I'm a rising senior at a public school, and I'm completely new to anything military-related and don't plan to train as a pilot or anything of the sort.
However, my friend's father recommended the academy for its math and science programs, and the fact that I could serve the country while doing some pretty cool math/engineering stuff interests me. I'm a big math and science guy, and I always have been, but I don't really know what I want to do with it. Just from an engineering perspective, what sort of research/applications would one do at the USAFA/in the Air Force?
Just for some fun facts:
4.28 Weighted GPA
2360 SAT, 760 CR, 800 M, 800 W
790 Math 1, 800 Math 2, 770 Physics
5 AP U.S. Government, 4 AP Comparative Government, 5 AP Calculus BC
Taking AP English, AP Economics, Advanced Multi-Variable Calculus, AP Physics C as a senior
Skipped a grade
The big question is do you want to be an officer in the Air Force? That should be your determining factor. There are some interesting projects for engineers in the AF, but most of the active duty officers are going to be doing more management of the programs than theoretical or applied research. USAFA has good math and science programs. Some of the engineering majors are rated within the top 5 in the nation (at the undergrad level). That said, the whole point of the academy is to make good officers. Producing good engineers is a secondary objective.
those are my weaker points, unfortunately.
I've had some rough luck with minor injuries (stress fractures, appendicitis, etc.) that have prevented me from really excelling in my high school sports, along with a UCL tear (elbow) that put me out for this baseball season and likely next.
That said, I'm an athletic kid, and I've played JV Baseball since freshman year along with 2 years of high school football. I've played both sports all my life, though, along with golf.
For ECs I've worked in an unpaid community service program to clean up the town for a year, am President of the Key Club and a co-captain of the math team. I've also worked as a camp counselor for the last 3 summers.
Forgive me because I'm completely new with military stuff, but when you say the point of the academy is to make good officers, what do you mean? What does an Air Force Officer do if he/she is not fighting?
Ok, so strong academics, two sports, a couple clubs and leadership positions in two of them. That's a decent profile for a candidate. I'd say, keep on doing well in academics, try to keep going in sports, and take leadership positions that pop up.
Next steps: contact your local academy liaison officer (your guidance counselor should know how), apply to your congressman, senators, and any other nomination sources you qualify for. Open up your application for the academy.
Think of officers as the middle and upper management, as well as leaders.
Most officer positions are mainly supervisory positions. In engineering, that would be a lot of analysts and program managers. In areas like aircraft maintenance, finance, security forces, etc, they are the leaders for groups of people. There are a few "hands on" jobs for officers, like pilot, navigator, combat rescue officer, air liaison officer, special tactics officer, OSI agents (think AF version of FBI), and a few others. These make up relatively small portions of the Air force (pilots being the largest group mentioned). Now, almost all jobs in the military can be deployed in combat positions, but some are put in combat more often than others. Special Tactics Officers are special operations, and get put in combat quite frequently. A Security Forces Officer will often go outside the wire with their troops. A logistics officer may be expected to go out on patrols to review local projects in Afghanistan. A finance officer may wind up leading convoys, if they are short on personnel, etc. So, most officer positions are not direct combat jobs, but almost all could be called into the field in some circumstances.