The United States Air Force Academy is one of five service academies in the United States. These academies provide undergraduate education and military training for officers soon to commission in the Armed Forces. The Air Force Academy is the youngest of the service academies, being founded in 1954. Students who attend any of the service academies, with the exception of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, are on active duty in the U.S. military from the day they enter the academy and are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Attending a military service academy is not for the faint of heart. Entry requirements are strict and extremely competitive which means not everyone who applies will be granted admission. Once granted admission, students spend the next 4 years with little personal freedom, and are committed to serving at least 5 years on active duty as a commissioned officer after graduation. Despite the stringent requirements, according to the Princeton Review, over 10,000 applicants competed for an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2018. However, only 11% of applicants were granted admission.
How Does USAFA Compare?
An 11% acceptance rate is pretty competitive. Only 11 out of every 100 students that applied were accepted. How does the Air Force Academy stack up to the other service academies in terms of acceptance rates?
Army- U.S. Military Academy
The U.S. Military Academy, also known more commonly as West Point, is the Army’s military service academy and the nation’s first. It’s located in West Point, New York, has been around since 1802, and has had some big names walk through their doors such as former U.S. presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and retired generals David Petraeus and Stanley A. McChrystal. With 4,348 students, the U.S. Military Academy has a slightly more competitive acceptance rate than the Air Force Academy at 10%.
Navy- U.S. Naval Academy
The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland opened its doors in 1845. The Naval Academy has 4,525 students and boasts notable alumni such as former President Jimmy Carter, Arizona Senator John McCain, and businessman and former politician Ross Perot. The most popular majors for midshipmen at the Naval Academy include systems engineering, political science and government, and economics. Of all of the service academies, the Naval Academy is the most competitive with an acceptance rate of just 9%.
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
Although the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy doesn’t require midshipmen to commission in the Armed Forces, it is a viable avenue to do so with many graduates choosing to commission in the Navy upon graduation. A much smaller student body of just over 900 students and only 5 programs of study, the Merchant Marine Academy has a 15% acceptance rate.
Coast Guard- U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Unlike the other service academies, admission to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is based solely on merit, which means applicants are not required to have a congressional nomination. With degree programs being more technically focused, the Coast Guard Academy is the smallest of all the service academies with a student population of 898. They also have the highest acceptance rate at 18%.
An 11% acceptance rate sounds pretty selective. But everything is relative. So, how does the U.S. Air Force Academy’s acceptance rate look next to the most competitive civilian universities?
According to U.S. News, there are only 25 higher education institutions that are harder to get into than the Air Force Academy. Out of the news site’s list of top 100 lowest acceptance rates, the U.S. Air Force Academy is #26. Stanford University tops the list and obviously the Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale rank high as the nation’s toughest to get into. But, the U.S. Air Force Academy is harder to get accepted into than Georgetown University, Tulane University, University of Notre Dame, and New York University—all highly respected and competitive schools.
How to Increase Your Odds
With such a low acceptance rate, you might be wondering what you need to do to have the best shot at securing a coveted spot at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
- Grades aren’t everything, but they certainly matter, you are trying to get into college after all! Focus on academics and good grades.
- Take the time to prepare for the SAT or ACT. Your standardized test scores aren’t the only factor to garnering an appointment at the Air Force Academy, but a strong test score will only help your chances.
- Make sure your record is more than academic. Join a high school sports team or club. Even better if you hold a leadership position in an extracurricular activity.
- Attend their summer seminar. The Air Force Academy offers an immersive summer program between high school students’ junior and senior years. You’ll get to live in the dorms, participate in workshops, and learn about cadet life and Air Force careers among other things. It’s not required for admission, but will give you good insight into what the Air Force Academy is looking for in its applicants.
Good luck, and go get ‘em!