Why do people attend the Academy?

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by pstine, Sep 2, 2017.

  1. pstine

    pstine Member

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    As a candidate for the class of 2022, I have been asking around about peoples thoughts and experiences about USAFA. After talking to cadets and cadets who were dropped and ROTC cadets and ROTC instructors, I have heard a lot of negative ideas about the Academy not being worth the effort, not being any better than a 4 year university (which I am already attending), and not as great as one might think the Academy is. I have wanted to go to the Academy for a year now and after working my a$$ off training for my CFA (exceeded the goal in every section today), maintaining good grades in high school and college, and adding extracurriculars and sports to improve my application, it is hard to not get discouraged about my goal not being as good as I think it will. I would love to hear peoples opinions on the positive and negative sides of the Academy, and why they (or someone close to them) chose to attend the Academy. Was it a good choice or a bad choice? I'd appreciate all input.
     
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  2. Hoodlum15

    Hoodlum15 Member

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    I am a 3rd class cadet here at USAFA and I can't imagine myself anywhere else. First things first though, you have to come here because YOU want to be here, or else you will be miserable. The Academy definitely isn't for everyone, and I can promise you that it will not live up to your expectations in at least a couple ways. Basic sucks, parts of freshman year suck, and some things about the upper 3 years suck too, so don't fool yourself.

    That being said, it is also an incredible experience. If you have the right attitude and "embrace the suck" you have the chance to grow as a person, learn more about yourself, and push yourself to your limits, all of which are very appealing yo certain types of people.

    The experiences you can get here are phenomenal. I have solo skydived, flown gliders, gone on classified training flights, traveled nationally, and spent the night in Cowboy stadium, all through USAFA. Other people have travelled internationally, done incredible research projects, flown planes, built and flown satellites, and sat in on top secret meetings.

    Then there are the less organized experiences I've had like decorating a senior's room as a forest (complete with sod), making a slip and slide in the hallway, having a snowball fight between dorm rooms, and stealing the commandant's car.

    This leads me into another huge reason why people like the Academy, and that's the people. If you don't make the best friends of your life in your first semester of being here (if not in basic) you're doing it wrong. I know so many people and have such incredible friends from all over the nation that I can't imagine giving them up. Friendships forged through tough times are the strongest ones and that's something you won't find anywhere else.

    From a career standpoint, it is easier to get a pilot slot through the Academy and you have a better chance at promoting faster. After separating from the military, having an Academy degree will give you an edge for competitive civilian job offers.

    Now, let me tell you why people hate it here. As a freshman you have minimal freedoms. You walk where you're told, you talk when you're told, and you do pushups when you're told. That being said, you'll be hard pressed to find someone who says finishing freshman year wasn't one of the best experiences of their life. Your room has to be within standards, you'll have 18 credit hours most semesters, you'll have training on some Saturdays, and you'll be limited by how often you can leave base during the week. Some people absolutely can't stand this and are miserable. If this is stuff you can handle/really don't mind in light of everything else you're getting, then USAFA is for you. And of course don't forget you're getting paid this whole time. PM me if you have specific questions. Good luck!
     
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  3. Maplerock

    Maplerock Proud to be an American 5-Year Member

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    Nice post!
     
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  4. Blue&SilverBear

    Blue&SilverBear USAFA Grad/ALO 5-Year Member

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    I'll echo Hoodlum... the opportunities are completely unmatched anywhere else in the world. The only catch is you have to put out the effort to apply, volunteer, and excel once you're at USAFA to get them. Here are the highlights from my experience:

    -Academics: Double major in Political Science and Economics, summer internship working on counter-WMD research at a defense agency, exchange semester at West Point, scholarship to go straight to grad school full-time for an MS in International Economics (also met my wife in the grad program), got an additional Master of Public Management degree part-time from a top 25 program while on active duty (fully funded by my unit)
    -International Travel: Ops Air Force (Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands), Olmstead Foundation Cultural Immersion (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand), Deployed Ops Air Force (Qatar, Kuwait), Spring Break Language Immersion (Argentina, Uruguay)
    -Aviation: 5 freefall jumps, 10 glider flights, incentive flight in a C-17 on a night training mission
    -Big Time College Athletics: Cadet-in-Charge of a spirit organization (unfortunately it sounds like it has been disbanded in the last couple of years) and traveled for free to 2 away football games, made the road trip to Wyoming twice, went to almost every home basketball game including an NIT run
    -Active Duty Experiences: Managed billions of dollars in government contracts, sat in the Vice President's chair on Air Force Two, went to the White House for the CIC trophy presentation, attended an Inaugural Ball, met several 2, 3 and 4 star generals, received a personal thank you call from the Director of National Intelligence... and that's just the stuff I can talk about :cool:
    -Post-military Life: Real Estate Asset Manager for a top international investment bank getting great reviews and on track for early advancement, continuing to serve as an ALO with strong records for my Major's board coming up in 2019

    You totally get out of USAFA what you put into it. Sure, you can pick an easy major, play video games, and hide in your room just to get by, and you'll be totally miserable. You can slack off, go skiing or snowboarding every weekend, have a good time, and you'll miss out on a lot of what USAFA has to offer. I like to say that I didn't have fun at USAFA, but I got to do a lot of really fun things. USAFA was my dream school because it wasn't "regular college." You have to embrace what it is and dive in to get the full experience.
     
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  5. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    My DD would echo Hoodlum15's sentiments completely.
     
