Deciding between USAFA and other prestigious institutions

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by PeterK, Nov 17, 2014.

  1. PeterK

    PeterK Member

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    I'm wondering if there is any one on the forum who has had experience choosing between attending USAFA and other elite institutions such as the Ivy leagues, Stanford, Berkeley, etc.


    Why did you chose USAFA and would you do it again?
     
  2. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    My twin sons were lucky enough to have those options on the table but after they saw USAFA and realized the opportunities they would have there - no question.

    Two-and-a-half years out, I recently asked both of them if they would make the same choices now. Unquestionably, yes. For both guys.

    Not that it was easy, or even fun, or sometimes, even pleasant (even remotely pleasant). But for them, it was easily the best option for them. No loans, excellent education, PILOTS!, and did I say: NO LOANS?
     
  3. MedB

    MedB Parent

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    Peter,

    Kudos on your hard work and dedication to put yourself in such an enviable position. I am not sure if you were considering the ROTC route at other top tier schools or not, but I would think perhaps your first question should center on military service...

    As amazing as our nations Service Academies are, they simply are not right for everyone. Make no mistake that these ivy-caliber schools have a clear mission to create military officers. Remember that you will be spending the next decade of your life in the military (school plus service). So serving your country in that way should be a key priority for you. Underneath all the great education, parades, financial advantages, and more... it is a life of service that the SAs will prepare you for in ways few other places can.

    However, if being an officer is not one of your main goals, that's fine too! There are lots of ways to give back and contribute to the world; especially for someone with the qualifications to attend and ivy league such as you have.

    In either case, good luck and try to focus on the long game beyond just "college".
     
  4. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    My son also had similar options. A number of schools he could choose from with scholarships. He knew that getting into a school and finances would not be an issue for him. But as to WHY he chose Air force over some others, it came down to:

    1. He was a brat: (Military kid). He was accustomed to the environment
    2. He truly wanted to serve his country
    3. He liked all the positive benefits that other schools simply can't offer.

    As for someone else; say yourself; the reasons may also include financial. While it wasn't an issue for us, it is understandable for an individual to choose the academy knowing that it's a free education. Actually, you get paid to attend the academy. Other issues such as fiances, being close to family, etc... are a lot of reasons I've had applicants change their mind and not take an academy appointment.

    In the end, you have to start prioritizing.

    1. Want a college education from a top school Y/N
    2. Want to serve your country Y/N
    3. Want to commission from a full time military school (Academy) vs part time military and part time civilian (ROTC)
    4. Are your other options vs the academy going to be a financial burden. I.e. Would you have a 100% free ride at Stanford or have to contribute

    etc.... these are the types of questions you have to be honest with yourself about. The academy and military in general is not right for everyone. There are even a lot of individuals who said they wanted the academy as long as they can remember. And as soon as they got to the academy in BCT or classes started, they realized it wasn't for them. There's nothing wrong with that. All I can suggest is that you make the right choice FOR YOU..... NOT for your mom/dad. NOT for your friends, relatives, girl/boy friend. It has to be the right answer for you. As a MINIMUM..... You have to give the air force 9 years of your life!!! WHAT????? Yes.... That's 4 years at the academy and 5 more in the "Real Military" as your commitment. That's a minimum of 9 years. If you want pilot, grad school, etc... you could easily be up to 14+ years. Is that really what you want to give up for a college degree???

    These are the things you have to think about and decide for yourself. best of luck. mike
     
  5. nothingventurednothinggai

    nothingventurednothinggai Member

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    Will edit out enough to protect privacy, but this note was written to my son by an Uncle a few years ago. Uncle was medically DQ'd at his dream, USMA, and then took another path and became an astronaut rated fighter and high flyer pilot, turning down all the Ivy's. Great advice to my son, and all Academy Candidates.

    There isn't a 'right' answer. Follow your passion.

    XXX,

    Been chatting with your Dad about the decisions you are facing at the moment

    This problem/challenge and process resurrects in my mind the lines of a poem I may have sent you a while back, that I have used for guidance for my entire adult life (your grandmother, XXX, gave it to me when I was 19 years old...right about where you are now)... "To Find Myself" and the lines ran,

    "When you look back down the trail in nostalgic wonder, remembering the accumulated hours and the far places and the almost forgotten ships you've flown--
    when you recall the decisions, some right and some fearfully wrong--when you relive the accented moments of exhilaration and breath catching awe or the mingled ones of hope and despair--when word for word there comes to mind accompanied by the dull chatter of long-silent guns
    some muttered snatch of prayer--
    then you must ask yourself as have I--
    what did I seek that I had to find in the sky?"

    You aren’t taking about the sky I know, but the challenges and rewards are on the same plain. To mix metaphors and poems—you are at one of those places where the "roads diverge in the yellow wood."

