Tag Archive | Air Force Academy

8 Helpful Acronyms to Know in the Academy Application Process

USAFAsealIn any organization, there are acronyms that the people involved have to learn. And there are acronyms in general life that everyone is expected to know, like NAACP, AARP, NSA, CIA, FBI. There are even words that have come into general usage that started out as acronyms: RADAR, SCUBA and the like. Well, in this process of United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) application, these acronyms can be confusing and aren’t even necessarily intuitive. So here are 8 helpful acronyms I’ve learned in our process so far.

ALO—Academy Liaison Officer. This is an important person in the application process. He or she is your ticket to information about your application and the process in general. Once you are a candidate, you have to have an interview with your ALO in order to pass your drug and alcohol certification. And the ALO only wants to talk to the applicant. They want to know that your applicant is serious enough to talk to their ALO on their own.

MOC—Member of Congress. Many people in America probably don’t even know who their Members of Congress are. They are your senators and the Congressman (or woman) representing your district. They are the all-important people in the application process. If you do not receive a nomination from one of them, then you have to depend on the president, vice president or a military-affiliated nomination, which are harder to come by. Each MOC has a committee that reviews applicant files and interviews viable candidates. If you do not receive a nomination, you cannot receive an appointment. It’s a lengthy and complicated process which, I think, serves to weed out those who aren’t truly motivated to attend a service academy.

LOA—Letter Of Assurance. This is a really cool thing that an exceptional candidate can get if they are desired by the Academy and meet all the qualifications. If you do not have a nomination, you are a “pre candidate” and can receive an LOA saying that as soon as you get that nomination, you will get an appointment. The Academy will send this LOA to the MOCs, which could help them make the decision in your favor during the nomination process.

DD, DS, DH, DW—Dear Daughter, Dear Son, Dear Husband or Dear Wife. This is kind of a funny one that I came across on the military service academy forum that I frequent. People never use names. They will talk about their DS just getting his acceptance, or their DD in the application process.

DODMERB—Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board. This is an all-important body that will decide, after they review your official medical exam, whether you will qualify medically or be disqualified. Everyone has to go through it, and it is rigorous.

CFA—Candidate Fitness Assessment. Another all-important step that every candidate must go through. It is pass/fail, all or nothing. It has to be administered by specific people in a very specific manner. If you fail the CFA, you cannot get an appointment.

EAP—Early Access Program. If you initiated your application between March 1 and July 1, you are eligible for the EAP, which means that you can hear in January whether you will receive an appointment or not. We just heard this morning that our DS has qualified for this program. Yay!

TWE—Thin White Envelope. This is what nobody wants to receive from the Academy. If you get the TWE, it means that you will not be receiving an appointment to the Academy at this time. It means that there is only one sheet of paper in that envelope, rather than a packet of information about what you do now that you are an official appointee. I think that every time I go to the mailbox between whenever DS’ app is mailed and January 31st, my heart will be beating just a little bit faster.

I hope that helps educate you on a few things that you might encounter along the way.

Does anyone have any others they’d like to share?

picture of Academy seal via blogs.gazette.com

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Off We Go Into Service Academy Application

IMG_2911My son is in the process of applying to the United States Air Force Academy. I will spend much of my time on this blog talking about that process as I know that I appreciate every little bit of help I can get. There are a ton of forums out there, and everyone has their opinions, so sometimes weeding out what’s helpful is a long process. But here are a few things I’ve learned so far.

1. Being smart is important, but it’s not everything.

And standardized tests are a poor indicator of how truly smart someone is. My son has done very well in school. He’s 8th in his class of 733. He has a weighted GPA of more than 4.7 and is taking honors, AP and dual enrollment classes. But he’s not shown himself to excel on standardized tests. Unfortunately, the Academy has standards and if you do not meet those standards, you are disqualified. So far, DS (military academy speak for “dear son,” which, along with DD, is how all posters on military forums refer to their children) is considered competitive by the Academy.

2. Being athletic is important, but it’s not everything (do you sense a pattern here?)

Ever since DS decided he wanted to apply to the Academy, we’ve been talking about his participation in a team sport. He played Little League Baseball for many years, but hasn’t since before middle school. He earned his blue belt in Tae Kwon Do instead. Once he reached high school, he got deeply involved with his AFJROTC unit, participated in the drill team and commanded the armed drill team, which knocked him out of sports because the drill teams practice every day. Each Academy candidate has to pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), which includes several components. If you fail even one component, you fail the whole CFA. If you fail the CFA, you’re out. So, being physically fit is necessary (obviously, since we’re talking about military service here), but that can be accomplished in ways other than participating in team sports.

