United States Air Force Academy

Updated: December 5, 2020

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    Do you have a sincere desire to serve your country? Are you looking for a college that will give you a world-class education? Is your dream to become a pilot, engineer, computer programmer, or scientist? Then the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) may be the right choice for you.

    United States Air Force Academy Getting accepted to this high-flying military academy is not easy. It will take brains, brawn, and a bit of planning. To help you reach for the stars, we have put together some tips on navigating the Academy application process. From pre-application to life as a cadet, read on to see if you have what it takes to become a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force.

    The Air Force Academy at a Glance

    Located in picturesque Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Air Force Academy is home to the 4,000 cadets who make up the Cadet Wing. All students are there because they have decided they want to serve as officers in the United States Air Force. The Academy is designed to prepare you to be the Air Force’s future leader by challenging you with excellent academic programs, leadership training, and competitive athletics.

    You can choose from among 27 majors, taught in small classes by Academy faculty. Small classes allow you in-depth discussion and hands-on learning, providing opportunities for critical thinking and engagement. In addition to graded courses, you are also evaluated on your military performance and physical training. The USAFA expects you to maintain high standards for academics, military performance, and fitness. After graduation, you will enter the United States Air Force as a Second Lieutenant.

    After commissioning, you agree to serve a minimum of five years on active duty and an additional three years in the inactive reserves. Becoming a Cadet at USAFA is your first step to a life of service to the Air Force and your country.

    What Does It Take To Get In The USAFA?

    Here is a birds eye view of what you need to be competitive.

    • Complete an interview with your Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO)
    • Be a Future Falcon
    • Attend their Summer Seminar
    • Attend the Academy Prep School
    • Excel academically (GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and class rank)
    • Participate in extracurricular activities and sports
    • Pass a full medical exam and physical fitness test
    • Get a congressional nomination

    Even if you crush all of these tasks, you may still fall short. The USAFA acceptance rate is just 11.4%.

    So, how can you do to increase your chances of getting into the USAFA?  Read on to find out.

    How Can I Prepare?

    The earlier you start, the greater your potential of being accepted and earning an appointment to the USAFA.

    If you are in middle school:

    • Study hard (especially in English, math, and science).
    • Join a sports team.
    • Become a Leader by joining a scouting program, Civil Air Patrol, or a local or school club. Take on leadership positions like club president or secretary.
    • Demonstrate character by helping others or getting involved with church groups or other organizations that help your community.
    • Register for their Future Falcons Program to learn as much as you can about the application process and life as a cadet. You will receive email updates about admissions, as well as invitations to online and in-person meetups and seminars to help you connect with other potential and current cadets.

    If you are in High School:

    • Start Your Application. Junior year is when your application process begins. Start by filling out the Pre-candidate Questionnaire, which becomes available online March 1.
    • Live the Academy Experience. During the summer of your junior year, you can attend the Summer Seminar. This program allows you to see yourself as an Academy cadet. Space is limited, and it’s highly competitive, so apply early.

    If you are a college student, enlisted airman, or an international student:

    • You can still apply for an appointment to the USAFA. Check the USAFA Website for more information.

    How Do I Know If I Qualify?

    To earn an appointment to the Air Force Academy, you must meet the following basic requirements:

    • Be at least 17 but not past your 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year you enter the Academy
    • Be a United States citizen
    • Be unmarried with no dependents
    • Be of good moral character

    In addition to these basic requirements, you will need to meet the following specific requirements:

    Academics

    To compete academically, you should complete the following high school courses:

    • Four years of English, math, and science
    • Three years of social studies
    • Two years of a modern foreign language
    • One year of computer study

    You should also average in the top three percent of your high school classes and have an SAT score above 620 verbal and 580 or have an ACT score above 24 English/reading and 25 math/science.

    Character Requirements

    In addition to academic performance and physical fitness, you will need to show your strength of character and leadership potential. The USAFA will use the following to assess your character:

    • Teacher’s evaluation
    • Writing Sample
    • Letters of Recommendation
    • Background Review

    Physical Fitness

    PT is a big part of the Academy, and satisfactory completion of the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) is an important part of the admissions process. This test of strength, agility, speed, and endurance. It will help determine if you possess the stamina required to complete the physical program at the Academy. Your examination may be administered by any physical education teacher, Service Academy Liaison Officer, or JROTC instructor.

    Medical Requirements

    You must meet the medical and weight standards for a commission in the United States Air Force. If you do not meet these standards as an applicant, you’re disqualified (unless you get a medical waiver). You will take your examination at one of the designated examining centers located on or after July 1 of the year preceding your year of admission.


    What Is The Admission Cycle For The USAFA?

    The Air Force Academy admissions cycle helps you manage your application. The process consists of pre-candidate and candidate phases. Here are some important dates in the Academy’s annual admissions cycle:

    March 1 – Dec. 31 The Pre-Candidate Questionnaire (PCQ) opens March 1 of your junior year. The deadline to submit a PCQ is Dec. 31 of your senior year.
    July 1 – Jan. 31  After completion of your PCQ, you’ll get correspondence with guidance and the next steps for the application process. All items must be completed by the deadline.
    Dec. 1 – Jan. 15  Summer Seminar applications open on Dec. 1 and end on Jan. 15.
    January ACT/SAT must be taken for the results to arrive at the Admissions Office by mid-February.
    February – April  Applications are reviewed, and the majority of appointments are offered.
    April  You should know your admissions status by this time. All notifications will be made through your application portal.
    June  Academy classes begin. Summer Seminar sessions take place.

