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How do I prepare for the USAFA and what are some leadership roles that I could take on?

I am interested in going to the United States Air Force Academy when I graduate high school, and I want to know how I can better prepare for the academy and the application process.

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David’s Answer

Hey Courtney! Good on you for looking at the AFA! I've got a 17 year old that is also working towards a service academy for his secondary education and career. His journey might help you a bit.
First off, all of the service academies are looking for well-rounded candidates. Academics are important - these schools are incredibly rigorous - but so are leadership and athletics. I'm told that depth in these areas is better than breadth. In other words, focus on having a long track record in a few of these areas, i.e. 1 or 2 sports and 1 or 2 leadership activities rather than lots and lots of sports and lots and lots of non-school organization activities.
The most important thing you can do is develop a very clear and understandable message as to why you want to attend the AFA and what you intend to do once you are an officer. Hopefully that message lines up well with the mission statement of the AFA.
The second most important thing you can do is to stay focused. This is going to take a long time, it has to be a priority for you so that you put in the time required and are willing to put in effort on it when it would be easier and more appealing to do something purely for fun.
At a more mundane level:
You're going to want to find areas in those three spaces - Academics, Athletics and Leadership - that you can excel in, but you should be prepared for the fact that most of the degrees at the SA's are engineering or scientifically oriented, so your academic focus in HS should support one of those.
Have a rigorous plan you follow around your fitness, and then compete in it to the best of your ability. If you have enough talent, you might get recruited by the AFA, and that can only help your chances at admission. Double up and see if you can be present in your athletic endeavors and demonstrate leadership in it too. Go for being the Team Captain, volunteer in some capacity in the regional or national amateur agency, especially if it is an Olympic sport. Be aware of the specifics of the Candidate Fitness Assessment and train towards excelling in it.
Be active in organizations outside of school and sports, ideally somewhere where your skills and contribution can grow over time. Some great examples of organizations like that are Scouts BSA (which is now for boys *and* girls), Venturing, and especially for AFA candidates, the Civil Air Patrol. If there is an Junior ROTC program in your school district, give that a long look too, there are benefits for JROTC alumni when applying for the service academies that go beyond the basic experience. Make a point to take on more responsibilities with these organizations as you spend more time in them.
In each of these areas (academics, athletics and leadership), do your best to find outstanding mentors and make a point to develop long and deep relationships with them. You'll have the benefit of their wisdom and you will also be able to go to them for recommendation letters when you need them. Don't focus on just a few people for these mentor/mentee relationships, shoot for 7-10.
Somewhere in the time frame of late in your sophmore year or early in your junior year, attend an in person briefing session around the service academies. They do these in your area, your school counselor will likely be aware of these events. Attend and take notes. At that point you might also begin reaching out to your local elected officials, the House Representative whose District you live in, as well as the two Senators for your state. You will need an endorsement from one of them to be accepted into the AFA. Understand the process to the point where you can explain it in detail to your parents.
Finally, there are a ton of videos on YouTube from current Academy cadets and midshipmen, they can be a great source of help, so go check them out.
Do not get overwhelmed! This is all doable, it's just going to take focus, time and effort. Go be your most awesome self and you'll get there.
Good luck!!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice! This is really really helpful! And I wish the best for you and your son! Courtney
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Emily’s Answer

Hello Courtney,

The USAFA admissions website is a treasure trove of exceptional resources that simplify your preparation journey based on your current academic level, be it middle school or high school. I strongly encourage you to explore it: https://www.academyadmissions.com/prepare/high-school/

If you qualify, the summer seminar offers a golden opportunity to experience life as an Air Force Academy cadet. It's an exciting way to utilize a few weeks of your summer. Discover more about it here: https://www.academyadmissions.com/prepare/high-school/summer-seminar/

In essence, your success recipe is a blend of diligent academic work, maintaining a fitness routine as Kimberly suggested to ensure peak physical condition, and volunteering or contributing to causes close to your heart during high school. Keep going, you're on the right path!

Emily recommends the following next steps:

Read through the "how to prepare" admissions website for high school students
Apply to the USAFA summer seminar
Contact a USAFA admissions officer
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice. Courtney
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Kimberly’s Answer

Hello. Good question. I would start with finding a family member, friend or someone within a military message board to give you some good solid advice. They will give you the most honest advice you need.
I would also go to a military recruiter. They can tell you how to get started and how to best prepare. You can usually find a recruiter in your area by googling it.
Just be sure to keep your grades up, begin a fitness regimen (1.5 mile run, sit ups, push ups) and stay out of trouble.
Good luck!

Kimberly recommends the following next steps:

Find a recruiter in your area to talk to
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is amazing! I really needed it. Courtney
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