2 replies; because I was asked 2 questions:
1. Joekuel: All candidates, including the "Recruited Athletes" get their appointments on "Their Own". Usually, any help that a candidate gets from the coaches is mentoring on getting the application done. Now, for the extreme stand-out athlete, the coach may, or may not, petition admissions if the individual is good but because of a limited number of appointments, didn't get one. Also, if the stand out athlete is an excellent candidate, but they are border line in a particular area; e.g. ACT/SAT, or all good grades except say math; the coach could petition to get the individual into the prep school. is
But to put this into perspective, of the 50-60 recruited football players, the overwhelming majority got into the academy on their own. My son was a recruited football player, but actually wasn't recruited until 2 weeks AFTER receiving his appointment. (He received his appointment at the end of october - 2007). This is similar for most athletes. The vast majority got in on their own; had those stellar gpa/act; leadership; Extra Curricular; etc. They competed against everyone else and got it on their own. Very few get any help from a coach.
2. USAFA Cand: Every candidate competes for an appointment at UP TO 3 levels. At your Congressional District level against other applicants in your district; at your state level; and at the national level. Mind you, you only compete at the state level IF you received a State Senator's nomination, and you DIDN'T receive an appointment with your Congressman(woman)'s nomination. If you don't receive an appointment from either of these nomination slates, then your name goes into the national pool. (Approximately half of all appointments come from the district/state nominations). The remaining half of appointments come from the national pool and some select military related pools like a presidential nomination. There's also a very small amount of nominations that the superintendent can give out. Some for athletes and some for others that are deemed worthy, but for some reason didn't receive a nomination from their representative or senator. Mind you, this is just a nomination. It doesn't guarantee an appointment. Those with a superintendent nomination probably already had an LOA but didn't get a nomination. These are very rare.
Now; having said that, once you finish competing at your district level for a nomination, and assuming you are one of the 10 people with a nomination from that district, the academy WILL GIVE an appointment to one of those 10 individuals. Assuming they are 100% qualified. The remaining 9 will be put into the national pool for further consideration.
In a case like yours, where you say the area you grew up in is tough, few make it out, and grades/scores aren't that high; I understand that very well. I may be in Wyoming now, but I was born and raised in the new jersey/new york city area. Most kids I went to school with didn't go to ANY college; let alone a good university. This is where your application and your ALO really needs to step up. The application talks about overcoming hardships and adversity. Applicants are encouraged to describe how they did the BEST they could, with what was available to them. I've helped kids apply to the academy who didn't do any after school sports, because they had to raise their baby brother/sister; or get a job to contribute to the family's income.
This is a difficult position for sure. This is why many of us argue on this forum about the appointment process. Some are upset because they had a 3.9 gpa and a 32ACT and didn't receive an appointment. Yet, they read of others who had lower gpa and act scores and did receive an appointment. The academies want diversity, but so others understand for the 1 millionth time; diversity isn't just race, color, gender, etc. They are looking at the "WHOLE PERSON". They are looking for future military leaders who will be leading enlisted personnel with similar backgrounds. Rich, Poor, Traditional families, single families, ranch/farm kids, inner city kids, athletes, band, 4H, first generation going to college, and the list goes on.
This isn't to say you will or won't receive an appointment. There are only 1100-1200 appointments given. And there's a lot more than that applying. But this is to assure you that as long as you've done the BEST you could with what you HAD TO WORK WITH; and you explained this in the application process and to your ALO; then that's the best you can hope for. This is what the academies are looking for. They don't want just the 3.9-4.0gpa, 33-36ACT class president, who is also a 4 sport varsity letter captain of the team. They want so much more. But there are approximately 10,000 applicants. How you stand out in comparison to them, is how the final score will come down.
Best of luck to you and every other applicant. Mike