The Long Blue Line
The Long Blue Line Article

It’s no secret that applying to the Air Force Academy is unlike any other college application out there. There are A LOT of different components you will have to complete, deadlines to track, and requirements to meet. When I was in high school and looking to apply, I remember feeling pretty lost, almost to the point where I didn’t think I could possibly complete everything in time. If this is you, I promise, you’re not alone. DO NOT let intimidation be the reason you choose not to apply! In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps you will need to take to apply to the Air Force Academy, covering these major sections:

1. Basic Requirements You Must Meet
2. Medical Standards
3. Nominations
4. Pre-Candidate Questionnaire
5. Candidate Kit

Basic Requirements You Must Meet

Starting off, we need to cover the non-negotiables. These are the basic requirements you must meet to be eligible for a slot at the Air Force Academy.

1. You must be at least 17 years old but no older than 23 by July 1 of the year you enter the Academy

2. You must be a United States citizen.

3. You must be unmarried with no dependents, meaning you can’t be pregnant, have any kids, or be legally responsible to support anyone.

4. Must be of good moral character (not a criminal/prior arrests/or bad permanent record)

Alright, so these are the standards the Air Force Academy is congressionally mandated to set for all cadets, so there isn’t much wiggle room, however, if the Academy doesn’t end up being an option for you because of these requirements, there are several other paths you can take to becoming an officer in the Air Force or Space Force, which we cover in the Alternate Paths To Becoming an Officer.

For those of you who are not U.S. citizens, all hope is not lost. The Air Force Academy does have a select few spots for international students. It is a really cool program, however there are specific requirements. You can learn more about that by reading about the International Student Program.

Medical Standards

Now in addition to the basic requirements we just covered, all candidates admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy must meet the medical and weight requirements set by the Department of Defense. This is done through the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB). If you don’t meet these standards as an applicant, you’ll be disqualified unless granted a medical waiver. Now this opens up a big can of worms, and the medical evaluation process is quite extensive.

However, it is very important that you understand the medical standards and the evaluation process sooner rather than later. That’s why I want to bring it up now. If you’re interested in deep-diving into the specific medical requirements required to attend the Air Force Academy, you can read our article on it here.

“ A place for caption, if you have one for optional reasons ”


One of the most unique aspects of attending the Air Force Academy vs a traditional college is that you must be nominated.  securing a nomination. A nomination is essentially a recommendation that gives the Academy the legal authority to consider you for an appointment, which is the ultimate goal of every applicant, signifying acceptance into the Academy. (Appointment = Acceptance)

One of the most common sources of nominations are the U.S. Senators and Representatives from your state. Each can nominate up to 10 candidates for each available slot, but each Congressman can have no more than 5 cadets at the Air Force Academy at any given time.

On top of these congressional nominations, all applicants can apply for a nomination from the Vice President, though this is highly competitive. There are also specific categories for applicants with military affiliations, such as the Presidential Nomination for those whose parent or guardian is or was in the military, the nomination for prior enlisted members, and nominations for participants in JROTC or ROTC programs.

Securing a nomination is a complex process, but it's essential to understand it and apply to every nomination source for which you're eligible. This is your ticket to being considered for an appointment to the Air Force Academy.

If you are interested in learning more about the way Academy Nominations work, you can take a deep dive here in the “How To Receive A Service Academy Nomination” section.

Pre-Candidate Questionnaire

Okay, so you meet the basic requirements set by the Air Force Academy to apply… but you might be wondering… how do you actually apply? The answer lies on the Academy Admissions website, where you can access the Pre-Candidate Questionnaire.

When March 1st of your junior year in high school rolls around, it’s finally time to start the first step of your official Air Force Academy application. It’s called the PCQ or Pre-Candidate Questionnaire. Now the PCQ is an online form that you will complete by adding in some qualifications, including your GPA, class rank, and extracurricular activities. The PCQ exists sort of like a screening process.

It really is the first step, and it’s meant to filter out some of the applicants who aren’t competitive right off the bat. If your qualifications meet the Academy’s minimum candidate guidelines, your application will be promoted to candidate status, which usually happens by July 1st. Now because this candidate status is what triggers your access to the rest of the Academy application, and also because it’s what assigns you your mentor ALO (which we’ll discuss in a bit), it’s definitely recommended that you complete the PCQ as soon as possible, but absolutely no later than the final deadline of December 31st.

The most important thing the admissions office looks at in the PCQ is your grades and standardized test scores. Don’t worry, you’ll have the opportunity to update your test scores throughout the application process, and if you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT at this time, you can also enter your PSAT or PreACT scores as well. If you aren’t competitive based on your initial PCQ scores, you have until December 31st to improve those scores and hopefully get them above the threshold that brings your application to candidate status

The biggest thing to do here on the PCQ is to be truthful. Just because the PCQ allows you to self-report your scores does not mean you shouldn’t enter something that isn’t accurate:

1. Because at this point, if you want to go to the Academy, integrity is a big thing

2. Two, because you will eventually have to submit official scores, and so if you were lying on your PCQ, you’ll be caught, and that will be the end of your application.

Candidate Kit

Assuming your Pre-Candidate Questionnaire meets the Academy’s minimum requirements, by July 1st, you will be elevated to “Candidate Status” which gives you access to the overall candidate kit. This is exciting because at this point, it’s game on. The candidate kit is where the bulk of the Air Force Academy application is found, and once July 1st rolls around, you can finally get started completing the following information:

• Basic High School Information

• Counselor Information

• Evaluations & Letters of Recommendations

• Candidate Fitness Assessment

• Personal EssaysResume & Extra-Curricular Activities

The Waiting Game

Once you successfully complete everything in the Candidate Kit, you officially enter the stage I like to call “The Waiting Game.”

At this point, you could be in any number of situations. To receive an appointment (acceptance), the Academy must have received every single component included within the candidate kit, to include your nomination, medical clearance, candidate fitness assessment, and more.

Now while there isn’t much you can do at this stage, there are a couple of things you should know.
The first is that if you still have time to improve, you can always resubmit SAT or ACT scores. Remember that you have until the end of January to turn them in, and so if you think there is even a sliver of a chance you could improve your scores, it can definitely help.

If you have any questions along the way, both your mentor Academy Liaison Officer and Admissions Counselor are great resources for you to go to. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

When the time finally comes, you’ll be notified through your Admissions Portal of your acceptance decision. The majority of appointments are given out in February, March and April, however, because the Academy does rolling admissions, you could even hear back earlier.

If the Air Force Academy is your ultimate dream, don’t give up until you’ve exhausted all options.

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