United States Military Academy
#38 Overall Influence#55 Desirability Rank

United States Military Academy

Federal service academy in West Point, New York, United States

By James Barham, PhD

The United States Military Academy (universally known as “West Point,” or just “the Point”) is the officer-training school for the United States Army. The other US armed services have their own separate officer-training schools elsewhere: the Navy and the Marines, in Annapolis, Maryland; the Coast Guard, in New London, Connecticut; and the Air Force, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

West Point is unique on this list in having what one might call a “prehistory”—that is, a history as a military encampment and a fortress that considerably predates its inauguration as an officer-training college.

The Point is strategically situated on a high bluff along the west bank of the Hudson River a little less than 60 miles north of New York City. It was first occupied early in 1778 during the Revolutionary War by George Washington’s Continental Army under the command of General Benedict Arnold and the Polish patriot, military engineer, and supporter of the Colonial cause, Tadeusz Kościuszko, making it the oldest continuously operating military installation on American soil.

For the next two years, Kościuszko oversaw construction of fortifications on the site, which overlooks a narrow bend in the Hudson River, giving the fortress a commanding position over the river. In this way, the Colonials were able to deny the British Navy access to the Hudson north of the Point.

Originally known as “Fort Arnold,” before the general’s effort to sell the garrison to the British in 1780, West Point was renamed “Fort Clinton,” after Major General James Clinton. (This Fort Clinton should not be confused with an earlier fort named after the same individual that existed for a short time at a different location on the Hudson River closer to New York City.) This name, too, lapsed after the founding of the US Military Academy on the site.

Instruction for officer cadets in artillery and engineering studies began to be offered informally at the Point in 1794. Around 1799, President John Adams’s “Senior Officer of the US Army” (equivalent to the modern Secretary of Defense), Alexander Hamilton, introduced a bill in Congress with the aim of establishing a national military academy at West Point.

This legislation was signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802, which is therefore considered to be the official date of the founding of the academy.

The curriculum at the Point is rigorous, not only in math, science, engineering, and military studies, as one might expect, but also in the humanities, in physical training, and in morality and ethics. Many of the humanities courses, including those in the military curriculum, include classical texts on their syllabus. Thus, in some ways West Point resembles a Great Books–style program academically.

Cadets are expected to dine together and must abide by a strict Honor Code. In general, great attention is paid to maintaining esprit de corps.

As one might expect, the list of famous military commanders connected with West Point is a long one, including both opposing military leaders during the American Civil War:

On the Union side,

  • General Ulysses S. Grant
  • General George B. McClellan
  • General William Tecumseh Sherman
  • General Philip Sheridan
  • Major General George Meade

On the Confederate side,

  • General Robert E. Lee
  • General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson
  • General J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart
  • General James Longstreet
  • Major General George Pickett

In the war of the US against the Plains Indians, General George Armstrong Custer was a West Point graduate.

In World War I, the Point sent its graduates General John J. Pershing to France. World War II saw a much larger cohort of West Point graduates in the upper echelons of the war effort, including the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, five-star General Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with his opposite number in the Pacific, five-star General Douglas MacArthur. Other famous WWII West Point graduates include General Omar Bradley and General George S. Patton.

More recently, the Point has contributed to America’s wars, among many others,

  • General William Westmorland, General Creighton Abrams & General Alexander Haig — Vietnam
  • General Colin Powell & General Norman Schwarzkopf — Gulf War
  • General Wesley Clark — Kosovo
  • General David Petraeus — Iraq
  • General Stanley McChrystal — Afghanistan
  • Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster — Iraq and Afghanistan

A number of these generals went on to distinguished careers in civilian government service, with, of course, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower both rising to the Presidency of the United States. During the Civil War, the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was likewise a West Point graduate.

Several of NASA’s astronauts have graduated from the Point, as well.

Other notable West Point graduates include:

  • Poet and short-story writer, Edgar Allan Poe
  • National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft
  • Present Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards
  • Current US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo
  • Current US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




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How much does it cost to attend?

After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

Campus Life

What's it like to attend this school?

The People

Full time on-campus stats

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The Campus

Where will you be attending?


646 Swift Rd (ATTN: MASG), West Point NY 10996-1905

What is United States Military Academy known for?

Our answer to this is to show you the disciplines in which a school's faculty and alumni have had the highest historical influence. A school may be influential in a discipline even if they do not offer degrees in that area. We've organized two lists to show where they are influential and offer corresponding degrees, and where they are influential through scholarship although they don't offer degrees in the disciplines.

Top areas of influence with degrees offered

#12 World Rank #7 USA Rank
#15 World Rank #9 USA Rank
#16 World Rank #13 USA Rank
#18 World Rank #17 USA Rank
#133 World Rank #49 USA Rank
#140 World Rank #58 USA Rank
#143 World Rank #86 USA Rank
Political Science
#367 World Rank #138 USA Rank
#3412 World Rank #884 USA Rank

Other areas of influence

#3 World Rank #3 USA Rank
#28 World Rank #21 USA Rank
#37 World Rank #26 USA Rank
#40 World Rank #32 USA Rank
#183 World Rank #137 USA Rank
Criminal Justice
#275 World Rank #98 USA Rank
Earth Sciences

Influential People

Who are United States Military Academy's Most influential alumni?

United States Military Academy's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Communications, Law, and History. United States Military Academy’s most academically influential people include Edgar Allan Poe, Ulysses S. Grant, and Douglas MacArthur.

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

American-Irish Author.

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Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant

Union general, politician and 18th President of the United States

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Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur

U.S. Army general of the army, field marshal of the Army of the Philippines

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Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee

General in Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States

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Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis

President of the Confederate States

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George S. Patton
George S. Patton

United States Army general

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William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman

American General, businessman, educator, and author

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Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin

American astronaut

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Henry H. Arnold
Henry H. Arnold

United States general, headed the Air Corps

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John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing

United States Army general in World War I

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Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson

General of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War

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Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston

Confederate States Army general

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