The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The La Salle Falconer

The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The La Salle Falconer

The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The La Salle Falconer

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!
* indicates required

Tyler Smith is Making His Way to West Point

Jasmine McIntosh
Next year, Tyler Smith will be headed to West Point, New York to attend the United States Military Academy.

Senior Tyler Smith was sick at home the day he got a call from his district congressman Earl Blumenauer, who told him he got accepted into United States Military Academy at West Point before he got his official acceptance letter. 

“I almost just broke down on the phone,” Smith said. “It was incredible.” His mom was very eager to know who was on the line. 

“It was hilarious,” he said. “My dad came running downstairs [and] we all hugged.” 

With a 12% acceptance rate, West Point is one of the top military academies in the nation, so Smith was excited when he got accepted. 

In addition to the excitement, however, Smith is extremely nervous about going to West Point.

“I hear a lot of stories about people who are just like, ‘oh my God, I [have] got to get out of here it’s so hard,’” he said. “But then [after] four years and [they say] ‘oh my god, that was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m so happy I pulled through.’ And so I guess I just have to go with a strong mindset because I’m prepared for it not to be easy.” 

Smith doesn’t think he has fully wrapped his head around the thought of how hard it is going to be. 

Smith started applying last January to get into the summer programs and seminars which kickstarted his application. He officially submitted his application this January and heard back 3 weeks later. “Working on having the strongest application possible, and making myself stand out in the essays, things like that” was part of how he got accepted, he said. 

“You dedicate your whole year of your life to an application, and being able to finally see it pay off is just incredible,” Smith said.

He started off by writing around four essays and getting his transcript. He also had to apply for a recommendation letter from his congressman. If you don’t get a recommendation letter from a person in Congress, then you can’t get into West Point. “That’s the hardest part,” he said. 

For recommendation letters, every local representative and senator has a website that includes the ability to contact a congressman in their district. Every congressperson has a separate portal for “applications, recent essays, [and] recommendation letters,” he said.

La Salle’s English I and Honors English II teacher Mr. Greg Larson helped Smith write the essays over the summer and wrote one of his recommendation letters. Many drafts were made, and Mr. Larson was with him through zoom every step of the way.  

“Mr. Larson helped me a lot,” Smith said. “I don’t think I could have done it without him on that part.”

High school had many highlights that included cross country with friends, cross country camp, and being educated by amazing teachers. Smith was also an integral part of the very first boys volleyball team at La Salle this year. 

With that being said, preparing physically is also a necessity when applying to West Point. Smith had to pass a fitness exam in order to get in. “[It was a] little rough because I never hit the gym before in my life for that moment, so I had to start training,” he said.

Going on runs and the gym a couple times a week were some things he did.

“It doesn’t have to be much, it’s just getting out [and] getting active,” Smith said. 

Smith has followed many workouts that the academy website has posted. “They usually post things that help people prepare for certain events and certain aspects of cadet life.” Smith said. “For example, during boot camp, there’s certain things you have to do and they post instructions on how you can prepare for those things.”

Smith says that college mainly focuses on academics while West Point focuses on you as a whole, addressing questions such as, “How are you physically? Are you healthy? Are you strong? Are you conditioned? Are you smart? Do you get good grades? And then also, are you a leader in the community?” he said. “Do you do service? Do you volunteer?” 

These questions will all impact your chance of getting in. “I volunteered a lot for my application to get in,” Smith said.

Since eighth grade, he has been volunteering at a food pantry and has been doing a lot of environmental work, some of which include “pulling out blackberry bushes in local parks and things like that to let the native plants sort of thrive in that community,” Smith said. Volunteering at animal shelters is another act of service Smith did to make his application better, as the school greatly values community involvement.

Smith has also been preparing himself academically by studying for tests and working to get A’s in his classes.

Although Smith contributes in athletics, he takes his academic life seriously. To him, academics come first. “People will say student-athlete, the student comes first,” he said. If Smith is going to have a lot of homework to do, he won’t go for the full practice to get his work done. 

Smith has always wanted to serve in the military, but he wanted to get a good education too. So, “going [to West Point] is probably the best way to do it,” Smith said.

While debating between United States Air Force Academy and West Point, Smith chose West Point because he believes they focus more on the people. Smith has always had an interest in history — specifically war — and for him, being able to go to a place where successful historical people like Ulysses S. Grant, who was a major figure in the Civil War, and President Eisenhower who served in World War II during D-Day “is amazing to [him],” he said. 

West Point is a very serious and rigorous place. As a result, Smith thinks being able to succeed in the rigorous school is going to make him a better person.

Being a leader is something Smith has always wanted to be, so learning from the best leaders in the military at West Point is perfect for him. Not only that, but he is going to be surrounded by peers who are striving for greatness.

