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FAQ

There’s a lot to learn about what makes the United States Air Force Academy unique. From general questions to specifics about an aspect of the Academy experience, you may find an answer here.

What is the cadet equivalent to a student in a civilian university?

The Academy uses the class system rather than the equivalent designation characteristic of civilian universities. The comparison is: fourth-class = freshman; third-class = sophomore; second-class = junior; first-class = senior.

Are cadets required to pay income taxes?

Yes, they are. Federal income withholding tax, state tax (if applicable) and FICA (federal payroll tax for social security and Medicare) are deducted from cadet pay. Each cadet must file appropriate federal and state tax returns.

I have a tattoo, a brand or a piercing. Can I be admitted?

While having a tattoo, brand or body marking does not automatically disqualify you from consideration, it must meet the standards outlined in Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903: Tattoos, brands or body markings anywhere on the body that are indecent; commonly associated with gangs, extremist and supremacist organizations; advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination; or project an improper military or cadet image are prohibited. Tattoos, brands or body markings located on the hands, head, neck, face, tongue, lips, eyes and scalp are prohibited, except as may be permitted in AFI 36-2903. You may review AFI 36-2903, Chapter 3, for more information. If offered an appointment and you accept, you will have to complete AF Form 4428 with your Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO) disclosing information on your tattoo(s)/brand(s)/body marking(s), such as location, size and significance. The form will be maintained in your personnel file throughout your Air Force career.

I have a child. I heard that I must relinquish custody before attending the U.S. Air Force Academy. Why?

Applying students (and current cadets) who have had a child (maternity or paternity) must provide a court order stating they have NO parental rights to the child whatsoever. This is different than just giving family members a power of attorney or temporary custody. The court order must indicate total and complete relinquishment of parental rights. Parental rights must be given to someone while you are a cadet for several reasons. The rationale includes, but is not limited to, all cadets are required to live in the dorms all four years; your stipend is not enough to provide for the needs of a child (it is plenty to cover your needs); and the cadet lifestyle is a demanding one and your attention will need to be focused on your task at hand, not on your child. You may also not have a spouse while at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

I have special religious requirements (dietary restrictions, clothing, jewelry, observances, etc.). Will I be allowed to practice them at the Academy and in the Air Force?

It is Department of Defense (DoD) policy that any requests for accommodation of religious practices should be approved by the commanders, given that such accommodation will not have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, standards or discipline. Additionally, if there are health or safety concerns, accommodation may not be possible (e.g., a cadet may be required to remove all jewelry, religious or not, while navigating an obstacle course during training). At the Academy and throughout the Air Force and Space Force, we will accommodate free exercise of religion and other personal beliefs, as well as freedom of expression, except as must be limited by compelling military necessity (with such limitations being imposed in the least-restrictive manner feasible). Chaplains impartially advise commanders in regards to these matters. Concerning religious apparel, Public Law 100-180, Section 508 (reference C) states that members of the Armed Forces may wear religious items or articles not visible or otherwise apparent with the uniform, provided they do not interfere with the performance of the member’s military duties nor with the proper wearing of any authorized article of the uniform. Whether an item of religious apparel interferes with the member’s military duty performance depends on its characteristics, the circumstances of its intended wear and the particular nature of the member’s duties. However, hair and grooming practices required or observed by religious groups are not included within the meaning of religious apparel. If you have further questions regarding the accommodation of specific religious practices, please feel free to contact the Academy Chaplain’s Office.

What is the Officer Development System?

All cadets go through a four-year developmental process, called the Officer Development System (ODS), where each class receives training commensurate with their level of cadet experience. The training is tough, and during your first year at the U.S. Air Force Academy your free time will be very limited. It is designed for a definite purpose: to teach you to accomplish delegated tasks in a professional and proficient manner, thus paving the way for progression to becoming an upper-class cadet and ultimately becoming an officer of character. Cadets develop leadership and command skills throughout their four years at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and as they progress, they take on more responsibility. As cadets take on more responsibilities, they also have fewer restrictions on how they spend their free time. Likewise, during the spring semester of your fourth-class year, there is some relaxation of the restrictions in order to prepare you for greater privileges and different responsibilities in the third-class year.

Does the Officer Development System interfere with academic studies?

No, academics aid and complement the ODS. The Academy mission is a concentrated, focused process aimed at developing leaders of character through military, academic and athletic endeavors. Your progress in all areas will be carefully monitored during all four years.

Are there opportunities to hear about cadet life from current cadets?

The Grassroots Program, established in 1969, was designed for cadets to spread information about the Academy during their Thanksgiving vacations. On a voluntary basis, cadets give presentations to high schools in their hometowns, provide materials to newspapers and arrange for interviews with TV and radio stations. This effort is still in progress and shows local high school students successful Academy cadets while they are still in the commissioning process. Additionally, our Discover USAFA campus admissions events include a guided tour by current cadets as well as a presentation given by recent graduates.

Why is the falcon the Academy mascot?

The falcon possesses characteristics that typify the U.S. Air Force—speed, graceful flight, courage, alertness and noble carriage. Several prairie falcons, which are native to Colorado are housed at the Academy. Trained by cadet falconers, the prairie falcons perform demonstrations during half-time activities at football games. The Academy’s intercollegiate athletic teams are known as The Falcons.

How much is tuition at the U.S. Air Force Academy?

There is no monetary cost to attend the Academy. However, you will be required to serve in the U.S. Air Force or Space Force for a period of time, depending on your career.

When will I know if I have been selected for an appointment?

You will be notified on your portal. Regular selections normally take place at the end of February and the beginning of March.