Last Updated on November 12, 2022 by Fola Shade
The U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School—usually referred to as “the Prep School” or “The P School”—was established in May 1961. The school’s founder and first commander was Colonel Lee Charles Black. It is located on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy near the Community Center. The Prep School’s mission is to prepare, motivate, and evaluate for admission to and success at the Air Force Academy. Students at the prep school are referred to as “cadet candidates” or more informally as “preppies.”
The prep school has a staff of 57 people and offers a 10-month program of intense academic preparation, military training, and athletic conditioning, designed to develop in cadet candidates the skills and character necessary to be successful at the academy. The academic curriculum is focused on mathematics, English, and sciences.
The U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School was established in May 1961. It is located on the Academy grounds about four miles from the cadet area.
The prep school’s mission is to motivate, prepare, and evaluate selected candidates in an academic, military, moral, and physical environment, to perform successfully and enhance diversity at the Air Force Academy. The prep school achieves this mission by qualifying cadet candidates for academy appointments; developing in those students a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence that enables them to function in the Academy’s demanding environment, and motivating students to attend the Academy, graduate, and become career officers in the U.S. Air Force.
The prep school offers a 10-month program from July through May. The program integrates academic preparation, military training and athletic conditioning to develop in cadet candidates the skills and character necessary to be successful at the Academy. The primary focus of the curriculum is academic preparation with intensive instruction in mathematics, English and basic sciences. Coursework is fast-paced and challenging.
Like the Academy, admission to the prep school is competitive, with selections made by the Academy director of admissions. The director selects both enlisted active duty and civilian applicants who have applied for admission to the Academy but were not selected for direct entry. Approximately 240 cadet candidates enter the prep school each summer. About 20 percent of the students are prior enlisted, 50 percent are minorities and 15 percent are women.
Between 75 and 80 percent of all entering students earn an appointment to the Academy. To qualify for an appointment, students must successfully complete the prep school program in academics and military training, pass the Candidate Fitness Test, exhibit strong ethical character, receive the recommendation of the prep school commander, and be approved by the Academy board.
Many prep school graduates go on to distinguish themselves in military and academic areas at the Academy. Over the years, nine prep school graduates have held the Cadet Wing’s top leadership position as wing commander. Numerous others have served in wing, group, and squadron staff positions. Academically, former prep school graduates have earned prestigious awards, including Rhodes, Fulbright, Daedalian, and Guggenheim fellowships.
Former prep school students have also succeeded on active duty following graduation from the academy. Several graduates have gone on to become brigadier, major and lieutenant generals, Air Force Cross and Silver Star recipients, and space shuttle astronauts. Other honors include a White House Fellow, a Thunderbird pilot and a winner of the coveted Jabara Award.
Prospective cadet candidates must:
Be at least 17 and not have passed their 22nd birthday by July 1 of the year they enter the Prep School.
Be eligible to be a U.S. citizen.
Be unmarried and have no dependents.
Meet the medical standards for a commission in the United States Air Force.
Admission and transition to USAFA
Like admission to the academy, admission to the Prep School is competitive, with selections made by the academy director of admissions. If a civilian or airman, either Active Duty or Reserve, applies for but does not receive a direct appointment to the Air Force Academy, they will automatically be considered for the Prep School. Air Force enlisted personnel may apply directly to the Prep School via Air Force Form 1786, submitted through the unit commander and MPF. AFI 36-2021 should be consulted for details. Enlisted members from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are not eligible for nomination but can be considered as civilians.
Approximately 240 cadet candidates enter the Prep School each summer. Civilian selectees are placed on active duty in the Air Force Reserves while attending the Prep School. Successful completion of the Prep School program improves one’s chance for an appointment to the academy but does not guarantee it. If not selected, prior enlisted are assigned to other duties, usually their previous AFSC, while previous civilian cadet candidates are discharged from the Reserves with no further obligation to the Air Force.
Between 75 and 80 percent of all entering students earn an appointment to the academy. To qualify for an appointment, students must successfully complete the Prep School programs in academics and military training, pass the Cadet Physical Fitness Test, exhibit strong ethical character, receive a recommendation from a Congressman or the Prep School commander, and be approved by the academy board.
Like the main Academy, the Prep School is set up as a military unit. Services, engineering, communications, and security are provided by the 10th Air Base Wing.
All cadet candidates are in the group with their own cadet candidate group commander. They are then divided into three squadrons, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, each having their own Air Officer Commanding (AOC) and an Academy Military Training (AMT) enlisted member. AOCs are generally Majors and/or Captains and are in charge of cadet candidates’ training and discipline. The AMT is a noncommissioned officer who supports the AOC and cadet candidates as well as mentoring over the 10-month program. Each squadron also has a cadet candidate squadron commander. Squadrons are further subdivided into three flights consisting of approximately 25 cadet candidates, each with their own cadet candidate commander.
