Pro's / Con's


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Jan 4, 2009
Can some current and former cadets tell me some of the pros/cons of the academy?? :wiggle:
This would be a time to go read and search a lot of threads with more info than we could just post here.
also, not to confuse you, but a PLUS for some people are a negative for others. The same with the other way around. Some people LOVE the physical side of it. They love running, marching, athletics, etc... Others hate that part, but really love academics, new friendships, new adventures. Instead of looking for a list of pros and cons; first figure out what YOU WANT with your life. Figure out what you want to be. Then see if the military academies can give you those things. good luck. Mike....
CC is right, it is not the old cliche one size fits all. I suggest that you watch the DVD about the SA's to get some perspective. I also suggest you do what we did for our son...6 am wake up, room spotless, sit at attention at dinner, chew only 7 bites, recite the lunch menu for school for the next 3 days at dinner, discuss current events, do at least 60 mins of PT daily, and pull the grades at the same time. LOOK AT YOUR REQ CURRICULUMN and decide if you would be happy taking those mandatory courses, b/c if you won't be that will be the 1st strike, and it can also be a reason of why you may or may not be successful. If you hate sciences, but you are good at it, your time there will mean nothing because you will hate the classes you take. NOBODY can live 4 yrs hating their daily job without it eating away at them and making them find an anger outlet (not meaning you will hit somebody, just meaning you will start to resent sometyhing and most likely it will be the AF)

Our DS also questioned the pros and cons of the AFA, in the end he decided he wanted to eventually be an AF officer, but have the traditional college life. He saw 18 yrs of his Dad's dedication in re to living the military life. DS was ready to commit to the AF, but not full time.

You need to answer the question yourself...IMHO there is nothing worse than the cadet who goes for all the wrong reasons, hates it and does a 5 and dive.
I also suggest you do what we did for our son...6 am wake up, room spotless, sit at attention at dinner, chew only 7 bites, recite the lunch menu for school for the next 3 days at dinner, discuss current events, do at least 60 mins of PT daily, and pull the grades at the same time
please tell me you are kidding. You made your son do this at home? and he went along with it?
What everyone here has said is true, especially what ChristCorp said: just because it is good for someone else, doesn't mean you will like it.

For my two, here are some general ideas:

Pro: being part of a team - to have that sense of belonging. They have every possible facility at their fingertips. They aren't bored - ever. They know kids from all over the world. Both really love the Catholic chapel there. Fantastic golfing.

cons: It's really far from home, they can't just "come home for the weekend" as their local Flagship U friends can. No sleeping inside the covers. L O N G
walk from Mitch's after a L O N G practice. I think the worst for them is being sick at the Academy. Tough to carry on with all those activities with a bad cold or icky tummy (though you can be excused with the correct form).

Both are missing their media/music, but that comes back after Recognition, right?

What some people think are bad things are of no consequence for them: three guys to a room (just like home!). Not many clothes, but enough (just like home). No wheels.

For a parent, it is especially tough , and especially gratifying, since they are indeed so far away, and went (in my mind) from being boys to men between I-Day and Acceptance Day. The other tough part for us is paying for their flights home (times two), but we'd be paying that to some college if they'd gone civvie.
Can some current and former cadets tell me some of the pros/cons of the academy?? :wiggle:

that smiley gets me everytime hahaha. My suggestion, I know you are young and cant get official visits, but during your junior year go visit. Get an official tour with a cadet, they will tell you so much about the academy and you can almost make up your mind on that day. Then apply for SS, I did not attend but I heard it was a great learning experience. After this, you should talk to cadets on here, they are very nice and helpful :thumb:

Good Luck :thumb:



Try to get in Summer Seminar. Our son went, and I can say he saw the good and the bad. I think his cadre was very honest with his element and did not try to sugar coat things. When our son would call in the evenings we heard excitement some days and reservations other days. However, it really made him weigh his choices, and I think he now knows exactly what he is taking on and giving up vs. going to a public university. Although his other choice was Texas A&M corps in which many things are similar he is still giving up many, many freedoms of a public univerisity vs. the USAFA. However, since he had an LOA he had 2 good choices to choose from with pros and cons of both.
Time for the Gung-Ho comments. :smile:

If you are trying to "COMPARE" the academy to ROTC or to becoming commissioned via OTS; comparing Air Force to Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, etc..; then your question is quite valid. There are definitely pros and cons to each method of an education and to becoming a commissioned officer in the United states Armed Forces.

Now; if your inquiry is to determine the pros and cons of the academy as an alternative to a traditional college or university, then I'd say that such an inquiry isn't as valid.

