Academy success at the Naval Academy

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by EagleScout95, Feb 13, 2015.

  1. EagleScout95

    EagleScout95 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    1
    Every candidate understands the prerequisite of academic success prior to attending USNA unfortunately, from my understanding, some academic worthy candidates do not flourish academically upon arriving at the United States Naval Academy. For example, John Doe has a 4.0 GPA at High School X, upon the completion of his first semester at USNA, he is rewarded with a hefty 2.3 SQPR. Why is that so? How rigorous are the academics at USNA? Any midshipman who has a 3.0 SQPR please give your much appreciated response. What time management procedures can one take in order to solidify a 3.0+ SQPR? What is the difference, in terms of study habits/ work ethic between a valedictorian midshipman vs. the average midshipman?

    I apologize for the length of this post. It is my staunch belief that candiates can benefit from any information based on the hardship of the academy. I believe that the Academy has a lot of information about getting ADMITTED, but not as much about SURVIVING/THRIVING at the United States Naval Academy.

    * Any midshipman, USNA graduate, midshipman parent, professor, etc may respond. All responses may provide value to not only myself as a 2nd time applicant but, all the candidates who also aspire to become midshipman.
     
  2. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2007
    Messages:
    1,829
    Likes Received:
    592
    I am sure someone can give tips, but ultimately...you have to experience and adapt time management and prioritization skills that suit you. There are many things you will have to balance...parades, pro-quizzes, working out/sports period, homework/studying/class, memorizing things for chows calls, reading articles, etc. The one piece of advice I can give you is to SEEK HELP when you THINK you need it (be it on any of the listed items above) and BEFORE it becomes a problem. In other words, if you aren't getting homework in calculus, find some help (there are plenty of sources...other classmates to the professors) way before you take a quiz/exam on it -- don't let that be your first metric.

    One of the reason the Admissions Board evaluates the scholastic ability of candidates is to determine if you have the time management/prioritization skill potential. If appointed, the Admissions Board has confidence that you can handle all the rigors (albeit, it might be challenging at some points) that USNA offers.
     
    2018midmom likes this.
  3. Juvat

    Juvat Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2014
    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    83
    This is a great thread. I just had this conversation with my DD now that she has two appointments in hand and is ready to make her decision. Now that the hype is over and the appointment is in hand I asked her "are you ready for this"? Yes, as a retired USAF officer I thought we had these questions answered as she applied and throughout the process, but here she is, ready to commit, with 5 other top notch college acceptances (including one other service academy) appointment in hand. Are you ready for this? Can't wait to see some of the responses to this thread.
     
  4. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    4,503
    Likes Received:
    454
    They used to say: "Look left and right; one of you will be gone by the end of 4 years." That's no longer true. Now, I tell candidates: "Look left OR right; one of you will be in the bottom half of your class at USNA."

    What makes the difference between academic "success" or "failure?" Many things, some of which you can control and some which you can't.

    Clearly high school prep matters. Some folks had a 4.0 but didn't attend a challenging h.s. They were always the smartest kid in their class and didn't need to study to get As. Courses weren't all that hard. That isn't true at USNA.

    Some folks are simply better than others, especially at STEM courses. You can't change that but you can work to get better (see below).

    Prioritization is key. If you don't know your rates, you'll get yelled at -- immediate pain. If you don't study for your chem 6-weeker in order to master your rates, you may have short term success but long term pain in that you don't do well in Chem. You need to sort that out.

    I absolutely agree with BGO08 -- at the FIRST sign of difficulty, get help. There is now a formal academic center with organized tutoring, etc. USE IT. Don't be "afraid" to admit you need help.

    Stay awake in class; ask questions. Always do your homework. Show interest and make sure the prof knows you're trying.
     
    COmom likes this.
  5. time2

    time2 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2007
    Messages:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    265
    ^^^ I agree. There is no magical success formula that works for everyone. Going off to college is a BIG adjustment for many, some adapt well, others do not. All high schools are NOT created equal, some are far more academically challenging, at some you can rarely study and get a 4.0 GPA. Part of the reason USNA looks at both your GPA and SAT/ACT scores is to see if there is a mismatch which can raise concerns about how prepared you really are academically.

    Some students do a better job of applying themselves with the new found independence, their parents aren't there to tell them to do their homework, prioritize their time, etc. Being physically fit is a BIG deal and something you wouldn't have to be overly focused on at a civilian university.

    Some students get overextended in varsity sports, ECA's etc. at USNA, basically taking on too many obligations and their academic performance suffers.

    Service academies are unlike civilian colleges in a lot of ways. Some individuals realize this isn't the place for them and then find it difficult to keep up academically.
     
