Academy applicants - stay positive! My son's story.


New Member
Mar 2, 2017
My son is in his first year at USAFA. At this time last year I was one of many parents and applicants reading and following this forum. My son's admission to the academy was not mainstream but he did make it in.

As a background, I will give you a glimpse how his story evolved through this process. As a freshman in a catholic high school, he entered a typical skinny kid of slight build. Not an athlete in part due to his size and athletics was not a focus for him. He weighed just under 100 lbs. He is a focused person and he decided he wanted to start lifting weights during his first year. I bought him a set of weights and several other devices to get him started. He lifted about 5 times each week for 1 year. Ate 5-6 meals a day and after 1 year put on 90 lbs and was quite muscular to say the least and was about 190 lbs. At the start of his junior year in high school, he decided he wanted to be a power lifter and increased his weight to 245 lbs. After the end of his junior year, he began to think about applying to the academies and going down the path of a military career but never really discussed it with his parents. My knowledge of the academies was very limited. I had a cousin who went to USAFA in the late seventies but knew little else. I began to read a little on the application process and got information from him that he had be reasearching on line.

I didn't tell him, but I thought his chances were not good. He had a 4.0 gpa and his ACT scores were good but not over the top. He did not take many advanced classes in high school and the school did not offer many AP classes. He had 0 high school sports until the beginning of his senior year. He had participated in few clubs at school and did have some community service and volunteer work during his junior year.

Before his senior year, he knew 245 lbs is not good weight to be attempting admission to an academy. That summer he lost 50 lbs and began a running program. He really wanted to play football given his size but realized his lack of any experience would make it hard to be a major contributor. He decided to do cross country. He wasn't the fastest runner by any means but did make the captain of the second squad. It was amusing to see him at cross country meets. He was a small kid most of his life but now is 6' 1" and 190-195 lbs with size 13 shoes and running cross country. Not by any means you typical runner. When the packs of runner came to bridges and other obstacles at meets, other runners would part like water to let him through. Not that he was a bully but his size compared to your typical cross country runner was intimidating. I could easily pick him out on the course if he was a half mile away.

He applied for West Point, Navy and Air Force. I was constantly on him to get the paper work done but he often was getting stuff completed shortly before deadlines. As many of you know, the applications take time and work to get done. I later found out from an Army Sargent whose son is at West Point, that they monitor how fast an application is completed and notice delays. So get those done ASAP and stay after it.

He did recieve nominations from our both of our state senators and our representative. He ranked a different academy first with each senator and representative. He recieved nominations for West Point, Navy and Air Force. I did mock interviews with him prior to his formal interviews. I do think that did help him. It gets them in the mindset of thinking on the quick and gets them use to answering and dicussing questions. He also did a mock interview with a friend of mine who was a retired Army helicopter officier. By all accounts his interviews went extremely well. When he was leaving one of his interviews, he overheard them say, that he had put the bar high for other applicants. By his account, the formal interviews were much easier than those that I or my friend had performed with him.

Like many applicants, he recieved a medical disqualification for taking acne medication (Accutane). We did not even know a medical disqualification could happen for medication that will be only taken 3-4 months. Would not have even put him on it if I had known that was an issue. His acne was not severe but he did not respond well to other treatments and decided to give Accutane a try. Now he had to go thru the wavier process. IMHO, there are so many great applicants and any negative mark is another strike against him. This was especially true given his other deficiencies in athletics and extracurricular activities on his application.

West Point was his preferred academy. He was not accepted.
Navy was is second choice. He was not accepted.
Air Force was his third choice. He was not accepted.

He took it in stride and knew he had started to preparation process for the academies late. He remained positive.

He did not give up. Did more research and decided to go to Graystone Academy in Texas for a military prep school. He applied, went to visit and was accepted. He knew if he got into one of the academies after prep school, there was a good chance he may still have to do another conditional prep year.

He was fully prepared to go to Graystone. While he was waiting for school to start, the National Guard called him and had an offer for him. Some how they got his application and nomination reviews. There is a little known program called Operation Opportunity. The Guard is able to offer 85 slots each year for a West Point appointment. They are rarely utilized or filled. You have to be recommened by the Company Commander and few have the qualifications. We talked with the commander and barring any problems that he had during the first year, he would recommend my son. We thought it over and had decided he would join the Guard and go to the local state University for classes his first year.
He took his physical and signed up for the Guard on a Thursday afternoon and he was scheduled to go to boot camp in 1 week and be back in time for college in the fall. The next morning, he gets an email from the Air Force saying he was accepted. Wow!! What do we do now? We talked with the Guard recuiter and commander. He showed them the acceptance letter and he was formally released from the Guard the day before he began basic training at the Air Force academy.

It was a roller coaster ride but he made it! For those waiting a response and for those applying in the future, don't lose hope.

He truly loves the Air Force academy. He had a good friend go to West Point this year and another classmate go to Anapolis. He says the Air Force is the place for him. He has really done well with a 3.5 gpa and loves the military lifestyle. Still never enough time. Classes are hard, lifts weights and is training for a marathon which requires wearing 50 lb rucksaks. The past few weeks he has been in the gliders at the academy. Today, they did stalls, rolls and other stuff in the glider. Vomited in the supplied barf bag (not uncommon) and throughly loved it. I did not know a glider could do those manuevers. Recognition week is coming up soon at the academy and he looks forward to the physical demands. After that is over, he and the other cadets will get their props and be considered "humans".
Wow, Congratulations!!!, my DD just starts the application process going to AF Summer Seminar, very excited and Im nervous, this year will be a very long one.
I serve as a liaison officer for the AFA. And although I have no military background I did stay at a Holiday Inn.... actually, I'm a school administrator so a pretty good judge of kids and somewhat connected w/our State Department of Education and other school superintendents in that region. Anyway, I note that because I've done this ALO gig 7 years, my daughter is a '12 grad, I was a parent club rep, 2 stepsons received appointments (1 just accepted after a year as a Falcon Foundation Scholar) and I still learn more about the nuances of AFA admissions each day. Persistence and/or just how important is it to you?

A young LT from the admissions office last year visited our region. He was a senior in college when he rec'd an appointment. He walked away his spring semester to go do it all over again in COS. He's in flight school now.

His roommate was turned down 2 years in a row, enlisted, get accepted to Prep a year later through the LEAD program, then got in at USAFA. 3 BCTs...

That there resurfaces all the time. You can see my post about my daughter's situation w/ DODMERB DQ's at "Waiver Anxiety" ..

I'm going to start telling my candidates to spend some time on this site looking at the + & - while they work on their apps.

So thanks for that reinforcement Radman.
Radman, great story; if there's a will, there's a way. Hopefully DSs/DDs will also be at a SA/PS and at this time next year or sooner we hope to also be one of many parents and applicants reading, following and contributing to this forum.