    Listening to your Dad, you've already made a tough one— probably not to stay in your comfort zone as XXX--where you know you are good and can stay on top, but more likely to step over the edge into the lesser known...and a very competitive-- abyss where you don't know how you will fare.

    Probably a good time to ask yourself what you want to look back on when the time comes. If the path you want to follow is into Special ops, via SF/SCUBA/etc., and all the other training and challenges that entails, what is the path, and how will you get there. That'll give you an answer in the short term.

    You seem interested in a path that very, very few succeed at--many of them good, even great, guys and gals, but for a thousand reasons-injury, timing, whatever--they never make it. Those people may not have succeeded at that goal, but they aren't failures. I'm sure you've heard Teddy Roosevelt's comments about the man in the arena many times...about "those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. . ."
    So if you see the path you want to follow--reach for it. No guarantees and the odds are tough, (to understate it!). That path may or may not work out, but it doesn't mean the doors are closed and you are a failure. No way!

    Remember, I always wanted to go to West Point, that was my dream--and it never happened. Of all weird things, physically disqualified a couple of weeks before entering--and I would have been the youngest cadet in my class.

    I “failed" at other things I dreamed of too-- never flew with the Thunderbirds, never became an Ace, and on and on. But, as they say, one door closes, another opens, and that is really true.

    I think that XXX would second me when I say it isn't always the top scorer in PT, academics, whatever, who ends up the most respected officer, (and in my feeling, respect is the key to leading, not the shiniest accolades and blue ribbons for the 100 yard dash). And applies to your life whether you make a career of the military or not. And respect is won by those who never quit regardless of how many times they fall short of their goals. It is won by those who, as TR said, "fail while daring greatly."

    I know you are a busy guy, so I'll stop with that point. If your heart tells you to step over the abyss into an unknown environment-- do it. No guarantees of selection, even fewer guarantees of success. But you will learn a lot about yourself. I found throughout my life, that almost every lesson, obvious or seemingly useless, success or failure, was another tool in my kit that paid dividends some years down the road. Nothing was wasted--even those failures along the way. Put another way, you learn as much about leadership from bad leaders as good ones. The bad ones teach you what NOT to do when your turn comes.

    Good luck!
     
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  6. LongAgoPlebe

    LongAgoPlebe Member

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    Tough, tough decisions ahead, PeterK. I hope you'll pardon me for writing more generally about choosing between service academies generally and other elite, selective colleges.

    For full disclosure, I attended USNA and separated after one year, recognizing that I did not want to be an officer in the USN. I don't regret that year in the least - in fact, I consider it one of the most important times of my almost 43 years on this planet.

    Your main determination, ideally, should be what you want to do with your bachelors degree in 4-1/2 years, since, if you are lucky, you will live 20 times or more as long as the time you spend in college. If you want to become an officer in the USAF, then USAFA is an (the) excellent choice. If, OTOH, you want to serve your country in another way, or desire a path that is less likely or impossible through USAFA, then you'd do better to choose the institution that supports your professional and personal choices.

    The tricky part is that not many 17- and 18-year-old young adults know what they want to do for their lives. Few of those who think they know will actually have it turn out the way they think. This is where your values come in to play - YOUR values, not (just) your parents', though those matter; or your school's, or your church's, or Scouts' values and so on. There are many, many ways to serve your country and your fellow human being. You are more likely to land on the most meaningful, the most resonant, if you fearlessly examine all possibilities and systematically eliminate those for clear reasons. Then, wherever you end up for the next four years, when things get tough (and THEY WILL, no matter where you choose), you will have that well of strength to tap. You will already know the reasons you chose the path you did, and you'll be searching then for strength, not meaning - which is a lot harder.

    With greatest regard, fair winds and following seas.
     
  7. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    What motivates you? This is a hard question, so don't give it the 5 cent answer. I'm not talking about what makes you happy. This is not a question about passing interests or kind of cool things. I'm asking about what makes you feel satisfied at your core. What things, or types of things, make you look back years later and bring you joy? Does the Air Force, or things in the Air Force, do that for you? Does the academy do that for you? If so, you've found the right place.
    I've worked with people who went to MIT, Penn State, Texas A&M, and other schools that are fantastic in their specialties. They did some cool things, are are successful AF officers too. We took different routes, and none of us seem to regret it.
     
  8. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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  9. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    I think that is very important: What/where/WHO do you want to be in ten years?

    If you attend civilian college, you will have to deal with drugs/alcohol/sex right in your face (usually, not always). If you "attend" a US Service Academy, you may encounter those things but you don't necessarily have to stay out of your dorm room while your roommate finishes his doobie.

