Enlisted Direct Entry vs Prep School


New Member
Aug 15, 2016
I completed my application to the Academy through the LEAD program in mid-October, and like so many others, I'm now just waiting to hear back. My academic scores were as follows:
SAT Math: 710
HS GPA 3.97
Rank: 4/87
I've also done 18 college credits with a 4.0 GPA in the past year (while on Active Duty), though at a questionable online "college"

From what I've seen, I have a fairly legitimate shot at gaining an appointment for direct entry. While I've always done well in academic environments, my concern lies in stepping directly back into an intense academic environment, after being out of one for over 3 years.

I'd like to know if anyone has, or knows anyone who has, entered directly into the Academy from Active Duty and perhaps struggled or regretted skipping the Prep School, or if they quickly caught back up and were able to succeed without the transition year.
I know of a couple; but they are rare. Matter of fact, the MAIN PURPOSE of establishing the prep-school, was specifically for enlisted personnel wanting to go to the academy and become commissioned officers. Most airmen have been out of school for 2-4 years, and that's why the prep-school exists. To get them back into the swing of things.

The 2 enlisted that I saw go direct entry were unique. The first was 18 years old, out of basic training and a 6 week tech school. They even had their 5-skill level down in less than a year. They also were taking some college classes. So, 18, about 1 year in the military, basic training, tech school, and 5 level all done. They had no problem jumping back into school. They had only been out of it for about a year.

The 2nd one was the opposite. They had to go direct, because if they went to the prep school, they would have been too old for the academy. But in their 2-3 years in the military, they had their 5-level and had already finished an associates degree. They had been in school constantly for the 3 years in the military. So they allowed him to go to the academy straight away.

Other than that, it's rare.
I remember one young man in one of my sons' squads who was a direct entry who had already been deployed twice and had a whole chest full of medals. I think he'd been enlisted 4 years. He was a DE because of his age. He didn't struggle with academics so much as with other 4*s whom he said acted to him like they were freshmen in high school.

He is an officer now and loving his pilot slot.
Definitely, the most difficult part of an enlisted going to the academy, IF they are higher in rank than AIC (More than 2-3 years); is dealing with a 19-20 year old KID, who is "IN CHARGE" of them; and they are treating this 21-22 year old like one of the other 17 year old kids. This is difficult. Especially if as enlisted, you've actually spent time in the "REAL MILITARY". e.g. deployed, AFSC that is tactical related, etc.

I've know a few of the prior enlisted that went through this. Some could handle it. They just kept their opinions to themselves. They graduated and became excellent officers. I've also know a couple that couldn't make it past the first year at the academy. They had no problem academically; they just couldn't handle the C1C/C2C treating them the same way as the 17 year old. This is a unique situation. The reason the C1C/C2C treat the doolies a certain way, has it's reasons and it's merits. Treating a prior enlisted 21-22 year old this same way, who has seen more of the real air force than any C1C can imagine, can be very challenging.
What I saw personally of this situation ^ was somewhat different. The C1C showed utmost respect to the 4* PE, but still "commanded" him.

It worked for them but I can see how that would be an awkward situation.