Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. was born on January 20, 1930, at Mountainside Hospital in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. His parents, Edwin Eugene Aldrin Sr. and Marion Aldrin (née Moon), lived in neighboring Montclair, New Jersey. His father was an Army aviator during World War I and the assistant commandant of the Army's test pilot school at McCook Field, Ohio, from 1919 to 1922, but left the Army in 1928 and became an executive at Standard Oil. Aldrin had two siblings, both sisters: Madeleine, who was four years older, and Fay Ann, who was a year and a half older. His nickname, which became his legal first name in 1988, arose as a result of Fay's mispronouncing "brother" as "buzzer", which was then shortened to "Buzz". He was a Boy Scout, with the rank of .
Aldrin did well in school, maintaining an A average. He played and was the starting for Montclair High School's undefeated 1946 state champion team. His father wanted him to go to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and enrolled him at nearby Severn School, a preparatory school for Annapolis and even secured him an appointment from Albert W. Hawkes, one of the United States Senators from New Jersey. Aldrin attended Severn School in 1946, but had other ideas about his future career. He suffered from seasickness and considered ships a distraction from flying airplanes. He faced down his father and told him to ask Hawkes to change the nomination to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Aldrin entered West Point in 1947. He did well academically, finishing first in his class his plebe (first) year. He was a member of the academy track and field team. In 1950 he traveled with a group of West Point cadets to Japan and the Philippines to study the military government policies of Douglas MacArthur. During his trip, the Korean War broke out. On June 5, 1951, he graduated third in the class of 1951 with a Bachelor of Science degree.