LTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.
Am I Too Old to Enter the Academy?
Updated: Aug 7, 2022
I am asked all the time if college students or enlisted members in the Army, Navy or Air Force are too 'old' to enter the Academy.
Typically, the answer is 'no.' Now the gentleman pictured here is too old, but a student or young enlisted member of the service is likely qualified to enter the US Air Force Academy, the US Naval Academy, the US Military Academy or the US Coast Guard Academy.
The guideline to the different academies is essentially the same: an entering cadet must be less than 23 years old on July 1 of the year that she enters the Academy. Of course, the other requirements, are also important: US citizen, unmarried, no dependents, not pregnant, and have a valid Social Security Number.
The 'spirit' of the 'age' requirements are important as each of the academies seek to allow qualified enlisted members of the service time to gain hands-on military experience and still be able to enter the Academy to earn an officer's commission. A soldier can join the Army, complete boot camp, gain valuable field experience and then choose to pursue an appointment to West Point. And, of course, the same can be said for sailors, marines, guardians and airmen.
One little known fact is that typically more than 25% of each entering class do not enter the Academy directly from high school. These cadets attended a preparatory school, went to another college (or university) for a year or more, or came out of the enlisted ranks to become a cadet. In fact, for the USAFA Class of 2018, 142 of the 984 graduates attended the USAF Preparatory School (or 14.4%), which represented a large percentage of the class. This number does not include the cadets that entered from other colleges and universities, from other preparatory schools or from the enlisted ranks. In most cases, enlisted members attend the USAF Prep School as a normal path into USAFA.
At one point, the age limit could be waived for military members who applied to USAFA, USMA or USNA, especially during the years of a conflict, like Operation Desert Storm. This authority, which seems to have expired in 2016, rested with the Secretary of the Air Force, Army and Navy for their respective schools. Point is that enlisted members may want to reach out to these offices for clarification.
One clear exception to the age limit for the academies is the US Merchant Marine Academy. For USMMA, the guideline is that an appointee must not have passed their 25th birthday before July 1 of the year entering the Academy. USMMA provides a great path to commissioning into the Navy, Air Force or Army.
Are you too old to enter the Academy? Probably not . . . and it is never too early to start preparing for the application process!
[I would welcome a chance to discuss details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or 503.515.7406]