The United States Air Force Academy is where future Air Force officers go to college to get the best education and military training there is.
Located in beautiful and rugged Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Air Force Academy is the home of around 4,000 Cadets who make up the Wing.
Getting accepted to this prestigious military academy takes brains, brawn, and a bit of luck as well.
So how exactly do you get into the Air Force Academy?
In short, you need to do the following:
- Register as a Future Falcon
- Attend their summer seminar
- Get really good grades, SAT / ACT scores, and rank highly in your class
- Complete an interview with their Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO)
- Undergo a drug alcohol test, as well as a full medical eval. and physical fitness test
- Participate in a broad array of extracurricular activities and sports
- Get a congressional nomination from a US State Senator, Congressman / Congresswoman, or other official nomination source
Obviously getting in isn’t easy, and it’s because of this that the acceptance rate sits at just over 12%.
So what can you do to increase your chances of getting in? Find out more below.
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The US Air Force Academy At A Glance
All students at the US Air Force Academy, or USAFA, are there because they want to serve as officers in the United States Air Force.
USAFA brings excellent academic programs, leadership opportunities, and competitive athletics and clubs together to provide an experience like no other that is designed to prepare the Air Force’s next leaders.
Students are able to choose from among 27 majors and 3 minors, while studying in small classes. The average class size is just 19 students and all classes are taught by Academy faculty, rather than Graduate Students or Teaching Assistants.
The focus during class is in-depth discussion and hands-on learning, an intentional move by the Air Force Academy to provide the opportunities for critical thinking and engagement.
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Classes are graded on a standard scale (A being a 4.0 and F being a 0.0), with some classes such as military training being pass/fail.
Cadets are expected to take a heavy course load throughout their time at USAFA, but benefit from access to professors, upperclassmen to help with tutoring, and a variety of other resources on campus.
Cadets are also evaluated on their military performance and physical training. USAFA maintains high standards for academics, military performance, and fitness, which every Cadet must meet.
After graduation, every student enters the United States Air Force as a Second Lieutenant.
In exchange for the free education provided at the Air Force Academy (currently valued at over $400,000), students agree to serve a minimum of 5 years on active duty and an additional 3 years in the inactive reserves.
Becoming a Cadet at USAFA is the first patriotic step to a life of service in the Air Force.
Learn More About The Air Force Academy Before Applying
If this type of challenging environment sounds right for you, the next step is to learn more about life at USAFA.
Being part of the student body, called The Wing, is not an easy task and potential Cadets benefit from researching the Air Force Academy before applying to make sure it is the right fit.
Visit the campus:
A visit to Colorado Springs offers potential applicants and their families the chance to see USAFA up close.
The Air Force Academy is located 55 miles outside of Denver and is best accessed via the Colorado Springs airport for air travel or on I-25 for automobiles.
Visitors who do not have a Department of Defense ID card will need to use the North Gate, located off Exit 156.
Bonus: if you enjoy skiing and outdoor activities, the area, known as “Ski Country, USA,” is a beautiful place to visit and enjoy the majesty of the Rocky Mountains.
Request a guided tour:
The Air Force Academy offers 2 main guided tour options: Discover USAFA and Explore USAFA.
Discover the Air Force Academy includes an admissions briefing with a question and answer portion and a guided walking tour of the campus.
Explore the Air Force Academy includes the same admissions briefing with a question and answer portion, followed by a self-guided tour.
Both are held frequently throughout the year, usually in the afternoon.
Visitors should check out the Barry Goldwater Visitor Center on campus to see everything that USAFA has to offer.
Become a Future Falcon
The US Air Force Academy recommends reaching out to admissions as early as possible to learn as much as you can about the application process and life as a Cadet. They have created an email registration option for all interested high school students.
Registering as a Future Falcon means that 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.
Attend The Summer Seminar
For those looking for a more immersive experience, the Air Force Academy provides the opportunity to live like a Cadet during the summer between their junior and senior years of high school.
Summer Seminar participants will:
- Live in the dorms and eat in the dining hall
- Engage in academic workshops on campus in classrooms and labs
- Participate in admissions and other interest workshops
- Get a taste of introductory military training, such as physical fitness, marching, and Air Force traditions
- Learn about exciting Air Force careers
- Hear about Cadet life from current Cadets and other panelists
Summer Seminar is not a requirement for admission or even application. Rather, it is meant to inform potential applicants on whether USAFA is a good fit for them.
