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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Summer Seminar Essays for the U.S. Service Academies

Updated: Mar 31

It is likely your first one for the SAs so make it good!

Candidate writing her summer seminar essay

For most students applying to the summer seminars at the U.S. service academies, the first question I hear is simply, "what should I write about?"

Let's discuss some good approaches for candidates seeking to attend these programs and creating the personal statements required for the application.

Applying to the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy summer seminars is straightforward. USMA's Summer Leaders Experience is easier as it has not historically required an essay. The same is true for 2024. Finally, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's AIM or "Academy Introduction Program" also requires a couple of essays. All of the applications require some basic details, including your full name, your address, your congressional district, your social security number, your activities, your GPA and some other personal information. Each application ends (except USMA SLE) with the essays prompts for your response.

Here is a list of the different essays, either confirmed (C) or predicted (P) for 2024:

  • USAFA #1 (C) - Please discuss any personal life experience where you have overcome adversity or challenges that have shaped you into the person you are today? [3000 character limit]

  • USAFA #2 (C) -What makes you a unique candidate for the summer seminar program? [1500 character limit]

  • USNA (C) - Please answer the following questions briefly:

    • Why are you interested in attending the Naval Academy Summer Seminar?

    • Have you been involved in any STEM-related activities, groups, or conferences?

    • Please elaborate on any extracurricular activities in which you have participated. [1000 character limit]

  • USMA (C) - no essay is required

  • USCGA #1 (C) - Why do you want to attend the AIM Program and what are your expectations for the program? [500 word limit]

  • USCGA #2 (C) - This is an opportunity to provide any additional information, such as a résumé. [500 word limit]

With all of the essays or personal statements, there are some central themes:

  • Each application asks you to list your activities, sports, and awards. Keep this point in mind as you write your personal statements. There is no need to repeat those simple facts. In other words, you listed earning the Civil Air Patrol's Mitchell Award, so move to details that talk about how you earned it and your current responsibilities.

  • Ensure that you respond to the full set of prompts for each essay. For the AFA, note both the personal experience and how it "shaped you," too.

  • Focus on your unique story. Ideally, you write a story that no one else can write. Clearly, with a short word limit, that will be challenging, but I'm sure you will find a way!

Let's talk about each specific set of essays . . .

Air Force Academy Summer Seminar:

  • The limit for each essay is measured in "characters" not words. I have students misread this point each year - LOL! A limit of 3000 characters is about 500 to 600 words.

  • Most of us are very fortunate, as we have not experienced 'great' adversity, such as losing our home or experiencing hunger. However, you have likely addressed challenges earning your good grades, hiking and camping in some rough terrain with bad weather in Scouting, or winning your first match after your hard work and dedication as a freshman wrestler. You may use these kinds of examples in your first personal statement for USAFA.

  • By the way, this prompt is quite similar to several that you will encounter later as you apply to all of the SAs and ROTC scholarships so be sure to save your personal statement for potential reuse this summer with your applications.

  • "Unique" can be difficult to identify. But it also demonstrates self-awareness and helps USAFA understand your motivations to attend the seminar. Some ideas are your personality, attitudes, perspectives, habits, intellect, goals, experiences, relationships, creativity, passion, hobbies, skills (especially STEM talents), communications, humor and/or tastes. Think through each 'area,' and speak to what you 'bring' to the seminar.

Naval Academy Summer Seminar:

  • As with AFASS, the NASS essay limit is counted in "characters." Plus, at 1000 characters, it is quite short, translating into about 200 or less words. It is little space to include lots of details!

  • To address 'why' (the first prompt), you may want to include 'seeing' the Academy, 'meeting' staff and faculty, and 'learning' more about a midshipman's lifestyle. You could mention your motivations to be a Naval officer and the career you seek. In short, what inspires you?

  • To cover the second prompt, be sure to cover your Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics experiences. Course listings are part of the application so no need to list them; however, you might point out projects, reports or other technical work that you accomplished in the courses. Clubs, Scouting, CAP, etc., often include STEM activities so be sure to note those experiences, too.

  • For the final prompt, highlight leadership, or other impactful ways that you have acted, in your different activities. You will likely 'run out' of characters so don't fret, as everyone has the same limits. Just do your best to be concise.

Coast Guard Academy AIM:

  • The 500-word limit for these two personal statements should give you ample space to cover the topics.

  • Address the 'why' in the same manner as noted previously for the NASS statement. The second half addressing your expectations should 'line-up' with the reasons with which you started the essay. In other words, you desire to 'see' the Coast Guard Academy so you 'expect' to have a tour of the campus along with opportunities to experience the facilities as you participate in the program.

  • AIM prides itself on being the 'toughest' summer program among the service academies so you may want to note this challenge and your desire to be 'tested' by the experience.

  • For the second prompt, a résumé outlining your activities, sports, and awards makes sense, especially if this list of items is not included in other sections of the application. With 500 words, you will have an opportunity to provide some deep dives into some of the 'impact' that you made (or make) in your different leadership roles. Take advantage of the 'space' to tell USCGA Admissions about your successes!

By the way, you may be interested in my other blog about the Summer Seminars, which discusses some 'nuts and bolts' details of the programs.

I hope this blog helped provide you have some good ideas to use for summer seminar personal essays. Happy writing and good luck with your summer seminar applications!

[I have many more ideas for your personal statements and essays! I would welcome a chance to discuss the details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process. Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406 or complete my contact form on the home page.]

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