Getting ready for the Academy


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
May 3, 2007
My son is finishing the eighth grade and we are working on his schedule for next year. All he's ever wanted to do was go to the Academy and then fly. He has good grades, is in NJHS usually makes the all "A" honor roll with one "B" every once in awhile. He is dyslexic but is very good in compensating. He is an Eagle Scout, has logged many hours in flight time and will be getting his private pilot's liscense at 16 (His dad is a pilot and an instructor). He should have his sailplane liscense this year. He is also involved in several sports and participates in Athletics in our Middle School and will, I'm sure, continue to be involved in Varsity, Football, Baseball and Track when he's old enough. My question is about Pre AP and AP classes.

Would it be better to work on getting higher grades in a regular class than in a PreAP . I'm not sure if the Academy even looks at PreAP classes. The PreAP classes at our school only add an extra .5 grade points into the Average. We are working on choice sheets and registration for next year and are not sure which way to go. With his Dyslexia it take him twice as much work to accomplish the same grades as the other students, but he's determined and feels he can keep his grades up. Do we need to work on the GPA or on the advanced classes as a Freshman.

Congratulations to your son on knowing what he wants to do even at this young age. I have seen several parents whose kids have one academy that they target at a young age and if you review posts on this board as well as other college boards, you will find that it is absolute heartbreak when for four years a young person has put everything into one school and then they don't end up with the appointment they had worked so hard for. Acceptance is extremely competitive. My son is at the CG Academy now, but did consider at one time applying to the AFA, earlier in high school. However, he saw himself in more of a humanitarian service and wanted the engineering degree, and so he applied only to the CG Academy and several "regular" colleges. He also wants to fly and when he applied, he was happy to find out that based on percentages, a higher percentage of cadets at the CG Academy become pilots, based on the number of cadets at the school, than any other service academy. The CG has fixed wing, as well as helicopters, so don't be fooled by the 33,000 rescues, many off roofs by CG helicopters, after Katrina.

My point is to encourage your son to not lock himself totally into one academy until he investigates all of them. There is no harm in looking at more than one and applying to two or more. Many kids go to summer programs at several academies during their junior year in high school.

The second point is about the AP classes versus regular classes that are easier to attain higher grades in. My son took five AP classes and did not get A's in all of them, but the AO we spoke to said any admissions office of any school sees right through the easier classes and the "easy A." It doesn't show a lot of diligence to take the easy way, and the academies are looking for kids who push themselves to the limit in everything they do. I know at least at the CG Academy, all students graduate with a BS degree so they all have to take a lot of core upper level math and science classes. It helps SO much to have taken the AP classes once you are at an academy because the academics are so rigorous. So, wherever your son applies, I would recommend taking the harder classes and accepting the Bs now and then. If your high school weights AP classes, even if he gets a B in the AP class, it will count for as many "points" as an A in a regular class. Many parents don't know how all this weighing and ranking works out until their kids are in high school, but our experience was it is better to take the AP class and get the B. Again, good luck to your son!

How about PreAP classes. Our school doesn't offer AP classes until JR. year. Will the PreAP be looked at the same as AP?
So get an A in regular or a B in PAP, the classic question. When I went to an MIT orienation a couple years ago, the counselor put it well (fits for the academy), get an A in PAP. I know this isn't comforting, but the Academy recognizes grade padding and has developed a (secret) system of classifications for each school and type of class in order to put a number on applicants. I took all PAP offered 9th and 10th grade, mis of PAP and AP offerered in 11th, and all AP in 12th. They will look for motivation and tackling challenges. My advice? Take the hardest courses possible without sacrificing grades because they are beyond your level (eg. don't take geometry without algebra first).

USAFA is probably the most academically intensive academy. The 4th class year is also probably the most intense of the academies as well. Therefore, if he comes in without having been challenged in HS, the shock of USAFA stings more.

One last thing, even a stellar high school student is not necessarily stellar here. I know someone who got a 1600 on her SAT, but she has a 2.9 GPA. I know of valedictorians now on Academic Probation with <2.0 GPA. Preparation is crucial.
Wow, your son sounds committed. Good for him! I suggest choosing PreAp classes in his better subjects his freshman year. He should be challenged but not to the point of frustration. He will have to take four years of Lit so maybe start out with college prep lit. If he makes the easy A, then step it up to PreAP sophomore year and then up to AP the last two years. Definitely take the more challenging math track if he is good at math. Take advantage of the PreAP science classes. These tend to have the better teachers and more focused students. Usually, the college prep level science is boring in high school. Grades are important but if the work is too hard, learning stops. Trust your instincts, involve him in all schedule decisions and be sure you both read the academic requirements for all the academies on their websites. Sit down with him and plan out his four year high school schedule. You will be surprised how many APs he can do in four years and still take a few regular college prep classes to keep academics manageble. He sounds like a great kid. Good luck to him!
Ditto what everyone above me ^^^^^^ said...

