Is it possible to apply to USAFA, but begin the enlistment process?


New Member
Sep 28, 2021
I am in my junior year and I'm planning on attending USAFA, however, if I do not get accepted I'm essentially homeless after graduation (a long story I don't really want to delve into). My backup plan even before I found out that lovely little detail was enlistment anyways, reapply for the Academy while being enlisted (probably be a flight engineer or loadmaster if I go that route), commission that way, aaand be a pilot (finally). Since I won't know if I'm accepted until April of my senior year and I know the enlistment process can take months, is it possible to enlist during that time, and if I'm accepted, great! If not, I have the option in my back pocket and I won't have to worry about what comes after graduation.

I don't know if that's a stupid question but hey, any input would be very appreciated.


Oct 2, 2020
Enlistment typically does not take months. In fact if you get all your legal/medical stuff done quickly, you can be gone in just a few weeks. Do not go the enlistment route first. Nothing is guaranteed that way.
Jul 17, 2020
Enlist if being an enlisted in the USAF is what you want. And think you will like. And would want for 4-5 years if the academy does not work out.

Its kind of drastic to enlist for a place to live.

Good Luck


15-Year Member
Jun 9, 2006
Have you considered a civilian school and AFROTC? That is a good way to commission or seek an appointment next year.


Proud Mom DS NROTC-MO '25 & DD USNA Appointee '27
Jan 3, 2020
At this point do not enlist or even talk to a recruiter. Do not believe anything a recruiter says. Some of them tell some real whoppers.

Focus on doing well in school and on your EC's. Talk with your school guidance counselor specifically about your situation. Apply to the Academy and also apply to other schools. Consider applying for ROTC, even though AFROTC is not a guaranteed path to commission. Look for schools that are generous with scholarships and financial aid. Out of state schools are sometimes very generous. Smaller, unknowns, are sometimes generous. Use your gpa and test scores to find schools that match you. You will need to spend some time researching. If you are competitive for the Academy you may be able to find a college willing to give you a full ride or mostly full ride or at least full tuition. Save enlisting as your last resort.

I get your concerns. I have seen those that enlist and leave immediately after graduation. Some don't leave for few months. I also know of a kid that didn't leave until 1.5 years after graduation because it kept getting pushed back. Hold off for now talking with the recruiter.

Make a plan for what you want to do. Give yourself several options. Make a plan for what it will take to get you where you want to be. Work your plan. Have multiple plans/options i.e. best case scenario, worst case scenario, and at least something or multiple somethings in between. Seek out help from friends, family, teachers, coaches, co-workers, neighbors, and sometimes even strangers or anyone you think may be in a position to help you or be willing to help you. Make your plan. Work your plan. Do not give up. Go after what you want.

If you do go the path of enlisting, remember if a recruiter promises you something it must be in the contract they want you to sign. Read the contract before signing anything. If what you were promised is not printed there then do not sign. If it is not in the contract it won't happen.

Since you mentioned loadmaster here is a story of a loadmaster. I had a friend that was an Air Force loadmaster. He enlisted at 17. He went to Vietnam. He came home. He loved flying. He ended up getting his bachelors. He chose to remain enlisted and did not go the officer route because he didn't want to give up flying. He would have been flying a desk. Between active duty and the reserves he went all over. We were always seeing him on the news anytime there was anything going on in the world. He was retired from the military after over 30+ years. He passed away a few months ago. He was buried in a military cemetery with full honors. At his funeral there were at least 5 very low fly overs. He was buried not far from where his old unit was. Most people are lucky to get one fly over. The crew from his old unit sent him off in style. It was pretty amazing.
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USAFA Alumnus
10-Year Member
Mar 5, 2012
It would be theoretically possible but you would need to find an enlisted recruiter and recruiting squadron that would be willing to accommodate. That is harder said than done. In any case, the timelines might not line up.

I will say that if you end up going the enlisted route you will not have a ton of flexibility to choose your job. Typically an applicant must list 8-12 jobs and be willing to take any of them. Be aware that both flight engineer and loadmaster are extremely rare jobs. If you are less concerned about the exact job, then you could agree to be on a "quick ship" list. You'd basically be eligible to leave in any job slot that opens due to unforeseen events in the recruiting operations side of things. That might mean filling in for someone that get's sick or injured the week before basic training.

I would heed the advice of @ChatterMom2 and exhaust other options before committing to the enlistment path. Without knowing more details about your living situation or resources available to you (support network of friends, etc.) there isn't much advice to give beyond the "general" things already mentioned.


5-Year Member
Nov 22, 2016
Another option: Also apply to civilian colleges and ROTC. If you are homeless then are you also emancipated? Would you be able to get need based scholarships? You can then live at college. After you graduate can you live with an Aunt/Uncle/Grandparent for the summer? or a friend? If no, talk to your guidance counselor at school to find other options.