In my opinion the best thing here is the friendships you form with your classmates. Yes, the education, while very challenging, is extremely valuable, but I think forming friendships and learning how to lead those around you is the most important.
The Naval Academy is for people who want something more than an “ordinary” college experience. This is one of the best places to go in the United States to learn to become a leader. The school bills itself as a "24-hour leadership laboratory," and I found a lot of truth in that advertising. The best thing about Annapolis is the quality of the training/education and the strong (sometimes lifelong) bonds of friendship and community that are formed there.
Graduating from the Naval Academy is a real accomplishment; to make it through the four-year program requires one to push beyond whatever limitations they placed on themselves prior to arrival. You have to be willing to give up (or at least deal with) your natural desire for short-term gratification of whatever immediate wants you have in order to develop yourself and contribute to the teams surrounding you. The public is generally aware of this; many people tend to be more impressed when I tell them I went to the Naval Academy than when I tell them where I went to Law/Business school (also a "blue chip" university). They also make certain assumptions about me--some accurate, some not (in certain respects I'm not nearly as disciplined as many people assume).
To say that there is "school pride" at the Naval Academy is an understatement. Although more rebellious types resist identifying themselves with all things Navy, even among them I know of no one who regrets their choice to have attended. Students complain about not having the freedoms of civilian college students, but, at the end of the day, no one has ever been forced to go to (or remain at) the Naval Academy.
I could write for pages about the adventures I had traveling around the world while at Annapolis and afterward as a Naval Officer. Those experiences, combined with the friendships I formed, made the sacrifices I had to make to be a Midshipman seem insignificant (but only in retrospect).
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