The academic program is 10 months long and is divided into four quarters. It is highly structured, with all cadet candidates taking the same classes for the first quarter. Each quarter, cadet candidates take classes in math (ranging from advanced algebra to calculus, and including applications in science and engineering), chemistry, physics, and English, as well as a one-time course in basic study skills and advanced reading skills. As at the academy, professors are a mix of civilians and Air Force officers.
During the last quarter, qualified students can take Calculus 141 at the academy instead of taking the Prep School trigonometry and calculus courses. Students will receive Academy credit for the class if they pass the placement exam.
United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School football in 1990
Upon arriving at the Prep School, cadet candidates go through an 18-day course in Basic Military Training (BMT). Training focuses on teaching basic military history, drill and ceremonies, military customs and courtesies, proper uniform wear, and physical fitness.
Throughout the year, military training time is reserved every weekday afternoon following academics, usually lasting about an hour. It is used at the discretion of the Prep School commander, the squadron commanders, or the cadet candidate flight commanders. Activities range from guest speakers, drill or parade practice, to room inspections.
At the end of the school year, cadet candidates go through a three-day high intensity field training exercise (FTX). FTX focuses on teamwork and on utilizing knowledge and leadership experience gained over the previous 10 months.
Just like cadets at the academy, all Prep School cadet candidates are required to participate in athletics. The Prep School has a number of varsity sports, including football, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s basketball. Teams compete against a number of different colleges throughout the state and region. There are also a variety of intramural sports available. Not all athletic time must be spent on organized sports; it may also include weight lifting, running, or another physical activity of the cadet candidates’ choosing. The football team usually plays community colleges from the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC).
Many Prep School graduates have gone on to distinguish themselves in military and academic areas at the academy. Nine Prep School graduates have held the Cadet Wing’s top leadership position as cadet wing commander, and Prep School graduates have earned prestigious awards, including the Rhodes Scholarship, Fulbright Scholarship, Order of the Daedalians Scholarship, and the Guggenheim Fellowship. A number of Prep School graduates have gone on to become general officers, Air Force Cross and Silver Star recipients, and astronauts. Other honors earned by Prep School graduates include a White House fellowship, becoming a Thunderbirds pilot and a winner of the coveted Jabara Award.
Benefits of Attending a Prep School
Aside from the extra year of academics, prep schoolers are exposed to the military mindset a year in advance and are typically more successful at handling the mental stressors of their first few years. Their direct entry classmates tend to rely on them for leadership and guidance, especially during the freshman plebe summer and school year.
Unfortunately there is no way to request entry into a Service Academy Prep School. As the academy admissions panels meet, they determine who meets criteria for admission, and who they think needs extra preparation. They will usually send out the bulk of offers of appointments to Prep Schools in the March-May timeframe, but some students have received these offers as early as January.
Are you Competitive?
Wondering if your student is competitive? We created calculators for both USAFA and West Point to give you an idea of how you stack up against other candidates. Plug your information into these calculators to get a percentile.
You’ll also need to use our Candidate Fitness Assessment calculator to complete these.
After you have your student’s percentile, you’ll have a general idea of where they are in terms of other applicants. Keep in mind this is just an estimate. 50% is the average of candidates who are offered direct appointments into a Service Academy. If your percentile is high but you have low test scores, your chances of a direct appointment are lower.
If your student has demonstrated strong leadership and athletic abilities but needs more time to prepare academically, a prep school is potentially a really good opportunity!
We wish you luck in your application and dedication to serving in our nation’s Armed Forces
air force academy prep school acceptance rate
Did you know what each of the three Service Academies has a prep school? These prep schools have about an 80% acceptance rate into the Service Academies! This is a great opportunity for students who need additional academic preparation to develop, giving them a greater chance to succeed during their 4-year Service Academy experience.
What does this mean for you or your student? If your high school student is applying to a Service Academy and doesn’t get accepted, that’s not the end of the road! There is still a chance that your student will be offered a prep school appointment!
When the Service Academy admissions panel meets and begins making offers of appointment each year, there are many candidates who have excellent leadership and athletic abilities but aren’t quite there when it comes to the academic side of the house. We’ll go into this further in this article. We break down the typical student profile for Air Force Academy Prep School, Naval Academy Prep School, and West Point Prep School appointees (including GPA and test scores) so you can get a glimpse into how the process works and what to expect.