  6. ginko

    ginko Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2014
    Messages:
    116
    Likes Received:
    55
    I am a high school teacher and I have a plebe at USNA. I teach at the high school my son went to. I can tell you that our school does not support rigor amongst AP teachers. When a teacher provides a rigorous curriculum, students and parents complain. We teachers must give an explanation as to why our students fail and we have to explain what we are doing to ensure that students can be successful. The new word in education is "engage." How are we engaging them? This phrase puts the impetus for learning on the teacher, not the student.

    I knew all of the problems with our school and the quality of his education so we outsourced his SAT prep. We put him with a private tutor that got results and he knocked that test out of the park. His high school GPA was stellar.

    When our son got to the academy he told me that most of the students were better prepared than he was. He was not prepared in the area of time management and rigorous studying. His first semester GPA was under 3.0! He is working his a** off now. He has come to realize that his self worth is measured by his GPA. I have faith that he will make up for the lost years.

    Incidentally, he has a friend who went to the same high school and is also attending USNA. That boy has a great GPA and did great on AP tests. That's because his parents did an exceptional job teaching that boy how to do homework and such. They only had one son and homework time was family time. They still talk to him daily about grades. They visited him SIX TIMES the first semester. Ugh! ...not my parenting style.

    My philosophy... They made it in to college and it is now their task to succeed. I had a tough first semester in college too and I graduated cum laude with a pre-med degree. He can do it; he has to want it. He is a man now. It's time to man up.
     
    COmom likes this.
  7. LongAgoPlebe

    LongAgoPlebe Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2010
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    368
    I attended USNA for a year before voluntarily separating. Like quite a few of my classmates, I came from a not-very-challenging high school. No APs at the time, but we had honors courses. I took them all, and graduated HS with a 3.92 GPA. Despite that, I was completely unprepared for USNA (or any rigorous college). I had no idea how to take good notes. I had no idea how to study. And sure, we emphasized time management during Plebe Summer, but managing academic time is a whole different show. My first-semester plebe year QPR was 3.0 (and that was a GIFT) but my second-semester QPR was 3.8. Now, I'm also a college professor at a college similar to the service academies, at least academically: it is selective, there is a strong emphasis on STEM disciplines first, and liberal arts as well, the courses are rigorous, and our grads have very high employment rates and rates of grad school. I also advise 50 students, and this year 21 are freshmen (I had a lot of seniors graduate last spring). With the "both sides" perspective, I've seen some differences between freshmen who are successful right out of the gate, and those who struggle and flounder.

    1. The successful ones recognize when they're in trouble and GET HELP by whatever means necessary. Let me define a couple of terms: "trouble" = any exam or quiz grade ≥1 letter grade lower than you're used to getting; or any time you find yourself thinking "but I studied and studied and I have NO idea why I did so bad on that exam!" "Help" means tutoring from a reputable source - a tutoring center, not your best friend or random guy down the hall on your floor. Reputable sources also include your professors, and one thing USNA really has going for the Brigade is access to instructors. Also in this category are students who really believe that they are capable of learning and will do what it takes to prove they're right - not the ones who think that some stuff is just too hard, that they'll never be smart enough to learn ___. (If you are saying that, I have bad news for you: you're RIGHT!)

    2. The successful ones know how to ask questions. UNsuccessful freshmen (well, any student) come to my office hours and start out by saying "I just don't understand" or "I'm not getting it" or, worse, "You didn't tell me this was important." The successful ones show up and say, "I don't understand how you got Y from X" and "I'm not getting how to synthesize R & S to get T." Have specific questions. Write them down. This requires that you keep some kind of log while you are studying, working problems, reading, etc. I have one student who uses those little flag Post-its: red for "clueless, need to ask," yellow for "think so, review again" and green for "solid."

    3. UNsuccessful students have what we call "rainbow textbooks." They highlight the heck out of them and think they've learned something. Successful students read a little bit at a time. They ask themselves questions while reading (What's the main point? Do I understand this? Could I explain it to someone else? Do I get the connection between this and what we did in class today?). Successful students read figure captions, and there are a ton of these in math and science texts and papers. They can interpret figures in their own words. They read and do problems to learn, not to make a good grade - and, the good grades come because they are more committed to learning for mastery.

