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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Homeschooling and the U.S. Service Academies

Updated: Mar 5

Attending USMA, USAFA, USNA, USCGA and USMMA are possible, but . . .

Homeschool student seeking a USAF Academy appointment

Homeschooling has become increasingly common, and there is no reason why students in this situation cannot apply and earn appointments to one of the U.S. service academies. However, these students should understand that they must meet the same standards as students coming from traditional school settings to earn an appointment or an ROTC scholarship. There are many ways homeschool students can strengthen their applications and prepare for life at the Academy. I will use this blog to outline some ideas and approaches for homeschool students that desire to earn a military academy appointment or an ROTC scholarship.

All students should focus on the three A's of their résumé: academics, athletics, and activities. For homeschoolers, these three areas often will be addressed differently than students who are in private/public schools. I advise my homeschooled students to "take advantage of their 'advantages'!" These benefits include efficiency, control, and flexibility.

Homeschooling allows students to learn and work more quickly than students in traditional settings. Your teacher (i.e., usually your father or mother) is tuned to a single student, you. (Of course, you may share some of their time with your siblings!) Plus, a homeschooler saves time by avoiding travel, class changes and other inefficiencies built into typical school classrooms. Because the schooling is at home, your family has full control of your scheduling, pacing, and cadence. A homeschooler can schedule workouts, use tutors, and accomplish other tasks during the day when 'typical' students are in school. This flexibility with your schedules and your activities is a nice advantage. I'll be sure to point out some examples as we discuss the three "A's."

ACADEMICS . . . In the absence of graded coursework completed at a public or private high school, the service academies, like the Air Force Academy, place greater weight on your standardized ACT and SAT scores. You should review the typical performance of appointees on these tests. The average scores of students at the service academies are usually in the top 10% of all scores achieved in the U.S. Start preparing as soon as you can for the ACT and/or SAT by using online tools, such as Kahn Academy.

During the application process itself, you and your parents should notify each service academy that your homeschool is recognized by your local school board or the State Board of Education. Homeschooled students will be required to submit a transcript, so start now to organize this documentation. The transcript should include the following academic information:

  • Course/class title

  • Length of course and date completed

  • Grade and Grading scale

  • Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA)

  • Curriculum/course description

  • Text/materials used

  • Fieldwork/trips

  • Supplementary research or study

I also encourage homeschooled students to take some college or junior college courses. The successful completion of these courses will demonstrate your potential in a college setting as well as enhance your chances of adapting to the highly structured life of an Academy cadet.

Students are required to have a Math and English teacher complete an on-line evaluation of you and your work. For homeschoolers, typically, a single evaluation will be completed by your mother/father. Admissions will direct him/her to provide a factual evaluation supported by accomplished work and results. The parent should avoid providing opinions and sentiments in your on-line appraisal. However, if you take some college courses, then you might use one or more of these teachers. Since each academy will require recommendations/evaluations, you should choose from individuals in your community who know you well and are willing to complete the online evaluations.

ATHLETICS . . . Athletic participation is very important to the service academies. Your engagement in a sport or two is part of the consideration of your overall potential to succeed at the Academy. The Air Force Academy notes the following:

  • About 95 percent of accepted candidates have participated in high school sports

  • About 80 percent have earned varsity letters

  • Without some athletic participation in an organized and sanctioned league sport, your chances of getting an appointment are greatly reduced

Organized sports are often difficult to find as a homeschooler. You will have to 'work at' finding some good opportunities. Local public or private schools may allow you to join their teams. Here are some other ideas:

  • Baseball and Softball, including summer leagues affiliated with Babe Ruth, Travel Teams, American Legion, and others

  • Basketball, such as a local YMCA or Boys & Girls Clubs

  • Swimming, tennis, or gymnastics at a local club that may participate in competitions

  • Track/cross-country, find a running club and participate in 5k and 10k races

  • Flag Football, note that recently the NFL has promoted leagues that you might join or initiate in your community

  • Other club sports or other recreational leagues (YMCA and similar)

  • Martial Arts, such as Karate, Judo, Jujitsu, and others

  • Ultimate Frisbee leagues and teams

  • Spartan races

  • Crossfit training (both regularly at a club/gym and local competitions)

  • Using a local trainer for fitness, weightlifting, boxing, and other activities

As with other candidates, the Candidate Fitness Assessment is an important component of the application process. Start now to prepare for it, as well as the other physical assessments for ROTC. As a homeschooler, you have the flexibility to train during the day incorporating your runs and other fitness activities into your daily school routine. Run at lunch, do some push-ups, shower, and then continue your academic day!

ACTIVITIES . . . Engagement with others in a team or club environment are important and critical parts of your résumé. The service academies use this portion of the application process to predict leadership potential. Although many homeschooled students are able to qualify academically for admission, they are often lacking in their extracurricular activities. Beyond team sports, find some organizations and groups to join. Lean into these activities and advance. Scouting, Exploring, Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadets, and 4-H are just some ideas for groups that might interest you.

The local school system (along with some private schools) may also allow homeschooled students to participate in their after-school activities. What's more, contact your local homeschool organization for further assistance and advice. Another path may be through community service groups, which offer some nice projects in which to participate. Habitat for Humanity, Humane Society, local community food banks, and other organizations may be available to you. You might work or perform community service through church organizations. Youth ministries and other church organizations may provide some good opportunities. Web searches for "local youth activities" may be fruitful even if you might have to travel to other locales to find a good 'fit.'

As you join these groups, seek to engage fully by seeking responsibilities and leadership roles. The service academies value demonstrated leadership much higher than simply participating in the activities alone. Serve as a club officer, become a team leader, earn Eagle Scout, achieve the Girl Scout Gold Award, or complete the Civil Air Patrol Billy Mitchell award. Demonstrate that you work well with others and can lead a team.

Your flexibility is ideal. A homeschool day might include fulfilling the requirements for a Scouting merit badge or other tasks that are easier to accomplish during the 'business day.' Often, my public/private school students have trouble finding the time to make phone calls or accomplish other tasks during school days. A homeschooler will have much more latitude to accomplish these tasks. Again, take advantage of your 'homeschool' advantages!

Homeschoolers become cadets and midshipmen every year. With a good plan, and the additional work that is unique to your homeschool setting, you can earn an appointment or an ROTC scholarship. It will not be easy, but it will be well worth the effort!

[I would welcome a chance to discuss more details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process . . . especially for homeschoolers to address their challenges and use their advantages! Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406 or complete my contact form on the home page.]

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