Smith met a student who had applied to MIT and Harvard when touring West Point. He also met others who applied to Stanford. “There’s some great people going here and I have a lot to learn from them.” 

He anticipates that learning from those peers will be a great experience, as will serving in the military.

The most beautiful place Smith has ever been to was when he toured the West Point campus. He describes it as having an antique look. 

“It’s been around for 300 years since the Revolutionary War,” he said. “Seeing those buildings and knowing what happened at West Point during the war, it was just mind blowing to me. I just fell in love instantly from a historical standpoint.”

Something that Smith has found unique about West Point is the attitude of the teachers and how it is very different from what he is used to.

 “The first teacher I met, he just opened up yelling at the cadets saying, ‘Oh, my god, you guys have been lazy. Get [it] together. Get your work done, you have two hours get your work done or else we’re all going to be in trouble.’” He said, “it’s a [very] different environment; more aggressive, more organized.”

After Smith graduates from La Salle, he has to go to a 6-7 week long boot camp over the summer. 

Smith says that boot camp is to help people transition from being “a civilian to being a person in the military,” he said. “So, it’s supposed to open your eyes to military life.” The boot camp is supposed to be very intense and harsh.

Although the summer before West Point will be tough, Smith is really looking forward to the opportunity at West Point. They are building a plethora of new buildings. One of the buildings in particular he is excited for is the new cyber building. Cyber science is something Smith is going to be majoring in, and he is thrilled to be able to “research with the subject and explore deeply because it’s always been a dream of mine to study that,” he said.

During his time at West Point, he would like to keep a high GPA for a better chance of getting the job he wants when deployment happens.  “I also just want to be there for my other cadets because I know it’s going to be so hard to go by yourself,” Smith said.

“I also want to be deployed in Germany because I take German [and] I’m probably going to double major with German.” To him, being able to work with one of America’s biggest allies and use the skills he will develop at West Point “would be awesome,” Smith said.

After graduation he is required to serve five years but will most likely stay longer. 

There are many opportunities awaiting for Smith when he graduates from this prestigious military school, some of which are the connections made through the school which is referred to as the Long Gray Line. The Long Gray Line is composed of everyone who graduated from West Point, and refers to the close ties and connections that alumni form. 

At West Point, the biggest opportunity is “surrounding yourself with all of these people,” he said. The people there are striving for greatness, and he says surrounding yourself with those people will influence you to do the same.

Not only that, but during the summers, there are opportunities to get internships around the world through different bases. 

“By being a leader at West Point, it’s going to apply outside the college,” he said. 

Leadership is another thing Smith is going to be trained to do. When Smith was visiting the United States Naval Academy, he heard a man telling a story about some kids coming to him and asking for help. “If I hadn’t spent the past four years of my life preparing to be a leader, I wouldn’t have been able to help them,” the man said. 

At West Point, Smith could have the opportunity to lead people older than him. Stepping into this role will be one of the biggest challenges of the West Point experience for him, as he is going to be leading people who have much more experience than him in his major — cybersecurity, which “is defending and protecting all of this data and the systems, programs, and networks for cyberattacks,” he said. 

Cyberattacks are “criminals, criminal organizations, or other countries, governments, and militaries, trying to destroy data and information, steal money, and just interrupt things,” he said.

Smith noted that learning from your peers is an important aspect of education at West Point, pointing out that “you can’t do it by yourself.”

The decision he made to go to West Point means “the world” to him. 

“I mean, I’ve always wanted to serve, but I didn’t really want to enlist because I knew that I’ve got a good academic path.” Smith said. “But being able to go pursue an education at an amazing college while being able to serve afterwards and use education for good and being able to defend the people I love. It’s just an amazing feeling to be able to do that.”

View Comments (4)
More to Discover

Comments (4)

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Let us know what you think about this story by submitting a comment below. We welcome respectful comments that engage in conversations.

Comments are moderated, and won't appear until they are approved. An email address is required, but won't be publicly displayed. The Falconer's complete comment policy can be viewed on our policies page.
All The La Salle Falconer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • C

    Carmen WilsonMay 30, 2024 at 10:11 am

    Congratulations Tyler! It’s been a joy watching you lead the boys on the first ever LaSalle volleyball team. I wish you all the best in your next chapter!!

  • B

    Bill MurrayMay 23, 2024 at 1:20 pm

    Great Job Tyler!

  • R

    Rickilyn SchneiderMay 23, 2024 at 9:19 am

    We volunteered with Tyler at the food pantry. He is an amazing young man. We are so proud of him and so honored to know him.

  • B

    Barb SmithMay 23, 2024 at 6:49 am

    We are so proud of you Tyler. Love you so much, mom mom and pop pop 🇺🇸