It’s not every day that a U.S. Senator calls a high school senior and begins his message with, “You probably already know what I’m about to say,” but Jackson Academy senior Grant Dean received such a call yesterday. Senator Wicker informed him of his official appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, but the news initially arrived during the winter storm.
“I received an LOA, which is a letter of assurance, two and a half weeks ago,” Grant said. That letter appeared in his USNA applicant portal one morning during Winter Storm Uri. Grant’s parents, Margie and Harlan Dean, work as engineers and run businesses from the same office building in Clinton, where the family resides. When the LOA appeared in his student portal, Grant’s father called him to meet his parents at their office building. Not knowing why his parents needed him so urgently, Grant rode his bike through the snow and ice to read the letter with them, sharing the good news almost immediately. He first pretended to be crestfallen, as if the letter had been one of rejection. The act didn’t last long, as a sixth-month process finally came to a close.
The application process to the United States military academies is rigorous. The schools thoroughly evaluate candidates’ physical and mental fitness for a place at the elite universities. “I started off by sending in my transcripts, writing an essay, requesting recommendation letters,” Grant recalled. Those tasks were followed by a fitness assessment that included push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, running, a basketball throw, and shuttles. Then it came time to request nominations from U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson and a medical examination that included extra scrutiny due to old injuries.
“In ninth grade, I played football, and during a spring football game I went for a ten and out, caught a pass, stepped into the end zone, and a kid hit me and snapped my femur,” Grant explained. “So I have three screws in my knee, and that’s what I had to prove would be good to go.”
Grant’s interest in the Navy began with his great-great-grandfather’s stories of fighting in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II. Grant considered enlisting right out of high school, but friends and family encouraged him to try for acceptance to the nation’s military academies. To Grant, acceptance seemed improbable. The Naval Academy has an acceptance rate of just 8.3 percent.
“When I got the LOA, my mom cried, and my dad said ‘Wow, that’s awesome,'” Grant recalled. “We spent that entire night watching videos about Plebe Summer and your first year there.” Starting on July 1, Grant will begin six weeks of basic training leading up to the start of classes. “It made me excited and my mom sad.”
“I thought there was no way, but I decided I might as well try,” Grant said. Acceptance came as a pleasant surprise, and now Grant looks forward to matriculating to the school. At the academy, Grant is interested in studying engineering or chemistry, with an intent to pursue a career in the medical field.
Between now and July 1, Grant plans to spend a lot of time with family and friends and working to stay in shape as he finishes the academic year at JA and prepares to transition to the academy. To students interested in pursuing appointments at the United States military academies, Grant says, “Have confidence in yourself, and know that you can get in with determination. Keep calling, keep asking, keep wondering what can I do to be more competitive?'”