Many questions

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by RTHB, Dec 10, 2017.

  1. RTHB

    RTHB New Member

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    I guess ill start with some backround info. Im 19, AF reservist, live in Colorado Springs. I found out about the LEAD program a little while ago and i set my heart on the academy. Why? Feeling of prestige, sports, unique experiences, mechanical engineering. Whats making me question if i should try is i wasnt the best in academia, especially math. From what i understand most cadets are top teir students who are valedectorians, 4.0s, etc and the average gpa is a 2.5. If they are struggling will i have a chance? I also hear that many cadets hate their lives there but also feel rewarded after. I would like to hear from cadets their experiences because i cant decide if i want to go AFA or uccs ROTC and enjoy my college years, take my time on the math courses, overall easier life etc. Insight and wisdom would be nice.
     
  2. raimius

    raimius 10-Year Member

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    USAFA is big on math and science. The core curriculum means everyone gets a B.S. (but if you are going for mech. eng. anyway, it really doesn't matter!) Yes, cadets are generally good students, I'd say most were either top 10% or top 20% in HS. If math is a weak area, you may want to sign up for a class at a local community college for a refresher. Either way, it will help you, if you intend to go for an engineering degree anywhere.

    My advice is to apply if you want to. Realize that you will likely have to study quite hard to keep up at USAFA (but that's true for most people). USAFA is not the "normal" college lifestyle, but if you can accept the more structured schedule, there are a ton of unique opportunities you get in return. More importantly, you get to serve as an officer at the end.
     
  3. THParent

    THParent Member

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    Don't count yourself out. You already in the USAFR and you're 2 years older than most of these candidates.
    Hopefully, you have a little extra common sense compared to your counterparts that only comes with age.

    The way this LEAD thing reads is;
    "There are 170 appointments available for the Academy and the Academy Prep School for regular and reserve airmen. The program, initiated by Gen Fogleman in 1995, delegates authority to Unit Commanders to nominate highly qualified airmen to attend the Academy or Prep School. Commanders have the opportunity to identify outstanding and deserving airmen with officer potential for this commissioning program."

    If your unit commander thinks you're one of these "highly qualified airmen", then you're halfway there already.
     
  4. Wishful

    Wishful "Land of the free, because of the brave..." 5-Year Member

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    Contact Admissions & see if there's either someone available (former enlisted, AFA grad) to help answer your questions. The Admissions website says to contact your ALO in your area of the state, as you probably know. Good luck! PM me when you get enough posts.
     
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  5. fencersmother

    fencersmother 10-Year Member Founding Member

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    To our OP: what should the average GPA be in your opinion? Average on a bell curve with a 4.0 scale would be right at about 2.5. If the average GPA is significantly higher, then grade inflation is the likely culprit.

    I am reminded of a T-shirt I have seen several times on the students at Hillsdale College in Michigan: "C+! Hillsdale College: Where your best hasn't been good enough since 1844." I think the average GPA there for graduating seniors is around 2.6 or 2.8 (in a good year).

    OK, enough of fencersmother's musings. Now you may be already too late for this year's application cycle. However, this leaves you almost 2/3 of a year to get yourself to community college or UCCS or Colorado College or some other place for remedials, revisions, etc. Get that Math in (and get good grades! S.T.U.D.Y.!!!!), Physics, Chemistry, English (like, learn to spell tier. {fencersmother is being a nooger today}, computer stuff... you get the idea. Take the most difficult coursework you can which your work and reservist schedule will permit.

    On the subject of "hating their lives at USAFA:" Well, golly! It's hard academically, demanding physically, and there are rules. Of course! It's not like the six year plan at PennState (with vomiting as a major from Thursday night through Sunday afternoon). Do some really hate the experience there: sure. Do some love it? Sure. Looking back, many will say it was the foundation of the lives as adults, and probably most couldn't consider ever having gone any place else for "college."

    So, here's what it boils down to: if you want USAFA, then gear up and go for it. Prepare yourself, nose to the grindstone. Are you in a sport? A physically demanding sport? Keep it up! Do you have a job? Do your best! Are you in college now? If not, REGISTER TODAY. Will you get an appointment? Maybe. But know this: if you don't apply (and apply yourself), you have no chance. So, apply!!!! There are only two responses: no, and Y.E.S.!!!!!