The #1 purpose of a cadet attending the Air Force Academy, West Point, Annapolis, etc... SHOULD BE to SERVE THEIR COUNTRY as a commissioned officer in the military. The pros and cons are not important in the desire to serve; ONLY as to WHICH BRANCH and academy one may use as their route to serving. With approximately 10,000 individuals applying each year to each of the big 3 academies; and only approximately 1400 individuals walking through the doors when the dust settles; there are MORE than enough applicants who's desire to serve is strong.

I guess my point is; if you truly want to serve as a commissioned officer in the air force; and want to attend the air force academy as a means to that commissioning; then it doesn't matter WHAT THE CONs are of the place. You deal with them and you'll reach your goal of being a commissioned officer. If your #1 priority is something other than serving as a commissioned officer in the Air Force, then probably the air force academy is not right for you.

Applying to any of the academies should not be just ANOTHER SCHOOL that you applied to in the hopes that one of the schools will accept you. It is not an EQUAL on your list of schools. The academies really need to be your first and preferred school on your list. It's what you want to do. Whether you serve for 5 years or 20 years, that is what you should WANT to be doing. Not like; "I get a great education, and I'm (Willing) to give back 5 years of my life to pay back for that education". Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that looking at the fine education, benefits, etc... of the academy and military service shouldn't be considered. Of course they should. But you should WANT to serve; not doing it as a form of pay back. And if you WANT to serve; then it doesn't matter what the pros and cons are unless you are trying to compare the different academies to each other; or to ROTC or OTC. There's approximately 25% of the entering class each year who WILL NOT GRADUATE 4 years later. Most will quit. Some will not be able to handle the academics. It sure would be nice if the academies could bring in their estimated graduating class size right from the beginning where there's a 100% graduation rate. "Minus any medical or physical issues". Of course that's not practical or realistic. But I don't mind bringing up this topic every once in a while in the hopes that those who apply are doing it for the right primary reason. After that, there are plenty of valid reasons. But the #1 reason still needs to be the desire to serve your country.

Sorry if this post sounded cynical. It is not meant to be. But with 10,000 people applying; I'd rather those who really have a calling and desire to serve be the ones. And as far as I know; YOU COULD BE THAT PERSON!!! That would be great. If you are, then don't worry about the CONS. Everything in life has it's moments where it sucks. Ask every parent on this board who has a job, has raised their kids, etc... But it's what we want, so we just deal with it. But again, your question is great if you're comparing the air force to army, navy, coast guard, ROTC, OTS, etc.... now; having said all that; ask about all the GREAT THINGS AT THE ACADEMY!!!!! Best of luck to you. Mike.... betcha we did that. I am also amazed you asked he went along with it. He is a military child and will be joining the military, he understood that this was not a form of punishment, but a reality check.

Bullet and I have taken criticism on us doing this. We will never apologize for it. Main reason why is exactly what CC just said, and what I preach, you don't go to any SA for a free education and you don't go for the pilot slot. You go to get the experience of an Academy education. Many, many moons ago you went b/c that was your best chance to become a General, not so much anymore.

For newcomers here is DS's story

DS signed for his ROTC committment before the mass mailing. We sat down with him and said if finance wasn't an issue (we are paying for it no FA, but the thought of Mom and DAd not paying a dime weighed on his mind) and you could get a UPT slot, where would you go? There was no hesitation, no second thought, no rationalization...he said he would go where he is at now(Bullet's alma mater). Bullet took him to meet the commander at the det. The commander had him speak to upcoming grads (they already knew what they were getting upon grad) Everybody, except 1 person (due to gpa) got their 1st pick. They also showed yrs passed assignments and the statistical chances of getting UPT. The commander already knew approx. how many cadets were coming in on scholarship, and their academic history. He assured us that if DS wanted to re-apply in the fall he would give full support for the AFA. DS has decided that he wants to stay at his college in the scholars program. He passed his PFA high enough that he is not required to do physical fitness with the det., and can work out on his own. He has the highest gpa out of all of the Freshman, and the only one in the scholars program (they only take 10% for the Scholars program). He scored the highest AFOQT for all of the freshman. And he gets to still have the "traditional" college life. In the end of the day Bullet and I showing just a taste made DS realize the Cons were more than the Pros for him. I can't say it enough of how proud we are of him for being mature enough to realize that he didn't want the AFA, he just wants to be an AF Officer. Like CC said there are alot of kids who want to attend, going there should be because you want to be there now not for what might happen 4 yrs from now.

