Are you a middle school student with dreams of attending the United States Air Force Academy? 

Starting early and being prepared are your best shots for earning an appointment to the Academy. 

With four key factors that the Academy looks for in future cadets – academics, athletics, leadership, and character – there are steps you can take now to increase your chances of being accepted. 

In this article, we’ll explore specific strategies that middle school students can use to prepare for the Air Force Academy, from building a strong academic foundation to demonstrating leadership skills and character through community service. 

Whether you’re just starting middle school or heading into your final year, these tips will help you set yourself up for success on your path to becoming a cadet.

Academics

The first step to success at any Service Academy is to build a strong academic foundation. For many students, the habits that you begin practicing in middle school carry through to high school.

A strong academic background is essential for gaining admission to the Air Force Academy. Middle school students should focus on developing solid foundations in all subject areas, particularly math and science, as well as English. They should strive to maintain a high grade point average and take challenging courses if possible. 

Taking more challenging courses to set students up for success. Remember, the goal by senior year of high school is to take Calculus, however Pre-Calculus is the minimum requirement.

Students should also prioritize developing effective study habits, such as setting aside dedicated time each day for homework and reviewing material regularly. 

One of the biggest issues we see with poor grades is usually due to procrastination and organization. Many students simply forget to turn homework assignments in on time, resulting in lower grades. Practicing these now will make a huge difference later on in your high school career. 

Athletics

One of the key components of your admission to USAFA is your physical fitness. Playing sports at a level of high competition generally communicates this to the admissions team. However, middle school is the time when students begin developing the fundamental skills that will help them excel in sports during high school.

Don’t wait until freshman year of high school to join a sport. 

Getting involved in sports at a young age can help middle school students prepare for the physical demands of academy life and increase their chances of being accepted. Students who participate in sports can learn important skills such as discipline, time management, and dedication. 

These skills can translate to success in academics and leadership opportunities, which are also critical for admission to USAFA. 

Additionally, participating in sports builds physical endurance and develops a competitive mindset, which is a key part of succeeding at a Service Academy. Overall, involvement in sports can play a significant role in preparing middle school students for the challenges of attending USAFA and help them stand out as strong candidates for admission.

Lastly, middle schoolers will be developing their endurance and upper body strength, which are both critical to pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment, a requirement for USAFA appointment.

Leadership

Developing strong leadership skills is a critical factor in gaining admission to the Air Force Academy. 

Leadership is critical to USAFA because cadets are expected to demonstrate strong leadership skills and a commitment to serving others. As future officers in the United States Air Force (or Space Force), cadets will be responsible for leading and commanding others in a variety of settings, both in peacetime and during times of conflict. They will need to be able to make tough decisions, inspire their subordinates, and lead by example.

The ability to command others is particularly important in the military because it is essential for mission success. Cadets need to be able to communicate effectively with their fellow cadets, as well as with other military personnel, to achieve their objectives. They need to be able to make decisions under pressure and work well as part of a team. They also need to have a strong sense of responsibility and a commitment to serving their country.

Middle school students can start building these skills by getting involved in any number of leadership programs. 

We recommend students join a military-oriented organization, such as Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol, or Young Marines. These programs provide opportunities for students to learn important leadership and teamwork skills, as well as the values and ethics that are integral to the military culture. 

By participating in these programs, students can gain valuable experience in leading others, managing projects, and developing effective communication skills.

Join Sea Cadets

Sea Cadets, for example, offers middle school students the opportunity to participate in a variety of programs, such as leadership academies, orientation cruises, and summer training programs. These programs help students develop leadership skills and gain hands-on experience in areas such as navigation, engineering, and seamanship. 

Join Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol offers programs such as flight training, aerospace education, and emergency services, which help students develop leadership skills, teamwork, and character. 

Join the Young Marines

Young Marines is another program that focuses on leadership, teamwork, and character development through activities such as community service, physical fitness, and leadership training.

Other options for leadership opportunities to help develop students into future Air Force or Space Force leaders include:

  • Student Government
  • Debate
  • Girl Scouts
  • Boy Scouts
  • Service Clubs

These organizations provide opportunities for students to develop leadership skills, such as public speaking, project management, and teamwork. 

Volunteer for activities that help others. Focus on activities that you’re interested in. Exploring different interests that you might want to pursue is a great idea, you don’t need to specialize. Students should be actively trying to help their community. This could include community service projects, such as volunteering at a local food bank or participating in a charity event. This kind of involvement can help students develop empathy, a sense of responsibility, and an awareness of the needs of their community.

While we expect students to take on leadership roles within these organizations throughout high school, simply getting involved in middle school is a good place to start and build upon. Overall, gaining additional leadership experience requires seeking out opportunities to practice and develop these skills.

Character

This section is largely a combination of the categories we’ve already discussed – academics, fitness, and leadership. It comes down to doing the right thing, always. The habits that students practice in middle school will certainly follow them into high school. 

Character development is a crucial aspect of life as a cadet and Air Force officer.  The Academy values students who exhibit strong character traits, such as integrity, responsibility, empathy, and a commitment to serving others. 

Middle school students who aspire to attend USAFA can start developing these traits by building positive relationships with their peers and adults, participating in extracurricular activities and community service, and reflecting on ethical issues.

Building positive relationships with peers and adults can help students develop empathy, communication, and problem-solving skills, which are essential traits for future Air Force officers. 

Participating in extracurricular activities, such as joining clubs, sports teams, or other organizations, can provide opportunities for students to learn new skills, practice teamwork, and contribute to their community, while also demonstrating leadership potential. Similarly, volunteering for community service projects can help students develop a sense of social responsibility and a desire to make a positive difference in the world.

Getting involved and reflecting on ethical issues can help students develop a stronger sense of moral values and personal responsibility, which are essential traits for successful Air Force officers. By considering different perspectives and discussing ethical issues, students can gain a deeper understanding of the importance of honesty, integrity, and fairness.

By cultivating these traits in middle school, students can demonstrate their potential to become responsible and empathetic leaders who are committed to serving their country.

Closing Remarks for Preparing for the Air Force Academy in Middle School

Earning admission to the Air Force Academy requires hard work and dedication. 

Middle school students who aspire to attend USAFA can start preparing themselves early by focusing on academics, sports, leadership, and character development. 

By studying hard, joining sports teams, participating in scouting programs or other local clubs, volunteering in community service, and reflecting on ethical issues, students can demonstrate their potential to become responsible and empathetic leaders who are committed to serving their country. 

Remember, potential isn’t promised – it’s earned through the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of one’s life. By following these steps, middle school students can take a significant step towards achieving their dream of becoming an Air Force officer.

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Trisha Dach

Former Air Force Captain Trisha Dach served as an Intelligence Officer from 2011-2018. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Trisha has helped hundreds of candidates earn a service academy appointment or ROTC scholarships, with over a 90% success rate with clients. Click here to learn more about Captain Dach.

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