    Best of luck! (Now get to class!)
     
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  6. AFrpaso

    AFrpaso USAFA Alumnus 5-Year Member

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    I am a prior-E USAFA grad. If you are worried about struggling with math, then ask for an appointment to the USAFA Prep School. They'll spin you up on algebra, trig, pre-calc and a little bit of calc. You may have the opportunity to take Calc I at the Academy proper during your prep school year. If you want to skip the Prep School, then I recommend some self study or some community college courses while you're waiting to hear back about your appointment. As for large drops in GPA from HS to USAFA, I had about a 3.7 in high school and graduated from USAFA a with 3.81. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I want to let you know that it can be done.

    If you're interested about what life is like at USAFA, then I recommend watching some interviews of cadets (they should still be on the Admissions page or Youtube). Feel free to send me a PM for specific questions (I think you need 5+ posts, right?)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
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  7. Wishful

    Wishful "Land of the free, because of the brave..." 5-Year Member

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    Someone's in a good mood! I guess the Steelers won yesterday!;)
     
  8. fencersmother

    fencersmother 10-Year Member Founding Member

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    Wishful, by the skin of their teeth!!! Clinched though so fencersmother is celebrating!
     
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  9. fencersmother

    fencersmother 10-Year Member Founding Member

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    *** CAVEAT NOT RELATED TO THREAD***

    The Patriots LOSS to the Dolphins was pretty wonderful though they seldom lose two weeks in a row. Steeler defense better show up!
     
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  10. Hoodlum15

    Hoodlum15 Member

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    I'll get us back on topic lol. I am a sophomore mechanical engineering major, so a caveat, I've just started to take majors classes this semester. The math is difficult, but absolutely not impossible. One of the best things about the Academy is how much time instructors will put towards your success. If you want to pass, you will pass, and they'll spend as much individual instruction time as you need to get there. If you still struggle (mech is one of the hardest majors at the Academy) there is a major called systems engineering where you can then choose mech as a focus. This major is considerably lighter on the difficult math classes as it takes a broader view of engineering to include more the management side of large engineering projects and how various pieces of a large project fit together.

    As far as life here goes, it's really what you make it. Some people are miserable every day. Other people thrive. As a freshman you'll probably tend more towards the former, but it's really not that bad. You just have to make the decision that the opportunities (during and after the Academy), the friends, the education, whatever it may be, outweighs the suck. And if you just want to live a normal college life, USAFA is probably not the experience you're looking for.

    If you want me to expand on anything I wrote feel free to ask.
     
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  11. USMA 1994

    USMA 1994 Member

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    OP, I think you missed the most important consideration in your first sentence. You talked about prestige, sports, unique experiences, college majors but you did not mention the desire to serve as an Air Force Officer. I understand that you are an enlisted airmen in the reserves but becoming an officer is a different sort of commitment. Once you get that straight, everything else mentioned is spot on. The Academy is not filled with all 4.0 students and everyone will struggle with something. Work hard and do your best.
     
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  12. RTHB

    RTHB New Member

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    Thank you for the tips. I actually contacted my ALO a while back but received no reply. I just so happened to meet him today as he is the person who briefs Tuition Assistance. As for the tour, that looks like my best option because what I really want is to hear from cadets. Last time I checked I missed the recent tours but I'll be sure to sign up for one when the time comes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
  13. RTHB

    RTHB New Member

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    Thank you for the post of inspiration, but what I was really hoping for was what the cadets think of the Academy. I feel like a lot of people don't exactly know what they are getting when they go to the Academy. They hear free tuition, housing, food, ivy league school and sign right up. From what I understand it's extremely rigorous, and I wanna know why they think it's worth it. What experiences made it worth while?
     
