What is it like to be a cadet?

Personal growth requires personal investment.  Is life at the United States Air Force Academy easy? No. Rewarding? Extremely. No one can determine whether the Academy is right for you except you. To get ready, find out how cadets spend their time at work, at play or around campus.

As a Cadet

When you enter the United States Air Force Academy, you will face a rigorous schedule, extremely high expectations, and strict rules of conduct.

But there will also be classes taught by top professors, the opportunity to learn about flying — and the chance to develop friendships that will last a lifetime.


While a cadet at the Academy, you will be fully cared for and have no student loans to worry about. Your education, valued at more than $400,000, is an investment the Air Force is willing to make in you. You will receive:

  • Fully paid tuition
  • Cost-free Room and board
  • Cost-free Medical care*
  • A Monthly stipend
  • Interest-free loans to cover emergency situations if necessary
  • Access to a low-cost, government-sponsored life insurance program

*Outpatient treatment, physical examinations and routine dental examinations are performed in the cadet clinic. Cadets may not refuse necessary medical treatment because of religious or personal beliefs.

Arrival and Oath

As soon as you arrive, you’ll realize that the Air Force Academy isn’t your typical college or university. It is a military institution, and the demands placed on cadets are unique. You’ll shed civilian clothes for a military uniform. Your hair will be cut to Academy standards, or for women, you will learn to style your hair within Academy standards. You will become a fourth-class cadet, which is how we refer to first year students at the Academy.

Shortly after arrival, you’ll participate in one of the more solemn occasions of your cadet career: taking the oath that makes you a member of the Armed Forces of the United States. Consider what this country means to you and what defending it involves. You must serve wholeheartedly. If you have any reservations, resolve them before committing to an appointment to USAFA and before taking this oath. This is the pledge of loyalty:

I, (name), having been appointed an Air Force cadet in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. (So help me God)

Basic Cadet Training (BCT)

The first major transition you will make as a cadet is to go through Basic Cadet Training (BCT). This rigorous, six-week program is designed to introduce new cadets to military life. It’s a demanding experience — physically, emotionally and mentally. The first day of BCT will be filled with new sights, sounds, situations and experiences, and will be etched in your memory forever. You may not use tobacco products during Basic Cadet Training (BCT). If you smoke, dip or chew, quit before arriving so you can adapt more easily.


The Academy is a unique university designed to create strong leaders. Beyond our academic excellence, the Academy program provides military training, athletic opportunity, and a focus on character development. These unique aspects of Academy life combine to forge officers of character who are ready to lead our nation in the United States Air Force.


An Academy education is tailored to develop future Air Force officers with innovative, analytical and resourceful minds. A fully accredited institution of higher learning, the Academy has one of the most prestigious and respected academic programs in the nation. Each cadet completes a balanced sequence of core curriculum with courses in sciences, engineering, humanities, social sciences, military studies and physical education. Cadets may choose an academic path from 27 majors with an option to add a foreign language, philosophy, or religion studies minor. The chance to succeed academically is offered to every cadet. With a student to faculty ratio of 8:1, cadets have unprecedented access to professors. Beyond the classroom, cadets may participate in real-world research, study abroad and create connections through a variety of professional clubs.


The Academy provides the training and foundational leadership experiences that prepare cadets to become officers in the United States Air Force. Every cadet starts their Academy experience with Basic Cadet Training (BCT). Upon completion of BCT, cadets join the cadet wing, which simulates the structure and organization of an operational Air Force wing. As cadets take on increasing levels of responsibility over the course of their four years at the Academy, their leadership capabilities are explored and enhanced. Military education is where Cadets learn to become officers by taking subjects such as military strategy, doctrine, heritage, professionalism and more. Every cadet who enters the Academy is presented with numerous opportunities to take part in the flying experience. Some are voluntary, others are mandatory.


In addition to managing a full academic load, cadets must maintain a high level of physical conditioning and participate in athletic competition. The Academy’s extensive athletic program includes intercollegiate and intramural sports, physical education courses and physical fitness tests. These programs help prepare cadets for Air Force leadership by building confidence, emotional control, physical courage, and the ability to perform under pressure. The Academy has 10 women’s and 17 men’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams that compete at the highest level, Division I. Each cadet must participate in an intercollegiate or intramural sport, selecting from an extensive array of options including basketball, boxing, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball.


Above all else, the Academy creates leaders who will serve our nation in the United States Air Force. To do so, we emphasize character as the basis upon which great leadership depends. Our core values are Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. While at the Academy, cadets internalize these values through character-based transformational leadership education. The 4-year curriculum begins with personal exploration followed by interpersonal skill development. Cadets continue by building servant leadership skills and finally, pursuing organizational improvement through analysis of ethical dilemmas. Classroom, seminar, workshop and experiential learning programs — including an Adventure-based learning (ABL) ropes course — propel cadets along their character development journey.

Leaves and Passes

You’ll have limited time away from the Academy during your first year. During the first five weeks, while you’re in BCT, you may not have visitors or receive phone calls. After Parent’s Weekend, the restrictions relax somewhat. During your fourth-class year you may receive phone calls and have visitors on Saturday afternoons and evenings, as well as on Sunday mornings and afternoons. You may also invite friends to attend balls, concerts, and other live entertainment at the Academy. The athletic schedule provides many activities to enjoy with your friends. Your activity fee covers the cost of most events for you, and usually you may buy discount tickets for your friends.

When you’re on a Friday or Saturday pass, you must return to the dormitory by 1:30 a.m. Your assigned squadron is assessed twice each semester – the overall grade it receives will determine the number of passes you receive. Unsatisfactory performance in military training, academic studies or athletics restricts your free time; above-average work increases your free time. Your privileges gradually increase each academic year at the Academy however,you must attend scheduled military duties such as parades, training, inspections and football games.

Most cadets go to Colorado Springs during off-duty time. You may not own or maintain an automobile as a fourth- or third-class cadet, but you may rent one while on an authorized pass or privilege. Eligible second- and first-class cadets may own cars and keep them at the Academy. In most instances, you’ll receive three weeks of summer leave (except during the summer you inprocess the Academy), approximately two weeks of winter holiday leave, and one week during the spring. You may receive emergency leave if an emergency involves a member of your immediate family. Other requests for special leave are considered on a case-by-case basis.


Recognition is the formal finale of the fourth-class year when the fourth-class cadets are “recognized” as upperclass cadets and are allowed to wear the Prop and Wings insignia on their flight caps. It is a vital and traditional segment of the Academy experience and is a ceremonial acknowledgement that the fourth-class has successfully met the military training requirements and is prepared to continue the rigorous Academy journey.

Recognition consists of several activities including a leadership course, an assault course and “The Run to the Rock.” In addition to challenging the fourth-class cadets, recognition provides the three upper classes an opportunity to develop their leadership skills. Individual squadron ceremonies and a wing-wide celebratory evening meal mark the end of Recognition.

Do you want to Attend the Academy?

Understanding our admissions requirements is the first step.