Welcome to our guide on earning an appointment to the Air Force Academy!

Here is an overview of the major sections in this guide:

Air Force Photo by TSgt Julius Delos Reyes

The Air Force Academy Mission

The Mission of the United States Air Force Academy is to educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the U.S. Air Force and Space Force in service to our nation.

Why You’d Make a Good Candidate

With 5 Service Academies to choose from, it’s important to research and understand why you are choosing the Air Force Academy.

With the mission above in mind, think about your reasons.

Above all, a desire to become an Air Force or Space Force Officer should be amongst the top reasons.

Passion about leadership and service is a must.

Deciding to attend the Air Force Academy is a career choice, not just an educational one.

Air Force Photo by Joshua Armstrong

Basic Requirements – Who The Air Force Academy is Looking For

There are both legal requirements and additional requirements for admittance into The Air Force Academy. Legal Requirements:

  • 17-22 years old
  • U.S. Citizen
  • Unmarried
  • Not pregnant; with no legal obligation to support a child

The Air Force Academy Acceptance Rate

Many places you’ll see admission stats claiming that USAFA has around a 10% admission rate.

This is true if you include the thousands of students who inquire about admission.

Every year, about 11,500 students apply to attend the Air Force Academy.

Only 1,400 are offered appointments to attend USAFA.

At first glance, the Air Force Academy acceptance rate appears to be about 12%. However, in reality, the acceptance rate for the Air Force Academy is actually much higher around 48%.

When looking at admissions statistics, we pay attention to qualified candidates.

A qualified candidate is someone who meets the criteria that we outline in the rest of this post.

The admissions team considers this person to meet the “Whole Person Concept” across the scholar, athlete, and leader components of their application.

Of the 11,500 students who apply, the admissions team only considers anywhere from 2,600 to 3,300 students to be qualified candidates.

If you are a qualified candidate, the Air Force Academy acceptance rate is 48%.

Read on to find out if you are a qualified candidate!

Air Force Academy Selection Composite Score

Air Force Academy Academic Requirements

Academic capability shows the Air Force Academy admissions team you will be able to handle the tough course load at USAFA.

The admissions team is looking for a well-rounded academic record with strong class rank, GPA, and SAT/ACT test results.

Average cadets rank in the top 3% of their high school class.

What GPA do you need to get into the Air Force Academy?

The Air Force requires capable officers who excel academically. You’ll need to be at the top of your class if you’re applying to the Air Force Academy to be considered a qualified candidate, with nearly straight A’s.

Year over year, the average GPA for Air Force Academy appointees is 3.85.

25% of Air Force Academy cadets earned a 4.0 GPA in high school.

You can make up for a lower GPA (to a certain extent) by focusing on your SAT or ACT scores.

Just because you have a GPA that fits this criteria doesn’t mean you’ll receive an appointment from the admissions team, as they focus on the whole person concept (with the Selection Composite Score).

On the other hand, the SCS also gives you a chance if you started excelling later in your high school academic career and your GPA isn’t as high!

Note: Any Ds or Fs on your high school transcripts will be immediately questioned by the admissions team, especially if they occurred further along in your high school career.

Academic Rigor

Taking challenging classes is another indication of academic success. Here are the high school classes the Air Force Academy recommends taking:

  • Four years of English (with a college preparatory class in writing)
  • Four years of math
    • Strong background in geometry, algebra, trigonometry and pre-calculus
  • Four years of science
    • Lab-based and should include biology, chemistry and physics
  • Three years of social studies (to include a course in U.S. history)
  • Two years of a modern foreign language
  • One year of computer study

Air Force Academy SAT Scores

The Air Force Academy minimum SAT scores are 580 on Math and 620 on Reading and Writing.

Aside from trying to score as high as possible, the Air Force Academy admissions team generally does not accept students as direct-entry candidates with scores below the ones listed above.

These scores really don’t give you a good idea of what you need to earn an appointment.

What SAT score do you need for the Air Force Academy?

While both are important, the Air Force Academy places a higher emphasis on your SAT Math score over your SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score.

The truth of the matter is that published averages do not really reveal what scores you need to achieve to be competitive, because of the mysterious admissions process that’s happening behind the scenes.

(Learn about the Selection Composite Score to understand how admissions chooses applicants and how make yourself as competitive as possible).