    How Do I Apply?

    The application process is time-consuming and requires detailed planning and follow up. Let’s take a look at the application process.

    Get A Congressional Nomination

    Before you can be considered for an appointment, you must obtain a nomination, which is a very competitive process. Most applicants get one of the following nominations:

    Congressional. For each cadet vacancy, each member of Congress may nominate up to 10 candidates. If you want to request a Congressional nomination, follow the guidelines in the Congressional Nomination Request Sample Letter.

    Vice Presidential. For each cadet vacancy that occurs, the vice president may nominate up to 10 candidates to be considered for appointment. Don’t mail your request for a vice presidential nomination to the Academy. They will make recommendations to the vice president based upon your admissions file.

    Pre-candidate Phase

    Starting on March 1, the admissions process begins with the online Pre-candidate Questionnaire (PCQ). You can start this as early as your junior year, but no later than Dec. 31 of your senior year of high school. This form is a self-report, letting the Academy know your qualifications, like your GPA, class rank, and extracurricular activities. If you meet their candidate guidelines, your application will be promoted to candidate status. PCQ’s are officially due Dec. 31 each year.

    Candidate Phase

    Once you achieve candidate status, you will get an email and your online application. Your deadline is based on when you entered the candidate phase and will be posted on your portal. You must complete the required items by the deadline posted. There are many steps to the process, and may take four to six months to complete.

    • Request your official school transcripts. For more details, see the Academic Requirements admissions factor. You’ll also need to get three teacher evaluations. If you are in high school, the instructors evaluating you MUST be your:
      • 11th- or 12th-grade English instructor
      • 11th- or 12th-grade math instructor, and
      • one other instructor
    • Schedule and pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA). You have to find your own examiner and provide them with official instructions on setting up and administering the test. Your best bet is to ask your physical education instructor or a coach.
    • Complete Your Extracurricular Activities Record. This shows clubs you were active in, including leadership positions.
    • Complete Your Writing Sample and Personal Interview. For more on these admissions requirements, see Character Requirements. If you have not done so already, connect with your Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO) and schedule your personal interview.
    • Complete Your Medical Evaluation. You must meet the medical and weight standards for a commission in the U.S. Air Force. The Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) is responsible for determining your medical qualification. It can take up to 30 days to schedule your initial medical evaluation, 60 days for completion, and possibly another 30 days for a medical waiver if required. This can result in up to a four-month process for candidates.

    What Happens After I Apply?

    Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll hear whether you will be offered an appointment. Appointments offered are conditional until you take the Oath of Allegiance. You’ll typically be notified by April 21.


    A Day In The Life Of An Academy Cadet

    Now that you know what is involved in applying to the United States Air Force Academy let’s take a look at a day in the life of an Academy Cadet.

    Morning

    Every activity during your day is designed to build a leader of character, and you will be required to push yourself higher each day in pursuit of your goal of earning those prestigious Second Lieutenant bars.

    You’ll start your day early, making sure that your room is in inspection order and are dressed in the uniform of the day. Some mornings you may have a squadron meeting or other events before breakfast. You’ll eat breakfast in Mitchell Hall, where the entire Cadet Wing (4,000+ students) assembles to eat family-style meals.

    You’ll have two different, alternating class schedules – “M-Day Schedule” and “T-Day Schedule.” Morning classes at 0730 and most academic classes and labs are held in Fairchild Hall. Saturdays are often reserved for military training throughout the semester, while Sundays are usually downtime for training and allow you some personal time.

    Morning classes or study time end around 1100, and you’ll return to your squadron area for formation and lunch. At 1130, your squadron lines up alphabetically in front of Vandenberg Hall, and marches across The Terrazo to eat lunch at Mitchell Hall.

    Afternoon

    Afternoon classes begin at 1230 and include military training, Commander’s Calls, briefings, commissioning education, or real-world research. You are also required to complete 10 physical education classes, which are the best team-building and leadership opportunities the Academy has to offer.

    Evening

    Your evenings will be filled with a variety of military training events like briefings and lectures. Upper-class cadets use this time to mentor younger students or meet to discuss upcoming events that impact their squadron, flight, or element. You also have the option to eat a buffet-style dinner from 1700-1900 in Mitchell Hall. Your last activity of the day is in your room with the Academic Call to Quarters (ACQ), or required study time. Your day ends at 2300, with taps (the last bugle call of the day).

    Conclusion

    The path to admission at the Air Force Academy is long and challenging. But if you plan ahead and use the information in this article, you can face the application process with confidence. Following these guidelines gives you the best chance to impress the admissions committee and earn that coveted appointment to the Air Force Academy. Good luck as you venture off into the Wild Blue Yonder.


    About The AuthorJim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.


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