  14. RTHB

    RTHB New Member

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    Thank you, I appreciate your post and willingness to share. You would probably be the absolute best person to speak to. Since you already are going towards mech engineering (which is what I think I'd like to do when I grow up, and I apologize in advance for the barrage of questions you're about to receive) what are the classes like? Do you do projects that expand on your creativity? Do you get to do any hands on work and build/design stuff? Do you know what you're day might look like once you go operational? What do a lot of people do to escape the stresses of classes? Do you get enough sleep?
     
  15. RTHB

    RTHB New Member

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    Thank you for the reply! Well considering the whole point of the Academy is to put out the best and brightest officers and I was interested in attending, I thought it went without saying I wanted to be an officer. Especially considering I mentioned ROTC as well.
     
  16. Hoodlum15

    Hoodlum15 Member

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    No problem, I enjoy talking about myself lol. So I have limited information on mech classes as I am still primarily in core classes. Anyway, most semesters you'll have 6 classes and a PE, on a rotating schedule (i.e. three classes MWF then TTh the next week etc.) The courses are designed for you to spend 2 hours out of class for every hour in class, but I have few classes I actually do. The more advanced maths are probably the most difficult part, at least for me. I took differential equations this semester and passed without too much trouble but spent a lot of time studying. Mech has a lot of projects. Your senior year you will do a "capstone project" where you tackle a large problem with a team of people all year. Past years have included IED detecting drones, improved body armor, and a formula racing car. You can also help out with these projects as an underclassman in your free time - the formula car is a popular one unsurprisingly. This past semester I took an "engineering tools" class where I became certified to use all the equipment in the mech lab. It was absolutely my favorite class, and now I am certified to use the lab whenever I want, including at night and on the weekends. The lab has a full machine shop, wood shop, welding garage, composites lab, 3D printers, laser engraver, and water jet. Provide your own materials and off you go. I made almost all my Christmas presents in it. I used the lab as a stress relief to some extent because I love building. There are a ton of clubs you can join, judo was my real savior freshman year. A lot of cadets spend considerable quality time with Netflix. Hiking/camping/fishing are also very popular. USAFA also has coordinated entertainment every so often like concerts, free food, plays, etc. And I know a huge stress relief for me was just the awesome friends I have here, including my roommate. I personally get upset if I don't get 8 hours of sleep. My roommate makes fun of me, but that is just something I prioritize so I make it happen. A lot of people don't. It's honestly up to you, but if you time manage well then there's no reason that 98% of the time you can't get a good night's sleep. If you have other questions or want clarification on something feel free to ask!
     
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  17. Proudafparent

    Proudafparent New Member

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    Hi Hoodllum15,
    Can you talk about how cadets deal with their lack of sleep? It sounds like doolies can expect only 5 or 6 hours their first year. How are you able to get 8 hours a night? Do cadets nap during the day?
    Thank you for your time answering these questions!
     
  18. Hoodlum15

    Hoodlum15 Member

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    No problem! Doolies must have their doors open all day and are technically not allowed to nap; a lot of upperclassmen are frequent nappers though.

    I think a lot of cadets just manage their time really poorly. They'll play video games before they do homework, procrastinate on a paper, or not use the weekends wisely. I write down my entire schedule for every class at the beginning of the semester which really helps me stay organized, I make sure I use all the free periods during the school day to get work done, and I typically get 2 to 3 days worth of homework done on the weekends. If I get stuck on something, I will almost always just go get help from the instructor the next day, and I think a lot of cadets waste hours trying to slog through something they don't understand.

    I did this with 2 hr club practices every weekday and plenty of time to still have fun. It's definitely doable if you try. Hope that helps!
     
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  19. IdahoAF

    IdahoAF Member

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    I’m a current Doolie who gets plenty of sleep at night. The school days have a lot of free time in between classes and it’s really important that you seize those opportunities to get work done. It’s the cadets who smoke and joke a lot when they should be working that end up staying up past midnight.

    It’s not hard, as long as you realize that time is valuable and that schoolwork is a grind.
     
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  20. Proudafparent

    Proudafparent New Member

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    Thank you, Hoodlum and Idaho. Very encouraging words. I'm gonna guess you were both very successful in high school.
    I'll be back with more questions as my DD struggles with this big decision.
    Hope you get tomorrow off!
     
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