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Does anyone here have a child accepted to a military academy?


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I know it's a long shot to be accepted, but we've decided to plan our high school years with a military academy as a possible stretch goal. If you have a child who went or was accepted, what advice can you give? What classes or activities were considered favorable? Is a high school sport required? How do they view homeschoolers? What's the application process? What about becoming an Eagle Scout, leadership training programs, or CAP? I'll take any advice I can get.

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I know a couple of homeschooling families irl that have had a child go to an academy. I will share some of their tips second-hand after seeing what other advice you get. I'm following because my oldest is aiming for the Air Force academy. She is in CAP and dual enrolled with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University online. We are also prioritizing team sports, although hers are not the usual team sports so I don't know how they will look at them (Synchronized figure skating, high school skating team, and homeschool track team). Fwiw, CAP is fabulous, has taught her so much, and given her amazing experience and opportunities.

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My DS is in 9th grade this year and has shown some interest in a service academy, particularly the Air Force Academy.   Have you seen their page with advice to homeschoolers?   This has been helpful to us.   They say that 95% of their accepted candidates have participated in a sport, and 80% have earned varsity letters.   http://www.academyadmissions.com/admissions/advice-to-applicants/home-schoolers/ 

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I recommend spending a couple hours on the academy websites. The Naval Academy Steps for Admission page will answer a lot of questions.

 

Pay close attention to deadlines and work backwards. For example if your kid will apply for a summer program that is held the summer after junior year, with an application in Dec-Feb of junior year, he will want to have strong PSAT or SAT scores in hand before that.

 

If he will be taking the CFA sometime around the summer after junior year, then senior year is very late for getting a faster run time or learning to do a lot of pull ups, push ups and sit ups.

 

I recommend looking at college ROTC programs as well as the academies. Especially senior military colleges like Virginia Tech.

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You've gotten some great responses already!

 

The service academies (heretofore, SAs) are a wonderful opportunity for many young people. It is awesome when a young person knows early on that they are interested in pursuing a SA appointment. The idea of planning your high school and activities with that goal in mind is a very good approach. That doesn't mean a student can't decide in 10th grade to pursue that route. My two dc fell into both categories – when ds was 5 yo, he knew he wanted to fly; by the time 8th grade started, his dream was to go to USAFA. He even knew what he wanted to major in! On the other hand, dd decided on that goal later, during high school.

 

DS is currently at USAFA and also had received an appointment to USNA; dd has received an appointment to USAFA and is still in the “wait zone†with USNA.

 

One of my first suggestions would be to open an account on Service Academy Forums (SAF). It is an amazing resource for ALL of the service academies. I have learned a ton reading there. Likewise, dd and ds also have accounts and enjoy answering questions and mentoring other students interested in the academies. And you will indeed learn acronyms. :) Welcome to a whole new world. I can rattle them off like crazy now, and not even think about it. But in the beginning, I was completely clueless.

 

Recently, dd posted a great answer to a USAFA/SAF thread related to your questions. The young man who started the thread had rambled on a bit about what he “hoped to do†or “had done†but wasn't so focused on what he was doing :) He was in 10th grade, if I accurately recall. So as an initial response to your inquiry, I will share below that great answer she crafted.

 

Also, If you would like to pm me, please feel free to. I will be happy to share more detailed info that way with you, as well as explain how you/your dc can contact my dd via SAF. She said she would love to mentor young people who are interested in the SA and answer any questions they have.

 

A side fun note - as a result of the WTM forums, I have two wonderful friends IRL – one whose dd is in the same year as my ds at USAFA, and the other whose ds is in 10th grade and aspiring to go to USAFA. That young man and his mom (now my friend) visited USAFA last fall, and they enjoyed being escorted for the day by my son...who, coincidentally, had first “met†the mom a few years ago on SAF. She was asking lots of questions that my ds answered. A few months later, she happened to pm me via WTM. It took only a few emails before I realized she already “knew†my ds. How small a world is that?!

 

Here is dd's great advice to that young man on SAF (really applies for any of the SA):

 

“I can definitely appreciate the complexities of being a homeschooled student applying to USAFA, as I have been homeschooled since first grade. It can be more difficult to get transcripts etc. just the way the academy wants them. But being homeschooled is not by any means a disadvantage in pursuing an appointment to USAFA.

 

When I looked at your list of “credentialsâ€, I was surprised to see a lot of things that are a bit unrelated included in the list. Where you were born, “was in Civil Air Patrol, may join againâ€, “would love to start learning Arabicâ€, “during 8th grade…â€, and…“Terrified of heightsâ€? I understand that you included a lot of these just to give background information, and that’s fine. But realize that most of those won’t be helpful on your path to USAFA. For example, in the Academy applications, what you did before ninth grade is not even considered. In fact, I recall that most of the activity-reporting sections instructed that only activities in 10th grade or after should be recorded. It seems like you have a lot of things you “used to do†or “want to doâ€, and not a lot that you are doing.

 

I’m not saying this to be harsh. But it is important that you realize that just being interested in or “above average†in a bunch of things is not enough.

 

The good news is that you do have time. I did not become interested in USAFA until just before the start of my junior year of HS, and I pretty much scrambled to get a plan together as to how I could take my small boring resume and turn it into something good. And it did work, although I’d have felt more confident about the application if I had started earlier.

