Why didn't little Johnny or Janie get an appointment?

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by Christcorp, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    WARNING: This will be a little long.

    This thread is mainly for those new to applying to the academy and are in the process of doing their application and preparing for their MOC and ALO/BGO/MALO interviews.

    Usually between May and now, discussions pop up about why certain individuals didn't receive an appointment. Or why they didn't receive a nomination. And of course, the whole debate on how some feel that applicants "Who were more qualified" didn't receive an appointment. Which leads into discussions of fairness. I've seen this topic come up in all forums for every academy, as well as other forums; not just here.

    This topic isn't really open for debate; as none of us are in a position to sit on a selection board to make appointments. But it is important to know some of the whys. Especially for those who feel that they, or someone they know, didn't receive an appointment, but "APPEARED" to be "MORE QUALIFIED". If some want to discuss and debate it, that's fine, but I'm not going to get into a pi$$ing contest.

    You will read many times in these forums from prominent posters like Pima, Flieger, and so many others, that the academies are looking for the WHOLE PERSON CANDIDATE. What does that mean? Better yet, why is that so important. Well, it's significant to this thread, because the first thing people have to stop doing, is basing all of their opinions on numbers. What I mean is, people are so use to academics being the defining factor in success. E.g. Honor Society, Dean's List, AP/IB program, Valedictorian, etc. When people mention certain academy applicants who didn't receive an appointment, and they consider them "More Qualified", almost ALWAYS they are referring to the individual having stellar GPA and ACT/SAT scores. People have to stop thinking this way. Are academics important? Of course they are. But remember what I wrote in the beginning of this paragraph. The academies are looking for the WHOLE PERSON CANDIDATE. So when you THINK that someone More Qualified didn't receive an appointment, you have to look beyond their academics. And without knowing the competition, and what their resume looked like, you really can't tell who was "More Qualified".

    So what are the things YOU CAN DO to make YOU TRULY MORE QUALIFIED???

    1. Challenge and Excel in academics: A 4.0gpa doesn't mean anything if you aren't taking the most challengin classes offered. You won't be penalized if the IB program isn't offered, or if you don't have a lot of AP classes available. But you DEFINITELY WILL be penalized if such classes are available, and you aren't taking them. This is why the academy requests your school's profile and your class schedule. They prefer, and WILL TAKE an individual with a 3.7 gpa in all AP/IB classes over a 4.0gpa in traditional or normal state required classes.

    2. Leadership: Yes, it's great if you're involved in a lot of activities such as JrROTC, CAP, Scouts, Band, 4H, Sports, fund raising, etc. But if you aren't a LEADER in these activities, they count very little for leadership. And the academies are looking for future military leaders. Therefor, they want to see applicants who have a disposition towards leadership.

    3. Social activities: The academies are looking for "Team Players". This doesn't just mean sports, is although that definitely shows such activities. But it includes the clubs and activities you're part of that has definite short and long range goals, where the good of the COLLECTIVE is emphasized over the good of the INDIVIDUAL. This is very important when looking at sports. Some sports are very "Individual" in nature. As such, you need to be able to qualify the "Team" part of this. It's great if you're the fastest sprinter or swimmer; but if you don't mention "Team Awards" where you contributed to the TEAM, then you aren't getting what the academies are after.

    4. Physical Fitness: This isn't usually a problem. Most people understand the CFA and what it means. But realize, "Athletics and Physical Fitness" are two TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS. They have different purposes as far as the academies are concerned. Go to the first sticky in this forum where I explain why sports is so important. That's totally different from physical fitness. DON'T CONFUSE THE TWO.

