United States Air Force Academy


Imagine a school where each person is more than a student, where every individual is a person of integrity, a leader of character, an honorable human being, and most importantly, a member of the profession-of-arms. Imagine future writers, scientists, engineers, pilots, administrators, doctors, nurses, astronauts, lawyers, communications experts, business professionals, ambassadors, politicians—all of them current or former Air Force officers—interacting with each other both inside and outside the classroom. Now imagine those same individuals jumping out of airplanes, flying solo in gliders, leading their peers, traveling to countries all over the world, learning foreign languages, operating satellites, and working in an undergraduate research center, all while participating in sports as popular as Division I football or as diverse as “flickerball.” Most importantly, these men and women have chosen to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Sound like a challenge? That’s because it is. It’s just a snapshot of what makes the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) the Air Force’s premier institution for developing leaders of character. Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, just north of Colorado Springs, this academy creates an environment where cadets can pursue their personal goals, while simultaneously achieving a Bachelor of Science degree in one of thirty-two majors and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the world’s greatest air, space, and cyberspace force. Each year, just over one thousand young men and women graduate to then serve their country in a number of different occupations.


Information Summary

Ranks 6th in Colorado and 269th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 91.1
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance N/A
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 33 / 1410
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 21 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 95% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 4,336


Academics here are one-of-a-kind, and specifically catered toward the development of each cadet. Due to its size, the student-faculty ratio is 8:1, providing cadets plenty of specialized instruction regardless of the subject. Class sizes are small, with a cadet’s largest class reaching no more than twenty-seven individuals. One-hundred percent of the faculty are full-time and are all required to be in their offices for extra instruction when not in class. Faculty members are a combination of active-duty military officers and civilians in order to give students perspective in the classroom.

An average academic day at the academy consists of mandatory breakfast and lunch, fifty-three minute classes five days a week, mandatory athletic activities, participation in intramurals or intercollegiate athletics, studying in the late afternoon and evening, preparing for inspections, and a lights-out period. Each semester is seventeen weeks long. Weekends may involve training, to include studying, military exercises, attending parades, and participating in white-glove inspections.

Core Curriculum

Regardless of their academic majors, cadets are required to complete a core curriculum of 102 semester hours. Both technical and nontechnical majors take multiple levels of engineering, science, math, English, history, foreign language, and a number of other courses. With the core requirement, cadets are academically prepared to speak on a number of different subjects and take on the many challenges that face them as Air Force Officers. In addition to their majors, cadets may also minor in philosophy or a foreign language. Every cadet is also a student-athlete. Whether it’s through participation in one of 27 NCAA Division I teams, an athletic club, or intramural competition between squadrons, cadets commit to physical development that results in a long-term happy, healthy way of life. In addition, all cadets are required to take an aerobic fitness test and a physical fitness test each semester.


A bachelor of science degree is awarded to each graduate, with 32 programs of study in technical fields such as physics, mechanical engineering, chemistry, and aeronautical engineering. The liberal arts are also represented with degrees in English, history, and the humanities available as well.

A typical course load each semester is between fifteen and eighteen credit hours. Most semesters include classes within the cadet’s major, in addition to classes in core subject areas. A cadet must also take a physical education class every semester. Required physical education classes include physical development, boxing (men), self-defense (women), basic swimming, water survival, two levels of unarmed combat, and a number of team and individual sports.

The academy also offers cadets the opportunity for a number of graduate scholarships following graduation. To date, USAFA has had thirty-five cadets win the Rhodes Scholarship, an international scholarship that affords superior students the chance to study at Oxford University, in its fifty-one year existence. In addition, graduates go on to win the Fulbright-Hayes scholarship, JFK at Harvard, the Marshall scholarship, the Truman scholarship, and the Alberta Bart Holaday scholarship.

Most Popular Fields of Study


Academy Logo :: United States Air Force Academy Falcon Stadium :: United States Air Force Academy
Michael Allen, Alumni, Stationed,US Coast Guard Air Station :: United States Air Force Academy Wings :: United States Air Force Academy

Unique Programs

Basic Training

Attendance begins with a rigorous, six-week-long Basic Cadet Training, in which cadets are introduced to military life. This is the professional development that transitions an individual from recent high school graduate to military member. It is here that a cadet’s strength and leadership abilities are tested for the first time, both physically and mentally.

