How to Get Into the Air Force Academy | Requirements 2024

Your guide to the Air Force Academy
April 26, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Are you interested in joining the U.S. Air Force? Keep reading as we outline how to get into the Air Force Academy. 

Are you ready to soar to new heights and serve your country with honor and distinction? Joining the United States Air Force Academy is a life-changing opportunity that opens doors to an elite education, exceptional leadership training, and rewarding careers such as a Pilot, Cyberspace Admissions Officer, or Air Battle Manager

However, with a competitive acceptance rate, getting into the Air Force Academy is no easy feat. It requires a combination of academic excellence, physical fitness, strong character, and unwavering dedication to service.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the rigorous admissions process, key admission requirements, timelines, and insider tips to help you stand out from the competition. Prepare for takeoff on a journey that will push your limits, challenge your abilities, and ultimately guide you toward a successful landing at the prestigious U.S. Air Force Academy.

Air Force Academy Admissions Requirements

To join the Air Force Academy, students should strive for SAT scores higher than 1470 and ACT scores higher than 32. You should aim for a GPA of around 3.9. Top applicants also excel in physical assessments, achieving impressive scores such as 6.29-minute (male) and 7.30-minute (female) one-mile run times!

There are both legal and additional requirements to be considered for acceptance into the Academy. The Air Force Academy requirements are listed below. 

Legal Requirements 

To be eligible for admission to the United States Air Force Academy, you must meet the following legal requirements:

  • Age: Be at least 17 years old, but not older than 23 by July 1 of the year you enter the Academy.
  • Citizenship: Be a U.S. citizen or have obtained citizenship by the date of entry.
  • Marital Status: Be unmarried, not pregnant, and have no legal obligation to support children or other dependents.
  • Academic: Complete a high school education or equivalent, with a strong academic record in college-preparatory courses.
  • Physical: Meet the physical requirements, including vision, medical, and physical fitness standards.
  • Nomination: Secure a nomination, typically from a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, the Vice President, or the President.
  • Entrance Exams: Take the SAT or ACT, and complete the Candidate Fitness Assessment.
  • Character: Demonstrate strong moral character, leadership potential, and commitment to service.

Academic Requirements 

You will also need to meet the academic requirements to get accepted into the Academy, which include:

  • High School Education: Complete a high school education or equivalent, with a strong focus on college-preparatory courses.
  • Course Requirements: Take a rigorous academic curriculum, including:some text
    • 4 years of English
    • 4 years of Math (including Geometry, Algebra II, and Trigonometry)
    • 2 years of a foreign language
    • 1 year of Chemistry
    • 1 year of Physics
    • 1 year of Biology
    • 1 year of U.S. History
  • GPA: Maintain a high GPA of around 3.87 or higher.
  • Class Rank: Rank in the top 20% of your high school class.
  • Standardized Tests: Achieve competitive scores on the SAT or ACT. The average scores for admitted students are:
  • SAT: Score at least 1350 (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing + Math) on the test.
  • ACT: Receive a composite score of at least 31.
  • Transcripts: Submit official high school transcripts showcasing your academic performance.

If you do not meet all these academic requirements, you may still be considered for admission, though your chances may be reduced.

Physical Requirements

While attending the Air Force Academy, you will take part in basic cadet training. This training tests your strength, agility, and endurance. 

Therefore, you will need to successfully pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment test to qualify for admission into the Academy. The CFA tests your ability in the following areas: 

  • Basketball throw
  • Pull-ups
  • Shuttle run 
  • Modified sit-up
  • Push-ups 
  • One-mile run 

Here is a breakdown of the average competitive scores:

Exercise Men’s Avg Women’s Avg
Basketball Throw 69’ 42’
Pull-Ups 12 2
Flexed Arm Hang (Women Only) 31 seconds
Shuttle Run 8.1 seconds 9.4 seconds
Crunches 81 78
Push-Ups 62 41
One-Mile Run 6:29 7:30

The CFA test is pass or fail, so do your best in each category. It is highly recommended that you train and do multiple practice runs before you take the test. 

Medical Requirements

To meet the medical requirements for admission to the United States Air Force Academy, you must:

  • Medical Examination: Undergo a comprehensive medical examination by a Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) approved physician.
  • Vision Requirements: Have 20/20 or better distant and near vision, either uncorrected or corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Refractive eye surgery is permitted, but you must meet specific criteria.
  • Dental Health: Have good dental health, with no active orthodontic appliances such as braces upon entry.
  • Height/Weight Standards: Be no less than 4’10” (58 inches) and no more than 6’8″ (80 inches). Refer to the weight table for the individual expectations of each cadet.
  • Physical Fitness: Demonstrate a high level of physical fitness by passing the CFA.
  • Medical History: Provide a complete medical history, including any past injuries, surgeries, or chronic conditions.
  • Disqualifying Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as insulin-dependent diabetes, severe asthma, or specific heart conditions, may disqualify you from admission.

Meeting the stringent medical requirements is a vital part of the application process as cadets must be physically and mentally prepared for the demanding academic and military training at the Air Force Academy.