    Beyond these things, what is important to know about the "WHOLE PERSON" concept the academies are looking for, is that they are looking for a diverse and cohesive class. This is very common even in the job market. I have hired a lot of individuals in the past. Some might say that I didn't hire an individual who was "MORE QUALIFIED" than someone I did hire. That may be true, from an academic or experience viewpoint. But just like many applying to the academy tend to emphasize academics when they define "More Qualified", in the real world, employers are also looking for individuals who are a GOOD FIT for their company. An individual who they feel will be a better part of the "Team". The academies are no different. They are developing a leadership corp that will be leading a very diverse enlisted corp. They don't want a leadership corp that are simply all the "Best Academic Achievers" out of high school. If that was the case, the academy would most likely be made up of cadets who all came from the best private schools in the country. Where the kids are prepped to all attend the best universities in the country. And believe it or not, the academies do get some of these kids. But an entire class of those applicants would make a terrible leadership corp going forward. Your beliefs, perspectives, views, etc. that you were brought up on, are NOT THE ONLY VIEWPOINTS in the world. To make an effective leadership corp, the future leaders need to have diverse experiences, opinions, perspectives, etc. that they can contribute to and learn from the other cadets in their class. They need to perspecives and viewpoints of the rich and poor. The white and black. The city and country kid. The traditional and not so traditional family. Why? Because these are the very people they will be leading. And you can't be an effective leader if you can't understand and associate with those you are leading.

    So yes, that means the academies are going to try and make their classes diverse. They are going to grow their applicants from every background they can find. They will find applicants who excel in every conceivable discipline. From band to cheer leading; from scouts to JrROTC; from Football to class president; from working the family farm 5 hours a day to raising your baby brother and sister because mom has 2 jobs; etc.

    So what can YOU DO? Besides the things mentioned above, you need to show HOW and WHY you are DIFFERENT!!! What makes YOU so special? Why about you is going to contribute to the academy class to help make everyone else a better leader; and in turn make you a better leader. This is a job interview. You are not entitled to this job. Just like there have been many jobs I've applied for an didn't get. You need to sell yourself. You need to show that the academy needs you in their class of cadets. I've interviewed a lot of applicants. You'd be surprised at how 10 interviews on the same day, all asked the same question, all from the same home town and basic background, can still be SO DIFFERENT.

    Obviously, there will be some in the "No Brainers" club. These are the applicants who have it all. And almost always, they all receive appointments. But the No Brainers club only makes up about 10-15% of the academy. The remaining 85% are in a fierce competition. And sorry to say, but just because you have a 3.95 or 4.0 gpa in all AP/IB/Honors classes and a 34-36ACT, doesn't make you "More Qualified" than someone else. I have seen many times where a 3.4-3.6gpa and 28ACT was MORE QUALIFIED. WHY? Because they are the Whole Person. They have everything the academy is looking for, in order to be the future leader they are looking to develop and to contribute to a class that will make THE TEAM a better and more diverse group of leaders.

    Some will argue this thread. That's ok. I don't mind. But the truth is the truth. Academics is important; but it's not everything. And unless you know your competition, which is almost impossible to know, there's absolutely no way anyone can say that they should have received an appointment, because they were MORE QUALIFIED than others. I had a parent 2 years ago venting at me because their son didn't receive an appointment. She was convinced he was definitely more qualified than some who made it. The truth is, he probably was one of the MOST QUALIFIED applying. I didn't have the heart to tell her that her son really didn't want to attend the academy. That he was only applying because his parents wanted it. So I let her believe it was the academy's fault. I figured her son would tell her in time what he told me.

    Anyway; I hope some of this helps. Hope it adds perspective. Best of luck those applying for this coming year.
     
  2. MML

    MML New Member

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    Extremely well said!!
     
  3. crazyride

    crazyride Member

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    Thank you so much Christcorp for all your help to the newbies. My DD is a 2021 candidate and has everything except her ALO interview complete and that's tomorrow!! I will for sure have her read your post. Your words of wisdom are very much appreciated to us and many others I'm sure. I know when I see a post from you that I'm going to be reading every word of it!! Thanks again.
     
  4. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    I think Christcorp post is great and should be read by all potential candidates and their parents. I think reading it before an interview is a great idea! The point is to distinguish yourself as the total package. What makes you different? Why should the Academy give you a coveted appointment?

    My post to questions are simply related to our experiences with our DS. My guess is most have some different experiences. What worked for my DS may not work for you. What I will tell you is his focus was always on the all-around candidate and making sure he over-achieved in a few areas. For example, my DS scored very high on the ACT. His GPA was on the median but he scheduled the hardest curriculum possible at a very good school with a class around 1000. He was in CAP and had some leadership positions, but otherwise was a team member on some competition groups that excelled. He forged relationships with our ALO and MOC on his own and not through us. He was average as an athlete (three year tennis letterman), but did well on the CFA.

