At the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in
Colorado Springs, Colo., cadets receive a full scholarship while earning
a BS. All tuition costs, meals, housing, and a monthly stipend are
included in the scholarship. This four-year public university offers 32
academic majors, about half of them in STEM fields like aeronautical
engineering, cyber science, electrical engineering, meteorology, and
astronautical engineering. Every cadet has the opportunity to compete
for summer research projects and completes a capstone project in their
field of study.
Graduates earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force
or Space Force and are obligated to serve at least five years in one of
the dozens of career fields open to officers, including positions in
cyberspace operations, behavioral sciences, air traffic, remotely
operated aircraft, financial management, and space operations.
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To apply you must be at least 17 years old but not older than
23 by July 1 the year you enter, a U.S. citizen, unmarried with no
dependents, and of good moral character. The average high school GPA of
successful applicants is 3.85. ▸ Visit usafa.edu for more information about requirements and how to apply.
Ask a Recent Graduate
Lieutenant Andrew Weiss graduated from
the USAFA in 2020 with a degree in computer science and a minor in
Spanish. In his first assignment since being commissioned, he is serving
as an admission advisor for the Academy. His next assignment will be in
Why did you choose the Academy and computer science?
I was interested in STEM at a young age. My dad was an electrical
engineer in the Air Force and also worked in early-warning missile
defense. I always wanted to go to the Academy because I knew it would
open so many doors for me. My family sponsored a cadet as part of a
program that offers a “home away from home” on weekends, and that had a
big impact on me too. I didn’t know what I wanted to study at first, but
in my freshman year I took a computer science course and fell in love
What kind of STEM opportunities does the Academy offer?
Every graduate earns a bachelor of science degree because the Academy
offers so much exposure to STEM. You can major in engineering in just
about every discipline, applied sciences, space exploration and
satellite technology, various cyber disciplines, and all sorts of
medical fields. The core curriculum is very broad, so it provides a
Describe the summer research projects and travel opportunities.
Every academic department has an allotment of summer research
opportunities that often involve private industry partners like
Microsoft or Google or Air Force research labs. Students compete within
their major for these real-world projects. I traveled to the Space
Dynamics Laboratory in Utah and worked with a team using AI for
automatic object detection in radar imagery. As a Spanish minor I lived
with a host family in Panama for a month.
“The core curriculum is very broad, so it provides a well-rounded education.”
What happens in a capstone project?
It’s an in-depth project, usually in your senior year, that typically
involves an industry partner and combines several topics you’ve studied
so far. In my capstone project, we worked with AT&T to create an
autonomous drone swarm that would provide cellular coverage for first
responders in a situation with a degraded environment — like fighting a
wildfire or mobilizing in a hurricane.
What advice do you have for readers interested in applying?
The most common reason people don’t get accepted is they don’t
complete the application. It’s long and there are a number of steps like
a medical exam and a fitness assessment. While our acceptance rate is
10 percent, of the people who actually complete the application, the
rate is closer to 25 percent. So one of the biggest things you can do to
help yourself is be sure to finish the application. The Academy is a
place of great opportunity, and I encourage people to apply.
The Ford Foundation is working to increase the
diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties through its
Ford Fellowships at the predoctoral, dissertation, and postdoctoral
levels. These awards are administered annually through the National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In 2021, the Ford
Foundation Fellowship Program announced 131 awards for predoctoral (75),
dissertation (36), and postdoctoral (20) research and study.
You are eligible to apply for a Ford Fellowship if you can
demonstrate superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in
teaching and research at the college or university level, and meet other
requirements on the Ford Foundation website. Applicants should also
show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers and
demonstrate that they are well prepared to use diversity as a resource
for enriching education for all students.
▸ LEARN MORE
Ford Foundation Fellowship applications are available each
year following the September Labor Day holiday. The first deadline is in
December, and the deadline for specific supplementary materials is
usually in the first week of the following January. ▸ sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/FordFellowships/index.htm
Ask a Fellowship Advocate
Chris O’Brien of the Fellowships Office
of the Policy and Global Affairs Division of the National Academies has
managed the Ford Foundation Predoctoral, Dissertation, and Postdoctoral
Fellowship Programs for more than three decades. She is an active
advocate for current, past, and future Ford Fellows.
How would you describe the Ford Fellowship experience?
Ford Foundation Fellowships support individuals representing a range
of disciplines such as life and physical sciences, mathematics and
engineering, the humanities, social sciences, and behavioral sciences.
In addition, the annual Conference of Ford Fellows provides an
opportunity for researchers to discuss possible future collaborations.
Ford Fellows often work with their peers across disciplines, and many
build relationships and friendships that have been integral to their
development as scholars.
How does the Conference of Ford Fellows benefit recipients?
The Conference of Ford Fellows is a two-day meeting of the most
recent fellowship recipients. The program includes academic exchange
sessions, one-on-one advising, keynote speakers, plenary panels, and
presentations by past Ford Fellows. It provides a unique opportunity for
establishing and expanding professional networks. University presses
are represented at the event, and many Ford Fellows have had their
research published as a result of interviews at the conference.
How extensive is the mentoring component of the Ford Fellowship Program?
The program will be 60 years old in 2022 and has generated a large,
diverse, and experienced alumni network. Senior Ford Fellows often offer
guidance to scholars embarking on their research and teaching careers.
Over the years, countless fellows have expressed gratitude that the Ford
Foundation makes this rich experience available.
“I believe that the more you apply for support for future study, the more experienced and successful you become with the process. Apply to as many funding sources as you possibly can.”
What advice do you have for students interested in applying for a Ford Fellowship?
I suggest that scholars access the Directory of Ford Fellows on our
website to see biographical information on past and current Ford
Fellows. There is also a list of Regional Liaisons who are available to
answer questions. These are past Ford Fellows who offer their time and
expertise to students navigating their educational paths. I encourage
scholars to discuss their academic and career goals with Ford Fellows
and Regional Liaisons.
What would you like to highlight about the application process?
Each applicant must write a personal statement. This is an
opportunity to let the reviewers know about the rich personal
experiences you will bring to your role as an educator, and how that
will help future generations of students. Three letters of reference are
required, as well as a letter from your proposed host institution if
you are a postdoctoral applicant. You should constantly monitor the
completeness of your application online.
Any parting words for our readers?
I believe that the more you apply for support for future study, the
more experienced and successful you become with the process. Apply to as
many funding sources as you possibly can, and if you receive comments
on your application, use them as a guide for making future applications
more competitive. Ask faculty members and close friends to suggest
refinements to your draft documents so that when you submit the
application, it is concise, well-stated, accurate, and complete.
Finally, I wish you the very best as you seek to achieve your career and