 

Right now you’re in a good position to start preparing yourself for an Academy, and it’s great that you’ve reached out for advice. Here is what I would suggest.

 

Step one: Make a plan. Arrange all your activities/credentials etc. into three “tiers†based on their importance to USAFA, and prioritize accordingly.

 

Tier 1: Obviously, this is the “can’t-do-without†category. The only thing in this tier is academics, which are alone 50-60% of your Academy application, according to the USAFA admissions page. Spend as much time as you have to in order to make your academic record stellar.

 

Take dual enrollment classes. Especially if you are homeschooled, this is a major plus. It shows that you can not only perform above a HS level, but you can also do well in a formal classroom environment.

 

Take the SAT/ACT early, and take them often. Do not assume that you will do well based on your performance on other tests; standardized tests are very different from “normal†tests.

 

If at all possible, START TAKING ARABIC. I started studying Arabic in 11th grade, and I’m in College Arabic 4 (via dual enrollment) currently. So I can relate to you there.  Hard critical languages (Arabic, Chinese, and Russian) are highly valued by the military, and it is a MAJOR plus to have a background in one of these when you apply to a service academy.

 

It is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of academics in an Academy application. Having said that, don’t get discouraged if you have a few B’s. It is perfectly possible to get a couple of B’s and still have a great academic record.

 

Tier 2: Major extracurricular activities which demonstrate a high level of leadership, responsibility, and commitment. For me, Tier 2 was getting my black belt in Taekwondo, tutoring math, my Moral Leadership Officer position in Civil Air Patrol, my job, and two scholarships I got to study Arabic.

 

Tier 3: Anything and everything else. Such as: other volunteer work, smaller leadership positions, recreational sports, etc.

 

Obviously, all the tiers are important. You won’t get in on just your Tier 1 credentials, any more than you would on just Tier 2. USAFA wants the “whole person.†But, the Tier system (created by my wise parents in order to help me focus on the important stuff ) is designed to be a constant reminder of where your priorities are. If you have to make a priority decision, Tier 1 comes before Tier 2 comes before Tier 3.

 

Figure out what activities you’re going to start in each tier. Then go start them!

 

Here’s some recommendations if you want specific activity ideas. Most of these are based on my personal experience, so there’s obviously a LOT more than this.

 

-          Martial arts

-          Volunteering/working as a tutor

-          Civil Air Patrol

-          Toastmasters Speech Club (You have to be 18 to officially join, but you can attend and participate as a minor. This will also help you prepare for interviews.)

-          Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

-          4-H club involvement

-          Any kind of employment

 

 

Step 2: Stay in contact with your ALO.

 

Do not hesitate to reach out to him/her if you have questions, but find a way to update him/her or stay in touch on a pretty regular basis. The ALO is your contact point with USAFA - show him/her how dedicated you are. Repeatedly.

 

Step 3: Stick to your plan.

 

By now you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I know the drill.†But believe it or not, Step 3 is the hardest step by far. You will run into dozens of distractions. Your motives for applying to an Academy may be questioned by well-meaning friends or even family. You may be told “You know, it’s really hard to get into USAFA…†or “You’ll definitely get in!†Pay no attention to either. Work hard and keep your eyes fixed on the goal.

 

Step 4: Apply!

 

Start early! I recommend applying to Summer Seminar, if only to get your preliminary application submitted. Don’t worry if you don’t get in. I didn’t.

 

Starting no later than spring of your junior year, make a timeline of ALL the deadlines that you have. Start working on those nomination applications! Apply for all of the nominations you’re eligible for. Try to submit your applications early.

 

Basically, jump through all the hoops you’re asked to jump through, and plan farther ahead than you think you need to. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Step 5: Send updates…then wait, hope, and pray!"

 

Her advice is a great springboard. A couple of clarifying and closing comments. Both my dc had critical language skills at an advanced level by the time they applied to the SA. It is by no means required to receive an appointment, but their level of proficiency was pretty rare for high school students. This was planned on purpose. They chose that route to differentiate themselves with a unique ability that would definitely be valued by the military. It also showed a lot of dedication and plain old hard work, as their languages are in the top group of hardest languages to learn. Check out the languages offered at the academies your student is interested in.

 

The “tier system†we suggested to our dc was really meant to help them learn to prioritize in life. It is helpful no matter where your kids go to college—or even if they don't! As you get in the thick of all your academics, activities, nomination applications, medical stuff, applications, etc., it is easy to lose sight of what is most important, or simply not have enough hours in the day to do everything. We didn't “tell†our dc what to do; when they were faced with a priority decision, we would ask them, “what tier does this fall in?†and dialogue so that they were figuring it out themselves.

 

And that leads to my final, but perhaps most important thought for the night...the SA route is not for everyone. It is...hard. Every year, there are lots of qualified candidates who have marvelous credentials and who do not receive appointments. It must be your dc's dream, not your own. You can support and cheerlead, but ultimately they must be the driver of the nomination and application processes. That will be looked for during any/all interactions(phone calls, emails, etc) or interviews they have. And believe me, the people who interview them will easily be able to figure out if mom/dad drove the process or if the candidate did. The SA expect each candidate to be fully invested in their own future...because if they receive an appointment, the SA will be fully invested in educating and training them to be an outstanding military leader.

 

HTH!

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