Air Force Academy Acceptance Rate

The Air Force Academy acceptance rate is just 14%. This means roughly 1 out of every 10 applicants is accepted to this school.

Air Force Academy Application Timeline

Here is a breakdown of the official U.S. Air Force Academy requirements and application timeline. 

Dates Application Steps
March 1st – December 31st The Pre-Candidate Questionnaire (PCQ) opens on March 1st. The deadline to submit your PCQ is December 31st of your senior year. This is the first step in the application process and must be completed to be considered for acceptance.
July 15th – January 31st Once you complete your PCQ, you will receive further information on your next steps.
December 1st – January 15th Summer Seminar applications open December 1st, and the deadline is January 15th. No late applications will be accepted.
January Your SAT or ACT must be taken by this time. Your test scores must be sent from either testing authority (ACT or College Board).
February – April Applications are reviewed, and offers on appointments are made during this time.
April Most applicants will find out their admissions status by this time. Results will be posted to your application portal.
June Summer Seminar begins.

Source: Air Force Academy

To secure your chances of being considered for the Academy, be sure to familiarize yourself with all the deadlines. Due to the competitive nature and high demand of the Academy, late applications will not be accepted. 

Who Gets Into The Air Force Academy?

Those who demonstrate strong academic capabilities get into the Academy. To put it simply: get really, really good grades. Acceptance is very competitive, and the majority of students who get into the Academy have an SAT score from 1310–1480 or an ACT score of 27–33. The Academy also takes high school ranking into heavy consideration. Most students who are accepted into the program rank at the top of their high school class.

Air Force Academy Essays

As part of your application, you will be asked to write a short essay responding to certain prompts. Your personal statement is a great way for the admissions team to get to know you as a person and demonstrate your commitment to leadership and military service.

The three different topics you’ll write about include:

  1. How you’ll contribute to USAFA
  2. A time you overcame a challenge by demonstrating leadership and initiative
  3. Any additional information you want the admissions committee to be aware of

See below for an example of a successful essay written for the Air Force Academy application to give you an idea of expectations and structure. 

Here is a brief overview of the traits the admissions committee at USAFA is looking for:

  • Are you academically prepared?
  • Do you have leadership potential?
  • Can you prove your athletic ability?
  • Are you involved with extracurricular activities such as sports teams?
  • Do you operate by the “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do” motto?
  • Do you have a motivation to serve?

Make sure you answer each one of these questions not just in your essays, but in your entire application. But, getting it in writing is a sure way to increase your chances of acceptance.

Example Essay: 

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)

“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.” 

Why This Is a Good Essay

This essay was successful because it pulled from the candidate’s specific experiences. The applicant uses concrete examples from their life to describe how they responded and worked through the circumstances. 

While writing your essay, avoid being vague or inconclusive. You’ll want to show off your strong decision-making and problem-solving skills. The candidate also demonstrates their integrity and ability to confront difficult situations. Both of these qualities are highly valued in the Academy.  

Air Force Academy Tuition

While an education at the Academy is valued at $416,000, students who commit to serve in the Air Force receive their education at no cost. 

Even better, Academy students are also given room, board, and benefits at no cost to them or their families. 

Tips to Get Accepted Into the Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy is a competitive program, but there are strategies you can use to increase your chances of getting in! 

Here is a list of some of the things you can do to make your application stand out. 

1. Do Well In Your High School Classes 

You need to show off your brain power to be considered for acceptance into the Academy. The majority of applicants accepted into the Academy scored in the top 10% of their high school class. In fact, the official website of the U.S. Air Force Academy says, “proving you belong begins in the classroom.” 

Specifically, do well in your English, math, and language classes. These are classes that are important to the Academy and are prerequisites to getting into the program. Achieving high grades in these classes will surely impress the admissions officers. If you score low in these areas, the Academy may not even consider your application. 

Taking a second language class is a great way to stand out from other applicants. The Academy values those who can speak more than one language. 

2. Diversify Your Resume 

The Air Force is looking for youth who are well-rounded, reliable, and dedicated individuals. The best way to demonstrate these qualities is by participating in extracurricular activities and sports. Consider participating in extracurricular activities that demonstrate commitment and leadership skills, such as joining the debate teams or serving on your school’s student government. 

Your participation in sports is super important in this case, as you will have to pass fitness tests to get accepted into the Academy. Athletics will keep you in shape and also show the admissions committee that you are in good physical health. This is also a great activity to get involved in to demonstrate teamwork and leadership skills on your application. 

3. Ace Your SAT/ACT 

You will need to send your SAT or ACT scores to the Academy as part of your application. Neither of these tests are easy, so take your preparation seriously. The Academy accepts both SAT and ACT scores, so it’s up to you to decide which test you want to take

The Academy will not accept applicants if they score low on either test. To ensure a good score, build an effective study plan. The key to doing well is being prepared. 

Studying for the SAT or ACT is a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be boring! Follow a plan that keeps you focused and engaged to get the most out of your time. 

4. Use Your Connections 

If you have connections that can write you an out-of-this-world letter of recommendation, use them. Don’t be afraid to ask for a personalized letter from alumni or others who would write a stellar recommendation. 

