Is there actually an award for the worst West Point cadet?

Short answer is YES, there is actually an award. The award, however, isn’t for the ‘worst West Point cadet,’ it is for the cadet in the graduating class with lowest passing GPA. That cadet is known as “The Goat.” The award is presented to the Goat at graduation.

Why is this award sought after?

Every cadet in the class donates $1 (or more) to the Goat as a gift for making it to graduation by the skin of their teeth. With an average of 1,000 cadets per class, we’re talking about winning one thousand dollars or more.

The Goat of a class joins the ranks of some notable West Point graduates who bear the same title. General Custer and General Pickett, for example, were the Goats of their class!
The Goat is a revered individual among fellow cadets, embodying the ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ of the entire Corps of Cadets. It’s a celebration of the Corps’ unofficial motto “Cooperate & Graduate,” and it heralds back to some fun sayings many cadets have like “D stands for Diploma,” and “if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute.”

In order to graduate from West Point, a cadet must have a 2.0 GPA or better. Slip below a 2.0 GPA by graduation, and you don’t graduate. Earning the title of the Goat is actually quite counter-intuitive… at first glance, one would think the graduate with the worst GPA is not smart academically. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Several cadets with the lowest GPAs in the class often-times compete to become the Goat. This is much more difficult than it sounds. The cadet needs to study for their final exams to the point where they know the answer to EVERY question. Then they must know how much each question is worth and exactly what their GPA is. Finally, they must miss exactly the number of questions on their final exams to bring their GPA as close to 2.0 as possible without dipping below. Again, if their GPA is below 2.0, they don’t graduate. It isn’t the kind of thing you leave up to luck.