In part one of this series, we looked at the process and requirements to get into a service academy. This is the second part of a three part series on how students can get into service academies shared from the perspective of a mom of three Academy appointees (#USNA-2011; #USAFA 2015, #USMA 2017) and also a woman who happens to be an Admissions Liaison Officer for the United States Air Force Academy.
Nominations and Appointments
Admission to one of the service academies requires both a nomination from one your nominating authorities and an appointment from the academy the child wishes to attend. I would strongly suggest that the child also contacts your Congressman and Senators to request a nomination and contact the academies to express their interest. There are also Vice-Presidential and Presidential nominations available. If the student is the child of a retired military member or an active duty member currently serving with at least 8 years of service, then they should also contact the academy directly to apply for a Presidential nomination. Furthermore, a child would also qualify for the Presidential process if their parent is currently in the reserves serving as a member of a reserve component and credited with at least eight full years of service (a minimum of 2880 points). Both of our sons competed to receive these nominations. They are limited in number and highly competitive, but well worth the effort.
To apply for a nomination through a congressional office, you will be required to completely fill out an application packet (see your representative’s website). To be eligible for appointment, you must be an American citizen, at least 17 years old and not yet 23 years old on July 1 of the year you enter an academy. Also, you must have no legal obligation to support children or other dependents.
All applications are usually due in October. Then the offices will conduct interviews during the months of November and December. The nominations will be announced in January.
If you are a prospective candidate for any of the military academies, you can anticipate two of the most important interviews you will ever have in your life: the Congressional or Senatorial Interview and the Liaison Officer interview.
Come to these interviews in a suit with short hair if you are a male and a conservative hairstyle if you are a female. Sometimes the interview can make or break a candidate’s chances of garnering an appointment if all other aspects of the competitive field are equal. A good interview can make you stand out or fall out—it all depends upon the amount of work you put into it.
As an ALO, I advise my candidates to write out answers to the following questions and practice them by themselves in clear, direct, brief answers. The next step is to go over the Q&A with a parent and solicit their inputs on how to improve the interview skills. Ask the parent to count the number of “uhs” and “ums” and “likes” to remove these from your vocabulary.
Next, ask your school counselor or Scout Master to set up a mock interview with teachers and administrators (or JROTC commanders) to go over these questions. Then, you’ll be prepared to knock it out of the park in your real Congressional or Senatorial and Liaison Officer Interviews.
Interview Practice Questions
These are not necessarily the interview questions you will receive in your evaluation interviews. But if you know the answers to these (especially those highlighted), then you’ll be well prepared for a panel of interviewers as well as a one on one with your Liaison Officer.
Why do you want to go to the Air Force academy?
Why do you want to serve in the military?
What are your greatest strengths?
What are your greatest weaknesses?
What accomplishment are you the most proud of?
What do you want to do in the Air Force and what is your backup plan if you cannot fly?
Who is your favorite leader?
Rank the service academies. Why do you rank them this way?
If not an Academy, how about ROTC? Why or why not?
When and how did you first get interested?
Describe your typical daily schedule.
How does your family feel about this?
Which parent or other adult has the most influence on you?
Have any relatives or friends of the family attended one of the academies? Who do you know in the military? What have you learned from them?
What will be your career? Why?
How long do you think you’ll remain in the military?
What’s the importance of integrity in the service? Examples?
Favorite subjects in school?
Describe your extracurricular activities.
What do you read for enjoyment? Why?
What community service do you do? Why?
How would your best friend describe you?
Who motivates you the most?
Describe your leadership style.
Are you a good follower?
What is your best leadership example? Your worst? Your hardest leadership experience?
Explain the Academy’s Honor Code.* *Look this up online to know the Honor Code.
Describe your sports participation.
What are your major life goals?
What have you done to research more about the Academy? The Service?
What is the best thing you have to offer to the Academy?
Describe a time you tried to lead but failed. What did you learn?
Describe your worst stress situation.
Give examples of how you’re a self-starter.
To whom do you look for good advice?
How do you manage and organize your time?
What’s the purpose of the US military?
What changes has the US military been through recently?
What changes will the US military soon have to adjust to?
What would your harshest critic tell us about your potential at an Academy?
If you could do one thing over in your life, what would that be? Why?
The Liaison Officer
Each military academy will assign an officer to assist you in the process of applying. Each Academy has a different title for their respective liaisons:
USNA: Blue and Gold Officer
USAFA: Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO)
USMA: Military Academy Liaison Officers (MALO)
Merchant Marine Academy: Admissions Field Representatives
Coast Guard Academy: Military Fairs Liaison Officer – (Please note this academy does not require a congressional nomination.)
In addition to having to meet certain physical requirements, you will also have to be interviewed by this intermediary. I would encourage you to attend service academy nights that are hosted in your community and where you can speak with these officers. Our son’s “Blue and Gold” representative, LTC Jerry Geil, USMC (Ret), was an outstanding inspiration as he interviewed Philip for his candidate requirement. Make good use of your liaison. One will be assigned to you and should contact you once you have applied as an applicant.
Summer Leadership Seminar – For High School Juniors
In the summer between a student’s junior and senior year, each institution hosts an excellent program that provides an “up close and personal” view of the academy. These seminars are where your hero at home can compete to attend that will give them an idea of what life is like at that institution and it will also look great on a resume. These applications are usually available in January at the academy’s website and should be turned in as early as possible. The applications are so involved that some have said they are an excellent precursor to the final academy application. Also, you will be in the system and a lot of this information will transfer over into that directory. Two of our sons attended two different academy summer seminars and it actually changed the mind of one of our son’s as to where he would attend. So feel free to look at more than one option. You will have to pay transportation to/from the academy as well as a camp fee ($300 to $400).
Join us next time for part three of this series, which will feature samples of the essay and the resume.
Please feel free to share this with a bright young person who might want to attend a service academy and please don’t forget to share your insights of what worked for you or your student when they got into a service academy!