Sights Set on Service

Seniors pursue military academy educations


Amelia Vohsen

Lauren Guth poses with her Congressional Nomiation certifcate and acceptance booklet. Guth went through a multitudinous process composed of essay-writing and interviews in order to get accepted by West Point Academy, where she plans to attend in order to serve her country and earn a degree.

In October of her sophomore year, senior Lauren Guth flicked through the day’s mail. A letter from West Point lay buried between bills and coupon books, and she plucked it out and set it aside with the rest of her invitations to schedule tours and attend open houses at colleges from across the nation. Having recently scored a 1330 on the PSAT, Guth was an attractive candidate to even the most prestigious of universities and academies. Bundled together with dozens of other flyers and booklets, the letter from West Point quickly faded from her mind, replaced with the stress of balancing her AP classes with the end of her cross country season and a rigorous load of clubs.

Two years later, Guth plans to attend West Point in the fall. A once forgotten solicitation from the academy has turned into a tangible plan for at least the next eight years of her life.

The process has been far from undemanding. The tenacity and diligence with which Guth has worked for the past few months is enough to make even her most impressive peers shudder. In her eyes, the unwavering effort and countless hours spent on essays and physical training and congressional nominations will be far outweighed by the promise of a bright and exhilarating future, and the opportunity to be an influence in others’ lives.

“I knew I wanted to help people in some way, but I also know I don’t want to be a doctor or a teacher,” Guth said. “I kind of think this is the way that I can help people. I want to… positively contribute to society… I think this is my way of doing that.”

Senior Kami Eslinger, a prospective Air Force Academy student, has similar motivations for finding such strong appeal in a military academy.

“I know I want my path to take me forward in a challenging career, serving others and being a part of something bigger than what I could ever accomplish on my own,” Eslinger said. “I know the education I would receive from a service academy would challenge me academically, mentally and physically to be the best person I can be.”

“I know I’m going to meet people that are a lot like me and people that are a lot different… I know I’m going to be mentally tougher after it just because it’s going to be… really hard work. But if I can make it through it, then at least I’ve proved to myself I can do that much.”

— Lauren Guth

Aside from the desire to grow personally and morally in her higher education, Eslinger has always been captivated by the idea of attending an institution that would provide her the educational experience of her dreams.

“The academy appealed to me because it was everything I was looking for in a college. I knew I wanted an education in chemistry from a top ranked school. I also knew the core values I was looking for in the student body and the teachers I wanted to learn from and work alongside,” Eslinger said. “I plan on studying chemistry at the Academy and after I graduate, I hope to attend Medical School and then serve in the Air Force or Space Force as a Physician.”

Though an education with a military academy offers the benefits of free tuition, stellar education, and strong camaraderie, the applicant must first face numerous stages of challenges before they are able to experience the rewards that come along with enrollment. Guth’s biggest obstacle throughout her West Point journey has been the extensive and incredibly detailed application process.

“I interviewed with an alumni from West Point. That was one of the first things I did. And then after that, I had to apply for nominations from congressional members. So my two senators, and then one more representative. And for those, they each have their own application,” Guth said. “It was like a separate college application with… their own essays and your resume and everything. So that took a while. And then I needed to pass a vision exam and then like, a medical exam, and then a physical fitness test.”

For Eslinger, the most difficult part of the process thus far has been waiting. For months, the anticipation has been accumulating. Though she has passed her vision and fitness exams and received her congressional nomination from Ann Wagner, Eslinger has not yet received her official acceptance letter. As she sees peers committing to universities, she must continue to be patient.

“The whole process is extremely competitive and takes a long time. When you’re spending a lot of time waiting for results you can definitely doubt yourself,” Eslinger said. “Especially seeing all my friends commit to colleges and knowing what they’re doing can definitely be hard, but it is also so rewarding once you do get favorable results and see all your hard work pay off.”

For Guth, one of the highest honors she has received so far came not just from her acceptance to West Point, but from her teachers’ willingness to aid her throughout her application. 

“Throughout the whole process, I’ve needed a lot of… high school teachers to do things like write letters for my nominations, write letters for the Academy, write letters for these people to recommend me for this,” Guth said. “What was so rewarding was just, I think, seeing how many of my teachers… actually cared about me enough to take the time to do that, and how many seemed… genuinely excited for me. So I didn’t feel like I was inconveniencing them too much, which… I thought that was really sweet.”

After overcoming the challenges of four years of honors classes and extracurriculars, an immensely difficult and all-encompassing application, and maintaining the mental and physical fortitude to carry on throughout the process, Guth is enthusiastic and eager to start her future at West Point.

“I’m excited to keep learning because I really like that. But I’m also excited to gain a real sense of leadership. They focus so much on character development, [and] you as a person. And they really focus on the leadership because when you come out of the Academy, you’re commissioned as an officer, so you have to lead other soldiers,” Guth said. “I know I’m going to meet people that are a lot like me and people that are a lot different… I know I’m going to be mentally tougher after it just because it’s going to be… really hard work. But if I can make it through it, then at least I’ve proved to myself I can do that much.”