Excellent thread and great information. Something very important about this thread, is that there are many reasons why someone may be offered a prep school/falcon scholarship. Most think it's strictly because of academics. Many times, this is true. Someone with great ACT/SAT scores, and even a good GPA, but they keep getting C's in Math. Maybe someone with excellent ACT/SAT scores, but has a 3.3 gpa. Or the other way around, and the individual has a 4.0 gpa in high level classes, but they have a 25 act. Academics are definitely the main reason for being offered a Prep/falcon slot.
But don't believe these are the only reasons. The bottom line is; the academy sees in an applicant; especially on how their ALO does their rating and report on the individual; a very promising applicant. Someone they feel will make a great cadet, and better yet, an outstanding Air Force officer. BUT..... there's something about their application that just isn't as stellar as they'd like. Yes, usually it's academics. But it could just as easily be leadership. They were never in charge of anything. Never the captain of a team. Never a class officer. Never a leader of a club. The list goes on. Maybe they have satisfactory academics, maybe even played 1 sport for their high school years, but they really didn't have the leadership or other SOCIAL EXPERIENCES that the academy is looking for. The prep/falcon may be all this individual needs to excel and have a full resume/application.
Remember; contrary to what many want to believe, the academy is looking for the best "WELL ROUNDED INDIVIDUALS". They DON'T WANT the 4.0gpa IB student, with 36 ACT, and NO SPORTS, CLUBS, LEADERSHIP, etc. This is not a well rounded person. They also don't want the 3 sports all state athlete, who is the class president, member of 3 clubs, has 300 hours of volunteering, yet only has a 2.5gpa and a 21 ACT. This individual is unlikely to be able to handle the academic challenges of the academy. Of course, sometimes the academy gets lucky and they get a few of the "NO BRAINERS". The 4.0gpa IB/AP student; 33-36 ACT; ranked #1 in the class; 3 varsity sports; captain of said sports; also a class officer; involved in 2-3 other clubs/EC activities; has 200-300 hours of volunteer time; went to boy/girl's state; does time with their community; accepted to EVERY COLLEGE they apply to; etc. These applicants exist too.
So definitely, if you are offered a Prep/Falcon slot instead of a direct entry into the academy........ ACCEPT IT!!! This is the academy's way of saying that accept for probably 1 minor thing on your application, they think you'll make a great cadet and military officer. Of course, this assumes the academy is your #1 choice. If the academy is #2, and Purdue, Georgetown, University of Florida, or the University of Whereverthehellyouappliedto; is your first choice, and you got accepted there; then definitely turn down the prep/falcon and take your #1 choice. Yes, believe it or not, the various military academies are not every applicant's FIRST CHOICE. HUNDREDS of applicants TURN DOWN APPOINTMENTS every year. That's why it takes numerous months to finish up giving appointments. They have to see who says "NO THANK YOU", and then they give that slot to someone else. It can be a very complicated process.
So if you receive a Prep/Falcon offer, consider yourself fortunate and blessed. The academy sees something in you. ONE CAVEAT: Sometimes, the reason you didn't receive an appointment, is simply because there weren't enough slots. Definitely apply again next year. If you have the 3.8+ gpa, 30+ ACT, sports, leadership, volunteering, clubs, etc. It's still possible not to get an appointment. But there's also very little chance you'll get a Prep/Falcon offer either. Basically, you're over-qualified. Basically, it isn't that the prep/falcon recipient is BETTER than the great overall applicant who didn't receive an appointment. Just that there weren't enough slots. And a Prep/Falcon slot doesn't guarantee anyone an appointment the following year. The norm is around 70-80%. That's why they are so selective. Best of luck.