Newbie looking for advice

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by rosepetals, Apr 15, 2015.

  1. rosepetals

    rosepetals Member

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    Hi everyone, new gal here. Trying to learn about AFA admissions and feeling overwhelmed by all the acronyms. My youngest S will be a 9th grader in the fall. It's been his dream to attend AFA and fly for AF, like thousands of other kids. He knows that admissions is very competitive, and I've told him to keep aiming high; if he is a competitive candidate for the academy, he'll be a competitive applicant at many schools.

    We are homeschoolers, which is a plus (flexibility) but poses challenges (team sports). I downloaded the homeschooler guidelines, and am starting to do research so that we have a game plan when he begins high school.

    A little of his background:
    Academics - above average student.
    Fitness - second-degree black belt in taekwondo. Likes to run, recently ran a couple 5ks.
    Extracurricular - competitive speech club, plays cello in a band. Considering joining robotics club. I suggested he check out Civil Air Patrol.
    Leadership - very hard worker and natural born leader. At church, he is on the set up/tear down team. Everyone comments on his leadership skills, and adults go to him for direction. :) He may have to find other outlets to demonstrate this ability, but at the very least our pastor would be able to write a strong rec letter.

    When is a good time to go to an AFA outreach event?

    He wants to continue in taekwondo. Can he be a competitive applicant without a team sport, or is it a deal breaker? A long time ago, an acquaintance told us that they knew an admitted cadet who got in with just martial arts, but I can't remember who it was.

    What else should we know or consider? We would be very grateful for words of wisdom from you veterans. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. baileydb

    baileydb Member

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    Hi!
    So first, I will give you a few of the common acronyms so you won't be overwhelmed by reading through the threads:
    MOC=Member(s) of Congress
    DS/DD=Dear Son/ Dear Daughter
    TWE=Thin White Envelope=rejected from USAFA
    BFE=Big Fat Envelope=Appointed to USAFA (They don't actually send out BFE's anymore, but the term is still tossed around a lot)
    WCS=Whole Candidate Score
    UWGPA=Unwieghted GPA

    I am in online school, so I know the struggle that homeschooling provides for getting into USAFA. The flexibility is definitely a plus, but you'll want to try to get quite a few extra curriculars and such to prove to USAFA that your DS isn't one of those antisocial homeschoolers.
    For Academics, he should thoroughly prepare for ACT/SATs as USAFA will wieght these scores heavily since he doesn't have a "real" GPA. Also, you can look at enrolling him in a few college classes maybe Sophomore/Junior year.

    I personally think CAP is great. Not only can he gain leadership experience there (he has plenty of time to work on promoting and such) but if he becomes an officer, he can apply for direct appointment to the Prep School as a backup. Also, if he attends CAP's NCSAs (National Cadet Special Activities) he can have opportunities to solo in a plane and get tons of flying experience!

    Martial Arts are great; try to get him in some competitions where he places so he has some definite stats. Also, many home schoolers join local HS teams for varsity sports. I personally found a Christian Home School Sports team in my area to do varsity sports with. It was great. I think getting him involved in team sports would be a good idea. He is home schooled, so if he can be in team sports that shows he can work with others, which I have heard is a concern USAFA has for home school students.

    You should look at having him attend one of USAFA's summer camps (more info on the admissions website). I've heard they are awesome! I think there is still time to sign up for this summer but I am not positive!

    Let us know if you have any other questions! Also, I should say, I am just an appointee, so I will readily admit that I am no expert on any of this ;)
     
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  3. shellz

    shellz Parent

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    Enjoy this time...encourage him to pursue his passions. Leadership is key...don't just be on the setup/tear down team (or the like)...be the one IN charge. Start a service club...beach clean ups (lake, park, etc) are easy to set up and can easily be done several times per year with the same plan. Go to Boys State (rising senior summer), keep up the music...honor orchestra? Solo competitions? A blend of team and individual accolades seems to be a common thread amongst applicants to all the academies. I think being a serious martial artist will be great...but I do wonder if playing a team sport might be a nice add on if he can swing it. I know homeschoolers are permitted to play on our high school teams, so maybe finding a non-cut sport to try would be fun and helpful.

    Take the toughest courses available (my above avg (more humanities driven) son took Calc senior year and it is a challenge but we felt a B in the class would be better than NOT taking it) and do well. Take the free SAT practice tests online at College board, maybe after Alg 2/Trig is complete. Aim for 2000 plus on the SAT, with particular attention to that math score. I've heard of 600 English scores being mitigated by a 700 math. Bottom line...sat scores are a pretty big part of the equation...practice, practice, and practice some more.

