The goal of the schools was to raise a new generation for the political, military, and administrative leadership of the Nazi state. Therefore, life at the NPEA's was dominated by military discipline. Only boys and girls considered to be "racially flawless" were admitted to the boarding schools. This meant that no children with poor hearing or vision were accepted. "Above-average intelligence" was also required, so that those looking to be admitted had to complete 8-day entrance exams. Life in boys' Napolas was often very competitive and frequently brutal. Approximately one fifth of all cadets washed out or were sent home because of injuries sustained in training accidents. The official descriptor (rank) of a Napola cadet was “Jungmann”, used similarly to the term “Cadet” in American military schools. Napola cadets were between 11 and 18 years of age.
The percentage of Jungmannen (Plural of "Jungmann") who eventually entered the SS was much higher than in the general German population- 13% compared to 1.8%. The National Socialist worldview was considered paramount in Napola education. A prominent belief among the cadets themselves was that of "Endsieg" or Final Victory. Many of them were utilized as child soldiers and met their deaths in the last months of the war.
The first three NPEA's were founded in 1933 by the Minister of Education Bernhard Rust in Plön, Potsdam, and Köslin. The schools responded directly to the Reich Ministry for Education, rather than to any states like regular schools. From 1936, the NPEA's were subordinated to the Inspector of the National Political Institutes of Education and SS ObergruppenführerAugust Heissmeyer. From 1939, they were part of the Hauptamt Dienststelle SS-Obergruppenführer Heißmeyer. Therewith the schools were under the direct influence of the SS and Heißmeier pressured teachers to join this organization. He also considered introducing uniforms and ranks similar to the SS among students and teachers. By 1941, there were a total of 30 NPEA's with 6,000 students enrolled in all of Nazi Germany. In 1942, there were 33 schools- 30 for boys and 3 for girls. By the end of the war 43 schools existed.