    4. Successful students really manage their time well - and this is what I had to figure out and work on my plebe year. They read a little every day. They do some problems every day. They set aside time to study every class, every day, just like they set aside time for their classes, fun, sports, meals, sleeping, and socializing. They work without distractions - very important. They silence their phones and stay off Facebook. (There is actual research showing that students who study while checking social media do 11% worse than students who practice distraction-free studying, on the same exams. Eleven percent is usually one FULL letter grade!) Successful students plan ahead for projects and papers and work on them a little every day. They don't blow stuff off - not just rarely, ever. Like, for real. They recognize the need to blow off steam and to play on their floor's ultimate frisbee IM team, but they recognize that all these things are possible, and remain possible, only because they are students here. That is the ultimate and most important purpose of successful students. And you know, it's funny - I can tell who the good planners are, because when finals week rolls around, they're stressed, sure - but they're confident, they get some sleep, they're not sick, they're wearing clean clothes (not their pajamas) they smile, and they walk out of my final exam saying things like "That was a good exam, I really learned something there."
     
    COmom and d22 like this.
  8. nuensis

    nuensis USNA 2016

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    Messages:
    734
    Likes Received:
    79
    General advice: Expect to succeed. Prepare for failure. Everyone fails at least once. Don't make the same mistake twice.

    Choose your major carefully. Yeah, Aerospace Engineering sounds cool, but I've seen some incredibly well-organized, diligent, intelligent people work sleepless nights and weekends all semester to earn a C. Sometimes a low CQPR isn't because the person was lazy, stupid, or didn't seek help. Sometimes the courses really are that bad.

    There is a huge difference in difficulty between Group 3 and Group 1. No matter how tough the English or History majors think they have it, their workload will never hold a candle to MechE or Aero. Group 2 majors aren't necessarily "in between" either. Play to your strengths, your major is not a place to take big risks.

    "Legos are cool" is not a good reason to go Systems Engineering.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2015
  9. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
    Messages:
    2,345
    Likes Received:
    1,812
    Some excellent advice showing up here.

    Learn how to handle your stress, a great life skill. When your world is falling down around you, whether academically, with roommate tensions, with To Do list overload, with family or lovelife pressures, you have got to learn what works for you to get yourself dialed down and able to get through the challenge of the moment. Only you hold the keys to managing your stress. As you grow into the adult working world, the stress and challenges only get bigger.

    Know your weaknesses. If you tend to procrastinate and blow time on social media, games or Priority C tasks instead of Priority A, now is the time to get a grip on that.

    Resolve to conserve energy and not squander it on gossip, drama, time sucks of any kind. Rise above the pack and find your path to success using the same traits of self-discipline and attention to the goal that got you to this point. Do this in a way that is professional and mature, not in a do-gooder way that will earn you nicknames.

    Think through your choices using operational risk analysis. Don't gamble your precious leave time on holidays, chances for post-graduate education or your class standing and your dream service selection by bone-headed personal conduct choices that could impact those.

    Set your new goals. You got your appointment, check. Now, re-set for the goal of ensuring you are placed high enough in the class to get your desired service selection or other opportunities.

    Be open and respectful to the wide variety of beliefs and backgrounds you will encounter. Learn to say, "they're different, not necessarily wrong." And keep moving.

    Lastly, plan on some blows to your pride, and be confident you can roll with it.
     
  10. PoppapH

    PoppapH Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2014
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    64
    I agree completely with this assessment, and I am glad and sad that it is coming from a fine teacher.

    My 9th grade son had his Beta Club induction the other night. Out of 780 high school freshman, 60% were inducted. I left thinking "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" Not just for the traffic jam leaving the program, but...REALLY?

    DS is taking a Dual Enrollment Govt and Econ course...a local college "professor" comes and ...professes? DS is thinking of going to the principal since the professor is chronically late, talks about how she can't wait to see "50 shades of gray"...keeps asking "Is the class is over yet"....How do you think she will grade these students at the end? Probably very leniently because she knows she didn't help them a bit...so there goes a hugely weighted A or B that means absolutely NOTHING.

    USNA plebes, for the most part, will be hit in the head with a mallet when they start taking classes. As one here said, the ones who get help as soon as they need it will be glad they did. As a teacher, I can't imagine a greater feeling than a student earnestly asking for help.
     
  11. mjm

    mjm Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2013
    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    5
    I agree with the assessment that not all high schools are created equal. Just look at the high school rankings.
     
  12. mdn18

    mdn18 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2013
    Messages:
    263
    Likes Received:
    45
    Absolutely true and that's the boat I'm in. I realize now that my high school was a joke, especially the physics classes. Now that I think about it, we didn't even offer AP Chem. No IB's either.
     
  13. Blondie1

    Blondie1 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2013
    Messages:
    323
    Likes Received:
    175
    The high school programs does not matter nearly as much as the drive of the individual. Our high school has the worst chemistry department/teacher, so DS spent 2-3 hours every evening teaching himself chemistry online his junior year. He has pulled straight A's in chemistry at USNA--the plebe class that destroys most plebes. Success at the academy, as in all things in life, is based on a strong work ethic and the willingness slog through the rough patches.