The GPA issues was addressed in this thread which you might find helpful:

It is good that he is building his high school schedule now around his wish to attend a service academy. He should be taking the highest level of classes he can handle especially in Math and Science. He needs to build his schedule now to accomadate calculus by his senior year and also take Chem and Physics - hopefully Honors and then and AP chem or physics would be good to plan for -esp if he is math/science oriented.
If your school "mandates" that he take Pre-AP before AP then take that level - I am not even sure what Pre-AP is - Honors??

It is of no benefit for him to take a lower level of a course in order for him to get all A's the academies (like other very selective schools) will see right through that.
taking Pre-AP classes also prepares you for the AP classes
Geez, I loved the comment about which of the academies is the toughest. I have to say I love the picture on the USAFA website of the student painting a nice picture of a flower. I know my 4/c cadet who is at the easier academy would love to be able to take a break from his 21 credit schedule to take a nice class like that, but he is studying right now for his engineering and Calculus 2 final...

Bottom line, they are all grueling and intense...but I will leave your AFA board to those who know better since obviously some of the posters have spent time at all the service academies and know which one is obviously the most difficult...hilarious...
But... back on topic,

I vote preAP classes.

Good luck to your son!
Very mature.

I speak from those that exchange between all of them. We have coast guard, Navy, and army cadets as well as our own at each. It's not meant to bash the academies, but USAFA is the most tech oriented due to the nature of the AF. 21 hours? OK, that's pretty average classload here for sophomores and up. Painting a flower, he's probably involved in an art club, I know of no art classes here.

Also, I did not say USAFA was the toughest. I said the 4th class year is the most intensive, but the intensity tapers and doesn't usually increase significantly which is contrary to what I hear about the other academies where it only gets harder.

Next time, instead of trying to make me look like an arrogant middle school know it all, perhaps you could disagree with more than a cadet painting a picture in his free time.
OK, since personal attacks are against the rules of conduct, I will state that this conversation is approaching the line. I will leave the thread here, but please keep to the topic, and no personal attacks. Everyone has an opinion on which academy is toughest, it is a debate that will continue as long as the Academies continue. Keep it civil.

Stealth_81, you're most absolutely correct. I should have taken a deep breath (or four or five) before responding and will do so in the future.
Yes please stick to my question. My son would be proud to go to ANY academy. All I'm trying to do is help him prepare to get there. Everyone has been helpful. I'm still concerned about the dyslexia perhaps being a DQ. (I'm beginning to learn the lingo.) There are a lot of acronyms on these web sites.

The question about the dyslexia is one for our resident DoDMERB expert. I think you should post a question in the DoDMERB forum regarding your concerns, and RetNavyHM will be happy to give you answers to your questions.

I talked to an ALO (my dad's old USAFA buddy) about Honors/AP. He told me it is good and looked upon really well. However, he told me that even with harder classes you need to get about a 3.7 or 3.8 GPA to stay competitive for admissions. I'm in one right now and have two planned for next year so I'm hoping it works out.
Is the 3.7/3.8 based on a 4.0 system or a 5.0 system? Our AP classes are 5.0 so a 3.8 would be an 88 avg. On the 4.0 system it would be a 98. That is quite a bit different?
The question about the dyslexia is one for our resident DoDMERB expert. I think you should post a question in the DoDMERB forum regarding your concerns, and RetNavyHM will be happy to give you answers to your questions.

I have, but I haven't had a reply yet. Maybe soon.

I have, but I haven't had a reply yet. Maybe soon.

I think RetNavyHM may be away from home this week and only checking in once a day or so. He will definitely get back to you soon. Be patient.
I am really out of turn here since I have no idea how the AFA massages GPAs. Some academies do not consider GPAs at all and look strictly at class standing and school "difficulty". I do know however that somehow AFA recalculates GPAs to their standard which, I am almost positive, would favor certain AP courses. It would also favor some additional courses and discount others so relying on an individual high school's calculation of GPA could prove disasterous.

However, with that said, I think that a generic high school academic statement, in order to be a well-prepared SA candidate, would be to take all the PreAP courses necessary to prepare oneself to excel in all physical science and math AP courses that the school offers. Either top 10% of the class or around a 3.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale would be the final goal. Outstanding SATs, superb ECs and other demonstrations of leadership and well roundness can chip away at this academic standard somewhat but, to be safe, this should be the ultimate goal for an 8th grader.
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Is the 3.7/3.8 based on a 4.0 system or a 5.0 system? Our AP classes are 5.0 so a 3.8 would be an 88 avg. On the 4.0 system it would be a 98. That is quite a bit different?

Huh? "A" range is usually 92(or 93)-100.

It is based on a 4.0 system.