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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Why Do You Want to Attend the U.S. Air Force Academy?

Updated: Feb 12

Preparing for answer to this question is a good start for your essays and interviews

It's inevitable . . . you will be asked why. Why do you want to attend the Academy? Your goal may be to attend the Air Force Academy (USAFA), the Military Academy (USMA), the Naval Academy (USNA), the Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), or the Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). The question will be asked: why?

Typically, a candidate will be asked this question in an essay as well as in person during an interview. One of your nomination sources, such as your Congressional Representative, may ask you to respond in writing to this question, or you may be asked in person by the nomination committee assembled to interview you as a potential nominee. Often, you will hear the same question from your AF Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO) Evaluator, your Blue and Gold Officer (BGO) for the Naval Academy or your Field Force Representative (FFR) for the Military Academy. A candidate must be prepared to respond to 'why.'

What are your reasons? Is it for a good education? Great career path? The ability to fly a jet fighter or command a submarine? The reasons are many and varied for each individual candidate. You should use your motives as the basis and foundation of your response to 'why.'

Often, as I work with students, they are looking to formulate the 'best' answer that they believe the questioner desires to hear. The problem is that this kind of response frequently lands awkwardly and disingenuously. As the interview continues, a candidate will often stumble over ideas that are insincere and artificial. Instead, the best option is to use a genuine and unique answer to the 'why question.'

If your reasons are that you desire to fly, then be straightforward about your motivation. Tell a story (and paint a picture!) about what motivates your desire, who or what influenced you, describe the research that you have done and add details into the 'story' that make it your unique answer. Do the work and then prepare your response. Your reasoning should be easy to follow when you answer the 'why question.'

Here's an outline of an example response:

  • I recall seeing my first airshow featuring the Thunderbirds. The roar of the F-16s flying across a sunny, clear sky mesmerized me. To this day, ten years later, I still recall my excitement when I met one of the pilots.

  • I want to be an Air Force pilot.

  • The USAF Academy provides the ideal path to achieving this goal, including some great cadet training programs such as flight instruction, parachuting and other valuable training.

  • My mother and my grandfather both served in the military service.

  • My mother's stories describing her experiences in Germany and Japan as well as deploying to many other countries motivated me to serve.

  • I enjoy learning about the F-35 and it capabilities.

  • I have explored the career of an AF pilot and have spoken with several active duty and retired military pilots.

  • An Air Force career allows me to serve my country, travel the world and, potentially, be part of a flight exhibition team, like the Thunderbirds.

  • Lastly, I continue to read about pilots serving in the military and the roles that they play in peace and war.

Make your reasoning clear and describe your motivation. If you are truly interested in any one of the academies, then you should do the work and research to understand the responsibilities, the life style and the focus of a cadet at each of the schools. Your desired career path will be an important part of this exploration and your answer to 'why.'

The question is inevitable! Be prepared to answer the 'why' question, and you will be one step closer to fulfilling your goal of attending one of the US service academies.

[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 . . . including preparing you for your interviews and essays! Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406 or complete my contact form on the home page.]


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