    The second part was it all prepared him for the Academy. He knew what to expect at BCT because he researched it and asked questions of current and former cadets. His school work helped him as he tested through 7 courses which allows him more flexibility for multiple majors. He understood the fourth year and so far has embraced it. Those are all things to consider as this is one crazy ride from applications to BCT to the academics and we are only early into year one. This board is a great resource so I hope many will use it to their benefit to create their own advantage.
     
  5. Swag

    Swag Member

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    Thank you for writing this. My DS is not the 4.0...he's the 3.3. Even with the low GPA and the slightly above average test scores he has a dream to serve his country. If it's not through a Service Academy, he will accomplish his goal. The most amazing part is even though these forums can be discouraging when all you see are the 4.0's, he's still going for it! Of course he's not foolish, has plans A-Z in the works, and is studying for the ACT/SAT. You never know...he may be just what they are looking for and deserves just as much of a chance as anyone else. Thank you for your words of wisdom...you made my day!
     
    AROTC-dad likes this.
  6. RDG143

    RDG143 Member

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    If he does not make it on the first attempt and still wants to go to a SA he should definitely re-apply. Doing well in college classes can help overcome the lower/average HS GPA. The academies appreciate the dedication and persistence of reapplying. Worked out well for my son.
     
  7. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    I got "TWE's" from everyone my senior year of HS...had to decide between a prep school and ROTC scholarships. I chose the prep school route.

    The next year, I received appointments from all the academies...had a tough choice to make, but one that was very gratifying!

    It can be done.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  8. Swag

    Swag Member

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    That's wonderful! He's applying to several in state colleges as well. I am confident that he will end up exactly where he is meant to be. His first choice is Navy/Marine option. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
     
  9. Swag

    Swag Member

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    I really am not too familiar with the prep school route. We live in South Florida and to be honest with you, even though we are in a very big city, not too many people are familiar with options for kids with a desire to serve and go to college. In fact, I do not know a single person that has ever gone through this process and either does my son. Any suggestions you have or schools he should look into would be greatly appreciated. He did visit Citadel and really liked what he saw. His application is done and ready to submit.
     
  10. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    Swag. The good news is; you don't have to know anything about "The Prep School Route". You don't actually apply to it. Matter of fact, you can't apply to it. You apply to the academy. If the academy believes you'd make a great cadet; HOWEVER there is something about your application they believe says "You're not ready" for the academy; they, and only they, can offer you a "Prep School Slot". Like I said, it's usually for someone the academy believes is a great candidate except for something on their application. E.g. You've got a really good GPA, excellent sports, excellent leadership, activities, etc..... EXCEPT, your highest ACT is a 18. Or the other way around. Excellent gpa and great ACT, but the highest you ever got on a math gpa is a 2.5. To "THEM", you might not be ready for the academy, but THEY might offer you a year at the prep school to help you prepare so you can reapply the next year.
     
  11. MN-Dad-2016

    MN-Dad-2016 Member

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    This entire portion of your post ^^ caught my eye. It serves as a crisp summary of the reality to applicants. I have learned that there are a lot of top notch institutions of higher learning that mandate "diversity" and they have their legitimate reasons outside of quotas.

    We all know incredibly gifted athletes that borrowed that natural gift from their brain. I'm being nice. :) We also know plenty of rocket-scientist-types in which their strongest muscle (jokingly) is their eyelids from blinking a lot. Then there is the guy or gal who looks incredible ON PAPER yet suffers from less-than-ideal communication skills and / or interpersonal skills. So schools like USAFA aim to balance it all out AND want a culturally diverse group with a mix of men and women. That is the reality of who they are looking for. So the net-net is no one is guaranteed a spot. So the goal should be to get as close to the "no-brainer" group as possible by working your butt off. That all said, there ARE colleges that are exclusively about the academic metrics. But more often than not, the more competitive schools are looking for the whole package. It just that USAFA is also looking for that athletic element more than most.

    I've also come to learn that people's self defense mechanisms like rationalizing can kick into high gear and they are unable to understand why they were missed. Some become bitter. More often than not the folks that are racking and stacking (admissions) passed on them for a reason.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2016
  12. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

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    I would add that life is not fair and sometimes it is better to be lucky than good when applying to SAs.

