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Janeway

How to apply to the Air Force Academy (and hopefully get in)

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Please help me know the process for a successful application to AFA. I know it is selective and all. I just want to make sure we are not behind the process on anything. Thank you!

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I have Navy experience. 

The #1 problem I see is not finishing the application in a timely way.  In particular I talk to candidates who are procrastinating on the sections they have to complete (vs teacher recommendations or the transcript).

Practice the fitness assessment a lot, including practice in the same timed rest situation that the real test will be. It's much harder with the short rests.

Know the requirements for each nomination and apply to each one you are eligible for. Deadlines differ by office. The process for submitting letters of recommendation can differ. Late requests are usually not considered. 

It is a highly selective process. MANY qualified candidates get turn down letters. I highly recommend reccomend also applying to the service ROTC scholarship. 

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1 hour ago, Sebastian (a lady) said:

I have Navy experience. 

The #1 problem I see is not finishing the application in a timely way.  In particular I talk to candidates who are procrastinating on the sections they have to complete (vs teacher recommendations or the transcript).

Practice the fitness assessment a lot, including practice in the same timed rest situation that the real test will be. It's much harder with the short rests.

Know the requirements for each nomination and apply to each one you are eligible for. Deadlines differ by office. The process for submitting letters of recommendation can differ. Late requests are usually not considered. 

It is a highly selective process. MANY qualified candidates get turn down letters. I highly recommend reccomend also applying to the service ROTC scholarship. 

How would he apply for the service ROTC scholarship?

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My DS is applying to USNA, USAFA, and USMA for the c/o 2024.    What year is your DS now?   If he is a junior (graduating high school in 2020), you need to jump on things and start doing a LOT of reading and research now.   If he's younger, you have a bit of time.

I highly recommend that you read every page on the USAFA website, paying attention to each link and drop-down menu.   Many of your questions will be answered just by reading.   I also recommend that you spend some time on the Service Academy Forums website, and search through their forum posts for any questions you might have (99% of which have already been asked and answered).  

We have also been attending Academy Days and Admissions briefings through our local Members of Congress for a couple of years now.   Each time we go, we learn another helpful tip.

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8 hours ago, Janeway said:

How would he apply for the service ROTC scholarship?

It's a whole different application. 

If your son applies to the Academy, then he will have to do all the USAFA admissions stuff, plus apply for nominations from his senators as well as his representative.  And then, as backup, he'll apply to civilian schools, as well as for the ROTC scholarship, if his goal is military service, as opposed to just going to the Academy.  

As others have said, many get turned down.  My oldest ds is the son and grandson of Academy grads.  He was triple nominated (senator, representative, and Presidential) in a very competitive district (VA-10)--but he was not appointed, although he did get an appointment from West Point.  That's why your son has to be prepared with a plan B.  My ds went to Virginia Tech as a part of the Corps of Cadets, on a 4-year AF ROTC scholarship.  He's been very successful there and really loved his experience.  And he met the woman who is now his fiancee!  😍

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9 hours ago, Janeway said:

How would he apply for the service ROTC scholarship?

Each branch has a separate application. Navy and USMC are both under Navy ROTC but the student must indicate which program they are applying for (Navy option or Marine option). The Navy ROTC application opens up around March.  I imagine the Army and Air Force have a similar timeline. 

 

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Also I suggest handing off most of the research to your kid.  One thing that is explicitly looked at is how much ownership the student takes of the process. 

You can read up so that you know what you will need to do (example with transcripts) but encourage your kid to take the lead.

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From what I have read (and the experience of a family friend who got a Navy ROTC scholarship to USC when we were teenagers) the academies and ROTC programs are looking for things in addition to what the very "elite" and "selective" universities are prioritizing.

The applicants they are looking for are probably excellent athletes and have a lot of leadership experience. Test scores and GPA and other things may be less of a priority if what I saw on CollegeData several months ago is correct and it is probably correct.

The Class of 2019 Acceptances thread here in the College Board has I believe one student (a woman) who will be attending OU (University of Oklahoma) on an Air Force ROTC scholarship as I recall.  I don't think I have seen anyone listed there, so far, that has been admitted to one of the service academies.

Don't put all of your Eggs in one basket!   There must also be a number of "safety" schools that are applied to, because getting into an Academy or ROTC program is IMO far more difficult than getting into an elite/selective university.