    Make contact in sophomore year...maybe Spring. Any sooner and you may not hear anything back because they are focusing on the current batch. Read up on the nomination process on your MOC's websites. Plan on applying to all four (or more) nominating sources. Download the application now to take a look at what they are looking for/asking. Make a timeline for submissions...my DS applied to USCGA, USAFA, USNA, AFROTC, NROTC, plus 4 civilian schools. The white board matrix became "the brain"...it kept us on top of due dates, and missing pieces of various applications. Not a process for the faint of heart.

    We were in your exact shoes ( not homeschool though) just 4 short years ago. It's a crazy process, but along the way we were able to provide our son with some really neat opportunities that were fun (first and foremost) AND valuable in his application packet. Never lose sight that this is his childhood. Protect that and the rest will fall into place!

    One last note...check out DODMERB for medical issues. There are some medical conditions which require waivers, and some which are notoriously difficult to get waivers for. No two cases are the same, but it's far better to go into the medical clearance process with eyes wide open. Many have been sadly disappointed when a medical waiver was denied for a seemingly trivial problem that had long since been resolved. One look at the DoDMERB section of this forum will give you more info than you'll ever want to know.

    Best of luck!
     
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  4. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Rose, we homeschooled all our kids. My twins are USAFA grads, both currently AF pilots.

    PM me!

    I would STRONGLY suggest you read the stickies. Many of your questions will be answered there.
     
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  5. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    Also for a little perspective my DS didn't play a single sport in HS. Granted it hurt him for a direct appointment but he still managed to get a Prep School slot and will be at the AFA this coming summer.

    Also read and look up Hornets old post he also did taekwondo but he competed and was nationally rank.

    And Fencer they just signed on she won't have the post count to PM you. Try PMing them and see if you can start it that way.
     
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  6. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Booze, I never even saw that Rose was an uber-noobie. Well, she can look through the stickies and post a bunch (like in the LET'S GO PENS! section) , THEN PM me.

    Hornet did TKD and Pima's son did too.

    Mine, duh, were FENCERS! :)
     
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  7. rosepetals

    rosepetals Member

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    Thank you, everyone, for the warm welcome!

    Few more things:
    - His taekwondo master has been giving him opportunities to work with lower belts during training. He also assisted the master during a recent belt testing. I know the master likes him a lot, so he will have leadership opportunities come that way, especially if he asks.
    - He loves flight simulators. Went to ACE Academy (summer aviation program) at LAX. The director was impressed with him and had him train the other kids on the simulator.
    - I asked him once what would happen if he doesn't get into USAFA? He said he would consider enlisting, even though that is a much tougher road. I know his heart is to serve in AF, not just get into the Academy.

    Questions:
    A friend told me a little about ROTC in college. Can someone tell me what is JROTC and is that something he should look into?

    Is Flight Simulator a good skill to have?

    @baileydb - Congratulations! That is awesome! We appreciate your helping out a cadet hopeful. The acronym translation is great!

    @shellz - Very helpful advice, thanks! Our goal is to complete Calculus by senior year. Loved all the other tips too. I had to google DODMERB to figure out what that was, haha. When you say check it out for medical issues, what exactly does that mean? I know vision can be a big issue, so he was thrilled when his doctor at last check up said he had 20/15 vision. Did a fist pump and said AFA! LOL

    @fencersmother - Wow, two grads, both pilots! You must be so proud! I would love to chat with you...couldn't figure out how to PM you until I read Boozebin's post. How many posts do I need?

    @Boozebin - That's encouraging, thanks! Congrats to your son!
     
  8. shellz

    shellz Parent

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    Oh the joys of DODMERB...asthma is a biggie, so is color blindness. That said, some do get waivers. My oldest had to get a waiver for asthma in childhood. Suffice it to say, it was a ginormous pain in the tush!

    Here is some "light" reading for you....https://dodmerb.tricare.osd.mil/DisqualificationCodes.aspx

    Bottom line, anything can potentially DQ you, and just about everything CAN get a waiver
     
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  9. wildblueyonder

    wildblueyonder USAFA '19

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    rosepetals, welcome to the forum! :D It seems like just yesterday that I was in your son's position--truly, it does! He and I have a lot of similarities, too. I was homeschooled through 8th grade, and I too had some of the same questions about sports. Here are a few of my opinions and suggestions, based on my experiences over the past 5 years.