The basic cadets begin with three weeks in the cadet area (campus) dormitories, where they are introduced to military customs and courtesies, marching, wearing of the uniform, and military history. The final three weeks of basic training is spent in a training facility located on the Air Force Academy grounds called Jacks Valley. In Jacks Valley, basic cadets live in tents that they build and are more physically challenged. It is in this phase of Basic Cadet Training that teamwork is highly emphasized, and cadets learn that they cannot complete any part of the academy on their own. Upon completion of this summer training, basic cadets are officially welcomed into the cadet wing, where the real four-year journey begins. In addition, cadets will participate in a number of additional military training events throughout their four years at USAFA. Commandant’s Challenge is a training event completed by all four classes in the fall, with recognition occurring in the spring. After cadets complete recognition, they are awarded the prop and wing device, which officially recognizes them as members of the upper three classes.

The Honor Code/Oath

Most importantly, at the forefront of every cadet’s development as a future Air Force Officer is taking the Cadet Honor Code on the second day of basic training. By promising to abide by the honor code, cadets ensure that they are living examples of the Air Force Core Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.


Admission into the academy isn’t easy. Thousands of men and women apply each year, with only a small percentage of those accepted for admission. To be eligible to attend the academy you must be

  • a citizen of the United States
  • unmarried with no dependents
  • of good moral character
  • meet high leadership, academic, physical, and medical standards
  • at least 17, but less than 23 years of age by July 1 of the year you will enter

In addition, the academy looks at the “whole person,” that is, a student’s academic performance, interviews, writing sample, test scores, extracurricular activities, physical performance, and overall physical health. The application process is long and rigorous, and requires an individual to begin the process as early as 31 January of his or her junior year. In order to begin the application process, an interested student must have a social security number. If that individual does not have a social security number, one can be requested from the local Social Security Administration Office via form SSA-5. On the form, evidence of date of birth, identity, and U.S. citizenship must be furnished.

The academic standards are some of the highest in the country. Over half of academy cadets graduated in the top ten percent of their graduating classes, with a number of those students graduating valedictorian/salutatorian. The average ACT score is 30, with an average combined math/ verbal SAT score of 1290. The academy recommends that any students interested in attending take the SATs/ACTs early. Students should contact their guidance counselors as soon as possible to begin to prepare for the application process. Interested applicants will also have access to regional Air Force Academy Admissions Liaison Officers (ALOs) who will guide and assist the applicant at the local level. Applicants are also required to interview with ALOs as part of their admissions package.


A student must also receive a nomination to be considered for application to attend USAFA. All high school students are eligible for one of four nominating sources: the vice president, both U.S. senators from the state in which the student is domiciled, and the U.S. representative from the district in which the student is domiciled. These applications for the congressional nominations are different from the academy’s application, and can be found at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov. The vice president nominates cadets for the Air Force Academy from all over the nation. The deadline for requesting a vice presidential nomination is 31 October of a student’s senior year.

In addition, some students whose parents have certain amounts of military service may also be eligible for a presidential nomination. Details on the presidential nominating process can be found online. Keep in mind that although an applicant needs only one nomination in order to be considered, multiple nominations make a student more competitive for admission.

The application process to the Air Force Academy is different for enlisted airmen currently serving in the United States Air Force. Contact a U.S. Air Force Base Education Office or the Air Force Academy Admissions Office for more information.

Profile of a Typical Cadet Class

  • Valedictorian/Salutatorian: 14%
  • President/Vice President of
  • Class or Student Body: 18%
  • Top 10% of High School Class: 55%
  • Athletic Letter Award: 83%
  • Boys/Girls State or Nation: 14%
  • National Honor Society: 26%

Financial Aid

All expenses are covered by taxpayer dollars. What does this mean? Each and every cadet is on a full-ride scholarship worth $415,000. Cadets receive a small stipend each month while attending the academy. In addition, upon commission, each cadet is guaranteed job security as an active-duty Air Force officer. As a result, each cadet must serve in the active-duty Air Force a minimum of five years following graduation/commissioning.