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  6. brovol

    brovol Member

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    My son is at West Point, so I can't speak to USAFA directly, but I believe the experience of Academy life is similar. He will complain a lot about things at USMA, but he reiterates frequently that there is no other place he would rather be. Mostly, he lives being a part of the Corps of Cadets, and the others who make up the Academy.

    There are few schools who present it's students with the opportunities that the Academies do. The Cadets meet and interact with amazing people from all spectrums. They do so many things which go way beyond what most college students could even imagine.

    I would not buy into the negativity too much. If the Academies weren't worthy, there would be a lot more cadets leaving after their second year. And you won't find many grads who will tell you they wish they decided to go elsewhere.
     
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  7. Cerberi

    Cerberi Member

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    And don't forget the quantity / quality of friendships that get developed by experiencing service academy life with your classmates.

    You can argue whether it is worth the taxpayers money to fund service academies and whether service academies produce 'better officers' (I don't think they do), but I wouldn't trade those experiences/opportunities/friendships for anything (and not all experiences are 'enjoyable', but they are memorable).

    30 years later I still feel as if I won the lottery by attending USAFA and I feel the same about my DD's experiences at USNA.

    Simply ask a cadet what they did in a year and then ask a ROTC person for their list. It's not for everyone and there aren't enough slots for all those that desire to attend, but.....
     
  8. parentalunit2

    parentalunit2 5-Year Member

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    I believe most answers that you’d get would just parrot what has been stated above…….the fantastic people you will surround yourself with (both students and faculty) at any SA and the unparalleled opportunities that will be put before you during your four years.
     
  9. time2

    time2 10-Year Member

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    You might also be getting 'sour grapes' from some who applied to an SA but got the TWE when applying. Typically, when someone makes negative comments about a specific college, career path, etc. I want to know more about their background. Since VERY few people actually attend both an SA and a civilian university, finding someone in a position to make direct comparisons is very hard to do.
     
  10. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator 10-Year Member

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    Well said!

    As an "old grad, from the days of the dinosaurs" I'll say that your post mirrors my cadet experience. Okay...some differences; we had opportunities to meet with and discuss WWII history...with some of the movers and shakers of the war! Fighter pilots (German, British, USA, and Japanese) as well as bomber pilots, army types, etc. And so much more...the experience was SO amazing...I'm still amazed I was privileged to be there!! And it was a few years ago.

    I'd do it all over again today...with no changes in my status (AC PRO Ace)...

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
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  11. Hoodlum15

    Hoodlum15 Member

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    Glad to know not too much has changed! I'll also add that every year we have a 3-day symposium where people from all over the country (CEOs, Olympians, NFL players, special forces) come in and talk to us. Last year there was a single WWII fighter pilot who came and spoke and it was awesome! So I guess you could say at least a few dinosaurs are still roaming the cadet area!
     
  12. Christcorp

    Christcorp 10-Year Member

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    You will find so many different reasons for accepting an appointment to one of the military academies. Some really want to serve. Some want to serve as a commissioned officer. Some for the education. Some because it's a pseudo free education. Some think of it as just another college. As many answers as you get, will be as many different reasons. No one reason is really any better or worse than another. As long as you know what you're getting into. And that doesn't really happen until you get there. But as long as you know what is expected of you in exchange for the appointment, commission, and one of the greatest educations in the country; and you're willing to perform as required, the reason can be as personal or open as you want it to be. Others don't have to agree with it.

    But I do believe that the overwhelming majority will agree that they didn't accept an appointment to the academy for the food.
     
  13. MN-Dad-2016

    MN-Dad-2016 5-Year Member

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    We must of been bad cooks.:oops: Because our son thought the food was very good and an amazing benefit.
     
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  14. MidwestDad

    MidwestDad Member

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    DS chose USMA over USAFA but I think his reason for going SA in the first place was always about 'The Corps, the Corps, and the Corps . . . "
     
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  15. Humey

    Humey Member

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    I have to imagine that the academy isnt for everyone. Some people are going to do great there and some arent. Some people want the civilians college experience and some want a real military experience. My son always said that even if he qualified for the Ivy League schools or MIT, he wouldnt attend because the pressure there is extreme. Some argue that coming out of the academies will help you if you want to go career and get into the higher positions. Others will argue that most of the highest positions of the military didnt come out of the academies and in the next 20 years, the majority of the officer will not be from the academies. The other posts have given the advantages of going to the academies. In the end, the school has to fit the student
     
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  16. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    I loved Hoodlum's post. I just left my Cadet (also a C3C) after Parent's Weekend and we had a conversation almost identical to the post by Hoodlum. In fact, I think he used the term "embrace the suck".

    My DS went to the Academy because he wanted to be a pilot in the USAF and attend a highly respected institution. He loves it because he wants to serve as an officer in the USAF (something he learned last year).
     
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  17. Humey

    Humey Member

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    My son goes to Purdue which is a respected school. Will commission as 2nd Lt in the AF and has qualified for a pilot spot. Not trying to say one shouldnt go the Air Force Academy, but one can achieve the same goals without going to the acadmey
     
  18. Wishful

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

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    Everyone's a 2nd Lt in the end...or is it the beginning!;)
     
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  19. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    Humey - there are a lot of respected schools and paths to becoming an officer. The question was why do people want to go to SAs. I gave the answer my DS gave me and my wife when he started considering USAFA. I replied to make the point that the reason for wanting to go often changes once you are there.
     
  20. parent

    parent BGO

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    I have wanted to go to the Academy for a year now.
    Daughter had her choice and is a 3c at USNA could not imagine her at a normal college. The choice is yours and yours alone if invited.