    Being a FFR for 10+ years, I have more information about the competition than a candidate and sometimes I interact with different candidates from the same Congressional district.

    Yes, the admissions committee can have more insight than I do, but they are also bounded by the Whole Candidate Score system (i.e. regardless what the background is being the class president gives a candidate so much point even with bonus points, if allowed). I would also argue that if there is too much bonus points given to a candidate that defeats the whole person candidate concept.

    What do I tell great candidates with weak SAT/ACT and/or academics that don't get in? The SA is not questioning their commitment/dedication/heart, rather following the rule of Physics - time is constant. Regardless of commitment/dedication/heart, if you have a weak academic foundation, your chance of academic failure is pretty high as you cannot find extra time to study. SAs are great about providing academic help, but they won't let you drop classes or get out of mandatory requirements (i.e. drill, sports, etc) because you need more time to study.
     
  13. Swag

    Swag Member

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    He would be honored to attend Prep. I wasn't sure if flieger88 was referring to an Academy prep or one of the other Prep schools. Thank you all of the advice...I have learned a lot from all of you!
     
  14. tankerswife420

    tankerswife420 New Member

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    I guess my biggest beef of having gone through this last year and watch my DD not receive an appointment is the time frame of how it all worked out. She received her denial May 30. She graduated HS June 18. So while she was telling people she was attending Plan B all along in her mind she was holding out for an appointment. I just wish there had been a drop dead date earlier and if the numbers had changed later and an offer came then the candidate could readjust their thinking.
     
  15. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    tankerswife. I definitely understand what you're saying. There is one problem however with trying to know definitely sooner. A lot of people don't realize this, but a large percentage of the applicants applying to the academy, do NOT have the academy as their first choice. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. I don't keep track as closely as I use to, but back in the 2007-2008 period when my son was applying; it was common to give out between 1500-1700 appointments, to get to the 1200 that would actually accept the appointment. That's right. Anywhere from 300-500 would turn down the appointment. Sometimes because another academy was their first choice. Sometimes because the academy itself was their Plan B or Plan C; and they got their Plan A school.

    The academy tightened this up a little bit around 2009 when the economy was worse and unemployment was much higher. (Couldn't take a chance on offering 1700 appointments and ALL saying yes). So the academy has to many times offer a certain amount; give them enough time to accept or deny; determine how many more they need; offer a certain amount more; wait for them to accept and deny; and repeat. Unlike a traditional school, there are federal laws in place on how many can attend the academy at one time, and how many can be commissioned.
     
  16. tankerswife420

    tankerswife420 New Member

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    Christcorp we understood this and were told those finals numbers were settled by the first week of May. Certainly a fluid process that took longer than normal obviously.
     
