USAFA vs AFROTC

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by keely055, Dec 26, 2015.

  1. keely055

    keely055 New Member

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    Hi! So I am currently a sophomore in high school and looking towards joining the Air Force. This was mostly influenced by my dad and late grandpa who were both in the Air Force and also hearing about the benefits was interesting. But I was talking to my school councilor and he was telling me about the Academy and doing Air Force ROTC at a traditional college. Now, I am very unfamiliar with the military but it is something I would like to become involved in. I understand that the Academy is very prestigious and I've tried to do as much research on it as I can, and it is definitely one of my dream colleges, but I also would like to get a traditional college experience and cheer. From my understanding, the Academy only has a co-ed and dance team. I love stunting and not so much dancing so I wouldn't be able to cheer, since I am a secondary base. Anyways, I have read some similar articles like this one, but those are older and I would like some input from those who have done either. Thank you so much!
     
  2. aka1998

    aka1998 USAFA 2020 appointee

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    I am a senior and have everything lined up for my appointment to USAFA. I have also cheered for over 10 years. The Academy does have a cheer team, and it's very good! So if cheer is your make or break component, you are still able to do so at the Academy.
     
  3. wildblueyonder

    wildblueyonder USAFA '19

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    Hi keely,


    I think it's great that you're thinking about USAFA right now, even though college is still a couple of years away. The more time you have to prepare, the better--the Academy is a highly selective university and every extra credential you can earn in high school will help.

    I do think it's very important to be aware of the differences between USAFA and a typical college as you begin to make your plans. I am a current cadet, and I can tell you definitively that life at the Air Force Academy is not a traditional college experience, at all. Especially during the freshman year, your counterparts at a civilian university will enjoy many more privileges than you will. Even after the first year, cadets still have a great deal more restrictions than typical college students. In other words, coming to the AFA will guarantee that you won't have a "normal" college experience. If this type of "normal" experience is important to you, I would highly recommend pursuing an ROTC scholarship instead of coming to the Academy.

    Having said that, if you are willing to accept and embrace a lifestyle different (and in many regards, much more challenging) than that of your peers, and dedicate yourself to becoming the best cadet and future officer you can be, you will find the Academy to be an unimaginably rewarding experience. While I did say that typical college students enjoy more privileges than cadets, I can just as confidently say (in my opinion, of course) that cadets have far more opportunities than those college students will ever have during their four years. Here at USAFA, I was learning how to fly gliders by the time I was halfway into my first semester (and I have a good chance of possibly soloing by the end of next summer). Granted, the first-year soaring (glider) program is short, but how many other schools offer that opportunity at all? Another thing: somebody who wasn't familiar with the Academy asked me this past week if I had made any friends there. I smiled at them, and explained that I probably had 150+ good friends there! If you come to USAFA, the people in your squadron will become like family. How many other college students get to meet so many close friends in such a short time? We cadets may have to get up early every morning and study long hours every night (among other things), but I definitely believe the sacrifice is worth it. I honestly could not be more thrilled to be a cadet, despite the challenging lifestyle that comes with this privilege.

    I know this is kind of a long answer to your question, but I think you have a very important decision to make. In the end, it really comes down to what things you value most for your college education. (Also, don't forget that going to the Academy will cause you to incur a longer service commitment than ROTC--just something to consider.) I personally think that either decision can be a great one, but it's really important to pick the one you believe is right for you. Good luck! :thumb:

    (And yes, USAFA does have a cheer team. They perform at every home football game, and I am quite sure that at least some of them travel to away games, too. :))
     
    dreamusafa and Maplerock like this.
  4. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    My DS went AFROTC over USAFA.
    ~ He was an AF brat his entire life, and decided he wanted to make the AF his career, but after 18 yrs of being in the AF as a dependent, he decided he wanted to be on the civilian side for a while, but still working towards his AF commissioning.
    ~~ His goal was to be a pilot. He knew if he went USAFA, he would be 33 before he felt that feeling of civilian life. 42 if he did 20.
    ~~~ I jokingly said to him when he made the decision to use the AFROTC scholarship that this was his GAP years...kind of like kids taking a year off before going to college.

    I believe if he was not an AF brat he probably would have opted USAFA over AFROTC.

    Now, that being said. AFROTC is different. A lot has to do with finding the right college fit and the right fit for the AFROTC unit. You will see posters state that they love the college (#1 pick), but not their top pick for ROTC or vise a verse.
    ~ That is before you add into the mix of the scholarships.

    As far as bonding, I am of different mindset than wildblue. I get what he is saying, but I am older (a parent and a wife of an O5 retiree). I don't have 150 friends. 150 acquaintances...yes... but not friends. In AFROTC it is more friends, and less acquaintances. You will find those bonds that you will keep for years and years to come.
    ~ My DS got married at 24. His Best Man and a groomsmen were with him in AFROTC since he was 18. They flew in from Cali and CO for the wedding. 3 others from his AFROTC unit attended as guests. He had a very small wedding (80 people) and out of the 5 AFROTC friends invited (to keep numbers down) all 5 attended. He has also attended friends weddings. Their bonds are still tight even though they are scattered across the world.
    ~~ DS gave the most touching tribute at his wedding to them and his father. Paraphrasing:
    ~~~ Dad, thank you for showing me the brethren of the AF. You will find that, be it USAFA or AFROTC.
    ~~~~Bullet (my DH) and my best friends are the best of best friends since 1995. Bullet was an AFROTC grad, our best friend was an AFA grad. Their granddaughter was the flower girl in DSs wedding. My point is, as you get older relationships change. Not trying to take away from wildblue, but you will find those bonds in college too via AFROTC and living in the dorms, or as a girl joining a sorority. It is only years out from graduation where you can truly state if they are friends or acquaintance.

