JERSEY SHORE - After high school graduation, it's difficult to decide what lifetime career path to choose.
The choice for Maddie Thompson, 19, was easy once she received a letter from the U.S. Naval Academy over two years ago, after placing fifth at Pa. state competition in swimming the 100-yard free style.
"I knew their academics and athletic department was the best; so once I heard from them, I knew that was where I wanted to go," Maddie said.
Maddie applied at the beginning of her senior year and discovered that to enter the prestigious academy required a little official assistance.
She was nominated for consideration at the Naval Academy by U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson, R - Howard.
"Mr. Thompson (no relation) was a big help to me and really wanted me to be accepted to the academy," she said.
Miss Thompson is one of 295 females that have accepted appointments to the academy this year.
The U.S. Naval Academy class of 2016 is on track to have the largest female class in the academy's history, according to Stephen Latta, the academy's dean of admissions.
Women were first admitted to the academy in 1976.
The Naval Academy promotes the professional, intellectual, and physical development of all midshipmen, with four years of college followed by five years of service in the Navy.
Maddie graduated from Jersey Shore High School in 2011 and attended Mercersburg Academy for a year to prepare academically for the Naval Academy.
"I really liked it," Maddie stated. "I did get a little homesick, but there were some long breaks so that helped."
Maddie is the only daughter of Michael and Susan Thompson of Jersey Shore and has four brothers keeping a very close eye on her.
"We are a very close-knit family," she continued. "I liked growing-up with four brothers - they've taught me a lot and I've been following in their footsteps since I was little. They've held me at high standards from the beginning and I had to live up to them, but I think I've done well," she said with a smile.
Maddie noted that her family and friends have all been very supportive and encouraging on her choice to go to the academy and her father is especially excited about this honor.
"My parents have taught me a strong work ethic and I owe a lot to both of them," she said.
"I chose the Naval Academy because I like to be challenged and they will challenge me mentally and physically to help me become a better student and athlete ... an all round independent person," Maddie said. "Also a family friend, Ian Eisenhower, goes there and he was telling be about all the benefits and opportunities available to me."
Apprehensive about the academics, Maddie said they scare her, but she's confident the prep school has prepared her enough to be ready to meet any challenge.
"From what I understand, we go through a summer program similar to a boot camp where we learn the ins and outs of Navy life," Maddie continued. "Since April, I have been studying my Reef Points guidebook for Navy officer ranks, enlisted personal, and history of the Navy and other facts."
"I think I would like to study economics or nursing, maybe a nurse practitioner," Maddie said, adding that she enjoys traveling and has visited several states and Costa Rica, so she is looking forward to future Navy adventures.
Athletics are also important to Maddie as she runs track and has been swimming since she was five years old.
"Fourteen years and counting, my first love is swimming ... always has been," she said.
"Once I leave on June 27 and I won't be home until Thanksgiving," she said, adding that cell phones are not allowed over the summer, only letter communication with her friends and family. Afterwards, she will have the use of a computer and cell phone.
For Maddie, there is one drawback to becoming a midshipman. After a lifetime of having long hair, she has to have her hair cut two inches above her collar before leaving for college.
"I'm upset, but it's just a little thing that I have to get over to be where I want to be," she stated.
"I'm the most excited to be able to say that I am part of something like the Naval Academy with the traditions, hard work, challenges, huge honor and connection I will have with others proceeding on the same path," she concluded.