The SAT score you need to be appointed into the Air Force Academy is based on a variety of factors, but most importantly, it’s where you live.

Since most candidates are applying for an appointment with a Congressional nomination, the competitiveness of your Congressional district dictates what score you need.

Your goal is to obtain the highest Selection Composite Score in your district to ensure you earn the appointment (assuming your Congressman, Congresswoman, or Senator nominates candidates using the competitive method).

With all of the above being said, you can still learn valuable insights from looking at recent cadet class SAT scores.

The Air Force Academy average SAT EBRW score for the Class of 2026 is 686.

The Air Force Academy average SAT Math score for the Class of 2026 is 703.

In order to be competitive for the Air Force Academy, you should aim to beat an SAT EBRW score of 690 and SAT Math score of 710, at a minimum.

Air Force Academy ACT Scores

The Air Force Academy minimum ACT scores are 24 on English and Reading and 25 on Math and Science.

What is the average ACT score to get into the Air Force Academy?

The same fundamentals apply for Air Force Academy ACT score requirements. Your competitiveness is based on how you compare to other students from your Congressional district.

Notably, the Air Force Academy prioritizes your Math ACT score over your Reading and Writing ACT score.

The Air Force Academy average ACT Reading + Writing score for the Class of 2026 is 61.7.

The Air Force Academy average ACT STEM Composite score for the Class of 2026 is 29.65.

In order to be competitive for the Air Force Academy, you should aim to beat an ACT Reading + Writing score of 62 and ACT STEM Composite score of 30, at a minimum.

Should I take the ACT or the SAT to get into the Air Force Academy?

It depends!

You should probably take both the ACT and SAT and see how you do in either test.

You can read more about which test you should take in our article on Service Academies and selecting the ACT or SAT.

If you don’t meet these test criteria, you should still apply. There are other methods of entry, including the Prep School.

Strength of Character and Leadership Potential

The Academy relies on your own testimony (essays and your ALO interview) along with references from those who know you best to provide character references.

Air Force Photo by Joshua Armstrong

Personal Essays

Essay responses also let you speak directly to the admissions panel to demonstrate an aptitude for leadership and military service.

You’ll write about 3 different topics:

  1. A time you faced a challenge
  2. What you bring to USAFA
  3. What else you’d like admissions to know

The admissions team is looking for you to describe who you are and show the unique aspects and experiences of your life.

Traits admissions is looking for:

  • Critical thinking
  • Do you operate as a team player?
  • Do you follow the Air Force core values?
  • How much do you know about the Air Force? The Academy?
  • Organization & Grammar

Write better essays by reading example Air Force Academy essays

You may want to fly – but what other careers are there that interest you in the Air Force that you could include in essays? Air Force Photo by A1C Shelby Kay-Fantozzi

Teacher Evaluations

The admissions team requires three teacher evaluations to learn more about your academic performance and character.

For high school students, these teachers are:

  • English teacher
  • Math teacher
  • Additional (counselor, principal, JROTC instructor, or physics/chemistry)

Note: These must be from 11th or 12th grade.

Start the year off strong with these teachers and build strong relationships early!

Optional Letters of Recommendation

Although these are optional, we highly recommend adding these to your application.

High school coaches and other mentors in your life have great insight into your leadership abilities, integrity, and character.

ALO Interview

Your ALO will also schedule an interview with you to provide a recommendation to the USAFA admission’s team. They will be rating you on:

  • Character/Core Values
  • Self-Confidence
  • Human Relations
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Communicative Skills
  • Leadership
  • Motivation Toward Air Force

Here is more information on what to expect during your ALO interview: Air Force Academy Liaison Officer Interview Questions.

Extracurriculars

Getting involved in your high school and community early on in your high school career is a great way to build leadership skills.

The admissions team looks at your community service, work, and high school involvement.

The most common activities cadets participated in during high school include sports and the National Honor Society.

Over 80% of a recent Academy class received at least one Varsity letter in sports during high school.

There are many different activities to choose from, we recommend getting involved in something you are actually interested in and doing it for the right reasons – not just for admissions purposes.

Air Force Photo by Joshua Armstrong

Fitness

Fitness is a major part of the application process. The physical test, known as the Candidate Fitness Assessment, is a series of 6 exercises that you can practice before the test, and we highly recommend doing just that with the right equipment! You can calculate your score using our Candidate Fitness Assessment Score Calculator.