The applicant should do all of the work. Write their own Essays. Write their own letters. Write their own applications.

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20 hours ago, SebastianCat said:

My DS is applying to USNA, USAFA, and USMA for the c/o 2024.    What year is your DS now?   If he is a junior (graduating high school in 2020), you need to jump on things and start doing a LOT of reading and research now.   If he's younger, you have a bit of time.

I highly recommend that you read every page on the USAFA website, paying attention to each link and drop-down menu.   Many of your questions will be answered just by reading.   I also recommend that you spend some time on the Service Academy Forums website, and search through their forum posts for any questions you might have (99% of which have already been asked and answered).  

We have also been attending Academy Days and Admissions briefings through our local Members of Congress for a couple of years now.   Each time we go, we learn another helpful tip.

finishing up 9th grade. I have a few sons and the one interested in USAFA is finishing up 9th.

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How big of an issue is it that the kids are not varsity athletes? I read the homeschool flyer, but the athletic aspect is what concerns me since, in our state, we don't have access to the high school sports teams. That leaves our only athletic option as very expensive travel/club teams, and I am wondering if that is really going to be enough. Are most homeschoolers recruited athletes in their sports?

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1 hour ago, SeaConquest said:

How big of an issue is it that the kids are not varsity athletes? I read the homeschool flyer, but the athletic aspect is what concerns me since, in our state, we don't have access to the high school sports teams. That leaves our only athletic option as very expensive travel/club teams, and I am wondering if that is really going to be enough. Are most homeschoolers recruited athletes in their sports?

Athletics is super important, but they don't necessarily have to be varsity athletes.  There are quite a few states that don't allow homeschoolers to be on their public school teams.  VA is another one.  And in some areas, the high schools are so enormous that very few people have the opportunity to be varsity athletes, and those that are, are probably being recruited by bigger name (and less academic) schools than academies.

In that case, the academies expect the candidates to show leadership and initiative in finding other ways to pursue athletic things--clubs, running on their own and doing 5ks, doing a club sport like martial arts, etc.  I would say most people who go to the academies or do ROTC are athletes, but not recruited athletes in their sports.  They're well-rounded and athletic.  

I think for homeschoolers not on varsity teams, the candidate physical fitness test scores become even more important.  You can study the different areas and work to max out each score.  Some parts, like the basketball toss, are kind of weird, and watching a few youtube videos and practicing the technique goes a long way to improving the scores.  You don't want to just hit the minimums, but rather max everything out.

Also, having to find other ways to do sports is an excellent subject of an essay about obstacles you've overcome, lol.

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2 hours ago, SeaConquest said:

How big of an issue is it that the kids are not varsity athletes? I read the homeschool flyer, but the athletic aspect is what concerns me since, in our state, we don't have access to the high school sports teams. That leaves our only athletic option as very expensive travel/club teams, and I am wondering if that is really going to be enough. Are most homeschoolers recruited athletes in their sports?

Sports answers a few questions, like teamwork and leadership experience, physical ability and trainability, and the experience of doing hard things because they were required. 

Students who are not on team sports need to demonstrate those factors in other ways.  

Regular physical activity is necessary. You should look at sports outside the public schools. Rec leagues, running clubs, fencing, cycling, swimming, martial arts, water sports, etc.  

Students who are not in a sport will want to have outstanding results on the fitness assessment.

 

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Also, look for Candidate forums in your area. These are typically spring and fall and may be sponsored by your member of Congress. They often have reps from all of the academies available to talk to.  Your kid should take the lead in asking questions about how to be a strong Candidate. 

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My kid is super young, but is expressing an interest in the service academies. I know what it takes to get into the civilian lottery schools, but I feel like I don't know how to advise him with respect to the academies. The civilian lottery schools are mostly looking for really pointy students with demonstrated achievement (generally on a national level) in a highly specific area. But, it seems that the academies are still looking for that well-rounded kid of old. Perhaps, I am mistaken though. I used to advise friends on their apps for top ugrad and grad schools because I knew that certain je ne sais quoi that top schools wanted in an app. The director of admission at INSEAD (a top bschool in France) actually asked me if I was in admissions because she said that my essays so specifically addressed all of their concerns about my application. But, I feel like academy selection is still so shrouded in mystery.