  17. afmom1

    afmom1 Member

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    Just a parent from a non military background here, logging in for the first time in a while (to actually read the post academy thread). Hope you don't mind if I chime in as a parent who has been there. My DS just graduated, but I still recall the application process (it was really tough). No one from his school had ever gone to a service academy and I had never heard of them. He wanted to serve his country and found out about them and applied on his own. And for those of you applying in a vacuum it is really hard. I remember at one point he had a big poster board up on the wall of his room with all the application steps listed. Anyway, he was a really solid candidate, but not a "no brainer". (approx 3.6 GPA, 650-680 SAT, 4 yr water polo, team captain senior year, Eagle scout, etc). He didn't know the ALO or really anyone involved in the application process in our state. He did say that at all his interviews people kept asking him about his commitment (given no family in the military, etc). One senator asked him if he was sure he would complete the academy (the senator stated they had had candidates in the past drop out, and he wanted to be sure to recommend individuals that were truly committed). Additionally we actually knew another candidate, and she was a "no brainer" (incredibly bright 4.0, 4 year volleyball - captain, state champ, significant interpersonal and leadership skills). My DS decided if he was the USAFA he would accept her first. He did receive a nomination, but a TWE from the academy. So we learned two things from this: 1) he needed to make his commitment clear 2) acceptance was going to depend on the competition (if he really wanted to serve his country he needed to expand his options - the Plan A, B, C that all the experts on this forum talk about). He was not offered a prep school spot (my guess is because he actually didn't really have any area of weakness - he just wasn't one of the top candidates that year). Anyway he went to a prep school. He choose Greystone because at the end of it he would have completed a year of college, and plan B was going to be ROTC and this would enable him to keep moving forward without wasting any time. Also if he had a weakness it was his GPA, and this would enable him to demonstrate he could complete academically challenging college level coursework (but I think all of the available prep schools would have served the goal of showing he was committed to the military, which he felt was one of the main issues with his application). Anyway he applied to all three academies and for a ROTC scholarship the second time around (instead of applying to just one academy) and at the end of that year he received acceptances to all three academies and an ROTC scholarship. And he just graduated in June! (By the way the other candidate we knew that was the "no brainer" graduated last year and she was one of the top graduating cadets and is currently completing a masters degree at MIT, I think in aeronautical engineering - she deserved the spot she got and will be a tremendous asset to the USAF).
    My recommendation to any applicant from this experience is: 1) Try to get any help you can with the application process: reach out to your ALO, talk to college counselors at school, talk to candidates from prior years, get people to read over your application. Applying to the academies is complicated and you need to make yourself stand out as the best applicant. 2) If you do get the dreaded TWE and still really want to attend the academy - look at what your weaknesses are, try to fix them, and reapply. My DS said the second time around no one asked about his commitment. Your problem may be your GPA (in which case you could do a year of college and get good grades to show you can do the academics) or GRE (review courses and taking practice tests may help here, and remember they superscore so take both SAT and ACT as many times as you can to get the best score - the second year my son increased his SAT scores in all areas, and got a 720 on the writing section which was previously his lowest score - he said he actually got the same prompt a second time and was able to write a much better essay) 3) realize you still may not get in - there may be someone out there who is a better fit for the academy - so don't take it to heart and get bitter. You are likely still GREAT. One of my sons friends from the prep school was not accepted to an academy (he also applied to all three), went the ROTC route, and is now in the navy. I have no idea why he wasn't accepted - but I think he is a wonderful young man and he is going to be a great officer.
    Finally having watched my son go through it - completing the academy is really, really tough (particularly the first two years). My other children had typical college experiences, attending very good colleges and Universities, but none had the difficulties DS had. He did fine, ending up somewhere around the middle of the class I think (and I personally think completing the academy, even as tail end charlie, is a tremendous accomplishment), but there were times he struggled emotionally, physically and academically (P chem and calculus 3 stand out in my mind). During basic his feet broke out bleeding and in blisters and he refused to go see anyone because he didn't want to stand out or get sidelined (I would not recommend this choice to anyone - if you have a medical issue please get it cared for). By the time I saw him at parents weekend he couldn't feel his feet, they were covered in blisters, scabs and scars. We had to soak his feet and get the caked debris off, then treat with antibiotics and wet to dry bandages; fortunately they healed fine. But the point is, unless you are both incredibly fortunate and gifted, you will likely have real challenges to overcome at the academy and you do need to be really sure this is what you want before you go.
    Best wishes to all of you applying, I hope you all get your dream.
     
    dreamusafa, rosepetals and Christcorp like this.
  18. Flyboy's Dad

    Flyboy's Dad New Member

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    Swag, my son was a lot like yours. He didn't set the world on fire academically. The family even referred to his sister as "the smart one". Long before USAFA appeared on his radar, he strove, with our encouragement, to grow up into a well-rounded "total person". As a result, he was in a better position than we thought when he began considering service academies. When he started running down his dream in earnest, his mother and I didn't expect that he would seriously compete for an appointment, nor were we confident that he could survive the academic demands at USAFA. Not only did he receive an appointment (the first direct appointment ever from his high school), but he graduated this past June, and now he's a very happy 2nd Lieutenant.
     
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  19. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    I really appreciate posts like those from afmom and Flyboy dad. It shows that the academy truly is looking at the "Whole Person".

    Is it true that the academy sometimes appoints individuals; especially a recruited athlete or a minority class because of certain motives? Yes, I'm sure of it. But I really believe, deep in my soul, that this isn't as prominent as many make it out to be. As some of these posts show, these are all around kids. Not the "No Brainer" club. But "ALL AROUND" competitive kids. They weren't the super recruited athlete. It doesn't sound like they were the super sought after minority that they were short of. Just normal kids who had the "Whole Person" concept about them that the academy is looking for.