    1. Team sports are not a necessity to get into USAFA. They can help--a lot, in some circumstances--because they offer opportunities to demonstrate leadership. Nevertheless, they are not required. I personally never got involved in any formal "team sports". However, I participated officially in three other sports for a combined total of 7 years during HS, and unofficially in two more. Even so, I am quite certain I am nowhere near the most athletically accomplished member of the new CO'19. The moral: Generally speaking, sports are 100% necessary. Especially if you don't or can't participate in team sports, do your absolute best to shine in individual sports and physical activities. It sounds like your son is doing just that, and I encourage him to keep up the hard work! :thumb:

    2. Focus a lot on SAT/ACT scores. shellz pretty much nailed it--not a lot left for me to say about that. :cool: I would suggest looking into Dual Enrollment as well. I have had a wonderful experience with DE (especially since I started full-time this year), and have gotten the chance to take multiple courses that are quite simply unavailable in High School. If there is a good community college near you, I can't recommend DE enough.

    3. It is always a good time to go to an AFA outreach event. ;) This is a great way to learn more about the Academy and maybe even speak with some Admissions personnel. Congressional offices often sponsor so-called "Academy days"--I attended one and it proved to be quite informational. Your DS should also consider registering as a Future Falcon--this is designed for interested students his age, and will get him on the USAFA prospect mailing list. I did this and am glad I did. :)


    Bailey already listed a lot of them, but let me add a few more acronyms. If you are interested, there is a complete list in the Community Information and Feedback thread. Keep in mind that you definitely don't need to know all of the 300+ abbreviations listed there to have a general idea of what is going on. ;)

    ALO--USAFA Admissions Liaison Officer (local counselor and advisor)
    CFA--Candidate Fitness Assessment (part of the USAFA application)
    SS--Summer Seminar (summer program for juniors interested in the Academy)

    Portal--Not really an acronym, but important anyway. A USAFA portal is an online admissions profile pertaining to a particular candidate. This is where you submit your application and receive updates. Your DS won't need to create an account until he actually starts his application in a couple of years.


    Congrats to both as you begin the journey! The world is waiting for you! Good luck...travel safe...:zip:;):D
     
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  10. rosepetals

    rosepetals Member

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    You all are AMAZING. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! :groupwave:
     
  11. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    JROTC is Junior ROTC for high school age students. The program is usually attached to a high school school because they have classes during the day in JROTC. I've linked the AFJROTC web site for you to learn more. Just like others its a program that give the kids opportunities for leadership its by no means a must have or do. With any of these programs you get out what you put in.

    http://www.au.af.mil/au/holmcenter/AFJROTC/AboutJROTC.asp

    My advice pick something he'll have fun doing and most interested in. If he doesn't like it he wont put the effort in and it'll show.

    As for the minimum number of post before you can PM someone I have no idea. If I had to guess maybe 10?
     
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  12. rosepetals

    rosepetals Member

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    My son has a question - is there a way we can find out how many people apply from our district? He is wondering how competitive it is to get a nomination in our district. We live in an academically competitive state, so I'm assuming it's competitive.

    Thanks, @Boozebin! :)
     
  13. Jmoney457

    Jmoney457 Member

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    I think that you should send your kid to a public school if you live in a state that is even somewhat academically competitive. Honestly, you just can't replicate the type of learning done (now) in the classroom as a homeschooler. This isn't a really progressive time, and college level science and mathematics courses just can't be replicated.

    If I was the AFA admissions, I wouldn't take a chance on a homeschooled student unless he was really very exceptional...Not saying that your son isn't good, but he probably doesn't tick the very exceptional box. The structured routine of the USAFA will mesh with the structured high school day.
     
  14. rosepetals

    rosepetals Member

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    @Jmoney457 - thank you for your opinion, but we homeschool for a variety of reasons, and a rigorous education is one of them. As an example, my older son took AP Calculus BC as a sophomore and this year he has taken post-calculus math classes at a nearby college as a junior. I won't go into his entire academic career, but he has attained similar advanced levels in his other courses. What path his younger brother takes remains to be seen, but he will have access to the same academic opportunities, possibly even more.

    I share all this to say that while public school is a great choice for many families, we've chosen a different path, and it's the right one for us. :)

    Btw, we personally know two homeschoolers in our area (different rep districts, but same competitive county/state) who were appointed to USNA, one last year and the other a couple years ago. My friend's daughter, also homeschooled, went to USAFA. She's in another competitive state.
     