    At Yale, you can blast your stereo out the window while you blow off class and play frisbee on the quad. Not so at USAFA, USMA or USNA. You will NEVER blow off class nor will your stereo be part of the entertainment for others (unless you have been ordered to make it so).

    At Harvard, you can skip all your meals altogether. Well, that's not going to happen at USAFA. "It is a privilege to eat in Mitchell Hall." ("Oh look! Hamsters again!")

    At Princeton, you can, man or woman, wear shorts, flipflops and a tank top to class, if you decide to go to class that day (at $4000 for freshman English, I would strongly recommend it but that's a mother with a limited wallet speaking). At USMA, you will most assuredly NOT wear flipflops and shorts to class.

    At Columbia, if you fall asleep in class, join the party! At USNA if you fall asleep in class, y ou will be granted the privilege of standing up for the rest of the class.

    At Penn, if you cheat on a test or homework, well, gee... that's not nice and maybe you will get a zero for that test. Go ahead and try it at a Service Academy. Let us know how that works out for you. :thumbdown:
     
  10. PeterK

    PeterK Member

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    Thanks for all the comments.

    My thinking is that: I want to attend a service academy because I will become the best individual I can be, mentally, physically, academically, and morally. At a service academy I will become an officer, and being put in a position to lead at such an early age is a challenge that I would welcome. I want to go to a service academy because it will be the hardest thing I have ever done, and the path to success is neither easy nor guaranteed.

    I am hoping these are the right reasons to go. The only way I can make it through is if I make this decision for the right reasons, because those reasons will be running through my mind whenever I am struggling--the only guarantee at a SA.
     
  11. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Peter, you can become the best YOU at any college... the key to being the best YOU is having the self discipline and motivation to do so.

    The reason to spend four years at a US Service Academy is that you want to become an officer, to lead others, to serve your country, and dedicate a good portion of your life to those pursuits.

    You can follow several paths to that goal (OFFICER): US Service Academies, ROTC, even OCS/OTS should that route be open to you.

    What should you decide? Do you see yourself in a uniform in ten years? Are you taking and giving orders? Are you ok with MAYBE three weeks home in the summer, with your high school friends really have NO IDEA what your life is like?

    There are more things to consider than "oh gee, it's hard and I like a challenge" (which is not to say that is a bad thing to add to the mix; just not the ONLY thing).
     
  12. melindayching

    melindayching Member

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    PeterK, I sent you a pm, but since folks like MDDAD are also in this boat...I'll respond in the forum. My kid could have gone to Yale on a full ROTC scholarship, so she would have been able to fulfill her goal of being in service to her country either way. I was pretty sure she'd choose Yale; I mean, who wouldn't? She didn't, because she wanted an experience that she'd never forget, that challenged her in ways that other college kids would never understand, and that would set her apart forever. She doesn't know yet if her career will be in the Air Force, or whether by her own choosing, or the vagaries of budgets, she will pursue a civilian career as well. But she knows that if anyone examined her credentials, they would see that she is more than a smart kid (as she would be seen coming out of Yale). She would be seen as a committed person who rises to a challenge, who doesn't give up, who has integrity and purpose, who has a strong work ethic, and who has leadership training throughout her 4 years. As a C2C she has already faced leadership issues that many corporate managers struggle with and she has grown so much as a person. Yes, she has given up the traditional "fun" and freedom of civilian college life, but in her mind, she has gained so much more. I was worried throughout BCT that I'd get that call from her that said "do you think Yale will still have me" or that she'd emerge from BCT and see photos of her friends moving into their dorm rooms and going to parties and she'd wonder whether she made the right choice. Instead, her response was "psshhh....I've already achieved more in 6 weeks of BCT then they will ever know..." So I know she's where she belongs. And she's a happy person who has not lost her zest for life and friends and fun. Sure, there were, and are times when she's "over it", but she shakes it off and keeps going. That's the stuff cadets are made of. Good luck, and consider yourself fortunate that you have these decisions to make!
     
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  13. spikingeagle

    spikingeagle Member

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    Second time applying

    I applied last year to USAFA and didn't get in. I was crushed, all I ever wanted to do was go there so I decided to reapply this year. In the meantime I accepted my offer of appointment to the Virginia Military Institute. Now, I honestly don't even want to leave, VMI is a lot tougher than the academy but I love it and love everything about it! Moral of the story is, even if you're dead set on going somewhere you never know what you may actually like a whole lot more. Good luck.
     
  14. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    VMI is a lot tougher than USAFA? Seriously? The toughest part might be paying for it as an out of state student.

    Let's compare:

    VMI:
    Tuition:

    Instate: $15518
    Out of State: $37574
    R&B: $8372 0


    VMI Admissions info:
    48% accepted
    CR: 520-620 middle 50%
    M: 530-630
    ACT: 22-27


    USAFA:
    15 % accepted (probably closer to 9% for class of 2019)
    CR: 590-690
    M: 620-710
    ACT: 29-32

    Tuition: 0


    So, that doesn't indicate, of course, the difficulty of the academics, the regimented life, the opportunities at graduation/commissioning - any of that.