Do you feel like there is a secret sauce to a service academy applicant? Does each academy have its distinct flavor of applicant? How is that best expressed in the application? (I am an Army vet and certainly know that the services have their unique flavors, but I am curious how that plays out in academy admissions.) 

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I have an impression that Westpoint likes athletes, and that "leadership" a lot of times means something like being a team captain in a sport.  

I also have an impression that in some areas with a lot of retirees or certain industry, a lot of people will apply for one of the academies, but another academy might have fewer applicants.  In some areas, almost everyone might be able to get a recommendation letter.  In other areas, they have more people apply and it's hard to get a recommendation letter.  

I really don't know, though.  

ROTC scholarships are also very good.  

If there is a certain branch that is of interest, you can see if a certain ROTC program is commissioning more students into that branch.  You can look on their websites and see what branches students commissioned into.  I don't know if the Air Force is like that or not, but sometimes in a state one ROTC program might commission more officers into certain branches.  Some branches are very competitive, and other branches are less popular and it is easier to get that branch.  It can depend on personal interests.  It can depend on if someone wants to stay in the military, or is looking for future career experience.  

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You do not have to be a varsity team sport athlete to gain an appointment to USAFA. My two current cadet children (one of whom graduates from USAFA on 5/30!!) did have competitive individual sport experience from about ages 11-15 (JR USTA - tennis, and gymnastics - achieved level 7). They were also 2nd and 1st degree black belts in taekwondo and had formal training in krav maga. They kept fit by working out and running regularly. They both did well on the CFA and did not need to retake it. 

While varsity team sports can be a way of showing fitness and leadership, there are also other ways that are extremely related to the military. Think tutoring, volunteering, paid work experiences, helping organize fundraisers that are unique, helping to run a family business, working HARD at something that is not glamorous. One summer ds could not find a summer job so he became a volunteer handyman for our dojong. One project he did was to retar the leaky roof. Hot. Not fun. But extremely service oriented. 

Think of how you can CREATE opportunities for yourself. DS invented that position for himself. It wasn't like the head instructor came asking him to do it. He initiated the process. DD found a way to study Arabic at the college level despite the fact that it was not offered via DE. She also did extensive tutoring of college students when she was a high school student. These are opportunities she went out and found.

USAFA (and I would venture to guess all SAs) are not places where you succeed by being passive and waiting for opportunities to come along. More than anything, you succeed by being proactive. This teaches so many important skill sets, including learning the diplomacy to not be overly aggressive or pushy as you seek to create your path.

I really could go on for volumes. :)

 

 

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On 5/10/2019 at 12:40 PM, Sebastian (a lady) said:

Also, look for Candidate forums in your area. These are typically spring and fall and may be sponsored by your member of Congress. They often have reps from all of the academies available to talk to.  Your kid should take the lead in asking questions about how to be a strong Candidate. 

He totally has taken the lead, 100%. There was even a forum about it and he told me that the parents should probably not go without him (he could not go as he had another obligation) because it is not good to not be independent on this. I just want to know for myself and for any information I can relay to him. But I am definitely in the background on this. I am just really really hoping for him. He really has taken the lead in so much. He has really impressed me. He is turning out to be quite the go getter. Okay..not to toot my own horn, but I was always a go getter and my husband was always so passive. My oldest is so passive. I thought it was just going to be this way. Maybe I was just a go getter because my parents were so uninterested/uninvolved in my life. I didn't even eat as a child unless I found a job to earn it. But this particular son is really stepping up to the plate.  He just keeps surprising me.

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44 minutes ago, Janeway said:

He totally has taken the lead, 100%. There was even a forum about it and he told me that the parents should probably not go without him (he could not go as he had another obligation) because it is not good to not be independent on this. I just want to know for myself and for any information I can relay to him. But I am definitely in the background on this. I am just really really hoping for him. He really has taken the lead in so much. He has really impressed me. He is turning out to be quite the go getter. Okay..not to toot my own horn, but I was always a go getter and my husband was always so passive. My oldest is so passive. I thought it was just going to be this way. Maybe I was just a go getter because my parents were so uninterested/uninvolved in my life. I didn't even eat as a child unless I found a job to earn it. But this particular son is really stepping up to the plate.  He just keeps surprising me.