    Hence, 2 years after our DS commissioned, and seeing those that he had not seen for a yr., but flew out to NC for his wedding, that it touched him, and he got it now why his Dad loved the AF for 20 years.

    I would also say that if you go to an SMC, such as, VT, TAMU, etc. you also would get a closer glimpse of what the USAFA lifestyle is like.

    I am not in anyway PRO AFROTC or PRO USAFA. I am PRO candidate and stressing this is a lifestyle for 4 years of your life.
    ~ Once ADAF nobody cares about your commissioning source, all they care about is your job performance.
    ~~ Can you say Gen. Colin Powell? Army ROTC grad.
    ~~ Now do they care if you went to Prep, aka not a direct admit. Can you say Lt. Gen. Gould --- his last assignment before he retired was Supe at USAFA?

    Right now my advice to you is this:
    1. Take the PSAT next fall as a jr.
    2. Apply to attend their Summer Seminar program for juniors.
    3. Use spring break and start visiting colleges. Investigate if you want an SMC life or traditional ROTC
    ~ SMCs will require you to be in both Corps of Cadet and ROTC. SMC colleges typically have dorms dedicated to only those students, whereas, a traditional college you may live with non-ROTC cadets.

    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2015
  5. wildblueyonder

    wildblueyonder USAFA '19

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    ^^^^^


    Pima, I enjoyed reading your post from the perspective of somebody who has lots of experience on the AFROTC side. I agree with what you said about friends, and must admit that I was using the term rather loosely. I certainly don't know 150+ people who I would consider asking to be my best man, although I'm guessing I'll know a few by the time I graduate. :)

    One question, though: from your post, I wasn't sure if you meant that cadets form closer (albeit fewer) friendships in AFROTC than USAFA? I would readily admit that USAFA cadets have many more acquaintances than close friends(like those you described) within the school, but I would have a hard time imagining that USAFA cadets would graduate with fewer close friends than their AFROTC counterparts(?). I don't think that's what you were saying, but I wanted to clarify.

    I suppose I ought to have included a caveat with my original post (especially for the OP's benefit). While I may be a USAFA cadet, I am a freshman (with only one semester of experience on which to base my opinions)--and my advice should be taken with that fact in mind. I am keenly aware of my own lack of experience and will always welcome input from those more knowledgeable than I am in the topic of discussion.

    keely, having said that, I definitely second Pima's suggestion to carefully research and learn about both programs before choosing either. From my experience, I know USAFA can be a rewarding opportunity, and from Pima's son's experience, AFROTC obviously can be as well. Whichever one you decide to go with will be an awesome opportunity for you. :cool:
     
  6. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I meant to say that you really don't' have those acquaintance type relationships in large numbers, the majority of your relationships will be in the friendship category. Mainly because a large ROTC detachment would be considered @250 cadets in total. Thus, from the get go there are far less people. I wasn't saying that they had more friendships than USAFA cadets, just that they had fewer acquaintances.
    ~ My DS's unit had @300. The 1st 2 years there were about 225 cadets, but by graduation there were only 30.

    That is another thing to understand about AFROTC. It has a make or break year. As a sophomore you will meet a board, and depending on the needs of the AF for personnel in your yr group, the selection rate can be as low as 55%. If not selected they will most like disenroll you. USAFA does not have that aspect.

    If you want to fly, it is pretty much guaranteed out of USAFA. Not so for AFROTC. They still have a high selection rate, but if the AF decides to slow down the spigot for UPT, AFROTC will take the hit first.

    If you want to do educational delay (ED), again USAFA cadets get those slots at a much higher rate than AFROTC.

    However, with that being said, neither of those options can happen if you don't commission. You can't commission if you don't find the right fit.
     
  7. 6KDogwhistle

    6KDogwhistle Member

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    Lot's of good advice here. I'll add my 2 cents.
    I always stress the "end goal", which is to become an officer in the Air Force and hopefully get into the career field of your choice. There are 3 paths: academy, ROTC, and OTS. The academy is indeed a very prestigious institution. It has been said to be in the top 10 schools in the world and I don't doubt that. It ranks in the same prestige level as any Ivy league college. It costs the tax payer approximately $450k+ per cadet (the last time I checked); it's a "full meal deal" and then some. The academy offers numerous activities and programs that an average ROTC cadet will never experience. As Pima have said, the academy offers the best odds of getting a training slot for a career of your choice. But the big question is this: how much pain are you willing to endure and how much freedom are you willing to give up? The academy is 24/7 vs. ROTC is one or two days a week and the rest of the time, you can be a modern day hippie (just can't do drugs and smoke pot but that could also change depending on who the CINC will be:p). Both options offer the "college experience" but it is apples and oranges. It's a choice only you can make. Try out for the summer program at the academy or if it doesn't work out, visit the academy and chat with a few cadets.
     

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