By Air Force Maj. Gary Arasin
National Guard Bureau
The knowledge is that the Military Academy, more commonly known as West Point, and the Air Force Academy set aside 85 slots each year specifically for reserve component members. More importantly, the academies’ National Guard liaison officers said, is the need for persistence toward the application process.
“The application process is long and very detailed,” said Air Force Capt. Chris Goshorn, the Air Force Academy’s Region 4 liaison and outreach director. “Many Airmen give up in the process, but those who finish are the only ones who have a chance of gaining an appointment to the Academy.”
Army Maj. Brian Wire agreed.
“We only see about 25 percent of all of the applicants finish their applications,” said the West Point National Guard liaison. “Soldiers will be surprised on what they can accomplish if they just finish their application.”
West Point had about 400 Guardsmen apply – about 30 were selected for the academy while another 25 were chosen for the Academy Preparatory School which is an intensive 10-month program designed to aid those applicants who may not be quite ready academically to enter the academy.
The Air Force Academy had about 450 total prior service applicants – active, reserve and guard – via the Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development Program –and the board selected 61.
Like many colleges, the academies have taken to the cyber community to streamline the application process. Guard members interested in West Point can go to www.usma.edu/applynow to start their application, while those interested in the Air Force Academy can start with a visit to http://www.academyadmissions.com
Both officers agree, however, before hitting the web, any potential cadet should start with their commander. Wire explained that when applicants get their commanders involved in the process early, the commanders can provide assistance. Command involvement is also crucial to the endorsement process.
There are common basic qualifications applicants must meet regardless of their academy choice – they must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 17 but not yet 23 years old on July 1 of the year they enter the academy, unmarried and have no legal obligation to support children.
The application for both schools is actually two-part – the first being a pre-screening to determine if the potential cadet meets the basic qualifications and could be competitive for an appointment. During this phase, applicants will need to ensure they have their high school and any college transcripts in order, as well as scores for the SAT or ACT with a writing score.
If they are determined to be eligible, applicants move to the second-phase where they will be asked to provide personal information related to school and extracurricular activities, a medical physical and physical fitness test scores.
“About 90 percent of all Soldiers who completed their second step kit were offered an appointment to West Point or West Point Prep School,” Wire said.
But before potential cadets get the idea getting into the academies is easy, they should consider the following facts about the class of 2016:
- The average SAT verbal and math scores for the Air Force Academy were 643 and 674, respectively
- More than 90 percent of the West Point class were varsity athletics letter winners
- 12 percent of the Air Force Academy and 8.5 percent of West Point class were valedictorians of their high school
- Nearly half of the West Point class had earned the Boy Scout’s highest award, the Eagle Scout, or the Girl Scout’s highest award, the Gold Award.
While the Guard loses the Soldier or Airmen to active-duty service, a significant number of officers choose to leave the service following their five-year service obligation, Wire said.
“Many of these officers leave the active Army to pursue civilian sector work and/ or pursue their Masters degree and many of them want to keep serving,” he explained. “They eventually migrate back to the Guard as it is a familiar place for them and once a big part of their lives.”