The AFA is an excellent way to be an officer, but many excellent officers also come through ROTC/OTS. You need to be realistic and ask does the AFA match you. You can get a degree in military history at the AFA, but you will still take science core classes, have you looked at the core classes you will be required to take? Will you be happy living a regimented life?

Just because you don't go to an SA doesn't mean you can't be a great officer and still live your AF dream...Bullet is proof!
Did you also take him to a college frat house, get him a fake ID and watch him consume enormous quanties of bad beer so he could experience throwing up and the resulting hangover. This would give him a great indication of 'real' college life.

Honestly - those things that you made him do - are a very small part of the academy experience. they are all rather trivial, easy to learn for any reasonably intelliengent college bound student. I would not categorize any of those as exceedingly difficult.
My daughter came from a non-military family - as do most academy kids (believe it or not) and she, like most academy kids, had absolutely no trouble mastering these simple tasks.
These tasks are not much of the "what they are getting themselves into".
Rather he learn at home then suffer through doolie year miserable. You may not see the experience as valuable JAM but having that experience with the military is exactly why a military parent wants their child to go for themselves. My daughter knew what the military was (she grew up in it), and like every military family she served too. Everytime I was gone she, my wife, and other daughters served. I have watched my daughters class shrink each year. Some weren't prepared Academically, Physically, or Emotionally. Some went for their parents, and many of those will regret it. While you may not understand why B&P did what they did I do, and I am sure most Military Parents do too. Just because you dont understand things doesn't make them wrong.
While my son is a BRAT (Military kid for those who don't know); and after my 20+ years in, I figured he still might not know what he was getting into. No matter how much I asked him about it, he still said he wanted the air force academy. For the service, for the education, for the military career, for the experience, and basically for all the right reasons. Needless to say; i was pleased, but still not 100% sure he knew what he was getting into. I know that no one knows EVERYTHING about what they are getting into. But I promised him if he was serious, that I could help him with getting in. (He had to do all the work to get in, but I knew most of the answers and "How To's" that he would want to know.) He insisted this is really what he wanted.

The day I finally realized that he "Probably" knew what he was getting into, was when he came back from Summer Seminar. The smile on his face and the attitude. But still, I wasn't completely confident that he wasn't just doing this so I and his mom didn't have to pay for his education; or some other noble reason. Then I knew for sure, that he knew for sure, what he was getting into. Or at least as well as he could POSSIBLY know.

Within a 30 day period, my son was accepted to 6 different colleges/universities. All EARLY admissions applications. All completed and accepted by October/November. He received an academy APPOINTMENT and 5 other schools. Just like most of you at the academy and the kids of parents on this forum; he had excellent grades. These schools included names like Michigan State, USC, Tulane, and others.

Well, of the 5 schools, not counting the academy, 2 were offering FULL RIDE SCHOLARSHIPS. 1 of them was a 110% (Extra 10% included travel expense home xmas, summer, and spring. As well as a monthly stipend for spending). NOT BAD. Another school offered 100% scholarship on tuition and books. Plus they offered another scholarship he could apply to for dorm and food expense. Basically, the only expense would be for spending money. The other schools had accepted him early admissions, but we hadn't started talking about scholarships or anything else yet with them.

Also involved in all of this was my son's desire and ability to play football. (A jock with a brain, what a concept). Anyway, football could also be an option at a couple of these schools. That wasn't an initial part of his applications, but his success in high school was definitely noticed and became a factor. Including the academy.

The straw that finally made me realize he had the "RIGHT ATTITUDE" and reason for the academy was when I mentioned: A normal college will recruit about 18 football players. If they recruit you, you will be on the team and pretty much guaranteed that for all 4-5 years. At the academy, they recruit 50-60 players because they don't give athletic scholarships. They cut a lot of players before their sophomore year. His response was. "I'd rather go to the academy and not play football ever again; than to go to one of the other schools and PLAY". The fact that the academy accepted him and is giving him the "Chance" to be on the team is just a plus. So, having just about the ultimate choices and selections that any student could DREAM of having; my son choosing the academy was definitely done for the right reasons. At least in my opinion. Later... mike...
I have started replying to this several times and walked away, but I just can't let this go.

Did you also take him to a college frat house, get him a fake ID and watch him consume enormous quanties of bad beer so he could experience throwing up and the resulting hangover. This would give him a great indication of 'real' college life

Real college life doesn't mean you will be D-DAY from Animal House. The comparison is illogical. How is having our son live an academy lifestyle in our home comparable to breaking the law by giving him alcohol and a fake ID?