 

That's great.  It makes a big difference, and student ownership of the process shows in the application and interview.

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On 5/10/2019 at 12:36 PM, tampamommy said:

You do not have to be a varsity team sport athlete to gain an appointment to USAFA. My two current cadet children (one of whom graduates from USAFA on 5/30!!) did have competitive individual sport experience from about ages 11-15 (JR USTA - tennis, and gymnastics - achieved level 7). They were also 2nd and 1st degree black belts in taekwondo and had formal training in krav maga. They kept fit by working out and running regularly. They both did well on the CFA and did not need to retake it. 

While varsity team sports can be a way of showing fitness and leadership, there are also other ways that are extremely related to the military. Think tutoring, volunteering, paid work experiences, helping organize fundraisers that are unique, helping to run a family business, working HARD at something that is not glamorous. One summer ds could not find a summer job so he became a volunteer handyman for our dojong. One project he did was to retar the leaky roof. Hot. Not fun. But extremely service oriented. 

Think of how you can CREATE opportunities for yourself. DS invented that position for himself. It wasn't like the head instructor came asking him to do it. He initiated the process. DD found a way to study Arabic at the college level despite the fact that it was not offered via DE. She also did extensive tutoring of college students when she was a high school student. These are opportunities she went out and found.

USAFA (and I would venture to guess all SAs) are not places where you succeed by being passive and waiting for opportunities to come along. More than anything, you succeed by being proactive. This teaches so many important skill sets, including learning the diplomacy to not be overly aggressive or pushy as you seek to create your path.

I really could go on for volumes. 🙂

 

 

 

Please, go on for volumes! 🙂

How do you find out how competitive your area is for academy selection? Do you get this info from your rep or are the admissions demographics posted somewhere? I apologize if this is well known info!

I would assume that San Diego is super competitive because we are a large metro area and because we have a lot of Navy here, but on the other hand, military service is just not a popular choice for most local kids like it is in some place like, say, the South. I was the only person in my entire basic training company from California, which I found to be incredible.

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Regarding how competitive a district is for service academy nominations....

Well, I will just be honest here. I don't understand why prospective applicants pay attention to the relative competitiveness of their district, and here is why.

EVERY YEAR, there are applicants who receive appointments to the SAs, and from their outward qualifications, others wonder "how did THEY get an appointment?" There are also those applicants who seem to have incredible, "unbeatable" qualifications who do NOT get appointments, and others wonder, "how did they NOT get an appointment?" 

During the nomination interviews (which generally happen in person, before a board of very experienced individuals), there are countless intangibles that are both immediately assessed, as well as throughout the interview. There is not a set formula for who gets a nomination. If you have ever hired individuals, you understand this. Sometimes you just know from interacting with a person, if they will succeed at the role you are seeking to fill. In our experience, the boards my dc faced were 4-7 individuals, 4-6 of whom were from various military branches and had reams of ribbons on their jackets. These people had WORLDS of experience. While they were certainly going to make sure certain required qualifications were strong prior to deciding who to nominate (GPA, SAT/ACT scores), they also were going to rely on their experience to tell them who had what it took to make it through. And THAT is much more difficult to define. 

And so, I would never even worry about if your district is competitive or not. I would not even research it. We literally did not. Your ds or dd simply needs to decide if a career as a military officer (and pursuing a SA route to get there) is their dream -- and if so, how hard they are willing to work for it. I would never discourage a super motivated, hard working kid from trying to apply no matter how competitive the district was. And I would never encourage a kid to not push themselves to have as strong an application as possible just because they were in a lesser competitive district. Finally, if you are in a competitive district, focusing on that could just make your dc feel less motivated because they think all the other applicants will be stronger than them. (Believe me, this will happen with most kids whether or not you know the competitiveness of your district!!)

Every year, people drive themselves crazy trying to figure out ahead of time what their chances are of getting an appointment. My advice to my dc was, decide if it is YOUR dream...if so, make your plan (and yes, I helped brainstorm for that)...put your head down...and execute your plan with all your might. Do not worry what other applicants are doing. It is really a huge waste of mental energy that could be better directed to executing your plan, academics, extracurriculars, leadership etc with excellence. So we did not even investigate the competitiveness of our area. I think we found out that we were in a competitive area after ds's nomination interviews. 

