mile run. “That part was hard”, says Adams, “because I didn’t do a sport at CHS.” She took it upon herself to design her own fitness regimen. Every morning, she and her dad ran laps around a running track in preparation. Adams says that this cardio element was the hardest part of the fitness test, but she nevertheless aced it after months of practice.
When it came time to apply, she had to enter in the usual GPA and SAT score requirements, along with some personalized essay questions, then wait and see if her application was granted a nomination from a member of Congress. Adams received her nomination from Congressman Donald Payne. Her acceptance notice came in March. “I’m really excited, and I want to take this opportunity very far,” she says.
Adams is considering a chemical engineering major. She has a plan laid out for the next few decades: do service, mainly in the medical corps, then become a NASA astronaut and conduct space-related medical research, which she describes as “the best of both worlds.” West Point is a male-dominated school (only 19% of the class is female) and the army is a male-dominated field, but Adams is not daunted by either of these challenges. “I find that in that atmosphere, it’s about pushing yourself more. What I’ve heard, from a couple of cadets, is when you get to more intense training, guys say ‘these girls can’t do it’ or ‘they’re totally gonna fall out’. So it’s really about mental toughness and pushing yourself in an environment you’re not used to,” says Adams.
In her free time, Adams enjoys music, astronomy, writing, reading, and teaching herself new things; as she says, “just being nerdy”. She believes that a military life suits her personality, since she likes working in big groups, and is always striving for challenges to make her a better person. She also cites the influence of her father, who “raised me to be a disciplined worker”.
Adams has this advice for other goal-setters: “The skill of discipline is something you work at over time. It makes you better at everything you love, everything you want to succeed in.”
Lucy Leonard is a Junior at Columbia High School.