    Surprisingly for DS the toughest part has been the homesickness--which we never thought HE'D suffer from: he spent so much time at sports camps over the years that we never saw him in the summers.
     
  14. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    4,503
    Likes Received:
    454
    I knew plebes who studied hours every night (serious studying way before we had electronic toys to distract us) and still failed academically. Probably a combination of poor: study skills, time management, high school prep and maybe even innate ability. But it wasn't lack of drive. I agree it is for some, but not for all.
     
  15. USNAhopeful88

    USNAhopeful88 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2015
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    15
    Im new to this site and I don't know how to start my own thread and this one seems related to the topic so Im just curious if anyone can tell me if the amount of homework that mids can recieve on the average day is monitored due to their other training. I know this seems like a dumb question because the academy is supposed to be extremely rigorous but based on the schedules of the average day it looks like most students only have roughly 3 hours to do homework and study before lights out at 11. So am I crazy or do some mids not have enough time in the day to do everything?

    PS: im not trying to hijack this thread, very sorry
     
  16. nuensis

    nuensis USNA 2016

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    Messages:
    734
    Likes Received:
    79
    Professors assign work as they please. Most are reasonable. Some are not. If you don't have enough time, you make time.

    That means late nights. That means sitting at your desk all weekend. That means leaving your sport or ECA.

    Last semester I got no more than six hours a night on weeknights, all semester long. Often less.

    Plebe year is the easiest academically. Lots of folks worry about plebe Chemistry and Calculus, but there's also Physics, EE, Cyber, and Thermo later on down the line. And that's still only the core courses.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
  17. USNAhopeful88

    USNAhopeful88 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2015
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    15
    Thanks for the reply! So are students allowed to stay up studying past lights out?
     
  18. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
    Messages:
    2,345
    Likes Received:
    1,812
    Goal of USNA is to produce, after 4 years, a group of Marine and Navy officers the Marine Corps or Navy can trust to handle themselves and succeed in a chaotic, high-pressure, time-limited, goal-driven military operational environment. No surprise the SAs reproduce that environment in some aspects.

    Smart use of free periods during the day. Weekends. Not sleeping 8 hours. Learning to optimize over many competing demands and prioritizing. Becoming more efficient and focused in your study habits. Eating fast. Showering fast. Reading fast. Understanding where you let time dribble away and containing that.

    It can be painful, but most figure it out and amaze themselves with how much they can get done.
     
  19. nuensis

    nuensis USNA 2016

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    Messages:
    734
    Likes Received:
    79
    Plebes have a bedtime. No one cares what the upperclassmen do.
     
  20. falconchic88

    falconchic88 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2009
    Messages:
    864
    Likes Received:
    176
    My co2016 DD was home over the weekend and I asked her this question. She was a 4.0 UW student in high school, at one of the largest high schools in Ohio. She excelled in her AP Physics and AP Cal AB classes. She really didn't have to study much, and could get by without always doing her homework, and just studying hard the night before tests. Fast Forward to plebe year, and she barely eeked out above a 3.0. She had validated Physics and Cal 1 & 2, but struggled in History, English, and Chemistry. Once she declared her Major (Ocean Engineering) her grades really picked up. She had 3.8 her 1st semester youngster year and 4.0 2nd semester youngster year, 1st semester 2nd class year, and after 6 wks has a 4.0 so far this semester.

    I asked her how she managed that achievement. She said, 1. She loved her majors courses and is happy not to have to deal with History or Lit anymore. 2. She learned how important it is to not just do her homework every night, but to UNDERSTAND IT. She said many Mids "do" their homework but they don't really comprehend the material. She works at it until she "gets it" This makes studying for the tests more like a review and not cramming to learn the last six weeks in one night.

    She also gave her MidSibsoontobeplebe the advice that even though you have a ton of other "plebe" stuff to do, grades are most important. The upperclassmen may give you a hard time for not knowing your rates, or not getting certain things signed off on time, but they, too, would rather see you excel in academics than plebe stuff. When you have to prioritize, and you will, put academics first. She didn't always do that and now regrets it.

    Now my 2014 grad was also a 4.0 UW GPA high school student. He went to a different HS than 2016 Mid. His school was small and rural, with very limited AP classes and a fairly simple traditional curriculum. He never had to study. He struggled academically all 4 years at USNA. He was never on Academic probation, but graduated with just barely over a 3.0. He was a Mech E major, so he was continually challenged. He also spent a semester at USAFA, and some of the course load he needed wasn't available, so he had to really over load his senior year, which made things more of a challenge. He was forced to learn to study, but I don't think he ever learned to truly "understand" his homework like his sister did. He is in pilot training now, and he said it is the hardest thing he has ever done, much more difficult than his Mech E courses.
     

Share This Page