After completing required courses at the U.S. Air Force Academy, cadets are required to serve as commissioned officers in the Air Force for at least eight years. While attending the academy, students receive a free, world-class education valued at over $400,000, plus room, board and medical and dental benefits. With these advantages, it's no wonder the admissions process is challenging and competitive. Students should begin preparing for applying to the academy early in their high school careers.

Get In Shape

Academy applicants must complete the Candidate Fitness Assessment, which measures their strength, speed, endurance and agility. The CFA consists of a basketball throw, pull-ups, a one-mile run, a shuttle run, crunches and push-ups. Participating in sports such as soccer, football, swimming and wrestling is beneficial to perform well on the CFA. Individual skills, such as distance running, sprints and upper body strength are also important.

Make Good Grades

The academy relies heavily on academics and uses it as 60 percent of its admission criteria. They suggest taking four years of math, English and science classes, three years of social studies courses, two years of a foreign language and one year of computer science. Honors classes and AP courses are a plus. Class rank, GPA and standardized test scores like the ACT and SAT are also taken into consideration. Candidates must also undergo a complete medical evaluation.

Get Involved

The academy looks at both athletic and non-athletic clubs or activities that students participate in from 10th to 12th grade. For athletic activities, earning a letter, being named as a captain or co-captain or being a member of a well-performing team can set your application apart. Students should also seek membership and leadership positions in non-athletic activities, like debate, volunteer groups or other clubs. Getting a job and working both during the school-year and summertime is also helpful.

Seek Out a Nomination

Every application needs to be nominated for the Air Force Academy. Examples of people who can nominate students include members of Congress and the President or Vice President of the United States. There are also special nomination categories for children of deceased, disable or missing veterans, children of Medal of Honor recipients, members of the Air Force or the Air Force Reserve, ROTC and those living in U.S. territories or citizens of other countries.