What to Expect at the Air Force Academy

how to get into the air force academy

The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) is an educational institution with an outstanding reputation. The USAFA is unique among typical colleges and universities because it provides a top-level college education at no cost, while also preparing young men and women to be officers in the Air Force.

In return for that free education, Uncle Sam asks USAFA cadets to serve in the Air Force for at least five years after graduation. Graduates of the USAFA can expect to enter the Air Force as Second Lieutenants.

The USAFA is quite selective, accepting only 11% of applicants each year. That’s about 1,000 students accepted out of 9,000 applicants.

Interested in what happens at the USAFA? Let’s take a closer look.

What Are the Requirements to Get Into the USAFA? 

Before you can even apply to the USAFA, you must satisfy a few basic requirements. You must be:

  • At least 17 years old, but no older than 22 on July 1 of the year you enter the Academy.
  • A citizen of the United States.
  • Unmarried with no dependents.
  • Of good moral character.

Of course, your academic performance in high school is also a major factor in your possible acceptance. Most cadets who are accepted into the Academy graduated high school with a GPA of at least 3.75. The Academy looks for students who have scored at least a 1320 on the SAT, and/or earned a composite score of 28 to 33 on the ACT.

What is the Candidate Fitness Assessment?

how to get into the air force academy

Unlike traditional colleges or universities, the USAFA requires that applicants pass a physical fitness test called the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA).

The CFA consists of these events:

  • Shuttle-run
  • One-mile run
  • Basketball throw
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups, or the flexed arm hang
  • Abdominal crunches

Scoring well on this portion of the application shows USAFA admissions that the candidate will be able to handle Basic Cadet Training (BCT) if accepted.

BCT is the first six weeks of USAF, which helps transitions new cadets from civilian to military life. It’s similar to what boot camp is like for new recruits in any branch of the military. In fact, cadets have taken to pronouncing BCT as “Beast” to indicate how grueling those first six weeks can be.

What Happens After You’re Accepted? 

One you’re accepted to USAFA, the real work begins. Your education will include four major areas of focus.

1. Academics 

The USAFA is well known for its rigorous academics with engineering, mathematics, and science courses at the core of its curriculum. These courses help cadets develop the technical and problem-solving skills they’ll need as leaders in the military.

In addition, cadets are required to take humanities courses such as literature, history, psychology, and philosophy, to help them become more well-rounded thinkers and leaders.

As a cadet, you’ll never take fewer than 15 credits in any given semester. This ensures that you’ll graduate in four years. At other colleges and universities, you can continue to take classes as long as you keep paying. This isn’t the case at USAFA. If you don’t meet the requirements to graduate after four years, you’ll be dismissed from the program.

You can expect to be in class five days a week, with seven periods each day. After the school day, you’ll spend time studying and working on long-term projects. 

2. Military Training

how to get into the air force academy

The USAFA operates under a military structure with a chain of command like what you’d find in the Air Force. Incoming classes will be split into eight squadrons, like you’d find in the Air Force.

The day begins with the classic Reveille blaring across the campus. After washing and dressing, cadets are required to eat breakfast together. They’ll also each lunch together, but they are allowed to each dinner in the mess hall or take it back to their dorm rooms.

All new cadets are required to stop and greet upper-class cadets by their name. This will help cadets develop the habit of saluting senior officers when they enter the military.  Cadets must also be in uniform most hours of the day, whether it’s service dress, mess dress, or physical training uniforms.

As a cadet, you’ll participate in training drills, marches, ceremonies. Of course, you’ll be expected to follow a code of conduct that emphasizes respect for yourself, your fellow cadets, and the Air Force at all times.

You’ll be given “passes” to leave campus a few times a month. However, you are expected to act with integrity and honor even when not on campus. Remember, you’re a representative of the USAFA and the U.S. military.

3. Athletics and Physical Fitness 

The Air Force believes that participation in competitive sports and being physically fit is essential to developing a sense of teamwork, a drive to succeed, and personal pride.

That’s why all cadets are required to participate in the USAFA athletic curriculum, which includes:

  • Physical education classes. Cadets must take at least 10 physical education classes during their four years at the Academy to meet graduation requirements.
  • Physical fitness assessments. Cadets are required to pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and the Aerobic Fitness Test (AFT) each semester. Regular testing ensures that cadets remain in good physical condition throughout their four years in the Academy.
  • Team sports. Every cadet is required to participate in a competitive sport at either the intercollegiate or intramural level. The Academy offers a variety of sports including swimming, soccer, boxing, volleyball, football, and more.


4. Extracurricular Activities

how to get into the air force academy

Although not required, the USAFA highly recommends that cadets participate in one or more extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities give cadets the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, take on leadership roles, and just have fun.

The USAFA offers more than 100 active clubs that cadets can join including:

  • Aviation
  • Archery
  • Rocketry
  • Mountaineering
  • Drum and Bugle Corps
  • Mock Trial
  • A Capella
  • Honor Guard
  • Forensics Team
  • Broadcasting
  • Parachuting
  • Falconry
  • Combat Shooting


Ready for a Unique Challenge? 

If you’re looking to challenge yourself mentally, physical, and academically and you want a career in the Air Force, then you should strongly consider attending the USAFA.

You’ll certainly be held to a higher standard at the USAFA, but the rewards are well worth it. The Academy provides its cadets with a world-class education, outstanding military training, and physical conditioning. In addition, you’ll develop a strong moral character, technical skills, and leadership skills that will serve you well in the military, your civilian career, and throughout your lifetime.

Once you get out of the Air Force Academy and complete your required military service, you may decide to separate and go into the civilian workforce. You’ll need a professional military to civilian resume that can translate all your military experience into civilian equivalent.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.   

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