5. Get Your Private Pilot License 

While not a requirement on the application, getting your private pilot license can definitely help your chances of getting accepted. 

It won’t guarantee your acceptance, but having flight experience is a great asset going into the Academy!

FAQs: How to Get Into the Air Force Academy

If you still have questions about how to get into the Air Force Academy, we’ve got you covered! We answer some of your frequently asked questions below. 

1. How Hard Is It to Get Into the Air Force Academy?

The Air Force Academy is very competitive and has an acceptance rate of just 14%. 

To get accepted, you will need to be a strong candidate. If you are seriously interested in attending the Academy, begin building your resume and academic record as soon as possible. The earlier you start preparing and working towards your goal, the more well-rounded and impressive your application will be.  

2. What GPA Do You Need for the Air Force Academy?

The average GPA of students who are accepted is 3.78. You’ll want to achieve at least this GPA score, or better yet, even higher. As the Air Force is so competitive and has a low acceptance rate, any GPA lower than this hurts your chances of acceptance. 

3. How Much Does It Cost to Join the Air Force Academy?

There is no cost to attend, but you will need to commit to a certain number of years of service, usually five years. 

4. What Disqualifies You From Joining the Air Force Academy?

Before you even begin the application process, it is in your best interest to find out if you are disqualified from joining the Academy. Here is the list of potential factors that can disqualify you:

  • Age: If you are outside of the legal age requirements, you will not be eligible to join the air force. You must be at least 17 years of age and no older than 39 years old. 
  • Height and Weight: If you are over or under the height and weight requirements, you will not be allowed to serve in the Academy. Measure your height and weight before you apply to ensure you meet the physical requirements. 
  • Physical and Mental Health: The Air Force is not easy. It can be very stressful and both physically and mentally healthy. If you have a physical and mental health condition, you will probably be disqualified from joining the Academy. Good health also includes you having good vision. 
  • Education: You need your high school diploma or GED before entering the Air Force, and you need to have high marks as well. The Academy is very competitive and takes its students’ education very seriously. If you don’t have your diploma, you will not be able to apply for the Academy. 
  • Marriage and Children: Having dependents (i.e., a child you have custody of) or having a spouse immediately disqualifies you from the Academy. You are able to relinquish all custody rights of your child/children if you want to be eligible for the Air Force, but don’t make this decision lightly. 
  • Tattoos: While there are some exceptions to this rule, the Air Force does not allow any tattoos or piercings that are “prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature that may bring discredit upon the Air Force.” Small, non-offensive tattoos that you can cover up should be fine. 
  • Criminal Record: The Air Force will conduct criminal background checks before allowing admittance into the Academy. Even having traffic violations on your record can affect your chances of acceptance. 

Serving in the Academy is physically and mentally demanding, and has high expectations of its students. These requirements may seem strict, but they are in place to ensure the reputation and professionalism of the Academy. 

Familiarize yourself with your medical history, any potential conditions you have, and any physical or mental ailments that could affect your performance in the Air Force. If you already know you will not qualify for acceptance, there is no point in putting in all the work and time to complete an application.  

5. Is Going to the Air Force Academy Worth It?

If you are genuinely interested in serving in the Air Force, then going to the Academy is absolutely worth it. While it is not easy to get in, and there are a lot of high expectations of those who join the Academy, the Air Force is a great place for personal growth and opportunities. 

The Air Force is one of the safer branches of service you can join; it is relatively less physically dangerous. The Air Force is also regarded as a highly prestigious branch of the military, so there are a lot of perks and good reputation that comes along with joining the Academy. 

Even better, you become eligible for full retirement benefits after twenty years of service. 

6. How to Get an Air Force Academy Congressional Nomination?

To attend the U.S. Air Force Academy, you must obtain a nomination from an authorized nominating source. Members of Congress can nominate applicants who are legal residents of their state/district. Here are the key steps:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Ensure you meet the basic eligibility criteria for admission to the Air Force Academy.
  2. Identify Nominating Sources: You can apply for a nomination from:some text
  3. Apply for Nominations: Contact the offices of your nominating sources to understand their process and deadlines. Provide required documents like test scores, transcripts, essays, etc. The deadline to receive your nomination is January 31.
  4. Interview: Many Congressional offices require an in-person interview as part of the nomination process.
  5. Submit Nomination File: If selected, your nominating source will submit your nomination file directly to the Air Force Academy.
  6. Complete Admission Process: Receiving a nomination allows your application to be considered, but does not guarantee admission. You must also meet all academic, medical, and other admission requirements.

Applying for multiple nominations can increase your chances. The nomination process is highly competitive, so demonstrating strong academics, leadership, and character is critical to your admission.

Final Thoughts

The Air Force is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get a prestigious education with renowned leaders. In addition to receiving a top-of-the-line education (at no cost to you!), there are many perks and benefits for those who serve in and graduate from the Academy. Benefits include a great career path, full retirement benefits, and a respected reputation.  

Getting accepted into the Academy is no easy task. You will need to work hard to build your application and academic resume to impress the admissions team. 

Best of luck on your future endeavors!

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