Air Force Academy Fitness Requirements

Recommended goals for the fitness assessment from admissions team

The good news is that this test is the same across all service academies, so you if you are undecided about which service academy to apply for you can still prepare for all and only test once. The test can be administered by any physical education teacher, Service Academy Liason Officer or JROTC instructor.

You’ll also want to make sure you meet the height and weight requirements for the Air Force Academy.

Admissions Timeline

Here is a brief overview for the admissions timeline. We recommend starting the process second semester of your junior year of high school. For more details, read a detailed description of requirements here: Air Force Academy Application Timeline.

An overly simplified timeline for the Air Force Academy application cycle

Freshman-Junior Year

  • Focus on getting good grades in school and taking challenging academic classes

Junior Year – get the application process started

  • Summer-Fall
    • Prepare for the SAT/ACT
  • Winter-Spring
    • Take the SAT/ACT for the first time
    • Apply for Summer Seminar (December 1 – Jan 15)
    • Start file with USAFA Admissions
    • Apply for a Congressional Nomination
    • Start the Pre-Candidate Questionnaire (March 1 – December 31)

Senior Year – finish up any application items

  • Summer
    • Attend the Summer Seminar
    • Schedule your Air Force Liason Officer (ALO) Interview
    • Take the physical fitness test (Candidate Fitness Assessment)
  • Fall
    • Complete all USAFA forms – including essays, transcripts, and teacher evaluations
    • PCQ deadline is December 31
  • Winter
    • The deadline for all application item completion is January 31

Letter of Assurance from USAFA – Receive “Pre-Approval”

A Letter of Assurance is a reservation of an appointment to a Service Academy contingent upon medical qualification, physical qualification, Height/Weight and continued excellent work in school, and file Completion. Letters of Assurance are conditional and subject to review throughout the entire application process. Candidates receive Letters of Assurance based upon excellent scholar, athlete, leader credentials at noted in this post.

How to Get a Nomination

If you are seeking a Congressional Nomination, the process is similar across the 3 main service academies. Understanding how the nominations process works will help you plan accordingly.

Nomination vs. Appointment

First let’s discuss the difference between a nomination and an appointment, because they can be easily confused!

A nomination gives the Service Academy admission teams the legal authority to consider a candidate for appointment. The appointment itself is the offer of admission from a Service Academy. So you need a nomination first in order to be eligible to receive an appointment.

You are required to receive a nomination from a nominating authority in order to attend the Air Force Academy. The majority of cadets receive their nominations through Congress – either a State Senator or their local Congressional Representative. There is also a Vice Presidential Nomination, although this is incredibly competitive. If you have a parent who was active duty or retired, you are also eligible to receive a Presidential Nomination.

Who are you eligible to receive a nomination from?

Typically you are eligible for at least your U.S. Congressional Representative, your 2 U.S. Senators, and the Vice Presidential nomination. These usually increase in competition as you increase from the local to national level.

Each Member of Congress is authorized to have 5 candidates at any one-time. Typically Senators and House Representatives will have 4 candidates and 1 open slot. They will usually use one open slot per year. Each slot can be filled by up to 10 nominations from the Senator/House Representative.

This chart depicts the nomination slots that each Senator/Representative has:

flow chart showing how the congressional nomination process works for service academies

Although the class years have different designators at each Service Academy, we simplified them to make the chart easy to understand.

We’ve written extensively about the nomination process in our book: Air Force Academy Secrets.

Bottom line: You are competing for one of those 10 nomination slots. There are different methods for the Member of Congress to use for nominations, but typically the 10 nominees are not ranked by the Member of Congress. The nominating authority will usually leave that up to the Service Academy to decide who is the most qualified.

You should apply to every nomination source you are qualified for in order to increase your chances of selection for nomination.

Additional Nominating Sources:

  • Presidential: children of military personnel
  • Regular Army & Reserve Components
  • ROTC & JROTC schools
  • Children of deceased and 100% disabled Veterans
  • Children of Medal of Honor Winners

Find your Senator or Representative here.

Want to learn if you’re doing everything you can to earn an Air Force Academy appointment?

Air Force Academy Resources

Articles

Learn more about the Air Force Academy

Pre-Candidate Questionnaire

Summer Seminar

Interview Questions

Letters of Recommendation

Essay Examples

SAT/ACT Scores