Hi! I’m Korean&American. I’m supposed to be at 11th grade right now, but my grades in 9,10th were pretty bad in Korean high school, so I’m homeschooling at my house listening to online courses which has a program to recover my grades. (Enrolled as 9th grade currently). I’m looking forward to enter the Air Force Academy, but I don’t really have a lot of information about it. So I’m looking forward if anyone can give me some tips or advices for preparing the Air Force.
Currently, my goal is to get above 3.7 gpa, 1400 sat, and at least 29 in act for each subjects.
Also I’m planning to take few ap classes. (Comp. Science, Statistics) (If you have a recommendation, please tell me!)
Since I’m a homeschooler and can’t really have physical activities, I’m planning to take marathons, or track/cross country ran by the local station.
Also I’m planning to volunteer as many as possible I can.
I would be thankful if any of you guys in USAFA right now could give me some advices for entering there. Please consider that I’m a homeschooler right now.
All applicants to U.S. service academies must receive at least one nomination from a member of Congress or other nomination source in order to be considered for an appointment (acceptance) to an academy. I will provide a general response to your initial post below, but I will refer you to serviceacademyforums.com (the equivalent of CC for those pursuing service academy appointments) and to this thread in particular to answer your questions about the nomination process.
Although our son chose Army, the process for USAFA is the same, and I’ve posted my standard reply below, but to this poster, I’ll first ask:
Why do you want to apply to the Air Force Academy?
How deep is your commitment to service?
Honest answers to those questions must be clearly communicated at every step of the application process. If service is not the driver, an academy might not be for you. If being a pilot is your goal, there are other paths with a more likely guarantee of a) acceptance and b) actually piloting a plane. Cadets do not begin flight training until after graduation and only if they are selected for a pilot role. From this article describing a recent graduating class, less than half of the 1,019 grads qualified for slots:
Apply to the Air Force academy because you want to serve as an officer wherever the force needs you, not because you dream of flying. (The OP does not indicate that flying is a goal, but I include this information to cover bases and for others reading here.)
OK, so on to my standard response: Due to the intricacies of the nomination process and the rubric the service academies use to determine appointments, it is impossible to chance anyone. No one knows what the competition in the OP’s district will look like in the year they apply, and they are only competing against those in their own district for a nomination. Without one, USAFA cannot offer an appointment. So, focus on doing well in the most challenging courses available to you (especially calculus, chemistry, and physics), participate in team sports and earn a varsity letter, look for leadership opportunities, then put together the best application you can and let the chips fall where they may – that’s all you, or any candidate, can do.
Only a portion of any service academy class is chosen for academic chops. Air Force and Navy are similar to Army which selects only about 1/3rd of any incoming class for academic prowess which is why the academies do not shine as brightly, by average GPA and test scores, as the civilian colleges many consider their peers. The other 2/3rds are chosen for other equally shiny traits. The service academies value a combination of brains, brawn, and leadership somewhat equally–as they must; their missions differ greatly from civilian colleges.
The service academies are looking to produce capable officers for each branch of our armed services. It takes a certain kind of kid to go this route, and those kids don’t always look like the applicants to the usual civilian suspects. The OP will need to dig deep to be able to explain clearly and genuinely to the nomination panels why they want to serve as an officer in our armed forces and also be prepared to answer their understanding of the consequences of that decision. Candidates for service academies have a specific drive and goals that differ from typical civilian college applicants. The OP’s application and interviews will need to demonstrate that difference. The OP may have a burning desire to become an Air Force officer that isn’t offered in the post, but be aware, the nomination panels are expert at ferreting out motives and goals because they know that getting through a service academy and the years of service that follow take a gut commitment to something other than academics.
The OP’s homeschooling is not an issue, but the absence of team sports is a red flag as even candidates selected as scholars are also athletes. Again, all of the academies are similar in this regard. Of a recent USMA class of 1302 appointees, for instance, 99% were varsity athletes:
This emphasis holds in these percentages across academies year after year, and USAFA defines its athletic focus here:
Physical strength is just as important as mental strength at the United States Air Force Academy. Every cadet is expected to play Division I intercollegiate sports or participate on an intramural team, is enrolled in physical education classes, and is tested on their physical fitness each semester.