Still have questions about the application process, USAFA, or the Air Force? Reach out to your Admission Liaison Officer, ALO. This volunteer is there in your local area to help you navigate the application, learn more about USAFA, and explain what to expect as a Cadet and later as an Air Force officer.
US Air Force Academy Application Steps
The application to the Air Force Academy is longer and more rigorous than that of most other colleges and universities.
For this reason, it is important to look at the application process as early as possible. Applications officially open during the spring of an applicant’s junior year.
But to be competitive, applicants should know what USAFA is looking for years in advance of actually applying.
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The Air Force Academy looks at basic eligibility and evaluation, as well as an applicant’s performance in 4 main areas: academics, character, extracurricular activities, and physical fitness.
Step 1: Basic Air Force Academy Eligibility
To start an application, all students need to be between the ages of 17 and 23 on July 1 of the year they begin at the US Air Force Academy. They also need to be a US citizen and unmarried with no dependents. International students wishing to attend have their own application process.
If you are eligible, you should proceed to the pre-candidate questionnaire. This information lets the Academy know how competitive you will be during the application process.
As part of the pre-candidate questionnaire, you will need to provide your name, birthdate, SSN, and contact information.
You will also include basic information about your high school (name and class size) as well as your performance measurements (class rank, GPA, and standardized test score).
The Air Force Academy will evaluate this information and invite you to apply as a candidate.
Step 2: Academic Requirements
The academic program at USAFA is challenging and the admissions committee wants to make sure that all incoming Cadets are prepared for the academic load.
During the admissions process, they look at a candidate’s Prior Academic Record, PAR, and College Admissions Test Scores.
Prior Academic Record: class rank and GPA
USAFA recommends taking the following classes to be competitive for admission and academically prepared to do well as a Cadet.
- English: 4 years, including a college preparatory writing class
- Math: 4 years, including geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus
- Science: 4 years, including biology, chemistry, and physics labs
- Social Studies: 3 years, including US history
- Foreign Language: 2 years
- Computer Study: 1 year
Taking challenging coursework requires advanced planning and is one of the reasons USAFA recommends interested applicants learn more about admissions early in their high school careers.
Many successful applicants were in the top of their high school graduating class, but USAFA recognizes that not all high school programs are evaluated in the same way.
It is recommended that you ask your guidance counselor to provide a profile of your high school’s last graduating class to give USAFA insight into how you perform compared to your peers.
This is especially important if your high school does not include weighted grades for advanced courses. Some AP and IB courses/test scores are accepted for credit by USAFA and are evaluated during Basic Cadet Training.
College Admission Test Scores: standardized college entrance exams (SAT or ACT)
All applicants must take either the SAT or ACT and have their official scores sent to USAFA.
- SAT: Competitive scores are above 580 verbal and 560 math
- ACT: Competitive scores are above 24 English/reading and 25 math/science
Most successful applicants score high on standard college admission tests, even if this means taking the test more than once.
The average Cadet SAT score is 642 verbal and 672 math. The average Cadet ACT score is 30 on all sections.
It is important to prepare for the college admission tests and leave enough time to retake them if needed.
USAFA accepts either the SAT or the ACT and does not require applicants to take both exams.
Step 3: Character At The Air Force Academy
USAFA stresses moral character development in order to prepare top-quality leaders for the Air Force. This begins with the admissions process.
All potential Cadets should demonstrate that they are young men and women of exceptionally high character.
In addition to being a resource for applicants, the Admissions Liaison Officer also provides information back to the Air Force Academy admissions about applicants. Each potential Cadet is required to complete an interview with their ALO, which becomes part of their application.
Applicants are also required to submit 3 evaluations completed by a school official, such as a teacher. For high school students, these individuals should be their 11th grade English teacher, math teacher, and one other teacher.
You can also submit up to 2 letters of recommendation that further demonstrate your character and abilities to the admission committee.
You should choose someone who knows you well and can speak to your high performance, character, and potential.
The writing sample portion of the application provides candidates the chance to “speak” on their own behalf to the admissions committee. Applicants are required to complete 2 writing samples from a bank of 3 prompts.
