The Air Force Academy inducts 1,300 cadets each year, and the competition to become an Air Force Academy cadet is fierce. Cadets are selected for strong academics, athletics, character, and demonstrated leadership ability.
However, it takes more than a 4.0 GPA to get into the Academy. Cadets must also meet certain minimum physical requirements, such as an 8 minute timed run on the mile, the ability to cover 50 miles with a heavy backpack, and several other stringent requirements. However, this article isn’t about those requirements. It’s about the some of the more challenging ones to meet.
No Air Force Cadet ever gets into the Academy without a good letter of referral; these letters of referral should come from people prominent in your community, such as your pastor, your high school teachers, employers you’ve worked for and the leaders of any volunteer organizations you’ve belonged to. They should focus on your strength of character, your work ethic, and your ability and willingness to go to extreme efforts to help others, and to accomplish difficult tasks.
You will also need an appointment letter. Every US Congressman and US Senator is allowed to make five appointments per year, as are the US President and Vice President. Additional nomination slots are available for the children of career military personnel, the children of veterans killed or disabled in the line of duty, and the children of Congressional Medal of Honor winners. The admission process is difficult and lengthy. Most students considering an Academy appointment should start making preparations for it during their junior year of high school.
What stops most candidates who get through the initial academic screening is weak letters of recommendation. It’s worth your time to try and contact other Academy inductees to see what they went through to get into the Academy. If you’re weak on the academics, there are programs that you can take that will instill strong study habits in you, including rigorous time management techniques and more.
Even if you have good academic scores, you’ll want to improve your study techniques. All of the service academies demand not just a rigorous course in engineering, but that every student participate in at least one sporting endeavor, while also working through leadership and character-building exercises. Solid study skills are an essential component to not flunking out of the Academy.
However, the swing vote on getting an Appointment to the Academy is almost always the letters of recommendation and the personal essay by the candidates. Academic grades, and standardized test scores tell how well a student is at taking tests and following instructions, but it’s the essays and the letters of recommendation that show the leadership and character that the Academy is looking for. Candidates with excellent letters of referral and weak academics have a better chance of getting in than candidates with strong academics and average referral letters.