In addition to tuition and fees, room and board, books, uniform, and all other items are paid for; cadets also receive full medical benefits since they are considered members of the active-duty Air Force. Cadets are also eligible for special financial opportunities, life insurance, and other benefits usually afforded to military members.

The Commitment

As noted previously, there is a five-year active duty service commitment. On the first day of in-processing, appointees will sign an agreement stating that they will fulfill certain service obligations. This service obligation applies to all cadets, except international students. The obligations are an agreement to:

  • complete the course of instruction at the academy (unless disenrolled).
  • accept an appointment to serve as a commissioned officer in the Air Force for five years active duty and three more as inactive reserve. A graduate from the Air Force Academy is eligible to request a separation from the Air Force after five years of service.

Note: If a cadet leaves the academy before the first day of classes, his or her second class (junior) year, then there is no commitment.

With the commitment, most cadets do not see it as a chore or a simple method of payback; rather, deciding to serve in the military becomes a part of the individual, a way of life. Like any other decision involving some kind of service, the decision to attend the Air Force Academy is also a commitment to become an Air Force Officer, to serve something bigger than an individual. As such, military members want to leave their country and the world better than they found it.

Student Financial Aid Details

Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Colorado.


A typical cadet schedule is rigorous, but still leaves time for extracurricular activities. In addition to the academy’s twenty-seven NCAA Division I athletic teams, cadets may also participate in any of the eighty clubs available, which include a cadet chorale, a nationally ranked debate team, and a number of additional recreational sports. With easy access to the Rocky Mountains and a number of ski resorts, many cadets find time to ski in the local area when given a free weekend.

Summers for cadets are unique. Instead of returning home for three months, cadets participate in a number of activities, such as aviation programs, additional military training, cultural immersion, and immersion into the active duty Air Force by attending Air Force bases all around the world.

Soaring and Parachuting

The academy’s airmanship programs not only provide cadets the opportunity to fly, soar, or parachute, they also afford them the chance to lead as an instructor pilot. In the soaring program, cadets are instructed on how to operate a sail plane, with the opportunity to eventually fly solo. The parachuting program (also known as “jump”) is the only parachuting program available where a student’s first jump is solo and without the aid of a static line. This is because cadets undergo an extensive, week-long ground training program prior to their first jumps. Upon completion of their fifth successful jump, cadets are awarded basic military jump wings. Both the soaring and jump programs can be completed during the summer or taken during the fall or spring as a class. Powered flight programs are also available for cadets with flying experience prior to entering the academy.


Cadets also have the opportunity to fly aircraft simulators. The “Project Fledgling” aviation program introduces cadets to a basic understanding of aviation principles, and allows them to fly the T-6 simulators.

Residential Life

While in attendance at the academy, cadets are required to live in the dormitories all four years. Cadets live with members of his/her squadron, which is a little over a hundred cadets. Although the academy emphasizes cadet leadership during all four years, this leadership is guided with oversight from active duty military members. In that vein, each squadron is assigned one Air Officer Commanding (AOC) and as many as two Academy Military Trainers (AMTs). The AOC is a major or lieutenant colonel in the Air Force who oversees the day-to-day and administrative responsibilities within the squadron. In order to be an AOC, the officer must complete a master’s degree in counseling. AMTs are technical sergeants or master sergeants who assist the AOC in these duties. The AOCs/AMTs are a line of communication for the cadets throughout the four years, and can provide advice, support, and counseling.


The academy supports and provides religious accommodations for all of its cadets. The Cadet Chapel, Colorado’s #1 man-made tourist attraction and a unique religious landmark, provides a myriad of services for multiple faith groups. In addition, if a cadet’s religious needs cannot be met on base, the academy will ensure that those needs are met within the local area. Cadets also have the opportunity to participate in a cadet religious council, to help plan chapel programs for cadets at the academy.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


NCAA Division I Sports Teams


Football, Cross-Country, Soccer, Water Polo, Basketball, Boxing, Hockey, Fencing, Gymnastics, Indoor/Outdoor Track and Field, Rifle, Swimming & Diving, Wrestling, Baseball, Lacrosse, Tennis, and Golf.


