Since 1954, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has been educating and training officers for service in the U.S. Air Force. The admission process to attend the academy is rigorous and only a select number of students are admitted each school year, depending on how many students graduated the previous year. All Air Force Academy students, or cadets as they are known once in school, receive a full scholarship to pay for all the costs of attending the Academy.
After completing schooling at the academy, students are required to commit to eight years as a commissioned officer with the U.S. Air Force, of which five of those years must be in active duty. Students should weigh the pros and cons of attending the academy and decide whether earning full tuition for four years is worth the time commitment after graduation.
In order to attend the academy and receive the full tuition scholarship, students must receive a nomination from a U.S. senator, a U.S. representative or the Vice President of the United States. The nomination must be submitted to the academy between March 1 of the student’s junior year and December 31 of his senior year. During this period, the student must also complete the academy application and pre-candidate questionnaire. Students must also complete a physical medical exam and fitness assessment as part of the application process.
The scholarship rewards each cadet with more than $415,000 in tuition and benefits. Cadets receive full tuition for all four years, books, room and board, food and all flying programs. Cadets also receive a monthly pay stipend, which is $960 a month as of 2010. The stipend helps cover the costs of uniforms, personal needs and other expenses. When traveling, the cadets also receive a daily travel stipend to cover travel costs like meals and transportation.
To be eligible for admittance in the Air Force Academy and earn the full scholarship, a student must be a U.S. citizen, unmarried with no dependents, at least 17 years of age and have a valid Social Security number and birth certificate. Other less concrete eligibility requirements include leadership abilities, academic merit and high moral character, according to the Air Force Academy admissions office. Cadets must also meet the medical and weight standards set by the U.S. Air Force.
Besides the full tuition scholarship offered to all academy cadets, the Air Force Academy, through the Falcon Foundation, also provides scholarships to potential academy cadets to attend junior and prep colleges prior to admission to the academy. The scholarships provide tuition to select military academies and prep schools for students who want to improve their grades prior to applying to the Academy. The awards vary in amounts, depending on the funding the foundation has each year.