Marathons will help the OP pass the fitness test, but do not check the heavily-weighted team participation and team leadership boxes. So, make a concerted effort to be an impact track/cross country athlete with that local station. But, if you absolutely cannot participate in a team sport, it will be critical that your application emphasize those traits that team sports confer, such as cooperation, commitment, and leadership.
This process for the service academies is completely different than your normal college application. This explains the process of receiving a nomination so that you can receive an appointment. You need to start early and it’s extremely competitive:
To be clear, the athletes have grades that are still quite good, and the academics have to pass a fitness test, so don’t treat these as unimportant. Mostly everyone is at least average across the board.
As far as “recovering your grades”, the academies typically ask you to take the hardest classes offered at your school (and do well in them.) There’s lots of information out there for homeschoolers, so beyond going back and cleaning up earlier messes be sure to look ahead and make sure you at least reach pre-calc and some physics and chem. It’s a hard school and they want you to have shown an ability to survive.
Finally, go back and read that post from @ChoatieMom a couple more times. The academies are all about creating officers to serve in the military. They aren’t about education or athletics or anything else, and you must be on board with that service in order to make it work. They are not normal schools at all. You will intentionally be over-loaded with extra activities and responsibilities so that everything does not fit into a day and you learn to make things work. They intentionally pressure you with all sorts of duties and demands in order to make you fail, then recover and move ahead. It’s a special place for a special purpose, and you need a deep-seated desire to excel there. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but read up to be sure you know what you’re aiming at.
Just noting that typically US colleges will require copies of ALL of your HS transcripts (not just the homeschooled/online one). Your 9th and 10th grade grades will likely be evaluated as part of the college admissions process.
A poster on the service academy forums kindly provided a link for you to a recent USAFA class profile that shows, as I posted above, how heavily sports and leadership are represented by the Air Force cadets–82% hold one or more varsity letters which means that these cadets did more than “at least participate.” This is the pool you will be competing in for an appointment.
One thing about our son and his cohort that has always humbled me is how they always choose what I call “the hard thing” and then do that thing with all their might. They never, ever take the easier path and they never look to just get by. They go “all in” in every facet of their lives. It’s this ethos that made them attractive to the academies, sustained them there, and drives them in their current service areas.
The service academies are not regular colleges. They are a very, very tough way to earn a degree as challenging academics are only one piece of any cadet’s day. In addition to class time and homework, cadets are rising at the crack of dawn for formation, learning military skills, running drills, undergoing inspections, participating in daily sports and routine physical fitness exercises, all while learning to make executive decisions and manage others to assume more responsible post duties each academic year. Cadets also learn how to manage their equipment, maintain their uniforms, clean their rooms, do their taxes, and manage all aspects of their personal lives in a professional way adhering to a strict code of behavior. There is almost zero free time in a cadet’s day, and they are constantly evaluated, ranked, and re-ranked. Also, summers are spent completing the exercises required to fulfill the military requirements for graduation. Our son had, at most, two-to-three non-contiguous weeks each summer to come home, if he chose. It’s hard, it’s exhausting.
There is no “at least” about this life. Think carefully about whether or not this path is for you. If it is, go for it with everything you’ve got, and best of luck to you. There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing you’ve done well at “the hard thing.”
The OP has not answered my first question: Why does he want to apply to the Air Force Academy? Until we have some idea of why he is pursuing this option, there is no sense in recommending other branches, like Coast Guard, as they represent very different outcomes. Avoiding a congressional nomination is not a reason to join the CG which, by the way, is one of the toughest academies to get through. If you aren’t a champion swimmer (or have the ability/desire to be), the CGA is not for you.
But, I do agree that if service is the goal, then ROTC and National Guard could make sense. Again, we don’t know what is driving the OP.
On another note and just for clarification on this board:
The OP posted on the Service Academy Forums that he currently lives in S. Korea but was born on Saipan, making him an American citizen.
I agree completely, except for the swimming part. Not all cadets at CGA are great or even good swimmers. But you will be taught to swim, to jump from the 5m platform, swim in your gear, etc just like at USNA. My DD is there, an adequate but unexcited swimmer, and would tell you that even the part on dry land is very challenging. CGA is so small that everyone knows each other and you cannot hide from participation, from help, from accountability plus you’re taking many credits (19 for her this fall) and have a lot of extra assigned duties. Regardless, your Why becomes very important as the days and weeks get longer, darker and harder. @ChoatieMom is pressing the point for a reason.