Neither of my parents attended an academy or served in the military. I'd always wanted to attend an academy, and this application was a bit of a learning process. I'm sure that others have made and will make the same dumb errors I did, so here's a list of things to keep in mind for future applicants. (BTW I was offered a Falcon Scholarship and will be re-applying next year) - Get everything done early. I cannot stress this enough. My congressman's office lost my packet TWICE, and one of my senators misplaced my packet the day before they were due. I early had a heart attack until they found it that night. Yes, this is probably some kind of astronomically rare occurrence, but it does happen. - Make sure you keep a copy of everything for your own records. This goes for letters of recommendation, essays, cover letters, EVERYTHING. Seriously, it'll save you tons of time. Many of the senators/congressmen require almost identical packets. - Your ALO/BGO/FFR is invaluable. They can make the difference in your application. Email them early and often, as sometimes they can be slow to respond. They have lives of their own. They aren't going to drop what they're doing to interview you the day before your packet is due. Keep in mind that every email, phone call or text message influences how they think of you. You want them to see that the academies NEED kids like you. Show them that you are polite and respectful, and make sure you follow proper english conventions in every communication. - MAKE SURE YOU ARE APPLYING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. There's no need to waste your time or anyone else's if you don't have the right reasons in your heart. "Free college" is not the right reason. You must be motivated to serve your country and possibly lay down your life so that others can have the freedoms you've had. - When it comes time to interview with your MOC's and academy representatives: dress up. Slacks and a button up won't make you stand out. Go for a suit. Have a good handshake. Know the Honor Code, know what majors you're interested in, know what you want to do in the military. You don't just need to impress your interviewers. You need to make sure they can't in good conscience put someone else's name higher on a list somewhere. - DODMERB is a complicated process. That phone in your pocket doesn't just text and go on the internet. A phone call can take care of a problem in an afternoon instead of several days. I needed to get a remedial because I had an inhaler for allergies when I was younger. The children's hospital where I went for this was VERY difficult to deal with. They assured me that they would fax my results to DODMERB that afternoon. I turned 18 about a week after I went in for the remedial. When I called DODMERB, they had never received my results. When I called the children's hospital, they told me my records had been sealed, as I was no longer legally a child. It took about 2 hours of calls to get the whole situation sorted out. I can only imagine how difficult that would have been over email. - The CFA. I practiced push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and the basketball throw. I ran cross country and can easily run a 5:00 mile. I made one pretty huge error: I never actually did the whole CFA in order with timing. I could rep out ~14 pull-ups fresh. In my actual CFA, I only got to 11, my mile was in the 6:30's, and my push ups were about 15 fewer than I had expected. Practice each event on its own to perfect your form and the timing to get max reps. Then put it all together to get a good idea of how you'll do. - Your essays are important, especially to the MOCs. Sometimes the difference between the #1 guy and #10 guy is a few points in the WCS. Your essay offers a chance to show why YOU deserve to have a spot at an academy. - The MOCs can make or break you. You want to get as many nominations as possible, and be as high on each list as you can be. They can usually only send 1 per year, so you really need to be the most competitive on your list. - ROTC has slots set aside each year. If you can't get a nomination from a MOC because you live in a very competitive district, you may want to keep that in mind. - Most importantly, take care of everything as soon as it pops up. I am of firm belief that the Academy and ALO's prefer students who respond quickly. I'm sure there is other stuff I've missed here that are common or easy to make mistakes, and good to know bits of knowledge, but this is what I could think of.