50 States, 50 Colleges: Colorado (and Service Academy post!)

Each year students ask us about the requirements for attending one of the U.S. service academies.  The process can get a bit complicated, and it’s something I’ve been meaning to write a post on for a while.  When I drew Colorado as my next state for a “50 States, 50 Colleges” feature, it seemed like a great opportunity to talk about one of these amazing schools and to describe the admissions criteria.

College in the Spotlight:  United States Air Force Academy

Academy Cadet Chapel, Colorado Spring, C by jacqueline.poggi, on Flickr


Location:  Colorado Springs, CO

Enrollment:  Approximately 4,000 cadets

We don’t typically talk about admission requirements in these entries, but you can’t talk about entrance to an Academy without addressing these very important steps!  The following requirements are specifically for the Air Force Academy and may be similar to other service academies, but please make sure to check other academy websites if you are interested in applying!

Entrance into any service academy, including the Air Force Academy, is a bit more involved than applying to a typical university.  First of all, applicants must meet these eligibility requirements:

  • At least 17 years of age but no more than 23 by July 1st of the year you enter the Academy
  • A United States Citizen (the Academy does admit about 15 international students each year though – if you’d like more information on the criteria for international students, please click here)
  • Unmarried with no dependents

All service academies have Admissions Liaison Officers.  Just like admissions counselors at colleges, their job is the help prospective cadets navigate the application process and answer any questions about the Academy and military life.  As soon as you start thinking about possibly attending a service academy, you should contact your Liaison Officer.  They will be very important resources to students considering this option!

We always suggest that students interested in attending a service academy start their research early, and one of the top reasons for that is the need for a nomination or appointment.  There are several nominating categories, but typically students need to contact their Senator or Representative to obtain a nomination.  It isn’t necessary to personally know this person!  Each congressional office has its own procedures for procuring a nomination, so be sure to inquire ahead of time.  Many prefer that you contact them in the spring of your junior year.

In addition to those requirements, eligible candidates must take a fitness test, pass a medical examination, and interview with and Admissions representative.  Of course, you’ll need to make sure to submit your SAT and/or ACT scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.


Now – on to some Fast Facts!

Not surprisingly, the Air Force Academy has top-ranked engineering programs.  Cadets can study aeronautical, computer, electrical, systems, astronautical, civil, or mechanical engineering.  Of course, other programs are offered and are of very high quality.  Cadets can major in anything from English to Meteorology to Legal Studies.  All students can expect to take science and engineering courses as part of the core curriculum, though.

A six-week summer orientation program called Basic Cadet Training (BCT) kicks off the Cadet experience.  BCT is an intense program designed to introduce first year cadets (aka “Fourth-Class cadets”) to military life.  It consists of two parts – training in the “Cadet Area” which gets participants ready for the training that takes place in the rural training area.  The end of BTC marks the beginning of the academic year, and an Acceptance Parade takes place to celebrate the completion of the training program.

Of course, the Air Force Academy is training cadets to take on careers in the United States Air Force.  More than half of the graduates choose flight training, but there are other career paths to consider.  Careers evolve out of interests, and there are opportunities for many different kinds of careers in the military.

Athletics is a huge part of life at the Academy.  All cadets are required to participate in a varsity or intramural sport each semester.  The Falcons compete in Division 1 of the NCAA.  For cadets who aren’t looking to participate at the intercollegiate level, several intramurals are offered.

According to the Academy’s website, an Air Force Academy education is valued at over $416,000.  That education is offered at no cost to its cadets.  In return, cadets must serve as commissioned officers in the United States Air Force for at least eight years; five of these years must be active duty.

For more information, please visit http://www.academyadmissions.com/



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