LIVERMORE -- Being admitted to the United States Naval Academy is a rare event -- the prestigious military school in Annapolis, Maryland accepts only a fraction of its thousands of top-shelf candidates.
That didn't faze Ashley and Jessica Lois, identical twin sisters in the midst of their senior year at Livermore High School. They both applied and were nominated to the academy, and in June -- despite long odds -- will together become part of Annapolis' class of 2017.
And they won't be the only Lois siblings on campus -- brother Kevin Lois is a member of the class of 2015.
Having three children at Annapolis simultaneously would give oddsmakers a migraine, but is more understandable when you get to know the Lois siblings.
"I'm not surprised at all," said their mother, Colleen Lois. "They all thrive on structure, discipline and overachieving. This is a perfect fit for all three of them."
The family's naval course began as Kevin began to look at colleges as a sophomore at Livermore High. As a good student and athlete, he had many options.
"We were looking at different schools, all the big names," said his father, John Lois, an acting lieutenant in internal affairs for the Oakland police. "Back in the day, I was a candidate for the Air Force Academy, and backed out at the last minute. At 17 I was too scared to make that decision on my own, and it was always in the back of my mind: 'What opportunities did I miss?' I wanted
After researching Annapolis and attending a summer seminar to introduce potential students to the academy's demanding lifestyle, Kevin opted to apply. He was accepted, and now studies mechanical engineering.
His high-achieving, athletic sisters both were impressed.
"His stories, talking about the camaraderie, the teamwork -- it really interested me and I started doing my research." said Ashley.
"We wanted to find a college that fit our lifestyle," said Jessica. "We're all about discipline, structure and organization ... we were always taught how to manage our time."
"At first I took their interest with a grain of salt," John Lois said. "But they attended the summer seminar and excelled ... They came home from that and said, 'Dad, this is what we want to do and we're not applying anywhere else.'"
A mountain of application paperwork followed, along with a family heart-to-heart.
"We had to talk about what happens if one gets in and the other doesn't," John Lois said. "I didn't think both would get in, because of the numbers applying."
Each year, only about 1,300 plebes (first-year students) enter the academy.
Their nearly identical applications resulted in both being offered spots in the class of 2017, a rare occurrence.
"We're looking for well-qualified students who meet the academic requirements, display leadership skills and meet the physical and medical qualifications ... Obviously the twins excelled on all these qualifications." said Lt. Mikaela Rodkin, an Annapolis admissions counselor.
It is not unheard of to have multiple siblings attend the academy at once -- including triplets who attend now -- but academy officials say it is very rare.
"Our plan was that if one of us got in and the other one didn't, we weren't going to turn down the appointment," Ashley said.
"We knew we had the same credentials," Jessica added. "And we want the best for each other."
"I was shocked when both got in," John Lois said. "Not because I didn't think they qualified, but because the academy thought highly enough of them to offer two spots from this area.
"The dean of admissions asked for a meeting," he said. "He wanted to make sure they were coming for the right reasons. He said it was so rare in terms of them being so identical in everything, that it was a decision to either take both of them or neither of them."
A few relatives expressed concern over the girls attending Annapolis, where approximately 20 percent of students are female, but the sisters are embracing the substantial challenge and trying to prepare for "Plebe Summer," a not-so-gentle introduction to four years of rigorous academic and physical demands.
Both expect to major in some form of engineering. Jessica hopes to pursue aviation. Ashley also is interested in aviation, but is keeping her options open. At graduation, as either ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps, each must do at least five years military service.
"I know I have a career, and I know I'm set," Ashley said. "To me, I'm serving my country and being the leader I know I can be and that I want to be."
Both are happy to join Kevin at Annapolis, although the twins likely will be in separate companies, and probably won't see their brother much, at least at first.
"He's very excited," Jessica said. "He's always watched over his little sisters. (But) he knows we're mentally tough and physically competitive."
Their parents are accustomed to their kids' competitive tendencies.
"It's just kind of their natures," said John Lois. "Our philosophy in our household is that whatever you do, you do it at 100 percent. There are no shortcuts in life, and we don't do anything that we don't give our full attention to."
Mom Colleen is also on board.
"I was concerned until I educated myself about it," she said. "As long as they're happy and doing what they want to do, I'm happy."