From Books to Battleships

An uncommon college route

Seniors Joshua Yi and Diego Rubiralta pose in front of UPrep, with Yi wearing a Naval Academy sweatshirt. Rubiralta is set to attend the Academy in the Fall while Yi is still weighing his options. (Photo: Eliza Barton)

While many seniors are excited about heading to college next year, where they will be learning how to do their own laundry and battling hangovers, one University Prep senior, Diego Rubiralta, will be getting a drastically different college experience.
Rubiralta plans to attend the Naval Academy next year, where he will be waking up at 5 a.m. each day, getting into uniform, and heading right into physical training and listening to orders.
The Naval Academy, located in Annapolis, MD, is a publicly funded university that trains the next generation of leaders for the US Navy. The Naval Academy has just a 7% acceptance rate according to US News and World Report, and those who are accepted receive free education in exchange for a commitment to serve a minimum 5 years in the military.
The service route is as uncommon as it gets from UPrep, according to Associate Director of College Counseling Britten Nelson.
“Since UPrep’s founding in the 70’s, it looks like we’ve had just three students enroll at the Naval Academy after graduating from UPrep, including Diego. I know of one student who transferred in after freshman year at a civilian college – so that gets us to 4,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t look like anybody has gained admission to West Point or the Coast Guard Academy, and one student enrolled at the Air Force Academy (way back in 1999).”

Joshua Yi, another UPrep senior, is still deciding between the Academy or taking a Naval ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) scholarship at another college.
“I’m still waiting to hear back from USC and UW before I’m able to make a decision,” Yi said.
Both Rubiralta and Yi were inspired at a young age by their families to one day serve in the military.
“My grandpa is a big reason I wanted to do this someday. He escaped from North Korea when he was 18 years old and came to America. Our family has been living the American dream,” Yi said. “I want to contribute to diversity in the military, which is very white male dominated,” Yi said.
Yi’s sister also took the ROTC route in college and was another inspiration to him.
“My sister went down the military path too, she recently graduated from USC with a Naval ROTC scholarship, and we have talked about how we don’t think the military is the best representation of how diverse our country is,” Yi said.
Rubiralta was also drawn to the Naval Academy because of his grandfather, who served as a doctor in the Mexican military.
“I saw how his military experience turned him into a very certain type of man, very empathetic and driven by hard work. It inspired me to be like him,” Rubiralta said. “He’s just been a great man and an inspiration my entire life.”
He is determined to serve and give back to the country, having witnessed what the country has done for him.
“I’ve seen what the US has provided for my family and the opportunities that we’ve been given that a lot of people around the world don’t have, and I’m extremely grateful for that,” Rubiralta said. “Giving back to this country and service has always been on my mind and, and a necessity for me.”
Both Yi and Rubiralta got a taste of what the military could be like at a Naval Academy summer program.
“For me it was a culture shock, I had never been in a military environment or even in any JROTC or boy scouts or anything. For a week you basically are sleep deprived, constantly getting yelled at, and having to memorize ranks of the Navy while also participating in tough physical activities along the way,” Yi said.
Applying to the Naval Academy is a long and complicated process. It requires many steps, such as a fitness test and medical exam, and also getting a congressional nomination from a representative or senator. Yi received a principal nomination from Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, while Rubiralta got his nomination from representative Adam Smith.
Rubiralta is enthusiastic to attend the academy next year.
“I think it’s not only an opportunity, but a duty that I kind of have to do, and I’m happy to do it,” Rubiralta added. “I think I’m gonna become a more disciplined person with more opportunities as part of a group of people in a family that always watches out for each other’s backs.”