    And reapplying to the academy when you don't get accepted that first time is SO IMPORTANT. "If you truly want to attend one of the academies". This one act speaks VOLUMES to the academy. All that time you spent in the first application process trying to PROVE that you were a leader; PROVE that you were a team player; PROVE that you were disciplined and determined; PROVE that you were the "Right Fit" for the academy..... is actually shown BY WORKS by reapplying. It's easy to just move on to a traditional college and move on with your life. But the academy knows what a PITA it is to go through the application process for an appointment. The fact that you'd attend a civilian college because you didn't get accepted, but be willing to put yourself through all that crap again for an appointment....... THAT SHOWS everything that you tried to express with words the previous year. Are you guaranteed an appointment if you apply the 2nd time? Of course not. Nothing is guaranteed. But reapplying, willing to give up basically a year or more of college classes (Because you still have to do all 4 years at the academy; even if you had a master's degree going in); SHOWS how much you really want this. It definitely helps a lot by reapplying. Of course, you have to be honest with yourself. If you graduated high school with a 3.2 gpa and you still struggle with ACT/SAT and college classes; it will be difficult. But definitely reapply if you don't receive the appointment the first time.

    Anyway; I'm glad to see examples of students who received appointments because they were the "Whole Person". Too many think that the top 80% of appointees in a year are the BEST "Usually they think academics"; and the remaining 20% are jocks and minorities who "Meet the MINIMUM standards". That's simply not true. Are there some? Yes. But even the majority of the Jocks and minorities that some are suspicious of, even they have stellar academics. I can't even tell you HOW MANY academy D1 IC athletes graduated high in their class and went on to grad school from the academy.

    I should make one disclaimer. Obviously being an ALO and retired from the air force after 21 years, it probably made it a little easier for my son to apply. While my son did have my experience and knowledge to help him through the application process easier, he still had to apply and do the work. (I wasn't allowed to be an ALO when my son was applying). And in all fairness, my son was indeed one of the "No-Brainers". The kid NEVER had a class LESS than a 4.0. Not even since elementary school. He was in the IB program and made the 4.0gpa and the IB diploma. He had the 30+ ACT scores. Class Officer. Boy's State. Played 4 sports per year. 2 varsity sports for 3 years (Football and soccer). Captain of the teams. (Yes, he even dated the head cheerleader). Made all conference and all state and won state championship. FWIW: He was the ONLY Football Jock in our school who was also in the IB program. He was the valedictorian of the class. Rank #1. 300 hours volunteer time. He was accepted to all 5 universities he applied to; 4 of them scholarships; 3 of the 4 full rides. Schools such as Tulane, Michigan State, USC. He received he appointment early; end of October/early November; and was then recruited to play football for the academy. He graduated the academy #7 and went on to grad school and finished up his master's and his PhD together in 3 years.

    I make this disclaimer because it's obvious that I didn't "Get my Son an Appointment". He did it on his own. But on the other end of the spectrum, we've seen in this and many other threads, that there's quite a few kids who received appointments who had more average grades and stats on their application. That's why it's so important to understand the "WHOLE PERSON" concept. It's easy to see it in the "No Brainers". It's easy to explain away the "Recruited Athlete or Minority with a 4.0gpa" as "THE EXCEPTION".

    The truth is; there's only so many slots available by law for appointments each year. There's a lot more applicants than there are slots. The academy wants AND NEEDS a diverse class. Diverse in ALL ASPECTS of background and individual perspective. This diversity is what's going to make them and their classmates ALL Better Leaders. Which is the PRIMARY GOAL of the academy.

    So it's great when I read about the average gpa/act/sat applicants who receive and appointment, because they had the WHOLE PERSON package. This shows what the academy is after. Not just the STEREOTYPICAL Diversity that most people think of.
     
  20. MN-Dad-2016

    MN-Dad-2016 Member

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    Did he put on his application that he dated the head cheerleader?:rockon: Just kidding!

    Congrats to your son and your exceptional job of parenting. More often than not, sucess stories don't happen by accident. It takes a village.
     
    Lilly likes this.

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