Unfortunately, the Academy ranks their candidates by said participation. I did have one forum poster tell me that DS needs to be doing what he has a passion for. If JROTC is it, then that’s what he needs to do. The Academy is looking for opportunities for leadership. My DS has that within his JROTC unit by being named the Vice Wing Commander of his unit next year. His unit is more than 500 strong. That’s leadership. I hope the Academy sees it that way.

3. The Nomination from a member of Congress is everything (it really is).

No nomination, no appointment, no matter how great you are. So right now, DS has been collecting letters of recommendation to send to our senators (2) and congressman (1) and the Vice President of the United States (a long shot, but they say to apply everywhere you qualify) to send in with his application for nomination. A nomination committee will review his application and either call him for an interview, or disqualify him. If he gets the nomination, he still has to pass the CFA and his medical evaluation. If he does all that, he still needs to receive an appointment from the Academy. It’s a long, long process.

4. There is seemingly no end to the details that have to be covered.

DS has taken both the SAT and the ACT twice; now those scores have to be sent to our MOCs (Members of Congress). Essays have to be written. That’s the tough part because your essay really needs to stand out. Every list the MOCs have needs to be checked and rechecked to make sure everything that is required is enclosed. If not, your application will be turned down flat. Letters of recommendation, along with an academic recommendation from his principal, have to be sealed and then signed across the seal so the committee knows it hasn’t been tampered with. They need a photo with his name on the back. They need a checklist of items in the file. It’s enough to make an administratively minded person like myself pull out my hair. My 17-year-old son is barely surviving.

5. Discouragement is always close at hand.

You have to be on a sports team. Your ACT score is just adequate. You don’t stand out. How discouraging is that to hear for a kid entering his senior year, working a part-time job, being 2nd in command of a huge JROTC unit, volunteering with the middle school youth at his church? It’s summer and I can’t seem to motivate him to get up early to go run, to practice for the CFA, to study harder for the ACT. Especially when I’m trying to back off and let him have more control of his life. I’m determined not to nag.

After the last SAT scores came out he said to me, “I’m not going to make it.” That made me sad because I feel that he’s losing hope. We don’t know what the candidate pool looks like this year. All we know is that he can only do his best and the rest is up to God. Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do. That’s the Air Force motto. Those are intangibles. He has control over his academics and his physical fitness. He can study more for the standardized tests. But his integrity, his character, who he is when no one’s looking, are what will stand out in the end.

Hopefully, the MOCs will notice.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe

question-markSome people love to make decisions. It comes easily for them. I have one son who, when he had money in his pocket, wanted to go right away to the toy store so he could spend it on whatever he fancied. I have another who would walk the aisles, mulling, thinking, considering, and then walk out without anything because he couldn’t decide which thing he wanted.

That decision-making process only gets more difficult as time goes on, and the biggest is right around the corner: college.

My mind spins when I think about all the decisions coming up quickly for my eldest. And all the tasks: SAT, ACT, Air Force Academy application, senate nominations, college applications, ROTC scholarships, etc., etc., etc. It’s overwhelming. What if he doesn’t have a high enough GPA? How do I motivate him to study? How many times should he take the SAT? What if we do something wrong in the Academy application? Will that ruin his chances? And how in the world are we going to pay for college if he doesn’t get into the Academy or get a major scholarship?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:25-34).

Ahhhh. Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father to comfort us with the equivalent of “I’ve got this.” The decisions still have to be made, and the tasks still have to be completed, but the weight is not on us. Do your part; trust God with the results. I don’t have to fear that my son won’t get into the Air Force Academy. If that’s the ultimate plan for him, he’ll get there—not by sitting and waiting for God to move, mind you, but by working diligently and trusting God.

It’s such a delicate balance: work and faith. You want to trust God for a job, but you can’t sit in your recliner waiting for bosses to come knocking. You want to know where God wants you to go to college, but an acceptance letter isn’t just going to magically appear in your mailbox.

I think what God wants is for us to walk closely with Him every day, to talk to Him about everything, and trust that He’s got our future under control. Do I know where the finances are going to come from to send my kids to the colleges of their choice? No. Not completely. But we started college funds for them, we encourage them to do their best in school, and we’ll apply for financial aid and every scholarship for which they qualify.

And we’ll leave the results to God.