Join Service Academy Forums. Before you ask questions, do a topic search. It is a great source of information!

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One more important note - in my previous post, I did not mean to imply in any way that a prospective applicant who does not receive a nomination would not "make it" at the SAs. It also does come down to a numbers game - for example, each year at USAFA there are approximately 1000-1100 appointments offered out of 4000-4500 strong candidates who are fully qualified applicants. So likely many are turned away who could have been successful. There is just a limit on available appointments.The SAs must then rank the individuals in order to determine who gets those appointments. I am oversimplifying the process, but that is it in a nutshell.

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Competition is everywhere. I suspect for the Service Academies it is not as hard as being chosen out of a very large pool of applicants to be  an Astronaut, but it is extremely competitive. However, as I always tell my DD, if one does not apply, there is no possibility of being selected.  If one is interested, they should give it their best shot.

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Service Academies are very competitive. I don't think they look for applicants with a particular passion or kids who are well rounded. I think they have a set of criteria and look for kids who meet all the criteria or exceed it. They end up with plenty of those to choose from. That fact should not persuade anyone from applying. Research should begin as early as an interest is expressed. Course and exam selection in high school will factor into it, athletics (both team and personal fitness are huge), extracurricular activities and leadership are also important. This is one set of applications that requires the applicant to set out a plan for meeting all the requirements in a timely fashion and follow through on that plan. There are some who feel that completing the application early is important and gives the applicant more chances to be admitted, being recruited by a sports team would also increase one's chances. Also, one little talked about source of a nomination is JROTC units. Some of the nation's top units are permitted a limited number of nominations for their students.

Physical Fitness-being able to clearly explain your personal fitness regimen to an interview board is important. Especially as a homeschooler with out significant sports team experience. Also not that the physical fitness exams and expectations are not the same for each academy or ROTC program. There are slight variations even with regard to what is a correct pull-up. If you are considering multiple service options you need to prepare for and be able to properly execute all the different options. These programs are not looking for kids who barely meet minimums, they are looking for solid fitness scores.

Navy/USMC ROTC-If you have a kid considering the Navy or Marine Corps be aware that you cannot apply to both. You must choose between Navy and Marine option. While it is the same application there are different requirements, different physical tests, etc. There are also different requirements during your college years. 

ROTC Interviews: If the ROTC program you are applying to requires an interview from an ROTC instructor do try to set this up as early as possible. It can be helpful to interview with an officer at the school you most want to attend. 

ROTC is a long process that often begins at a recruiting station with someone trying to persuade you to skip college and just enlist. The applicant will need to learn how to navigate that politely to get to the next step. Also, in our experience, there isn't much transparency with the application process. You will learn each step after you complete the previous step. Don't assume that this is easy to complete at the last minute. Leave plenty of time. It is also important to apply early, ROTC scholarships are given in cycles and by completing your application before the first cycle you have the possibility to be considered in later cycles as well. Some elements of the application will need to be updated such as transcript and test scores, and the fitness test may need to be repeated.

Universities may not have ROTC units for every service branch. You need to check and be sure that the school you are interested has a unit for the service branch you are interested in. You will need to list the schools you are applying to on your ROTC application.

Be aware that your child will have to pass medical exams to be selected. They need to be prepared to discuss anything in their medical history that is out of the ordinary and how that problem has been resolved. It may not be your family doctor(s) who perform this exam. It will probably be someone contracted by the military and you will be notified where to go.

In short, set up a personal fitness plan in high school, plan a solid academic program that would lead to successful college admission, look at the service branch you are interested in and check their academic requirements (math, science, and foreign language will take the most long term preparation), and finally, be involved in your community, look for opportunities to practice leadership skills.

All of this said-if this is a deeply held desire of your kid, do the research and apply. Being homeschooled isn't a bar to successful admission to any of the programs that lead to commissioning in the military.

 

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There’s a lot of really good information here so I won’t repeat it. I would add to look into Summer Seminars. Each academy offers a week-long glimpse of life at that particular academy, to preview the academic, military, physical, career and leadership options of that particular academy and branch of the military. Applications open in December or January of your Junior year, depending on the academy. 

My son went to all three Summer Seminars last year, which really solidified his desire to attend a service academy. He reports to the Air Force Academy for I-Day on June 27. 

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