Cross-Country, Volleyball, Soccer, Basketball, Fencing, Gymnastics, Indoor/Outdoor Track and Field, Swimming & Diving, Rifle, Tennis.

Local Community

The Colorado Rockies

A cadet’s life is busy, and any time off is much appreciated. Cadets have periodic weekends off throughout the school year, and when those periods arise, the Colorado Springs area backdropped by the beautiful Rocky Mountain Range provides the perfect place for rest and relaxation. Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, bringing world-class athletes to the area. Colorado affords all cadets the opportunity to learn a new outdoor sport, experience nature at 14,000 feet or more, ride along the Arkansas River, attend a concert at Red Rocks, go horseback riding, attend one of eight professional athletic events in the state, shop, eat, and experience the joy of being a Colorado resident.

The Air Force Academy is located just north of Colorado Springs, a city with an estimated metropolitan population of more than 600,000. The state capital of Denver is located fifty-five miles north of Colorado Springs, and is the largest city in Colorado. It is in both cities that cadets will find a variety of restaurants, museums, theaters, nightclubs, shopping centers, athletic facilities, and sporting events. Denver is also considered the primary access to many mountain resorts, ski areas, and scenic drives. There are also many smaller cities north of Denver that offer a unique experience to get away for a few days. Two of the most popular are Boulder and Fort Collins.


Prominent Graduates

  • Karol J. Bobko, ’59, first graduate in space
  • Fred D. Gregory, ’64, first African- American to command any space vehicle
  • Brigadier General R. Stephen Ritchie, ’64, Vietnam ace
  • Captain Lance Sijan, ’65, awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage during the Vietnam War
  • Gregg Popvich, ’70, Head coach of the San Antonio Spurs
  • Gary A. Grappo, ’72, US Ambassador to Oman
  • Susan J. Helms, ’80, first female graduate in space
  • Heather Wilson, ’82, first graduate elected to the U.S. Congress
  • Alonzo Babers, ’83, gold medal winner (400m and 4×400 relay) at the 1984 Olympics
  • Chad Hennings, ’88, Member of the Dallas Cowboys, winner of three Super Bowls
  • Major Nicole Malachowski, ’96, first woman to serve as an Air Force Thunderbird Pilot Current White House Fellow

Additional School Information

The academy has disability services as well, so be sure to inquire about them if needed. In particular, the following programs are available: Alcohol/Substance Abuse Counseling, Campus Ministries/Chaplain, Freshman Orientation Program, Health Services, Legal Services and Personal Counseling.

Air Force Academy Prep School

The Air Force Academy is also home to its own preparatory school, known as the “Prep School,” which is also located on the Academy Reservation. It is designed with the opportunity to train and prepare young men and women for the rigorous curriculum. High school seniors cannot simply apply to the prep school; instead, approximately 240 individuals applying to the academy are identified as a better fit for the prep school and offered a slot to the prep school instead of the academy. Only Air Force enlisted members may apply directly to the prep school. Upon completion of the year-long prep school, cadet candidates have a better chance of getting into the academy the following year, but are not guaranteed admission. To be eligible, a student must

  • be at least seventeen and have not passed his or her twenty-second birthday by July 1st of the year he or she enters the prep school
  • be eligible to be a U.S. citizen
  • be unmarried and have no dependents
  • meet specific medical standards for a commission in the United States Air Force.

While attending the prep school, cadet candidates are enlisted members of the United States Air Force Reserve.

Preparation for Future Applicants In preparation for selection into the academy, high school students should take the following courses at a minimum:

  • four years of English
  • four years of college-prep math
  • four years of lab science
  • three years of social studies
  • two years of a foreign language
  • one year of computer study.


Accreditation is provided by The Higher Learning Commission of The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

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