Saturday, April 10, 2010

Military Service Academies

Now the time comes when all students have to decide where they want to go (and how to get there). I suppose it helps to begin with some stipulations, like how much you can pay, where, what degrees are offered. My first stipulation is that it get me into either the Air Force or Navy, and so the obvious choices are the military service academies (next is ROTC). Their admissions processes are torturous.

It's open to US citizens, ages 17 to 23, non-pregnant, in good physical shape, good moral character and leadership skills (I was declared Evil Empress of my class, that's leadership, right?). Children of Heads of State of other countries can also apply.

They're a lot pickier than other schools, and across a wider range of merit, the admissions process includes:

  • The requirements listed above
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Pre-Candidate Questionnaire
  • Medical Examination
  • Candidate Fitness Assesment
  • Congressional Nomination
A word on those nominations. Applicants are encouraged to collect them like stamps. You can get them from Members of Congress, Senators, Officers (if you're already in the military or ROTC), the Vice-President or the President. Not bad, right? You're probably thinking you can get at least one from a Senator or Member of Congress (which is what most people do), from the President if one of your parents served. Of course, try for the Vice-President, who can nominate around 2 or 3 people per year per academy from anywhere in the world, right?

Yeah, not so easy for me. I haven't lived in the States for 5 years. My parent's weren't in the Service. I'm not in the Service. I'm now competing with pretty much every other apllicant for a nominationf from the Vice-President, who can only give out 2 or 3 a year. Whose requests are first screened by the Academies themselves. Who needs letters of reccomendations, wants to know my hobbies, and a 3500 character essay on why I want to serve (that's about one typed page).

On the other chance, I live abroad, speak a foreign language, good GPA, no health problems (that I know of), decent physical condition... I hope it's not too much of a

(yes, the guy from X-Men)

Pre-Candidate Questionnaire

This is the very first part of the Air Force Academy admissions (the Naval Academy does something similar), and is pretty straightforward. Based on this, it's decided whether you may continue with the process, or are better off looking at some other college. It's divided into a few different sections (whose names I made up myself):

ID: This is mainly name, age, address, sort of thing. Pretty simple, although one question about race threw me off. As a half Caucasian, half Hispanic mutt, I thought it should be easy, but it wouldn't let me mark both Hispanic and Caucasian. I look more Caucasian, don't have a Spanish accent, so that will have to do. Make sure you know you're ZIP code (or in my case, my Postal Code), and how to properly write an address (which pretty much no one ever has to do anymore, what with that newfangled invention, the Intertubes...).

Grades: this includes SAT/ACT, class rank and GPA. I worked out my GPA myself because my school doesn't grade in those terms (strictly in percentages here). Either way, later on your school has to send your official grades and your GPA is recalculated.

Hint to those who have to fill this out. Wait until you have you have all your information ready, yeah, you can update it later, but to update this section you actually have to call the academy, you can't just sign in and change stuff. I sent it in before I had my SAT scores, tried to call a couple of times, got no response and sent an e-mail begging forgiveness (because it specifically said call) and asking for help, along with a few unrelated questions about sources of nominations. A few days later, my scores showed up on my profile, but I didn't get an answer to my e-mail, so I think it's probably a result of having sent the Official Score Report through College Board. Moral of the story: have your grades ready.

Miscellaneous: questions about extracurricular activities (scouts, church groups, etc), whether you've applied before, if you're in college, military, or high school, if your eyesight is correctable to 20/20, whether you've held a job, and a whole slew of other stuff. I think they're all yes/no questions.

Once you send this in, you're an applicant. If the powers that be consider you adequate, you're a competitive applicant. Later on, after they get some more information, they decide if you get to be a candidate. You can get to be a candidate without a nomination, but you need one to have a chance of being accepted. You can get a nomination and still not be considered competitive. Right now, I'm a competitive applicant.