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  15. Usafamom2016

    Usafamom2016 Member

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    USAFA is looking for diversity and home schooling is just one form of diversity. If you home school with a rigorous curriculum and add in a few college classes you should be good on academics. ACT/SAT scores and AP testing will help show the rigors of your curriculum.
    I know that the ALOs have specific guidelines for interviewing home schoolers so it is certainly an avenue that you can take.
    It may be helpful in later high school years to take a few courses at a local junior college just to get used to a classroom atmosphere and there are teacher evaluations required on the application.
    Good luck to your DS on this journey. He's not starting too young!
     
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  16. rosepetals

    rosepetals Member

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    @Usafamom2016 - thank you for chiming in! I really appreciate the feedback. Junior college is definitely an option we'll keep open for our USAFA hopeful. My older son is learning a lot about the classroom environment, and his math prof was happy to write a rec letter for him.
     
  17. Kirkmanj

    Kirkmanj Member

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    Rosepetals,

    My DS also was also homeschooled, online, through high school, and received his appointment without any problem. I believe that the SAs and MOCs value the skills most homeschooled students can acquire: initiative, time management, and the ability to interact well with all ages. Reading that Bailey and Wild Blue were homeschooled is not surprising to me and refutes the anti-social stereotype homeschoolers are given. Homeschooling is great for the motivated! In fact, we made the decision to homeschool because we were so impressed with the ones we had met!

    As far as preparation for a SA, I would first echo what others have posted, then add that special challenges for homeschoolers are basically two-fold: (1) documenting the rigor of classes, and (2) joining and sticking with one or two sports that are a team or demand mental and physical discipline.

    For us, online school and local college transcripts took care of the first (academic ability should be backed up with strong SAT/ACT--take as many times as necessary), and club sports took care of the second. TKD is great but adding a team or cardio sport makes a more rounded candidate. Seek leadership in each club or sport when possible. Debate was great for us through Stoa! Leadership is valued and will overcome the typical homeschool stereotype.

    In can be daunting when filling out MOC nomination application forms asking about high school clubs, sports, and offices if none were available. So, plan for that and use the "other" section to explain what sports, clubs, and leadership you WERE able to do. The sky is the limit, but extra preparation is key.

    Best of luck to your DS! Feel free to pm me as well if you have qs.
     
  18. USAFA83GradWife

    USAFA83GradWife Member

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    I home-schooled by kids through the 6th grade and don't regret it one bit. The only reason I stopped is because I found a charter school that could teach things that I couldn't (Latin, foreign language, music, art, etc.), otherwise I would have continued -- though I could have sent DD to a local college for some of these. When DD was in the 6th grade, I received an email from a state-wide home-school organization notifying us of a special seminar for anyone who's child was interested in a service academy (I ran the home-school group.) There were representatives from each SA. They were actively drumming up interest for home-schooled kids! So as I always told the parents in my home-school group, do what you think is best for your child.
     
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  19. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    Hi Rose, I know that you will have a lot of questions during this process and some will frustrate you to no end. This is one of them in my opinion. While yes there are some regions around the country that are what you would call "competitive" Cal, VA, here in Colorado just to name a few but does it really matter? How about this, even if you're in the most remote, unpopulated place in the country where there aren't a lot of applicants you could be going up against literally the top 10 people that apply to the AFA period (not likely just using it as an extreme to make a point) or you can be in a region that is populated but there aren't as strong as applicants. All of those things are out of your control and having that information will only drive you to worry.

    My advise is have your DS be the best he can be and forget what others are doing and have fun doing it. While yes we have driven kids and we push them hard but what's it all worth when they meet their goals and they don't know how to be happy. Don't get me wrong give him a swift kick if he needs one but try focusing on the thing you can control.
     
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  20. baileydb

    baileydb Member

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    Rosepetals,
    Good for you for sticking to your guns and homeschooling! My mom has faced TONS of criticism for her decision to homeschool all of us-it's definitely not easy on the parents.
    Like Kirkmanj's DS, much of my homeschooling was online. While I will admit that this was by far my least favorite method of schooling (and I have tried almost every method, public, charter, "regular" homeschooling...) it did allow for me to a) avoid a lot of the drama and trouble of regular school and b) have tome to squeeze in lots of extra curricular activities. Are there pro's and con's? For sure, but you can always try to maximize the pros and minimize the cons. And it sound like you have great plans for getting your DS the academic rigor he needs as well as the sports and social integration he will need as well. One recommendation I have: when he goes through challenges, have him write it down. This sounds stupid, but I realized as a home schooler, I had far fewer temptations and social challenges than public schoolers. I was asked on several interviews about times my integrity was tested, or other such questions, and sometimes it was hard to come up with something.
    Good luck to your DS! I can't wait to hear about his journey!
     
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