Spring High School Navy JROTC Cadets Chandler Bienek, left, and Nicolas Layne have each received two official nominations in support of their U.S. Naval Academy applications.
HOUSTON – Nov. 29, 2017 – With the winter holidays fast approaching, high school seniors everywhere find themselves in the thick of college application season, an often-stressful time of to-do lists and a waiting game that can sometimes seem unending.
But, even while their own waiting game continues, two Spring High School seniors – Chandler Bienek and Nicolas Layne – both had something extra to be grateful for over the recent Thanksgiving holiday. That’s because Bienek and Layne, both members of Spring High School’s Navy JROTC regiment, have each received two separate nominations in support of their applications to the U.S. Naval Academy’s fall 2018 incoming class.
“With two nominations, it gives them a boost. It improves their chances considerably,” said Captain James Boyer, director of the school’s NJROTC program.
A Naval Academy graduate himself with a three-decade service history as a Navy officer and pilot, Boyer is no stranger to the lengthy application process, and he has helped coach several district students successfully through it in recent years, including current Naval Academy plebe Isaac Banani and recent academy graduate Michelle Browning.
“Bienek and Layne both have an excellent chance of getting the appointment,” Boyer said, “but it’s definitely a longer and more difficult process than your normal college application.”
Because of the intensive nature of the Naval Academy’s program and the military service commitment involved after graduation, the academy’s application requires several unconventional elements, including physical fitness and medical standards, along with the requirement that applicants obtain at least one nomination from an official source. Often, this means a student’s congressional representative or U.S. Senator, although additional nomination sources include the Vice President of the United States and the senior military instructor of the student’s NROTC or NJROTC unit. Both Bienek and Layne received one of their nominations from the office of Rep. Ted Poe of Texas’s 2nd congressional district.
“Representatives might nominate seven or eight, then maybe one will get in,” Boyer said. “Ted Poe does it selectively, and in this congressional district it’s super, super competitive. An independent review board narrowed all the applicants down for his consideration before his nominations were made. It’s done that way in part to make sure it’s non-political.”
The process of obtaining the official nominations can be almost as involved as applying to the academy itself. Students prepare special applications and portfolios and – in some cases – participate in an interview process, all in hopes of obtaining the required nomination.
For Bienek and Layne, who currently serve as their regiment’s Cadet Captain and Cadet Commander, respectively, obtaining multiple nominations strengthens their academy applications and puts them both one step closer to their goal of becoming U.S. Marine Corps officers.
“The Naval Academy has a rich military history and background, and it’s also a good educational establishment,” Layne said. Asked about his desire to join the Marine Corps as an officer, he said, “Of all the branches I’ve observed, I think they have the best attitude, a ‘do or die’ attitude.”
According to Boyer, both students could know their status before Christmas, but more likely will hear sometime between January and March. The wait for final decisions could even go into the summer months, as congressional districts around the country fill their available spaces. Either way, Boyer says, both Bienek and Layne have the potential to go far.
“Both of them are top performers,” Boyer said. “We’re already working a couple of other scholarship angles, Marine Corps scholarships especially. But of course they hear me talk about the Naval Academy – and their parents have heard me talk about it – and those discussions certainly energized the process.”