Last Updated on January 9, 2022

The following are Air Force Academy essay examples from cadets who have won appointments to the USAFA in the past few years. We will provide commentary at the end of each essay as to why each of these answers to USAFA’s questions is effective. For information on all the USAFA’s application requirements, read our Ultimate Guide to getting into the Air Force Academy 

Essay 1

Prompt

Describe a setback or ethical dilemma that you have faced. How did you resolve it? How did the outcome affect you? Most importantly, what did you learn about yourself and how would you handle a similar situation in the future? (400 to 500 words, 3000 characters max)

Answer

It is difficult to have to confront a problem with an adult. I had an incident in my high school where I had to step forward and help my peers in the class while continuing to show deference to our teacher. Through this experience, I learned how to show respect to everyone involved and come to a successful resolution.

During my junior year of high school, all the assignments in my math class were being graded after our unit exams. This negatively impacted me and my peers throughout the first half of the year. I believed that the late grading of our assignments was unfair for two reasons:  students were unable to determine their errors and ask for help before the test and also were not given the opportunity to revise their work for a higher grade before the test.  

I was faced with the issue of having to address this issue with our teacher.  My classmates turned to me because they knew that the teacher respected my opinion and that I was the best person to reach out to her and see if something could be done.  I first asked my parents and my advisor at school for their opinion. They both told me that a well-written email is the most effective and best way to address the situation. I wrote a draft of the email and brought it to them and they told me how I could improve it.  I then made the revisions and sent it to the teacher. Shortly after I received a response from her saying she never realized the negative effects of grading so late and that she would grade earlier in the future.  She thanked me for my candidness and honesty.

As a result of this challenge, I learned a lot about solving problems.  I learned how to respectfully address problems with my elders and how to take initiative when something is negatively affecting my peers. Overall, it is better to confront issues and take a leadership role in effecting change than to sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

Commentary:

Essays 1 and 2 are personal and do not lend themselves to a “cookie-cutter” essay solution.  Military officers do the right thing for the right reasons, all the time. It means doing the right thing whether someone is watching or not. They are loyal first to the Constitution and nation, then to the institutional Air Force, then to their units, then to their wingmen, and finally to themselves. They do not tolerate deviations from what is right from subordinates, peers, superiors, or friends. In Essay 1 if you can show that you were an ethical leader this will be a bonus compared to making an ethical decision simply on your own.  Note in this case that the student was elected by her peers to confront her teacher, a difficult decision that required courage and candor.   While not a strictly ethical issue, not confronting the problem would have made the issue worse not just for her, but for everyone in her class.  She was a selfless servant leader who was respected by her peers to fix a difficult situation.

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Essay 2

Prompt

What attributes, life experiences, unique perspectives, and/or special talents do you possess that would contribute to the classroom, student body, and/or Air Force Academy? (400 to 500 words, 3000 characters max) 

Answer

Two signature strengths I have is determination and commitment–both physically and academically. I believe that these attributes will be vital in excelling at the Air Force Academy as well as something I can draw from as an officer in the United States Air Force.

My physical determination and commitment to teamwork could benefit the Air Force in a multitude of ways. One of my greatest accomplishments is summiting all 25 of the recognized high peaks in the Smoky Mountains within a month.  Moreover, I helped to lead others in accomplishing this goal.  For example,  in the first leg of this trek, I felt sore and tired but I decided to not let this show to my group so it would not hurt team morale. I continued to push forward and encourage my group along the way.  When we finally finished, I felt the satisfaction of not just knowing that I accomplished this task but also that I helped others.  I found that you gain as much satisfaction in helping others accomplish their goals as you do your own.  

Continuous commitment to a team is another kind of attribute I have that I believe is a strength. I have been on my indoor and outdoor track team since middle school. When I started track in the seventh grade I was put in discus because my coach noticed the varsity team would need discus throwers in the next few years. I was hesitant at first but agreed to put my full efforts into helping the team.  I ended up liking discus and wanting and becoming good at it. My determination led me to join a discus throwers club in my free time to become better at it for my team.  Five years and seven seasons later I am still in a discus throwers club and currently am one of the top throwers in the region. 