The admissions committee looks at what you have written, as well as how well you have written it, when evaluating writing samples.
The Air Force Academy also requires applicants to submit their personal data records, such as arrests, traffic violations, or other incidents, as well as written explanation.
Applicants will be given instructions to complete a Drug and Alcohol Abuse Certificate from their ALO and be tested for drugs during their medical evaluation.
Step 4: Extracurricular Activities
Participation in sports, clubs, and other organizations is a valuable part of Cadet life. For this reason, the admissions committee wants to see applicants who join and take on a leadership role in their community.
Applicants can list all activities (athletic and non-athletic), community service, and work that they completed in grades 10-12. In general, successful applicants demonstrated a commitment to a few activities that were big parts of their life rather than minimal participation in a lot of activities.
If you received any awards or honors, such as earning a Varsity letter or placing in a state competition, this is the place to include them.
Leadership is also highly valued by the admissions committee, so taking on an officer or team captain role will both impress USAFA in your application and prepare you for the leadership challenges you will face as a Cadet and later as an officer in the Air Force.
Step 5: Physical fitness
All Cadets are required to take a physical fitness test. After graduation, Air Force officers also need to meet physical fitness standards to remain competitive for promotion.
During the application process, all candidates must complete the Candidate Fitness Assessment, which consists of:
- Basketball throw: goal of 69 ft. (men) and 42 ft. (women)
- Pull-ups (men)/flexed arm hang (women): goal of 12 (men) and 31 sec. (women)
- Shuttle run: goal of 8.1 sec. (men) and 9.4 sec. (women)
- Crunches: goal of 81 (men) and 78 (women)
- Push-ups: goal of 62 (men) and 41 (women)
- One mile run for time: goal of 6:29 (men) and 7:30 (women)
The official CFA must be administered by a PE teacher, ALO, or JROTC instructor. For currently serving military members, an active duty commissioned officer can administer the test.
Step 6: Medical evaluation
All service academy applicants complete a Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board physical. If you have taken the exam as part of the admissions process for another service academy, it is not necessary to complete it again.
Some medical conditions, such as eyesight that is correctable to allowable limits, do not impact eligibility, while others require a waiver. Waivers are automatically processed for competitive applicants.
Getting a Congressional Nomination
The USAFA application requires a lot of information, but it is only one step to become a Cadet at the Air Force Academy.
All candidates are also required to obtain a nomination from their Congressional Representative or Senator.
- US Representative in your district (1): open to all candidates
- US Senator in your state (2): open to all candidates
- Vice President (1): open to all candidates
- Military Affiliated Nominations (varies): open to children of career military personnel, children of deceased or disabled veterans, children of military personnel in a missing status, children of Medal of Honor recipients, currently serving Air Force regular and reserve personnel, Honor military schools and Air Force ROTC/JROTC
- US Territories (varies): open to candidates living in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, District of Columbia, Guam, or US Virgin Islands
The deadlines for application vary with each individual nomination source but USAFA must receive all successful nominations by January 31.
Keep in mind that the nomination process is separate and distinct from the US Air Force Academy application. This means that you will need to submit information to both, as they do not share information or documents back and forth.
The nomination process also occurs simultaneous with the USAFA application. Do not wait to complete one before starting on the other. You may miss important deadlines!
Life as a US Air Force Academy Cadet
Once you receive that coveted acceptance letter, the real adventure begins.
You will report to the 6-week Basic Cadet Training in the summer following your high school graduation. During this intense time, you will transform from a high school student into a Cadet.
Cadets progress from their freshman, or 4/C, year during which they learn the basics of military discipline and academics to become leaders of the Wing.
Sophomores, or 3/C, have a little bit more freedom but are still expected to learn and absorb as much as they can as they go through their day on campus.
Juniors, called 2/C, train the underclassmen and get to enjoy more liberty and clout among the student body.
Senior Cadets, or 1/C, have their eyes firmly fixed on graduation and the challenges that they will face as new Air Force officers.
USAFA relies on Cadets to train and lead each other, which provides them with the opportunity to explore and hone their own leadership style before joining the larger military community after graduation.
The road to admission at the US Air Force Academy is long and difficult, just like the process of being a Cadet and making it to graduation. But with resources along the way, competitive applicants can be confident when they put their best foot forward with the admissions committee.