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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Attending the Summer Seminars

Updated: Jun 9

How should you 'approach' AFASS, NASS, SLE, and AIM?

Congratulations! You have been selected for the Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS). Or, perhaps, you were invited to the AF Academy Summer Seminar (AFASS). The Summer Leaders Experience (SLE) at West Point and the Academy Introductory Mission (AIM) are also great programs. Some students (lucky you!) will be invited to several of the programs.

Now, you are planning to attend the seminar and you may have some questions:

  • What will the experience be like?

  • How should I approach the program?

  • Should I prepare?

  • What should I bring?

  • Will the program impact my application for a service academy appointment?

Let's look at each of these questions . . .

The Experience

All of the service academies (SAs) desire to provide a fun and fulfilling experience. The seminars are considered "outreach programs" allowing students from all 50 states and U.S. territories to participate.

The experiences offered across the the SAs vary widely. For example, Coast Guard's AIM is considered the 'toughest' summer seminar program by giving students a very realistic view of the freshmen, or Swab, experience. With some yelling and pressure situations, AIM routinely has a few students leave every year on the very first day! Both NASS and SLE provide a less extensive sample of the Plebe experience than USCGA, but each includes a simulated I-Day event. And, finally, AFASS provides a small glimpse into the freshman, or Doolie, experience at the AF Academy.

All programs provide classroom and other impactful experiences. In all cases, you'll be interacting with cadets/midshipmen, active-duty officers and professors. Through sleeping in the dormitories, eating in the mess facilities, and wandering the campuses, each school hopes to give you a good 'view' into the lifestyle of a cadet or midshipman.

Your Approach

Each of the summer seminars allow you to take a good 'look' at the schools. In turn, each SA also takes a 'look' at you, too! So, your approach should be to offer your 'best' self. Be a good teammate, support others, and learn as much as you can with an open mind. Plus, have fun!

Both USCGA and USMA conduct interviews at AIM and SLE, respectively. Be prepared to discuss why you would like to serve in the associated service branch. How the academy will allow you to fulfill your goals? Plus, be able to point to a time that you experienced some adversity and how you overcame it. Clearly, your attitude and actions during the seminar will impact your element or squad leader's evaluation.


Your best preparation is to bring an open mind, a great attitide and thoughtful questions that can't be answered via the SA website or other easily accessible sources. In turn, you should be preparing for the physical exertions at the seminar, including the physical fitness testing.

All, except the AF Academy, run a physical fitness test at the seminar. USMA and USNA run the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), and Coast Guard runs their Physical Fitness Examination (PFE). The good news is that a good score allows you complete one important step, and you may share CFA results with the other SAs.

As noted, USAFA stopped running the CFA during the summer seminar some years ago, as it was unfair to the majority of students who were not acclimated to the high altitude. The attendees, however, will participate in a CFA clinic for some training and tips.

What to Bring

Each seminar will send you a list of items to bring. Keep in mind that there will not be any laundry services, facilities, or even scheduled time to wash clothes. The following is a good example of a packing list. It is the one provided by West Point for SLE.


  • Twin Bed linens, Blanket, Pillow

  • 2-3 pairs khaki pants, shorts, or skirts for wear in the classroom

  • 2-3 pairs closed-toe shoes for class, field training, and physical training (at least one pair are running shoes)

  • 6 pairs running socks

  • 4 pairs running shorts

  • 10 pairs underwear

  • 5 athletic sports bras (women)

  • 1 pair of pajamas

  • Shower shoes/flip flops

  • 1 set, sweatpants and sweatshirt

  • 1-2 pairs of jeans or hiking style pants for military training - must be loose-fitting (no hip-huggers)

  • 1 long-sleeved t-shirt for military training

  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses (if needed)

  • Sunscreen

  • Prescription medicine (if prescribed, must have your name on it)

  • Personal hygiene items (soap, shampoo, deodorant, towels, washcloths, toothbrush, toothpaste, and hairbrush)

  • Feminine hygiene products (women)

  • Photo identification (driver's license, student ID card)

  • Combination Lock

  • Spending money or credit card (Visa or MasterCard) to purchase items at Cadet Gift Shop (if desired)

All of the seminars typically provide some t-shirts and other items. USMA, for example, provides "each participant two polo shirts for academic workshops, and three t-shirts for physical training and intramural sports."


The principal 'impact' of the program is your learning. Do you like the environment and lifestyle? Can you envision yourself at this particular SA?

By taking advantage of the program and engaging with the cadets/midshipmen and staff, you should have some great perspectives. I advise my students that this insight will be invaluable as they write their essays and personal statements. Plus, during your interviews, you can affirm your knowledge about (and insights around) the entire journey that you seek. Your learned experience is a nice advantage over other candidates that do not possess similar awareness and knowledge.

Also, as noted previously, you may have a good CFA score in-hand and a completed interview for the appointment you seek. NIce work!

For other questions around the summer seminars, please refer to my blog here. You will find some great additional insights, especially as you prepare to apply for a summer seminar program.

You should be very excited to attend one of the summer seminars. It will be lots of fun. If you prepare now, by planning your approach, formulating your questions, working out, and packing well for the seminar, it will also be a very fruitful experience!

[Let's discuss how I can help you! I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process, including your preparations for the summer seminars! Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406 or complete my contact form on the home page.]

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