Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder

Here’s what I remember about applying for college.  I remember filling out a form with my vital information and sending it in.  Then at some point I remember getting a letter telling me they had received and processed the form and that I had been accepted.  And I had the feeling that the reason I was accepted was that I had filled out the form and sent it in.  It was not a particularly taxing process.

That’s because I didn’t apply to the Air Force Academy.  Their selection process is a little more, well, selective.  It’s also a bit confusing.

Here’s the first line of an Air Force Academy application, which I found online on the official Air Force Academy website.  “To apply for the Academy, you must be of good moral character.”  There’s no further explanation to that, so I assume it means you can’t have a criminal record.  On the other hand, because that’s rather vague, it might just be a way for the selection committee to deny anyone they don’t like.  But I’m not accusing.

Other requirements:  You have to be at least 17 years old, but under 23 on July 1st before your freshman year.  If you turn 23 on July 1st, you’re out.  If you turn 23 on July 2nd, you’re in.

The next requirement says you have to be a U.S. citizen.  That’s where my confusion began.  I’m not confused about what it means to be a U.S. citizen.  I’m confused because below these requirements, there’s a link entitled “advice for international students”.  I clicked on it, expecting it to say something like, “Why don’t you apply to your own Air Force Academy?”  But that’s not what it said.  It said international students were exempt from the rule saying you have to be a U.S. citizen.  To me, that’s like saying “To make the team, you have to be male, unless you’re female, in which case the requirement to be male does not apply.”

I continued to read.  The rules state that every year, the Air Force Academy can have a maximum number of 60 international students.  So each freshman class can’t have more t han 15.

To be considered, it says, you have to be approved and nominated by the government of your home country.  My assumption is that your home country has to be an ally of the United States, but it doesn’t say that.

I read each of the requirements for international students, and they’re identical to those of U.S. citizens except for three things:  You must pass a test proving you can speak and write English well, you can’t have any serious dental problems, and you don’t have to be prepared to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, because you’re not going to be.  If you earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, you’ll get a bachelor’s degree.  But if you attend for four years and don’t earn a bachelor’s degree, you’ll get a certificate of completion instead, which I suppose might help you get into your own country’s Air Force.  Otherwise, I can’t really think of a reason you’d even apply.

Back to the American rules, you can’t be married or have been married, and you can’t have any children or even be responsible for somebody else’s children.  Apart from that, most of the requirements involve legwork.  You need to get together documents proving virtually everything you’ve ever done, interview with a whole bunch of dignitaries, then get a recommendation from somebody important.  I thought it had to be from a congressman or senator, but it can also be from the president or vice-president.  And if you can’t get a recommendation, you still might make it if you have a parent who was killed or disabled in war or received the Medal of Honor.

You also have to pass a fitness test that for some reason includes the ability to throw a basketball.

For years I’ve wondered why the Air Force team always runs the option.  Now I know.  There’s no requirement that you have to prove