Second, I am very proud of our son, he has a strong sense of honor and would do nothing to jeopardize his AFROTC scholarship or his academic standing. In Case you don't know most university make them sign papers stating consumption of alcohol is grounds for expulsion or at the very least scholarships. NOT EVERY KID GOES TO COLLEGE WITH THE THOUGHT OF GETTING DRUNK...MANY GO FOR THE DEGREE

Honestly - those things that you made him do - are a very small part of the academy experience. they are all rather trivial, easy to learn for any reasonably intelliengent college bound student. I would not categorize any of those as exceedingly difficult.

Did I ever say they were difficult? NO! However, it does give the child a sense of some things they will endure. If you hate doing that day in and day out at home you better really want the AFA b/c it will be 3x worse (we didn;t give demerits, and on weekends he was free to do whatever). They are trivial, and at the end of the day, they can be the things that breaks the camels back.

The AFA is a totally different lifestyle and experience, but it is not meant for everybody. Like ds52262 and CC stated, many military members actually have larger fears for their children regarding an academy education. Our ALO had a very long conversation w/DS about why he was choosing this route. Trying to make sure that he was doing it for himself and not to carry on the tradition. I bet Flieger would agree on that.

THE SA's are the absolute best education for somebody who is ready now to give 24/7/365. If you still want to be a kid and experience college than maybe and I stress maybe you should think about ROTC.

As CC and many other posters have stated 25% of any incoming class will not graduate. Academics is a large part of it, but so is the life. Graduating from the Academy will not make you the best officer, the best officer has it in them already. I have met great officers that were ROTC grad, including my husband. I have also met crappy ones. At our last base the Vice Wing and the OG were ROTC grads, not AFA. In the end, we all should stand up and clap for each incoming class at any SA, they are willing to dedicate their lives 24/7 to the AF at a young age. We also need to understand that ROTC cadets care just as much about the AF. Some AFROTC cadets will go that route b/c they did not get an appt. Some will go the route b/c like our son, make a determination that they want to be an AF career officer and their college yrs are their last hurrah! It doesn't mean that they are less committed or they are only going to a traditional college to party. The AFA is known as the little engineering school in the rockies, and if you don't want to get an engineering degree should you really go there, when you can get an AFROTC scholarship and study what you want from a top university as ranked by USNWR and Time? Both kids will graduate with the exact same rank, committment and commission. YOU GO BECAUSE YOU WANT THE ACADEMY EDUCATION...END OF SUBJECT...PERIOD...DOT
Did you also take him to a college frat house, get him a fake ID and watch him consume enormous quanties of bad beer so he could experience throwing up and the resulting hangover. This would give him a great indication of 'real' college life.".

It's amazing how much of that can apply to an academy too. It's not quite the "beacon on the hill", however they are try to be. There are slip ups, parties, drinking...etc. It's disappointing, true.
I smell hostility...

In a way I understand Mom's doubting its effectiveness. If my parents did that to me there's no way I would take it seriously, also by knowing how to get by with her (my mom)(since I know her weakness mwahaha), I'd be cheating the idea.

But then again it's a good idea to prepare a little.

I want to go to the academy because I want the academy experience.

I could go to regular college, but I also agree that college today (unless you're absolutely committed to what you want to do in life) is a party. All my friends that are at regular college have that lifestyle where drinking and smoking is a routine. In my opinion, if I was exposed to this there would be a greater chance of being distracted. I do have commitment, I don't drink, I don't do that stuff, yet in an environment where everyone else is doing that (and its of easy acess), its hard to resist. Also, once caught up in it, it's hard to stop.

just my two cents:thumb:
This is nothing against Bullet and Pima, it is my own personal opinon. Plus I am certain that they raised their son right :D

We did a survey in my sociology class. This class is a good mix of students, smart, not so smart, athletes, preps, goths, emos, you name it. It is a large class. The survey was composed of many different questions. The survey was completely confidential. Here are three examples.

Are you planing on going to college: 95% yes
Have you ever smoked marijuana: 40%
Have you ever drank alcohol at a party: 80% D: D:

After going over the survey, my teacher asked if these numbers are a good representation of our school and surronding area. Every single person in the class said yes.

I am certain that at least, AT LEAST 50% of students at civilian colleges drink and party.

I know there are many who are there for the academics, the sports, ROTC, and many other wonderful, but legal, things about college. I'm sure that Bullet and Pima's son is one of them.

P.S. We toke another survey today, I was the most conservitive student in the classroom, the only person more conservative, was the teacher lol :D
I think it's ok what Bullet and Pima did, one it's their decision so don't question it its too late and they were probably making sure their son really wanted to go to the academy and be an officer in the AF not just get a free education!
Don't turn this thread into a warzone like some that I've seen!