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The U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School—sometimes 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 selected personnel who meet the special needs of the Air Force. 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 basic sciences.


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 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 Rhodes, Fulbright, Daedalian, and Guggenheim scholarships and fellowships. 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 Housemarker fellowship, a Thunderbird pilot and a winner of the coveted Jabara Award.

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