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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Summer Seminars: USMA, USNA, USAFA & USCGA

Updated: May 15

U.S. Service Academy summer seminars provide much more than just summer entertainment!

West Point has the Summer Leaders Experience (SLE), Annapolis has the Summer Seminar (and so does Air Force in Colorado), and finally, Coast Guard has the Academy Introduction Mission (AIM). If you are interested in attending any of these four service academies, then I highly recommend applying for each of these programs during your junior year in high school.

You may be asking . . . Why? What if I can't attend? What happens if I turn an invitation down? Or, even better, what can I expect when I show up?

I'll take a few moments to address these and some other questions. Note that this blog has been updated in April 2024 to reflect the latest information.

Why should I apply for the summer seminar, SLE or AIM?

The short answer is that the seminar application kicks off your process of applying to the U.S. service academy (or academies) of your choice well before the official window that opens in the spring and summer. In other words, you place yourself in 'front' of the application queue as well as letting the school know you are interested.

One caveat: for 2024-25, the AFA summer seminar application does not serve as a student's pre-candidate questionnaire (PCQ). Students will have to use the new AFA portal and 'continue their application.' We'll see if this policy is just for 2024-25, or if it will continue through the following cycles.

What if I can't attend? I am busy during the summer seminar -- should I still apply?

As I noted previously, the prime reason to apply is to start your initial application steps for an appointment to USAFA, USMA, USNA or USCGA. You may turn down the invitation without prejudice if you find that you cannot attend. Declining the invitation will not affect your appointment application negatively. Plus, plans fall through. Remember, COVID-19 was unknown in January/February 2021 (when most applications were due). A cancellation, or altered plans, may allow you to attend a seminar if you are invited.

Why is West Point asking for my counselor's email address for the SLE application?

This addition appears to be a new one for 2024. To apply to USMA and/or USNA, each application asks students to provide a "School Official" to validate or confirm the accuracy of their listed activities, plus USMA and USCGA will ask for a transcript to be sent. Plus, Coast Guard will ask for a recommendation for the counselor. Be sure to give your counselor a 'heads up' and confirm that they receive the email requesting that s/he verify your activities list and take the required actions. If not, have them also check their spam.

What happens if I turn the invitation down?

Nothing! But now you are ready to apply to the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, the Military Academy and/or the Coast Guard Academy based on your summer seminar application. The summer seminar application serves as your PCQ. Typically, you will be notified by email when the application portals open in the June/July time frame for each of the academies.

What is the value of attending one of the seminars?

Beyond being a lot of fun, the seminars (including SLE and AIM) provide a informative introduction to the facilities, staff, training and curriculum at each of the service academies. The seminar programs desire to provide concrete information and real-life experiences so that students can truly evaluate their desire to become cadets or midshipmen at each of the schools as well as serving in the associated military service (i.e., the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force or Coast Guard).

What's more, the academy staff will have a chance to 'evaluate' your fit with the school. Typically, the seminars will provide an opportunity to take the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) -- although USAFA has dropped it with its high altitude location -- and some of the schools may very well conduct the official interview for your application. Double check the details for your particular seminar and be prepared for these two important evaluations.

Can I attend multiple seminars at different academies?

Yes. I had a student who participated the Naval Academy's Summer Seminar in early June and then attended the U.S. Military Academy's Summer Leadership Experience the following week driving with his father between Annapolis to West Point by car. Timing, distance and expense will be some considerations for you and your parents, but you may attend all four seminars if you are selected and the timing allow its!

In the Summers of 2023 and 2024, a number of my students who applied early also received early invitations and were able to request date changes to allow them to attend one or more of the programs. One of my students attended three seminars: AF, Navy and Army!

Does the Merchant Marine Academy have a summer seminar program?

No -- unfortunately, the US Merchant Marine Academy does not have a summer seminar as their academic year (of trimesters splitting land-based academics and maritime experience) does not accommodate these kind of programs.

Will the seminars be held in person in 2024?

All of the programs were held in person in 2023, with some schools hosting a 'virtual' session as an option. In 2021, all four schools (USAFA, USMA, USNA and USCGA) held virtual programs. Several of my students attended a few of them and enjoyed the virtual programs. Most also provide a virtual 'option' if you desire that experience.

But, as I noted, attending the seminar is a bonus as the most important aspect is to apply and initiate your application(s) for an appointment. Feel free to decline the invitation if you decide you cannot travel and attend safely. Your health and well being are much more important than your participation in the summer programs.

Is there a cost for seminars?

Yes, there is a fee for the in-person programs. You must provide your own transportation and the seminar fees vary from about $300 - $600. You will find more details at each of the academy admissions websites. There are also some limited funds to provide financial aid to deserving students.

Do you have any other questions?

Each of the academy admissions websites provide more details, including FAQs, so I invite you to dig deeper into the details. Feel free to reach out to me. My email is chris@cbbrechin.com and my cell number is 503.515.7406.

For 2024, the first seminar application will be the U.S. Air Force Academy's Summer Seminar, which should open on December 1, 2023. The last day to start a new application is January 10. The Summer Seminar deadline is January 15 with no extensions or late applications accepted.

Navy's will follow on January 4, 2024 along with USMA. West Point applications for the Summer Leadership Experience open on February 1, 2024. Coast Guard AIM applications should also open on February 1, 2024. Due dates are April 1 and April 15, so check with each school's calendar.

By the way, you may want to review my blog about the summer seminar essays, too. So, apply early and good luck!

[I would also welcome an opportunity to speak to you about a coaching engagement -- I provide active consultation on the entire admissions process, including preparation and review for interviews, essays (personal statements), activities and more for all five of the U.S. service academies: USAFA, USMA, USMMA, USCGA and USNA; plus, I work with students to purse ROTC scholarships for the Army, Air Force and Navy. Call me at (503) 515-7406, email me at chris@cbbrechin.com or use my contact form on this website.]


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