    But I will say this: for many semesters, my sons had 25+ academic credits, including four lab sciences, played a DI sport, attended to all their military duties. Any student at VMI that can do that - more power to him/her!
     
  15. mbleykhman

    mbleykhman Member

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    As a parent, if your DS or DD have to choose between USAFA and Yale AFROTC, what would you recommend? DD's choice to study science/engineering and not interested to be a pilot. She is sure she wants to be the Air Force officer. Assume the money aspect is the same because AFROTC scholarship. I know she can't go wrong with either institution, and this is the reason why it is a such a difficult choice...


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  16. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    USAFA is the better choice, hands down. ;)

    Seriously, though, both are great options. The only question then is what does your daughter want? Neither option will be successful for her if she is not totally committed to it. I am sure that Yale offers advantages that USAFA doesn't, but I have no idea what those might be since I've never been there. USAFA has given my son a great education along with some great decision-making skills, confidence, and leadership skills.

    Stealth_81
     
  17. Usafamom2016

    Usafamom2016 Member

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    mbleykhman,
    Whether she chooses USAFA or Yale, either way she will be an Air Force officer. She has that decision done, presumably. Not interested in being a pilot? Neither are half the cadets at USAFA, not an issue (if she wanted pilot, USAFA has better odds, but there's threads on that). She wants science/engineering, both have that, it's the focus at USAFA, just ask the 'fuzzy' majors about the astro classes! Just curious, what's the class size at Yale? Pretty small at USAFA, and no, you can't skip class or fall asleep. Will Yale have an astro class taught by 2 astronauts who flew space shuttles? (and will they take the class on a field trip to NASA?). Will she have the chance to jump out of a plane or fly gliders in the summer? Does Yale have their own student built satellite in orbit for her to command? How are those bunny hills and ice out east? Nice skiing in Colorado! How's the D1 sports at Yale? (nice to cheer for your teammates at USAFA). OK, I suppose I am prejudiced, but my son loves USAFA and has enjoyed many of the perks. True, it's been difficult at times, but it seems to make him stronger. She needs to choose USAFA only if she wants to be there and it is right for her, only she can make that choice.
    On a side note, has she visited the hill? I believe they are doing appointee tours this spring, which would be a great opportunity for her to discuss with the cadets their perspective on USAFA.
    Good luck on her choice, she is truly blessed to have such a difficult decision to make.
     
  18. mbleykhman

    mbleykhman Member

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    Thank you Usafamom2016. We visited USAFA in January and did tour, spoke with cadets and faculties. The place is amazing and opportunities and resources are unbelievable. To say that she is impressed and excited it is an understatement. I think she made her choice, it is just I as a parent reading the posts I want to educate myself.


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  19. Usafamom2016

    Usafamom2016 Member

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    As a parent, the best thing you can do is support whatever decision they make. You also want to make it perfectly clear that they can change their mind. There have been those over the years who had a lifelong dream of USAFA but got there and didn't feel it was for them. Welcome those home with open arms, I've known many, and they'll be fine.

    When they do go, you must let them go. They belong to the USAF now and they will be taken care of. Trust that the system does their job and will provide for them well. Join a parent club in your state. No one else will really have any idea what you or your son/daughter are going through, but these amazing parents will understand and help immensely.

    Welcome to the roller coaster ride that is USAFA.


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  20. USAFA: 2016!

    USAFA: 2016! Member

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    My reasons for coming are far different than my reasons for staying. So maybe this helps, maybe it doesn't!

    I came here because the military seemed awesome and I really wanted to be a part of it. Had I not gone here, I probably would have done ROTC anywhere else. I didn't really have to think that hard about joining the military... I just sort of knew it was for me and a service academy seemed like the best way to do that. Then I was offered a Falcon Foundation scholarship for USAFA after being denied from USNA, my first choice, and I took it. Looking back, best decision I ever made; USNA wouldn't have been a good fit for me from what I've heard and I'm happy here (99.9% of the time).

    I stay here every day though because of the person next to me. The people you meet here are incredible and weird, quirky and smart, loyal and funny, oh and did I mention smart? It's been a truly humbling experience to compete with those individuals in my class/school who are intellectually far superior than me and be comparable. And having some of those people as my best friends and closest confidants has been an honor and a privilege. I don't know what people are like at normal universities, but does it sound bad to say that I'm never all that curious to know? The best friends and classmates I could have ever asked for are right here beside me and I have no doubts about that. They make any "normal" college experience I might have missed out on totally worth it. But that's just me!
     
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