Finally, I am determined to be a successful cadet academically at the Air Force Academy. At the end of my tenth-grade year, I redoubled my efforts in academics.  All of last year I studied hard for every test, did my best on every team project and revised every assignment I could. This resulted in me having a 96 overall average for the year. I also have been accruing as many college credits as I can.  Going into my senior year I currently have 22 college credits. This year I plan on continuing the high average and college credit trend. I received a scholarship and an award as recognition from my school for my academics. 

In conclusion, I am looking forward to becoming an officer candidate at the Air Force Academy and drawing from my signature strengths in order to be the best cadet, teammate, and future officer I can be.   

Commentary:

Military officers are comfortable working in teams and they value the inherent strengths that come from teams made up of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. They are respectful of others. They are selfless and work toward the goals of the team and realize that high performing teams are characterized by common goals, shared responsibility for success, and appropriate leadership-followership relationships. 

Note again that the candidate mostly emphasizes teamwork and being a member of the team in accomplishing his goals and realizing his signature strengths.  He climbed the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains but also helped his teammates accomplish this goal. In becoming a successful discus thrower, he but did it initially because his coach asked him to and he wanted to benefit the team.  Finally, he shows that he has shortcomings in the past and is working towards getting better.  This candidate is humble and a team player—characteristics prized by the military.  He is certainly not a selfish “lone wolf.”  He ends the essay by stating again his desire to be an Air Force officer and to serve.

Essay 3

Prompt

Please provide any additional information or background you believe will be of assistance in evaluating your application. (400 to 500 words, 3000 characters max)  

Answer

The United States has granted me freedoms, rights, and opportunities for which I feel a great debt. A tangible way to honor my debt is to serve in the military. My father, who served as an Air Force officer, introduced me to the armed forces and cultivated the high regard I have for veterans. This appreciation matured through my service at Memorial Day marches and Veteran’s Day breakfasts as a Scout. These life experiences drove me to actively consider my future at the Air Force Academy.

To further my knowledge, I visited my local Air National Guard unit. There I met LtCol David Tuttle, a C-17 pilot, who detailed his experiences as a pilot as well as a squadron commander. I recognize being an officer is more than a job; it is a commitment to leadership, excellence, and selflessness, which I am driven to fulfill seriously and wholly.

While speaking with Maj Thomas Doyle, an Air Force intelligence officer who works with LtCol Tuttle, he elaborated on the value of teamwork and camaraderie espoused by the Air force. As the captain of the speech team, it is my duty to place the team before myself. I always feel more gratified in a celebratory huddle after a team win than being alone on stage after winning an individual event, and the Air Force provides a purposeful way to develop and apply my proclivity for teamwork.

In short, my duty to the United States, interactions with members of the Air Force, and a cadet lifestyle that can best shape me into a career officer are the reasons I wish to become an Air Force Academy cadet. Being awarded an opportunity to develop my capabilities in leadership, fitness, scholarship, and ethics in preparation for a career as an Air Force officer would be an honor.

Commentary:

The author firmly believes that what this essay should not be is a laundry list or rundown of what the applicant achieved in high school or why the applicant believes he/she is an outstanding leader. The attitude that AFA may get out of essays such as these are: “Hey, I’m a talented wonderful person and you have to select me because of my past accomplishments.”

But—how can the applicant really say this if they have no idea of what life will be like as a cadet and future officer?

What should the applicant do instead?

Do research about the Air Force, talk to officers and cadets, visit a local Air National Guard or Reserve unit, and “shadow” an officer for a few hours. Learn all one can about what the challenges are in-store at AFA and what life will be like as a future officer.

Then, when the applicant writes Statement #3, talk about those experiences in the essay. Be humble. The candidate should tell AFA that he/she did his/her due diligence to understand the challenges ahead.  Additionally, the candidate should tell AFA that he/she has prepared as best he/she can (speak to past leadership experiences) and feel confident that, based on past leadership and these visits/talks, he/she is up to the task of being an officer candidate and a future military officer.

If one writes this type of essay for Statement #3, he/she will be in the 5% category of those who have gone out of their way to actually validate the statement that they are ready to be an Air Force officer candidate.

Final Thoughts for Your USAFA Application Essays

The candidate needs to make sure the essays are well-constructed and free of organization and grammar issues. Ironically, the optional #3 essay may be the most important to fill out because you can make this essay stand out from the pack by doing the extra things like visiting an Air National Guard unit or talking with currently serving Air Force officers.  Do your best on #1 and #2 but separate yourself on Statement #3. If you do the above things, you are that much closer to a USAFA appointment!

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