How to Get Into The Air Force Academy2021-06-05T13:47:04+00:00

Many high school students dream of attending one of the elite U.S. Service Academies. The Air Force Academy combines a world-class education with athletics, character, and leadership development to forge outstanding Air Force officers.

The rigorous admissions process for the Air Force Academy can be daunting and mysterious, especially for candidates with no history of military service in their family. Our goal here at Gain Service Academy Admission is to help guide you through the admissions process to give you the best chance to receive a coveted spot at USAFA.

As a Service Academy Graduate, my team and I have written the most comprehensive guide to getting into The Air Force Academy. Our mission is help you to understand what Congressional Representatives and admissions officers at USAFA are really looking for and how to go about gaining admission!

If you are looking for someone to help you navigate the admissions process, my team and I are here to personally guide you through everything from understanding the selection panel composite scores to Congressional Nomination interview preparation. It is crucial that you become educated about the process and set yourself up the best you can in order to get that call from your Member of Congress.

I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of an appointment and your honorable goal of becoming an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

-Lieutenant Colonel Robert O. Kirkland (U.S. Army, Retired)

A Photo of Robert Kirkland in Army Dress Blues, founder of Gain Service Academy Admission

There is a lot of information on Service Academy admissions on online forums and various websites, and our goal is to ensure you focus on the right areas for The Air Force Academy. Understanding the admissions process will help you apply effort to the areas that matter most in your application.

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

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.

How to Get Into the Air Force Academy Photo of Jet

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

Admissions Requirements

The standards are set high for admission into the Air Force Academy. Academics are the single most important factor, but athletics, extracurricular activities, leadership positions and overall character are all taken into account. The admissions team is looking to make sure you have what it takes to excel.

Academic Achievements

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. Taking challenging classes is another indicaiton 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

SAT/ACT Scores

If you score at or below the following SAT/ACT scores, we highly recommend re-testing to try for a higher score: 

  • SAT – 620 on reading/writing or 580 on math
  • ACT – 24 on English/reading or 25 on math/science

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. 

Here are the average test scores:

Average SAT Scores for USAFA Cadets

Average ACT Scores for USAFA Cadets

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

Photo of Air Force Academy Leadership during Football March On

Leadership is a large part of everyday cadet life at USAFA

The Academy relies on those who know you best to provide character references. The admissions team requires three teacher evaluations to learn more about your academic performance and character. For high school students, these teachers are your 11th or 12th-grade English teacher, math teacher, and one other teacher (preferably science). Start the year off strong with these teachers and build strong relationships early! Here are samples for you to reference: Air Force Academy Letter of Recommendation Samples with Commentary

Personal Essays 

Essay responses also let you speak directly to the admissions panel to demonstrate an aptitude for commissioned service. You’ll provide responses to 2 of 3 questions. The admissions team is looking for you to describe who you are and show the unique aspects and experiences of your life. Critical thinking, organizational, and grammar abilities are among the top aspects the panel is looking for. 

Looking for help with the admissions process? Help with your writing samples is included in our consulting services.

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.


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. 


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.

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.

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 – Recieve “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.

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.

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