1. hopefulparent

    hopefulparent Member

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    DS had overnight visit at VMI over the weekend. Rats really painted a bleak picture and only talked about all the "bad stuff", e.g. daily monotonous routine, lack of privileges, lack of freedom, etc. He has been accepted at Citadel, waiting to hear from VMI and USNA.

    Wondering who else may have had a son or daughter with similar experience that ended up going to any of the SA (public or private) who could offer advice. I totally realize it has to be his decision, but when a 17-year-old hears how "bad" it is, makes it difficult for them to see the big picture.

    Thanks in advance for your comments and advice.
     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    My son is a current 2d classman at VMI (and I'm an alum)- and he is one of the great whiners in the Corps today:shake:. On almost any given weekend you will find him walking off PTs and along with probably half his classmates- *****ing about life at VMI- the lack of freedom, 24 hour uniforms,haircuts, food, the weekly parades, room inspections, taps, lack of cars etc... Those same guys though trashtalk about how soft their compatriots have it at at other more "normal" colleges, most brag about the honor code, and most of them wouldn't consider going anywhere else .
    The reality is that Rats are not good judges of anything other than the difficulty of what they are going thru at that moment. As time goes on- for most Cadets the sense of class, teamwork and shared experiences compensate for the irritants. Rats still really haven't experienced any positives yet- all they know is the daily grind. It does get more rewarding as you go along. It will never be party central- but somehow as you progress you discover that you love it even while you hate it.
    My advice/ expectation for my son was that he owed it a complete year if he went at all- because to quit before that is to quit without knowing anything other than what things look like looking up from the bottom of a long deep mine shaft. It looks a lot different once you start moving down the stoop. My son still misses no opportunity to gripe - yet he is tremendously proud of his new class ring and I know that he would not change his choice of schools if he had to do it over again.

    Having said that- the best time to decide that you don't want to go thru that- is before you show up because truthfully- it can be a very demanding and tedious place. The uniform and the parades etc... all look very cool , but what goes with them is a lifestyle that is demanding and unforgiving and not always immediately rewarding. It will be eventually, but for the first few months- it's an unrelieved grind.

    I think that my comments would be pretty much the same at Citadel or USMA. At the end of the day- you gotta want to go there or you will be very unhappy very quickly. But the best ones to ask about being happy are probably not Rats.

    Good luck to your son.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  3. Sib Husky

    Sib Husky New Member

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    DS Wavering

    My son is currently a 3rd at VMI and a Marine ROTC student. VMI was his first choice (there really wasn't a #2). When we were together over Thanksgiving, I asked him if he would do it all over again. His response was absolutely.

    I would echo Bruno's comments. VMI (and its peers) isn't easy...it isn't for everyone....the rewards come later rather than sooner. But they do come. My son refers to VMI as a living leadership laboratory that encompass many highs, lows, rewards and BS. Sounds alot like life in general.

    Best of luck to your son.
     
  4. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    Rat Life at VMI

    Bruno has given his usual very good advice. I'll just add my 2 cents as the mother of a current VMI Rat: My son was recently asked how he liked being at VMI, on a scale of 1 to 10. He said 5, and then explained that some aspects are tens (the best!) and some are zeroes (the worst :thumbdown:) and so it averages out. He also said that he sometimes found himself wondering if he should have done ROTC at a liberal arts college, but always came back to the conclusion that he simply can't picture himself anywhere else.

    I think it's great that your son attended the open house and was able to get the Rats' perspective on real life for Rats at the "I". VMI, I believe, tries to give prospective cadets and their parents a true and clear picture of what to expect; they understand the importance of really knowing what you are signing up for when you apply to VMI, because they don't want to be losing cadets in the first week who just didn't realize what life would be like. But, as Bruno says, Rat life is the toughest part, and "this too shall pass."

    Better for your son to have open eyes about what to expect and then still want to make that commitment. And, if his open eyes tell him it's not what he wants, then better to know now than later. Best of luck to your son!

    HMQ
    Mother of Rat, 2011+3
     
  5. Murf

    Murf Member

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    Our son is a rat at VMI. His first choice was initially USNA - made it to the wait list - and was rejected. Started the process of re-applying. A congressman, and both senators would have interviewed him this year for the re-application process.

    After having been a rat at VMI for a few months now - he is happy there. I don't think USNA is even on his radar at this point. He is now on the Marine option NROTC scholarship.

    Personally, and this is just my opinion - I would want what I perceive to be the best and most difficult training for our son if he goes into the military. Due to the spartan lifestyle and the strict Honor Code - I believe VMI is the right path for him. Curiously, if he had gone to a state school, I may have been concerned about his safety, partying, etc.; however, at VMI I do not have those concerns.

    Of course rats, and others, will grouse about "the bad things", but the end result will be worth it.

    Murf
     
  6. larry2013

    larry2013 Member

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    I echo the comments above - I do believe that VMI strives to be all it can be and succeeds most of the time. My son, 3rd class corporal, is a current NROTC 4yr scholarship, ME major. As I have stated here for other prospective VMI parents, VMI lived up to its marketing - hype. My son only had sights set on USNA or VMI as back up. My son attended STP (Would highly recommend) and then by parent weekend of RAT year, he told me he didnt know if he could leave (he too reapplied to USNA that year).
    I immediately understood, the goal he had worked for, for so many years, he had found at VMI - to him same prize, just found in different location than he thought. My son doesnt have blinders on, VMI isnt perfect, but he loves the honor code, the commadrie that really exists - the cadet must be there because they want to, they have to work very hard each day to really live their ideals.
    VMI isnt for everyone, it is such a shame when a cadet will leave - so I pray your son will really search himself, what he wants, how he wants to live during those college years.
    We know kids at academies, can honestly say that their lives are very similiar to VMI - slight differences in length of hardship - different privileges at different times, BUT very similiar in overall environment.
    Enjoy these months, your son knows himself, needs to evaluate what he really wants or can handle. Good luck to you all, larrys mom
     
  7. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I like this, and I'm glad to see this post on this forum. :thumb:

    Too often, I think some of the posts I read on this forum are fatalistic, with the idea being that if you don't get the acceptance letter to one of the SAs, then your hopes of a commission are done (or that one of the other commissioning sources is a poor substitute). As the SAs reject 85-90% of their applicants, I can see that a lot of the rejected candidates might lose hope by reading some of the stuff on the forums.

    Service Academies are great, and should be the number one goal for those who want to commission in the Armed Forces, especially those who want to make a career out of the service. For most applicants, however, the thin letter is coming, and those who get one should know that it's not the end of the world. Also, you should know that you can have a military career and be from ROTC. I had three Wing Commanders at Minot AFB who all went on to become Generals. Of the three, one was OTS, one was ROTC, and one was USAFA. It takes all kinds.

    I got a TWE from West Point in 1994. I was a strong candidate (so I thought), had all the qualifications (3Qd or whatever the kids call it these days) and had the nomination, but it wasn't to be. I went to VMI and decided that the Air Force was something of interest to me, and I pursued AFROTC there. I had toyed with trying an application for USAFA during Rat year (which is tough), but eventually I just couldn't imagine myself anywhere but VMI. As a cadet you become part of the Institute, and its traditions and culture form a part of who you are. That's a hard thing to leave, and I decided that the only way I was going to be done with VMI was when I walked across the stage to receive my degree. I was a Distinguished Graduate in 1999 and was commissioned in the Air Force, so it worked out for me. I have since separated from service, gone to law school, and now work as an attorney with the federal government. I just turned 33 years old, and I know that VMI is a huge part of what I am today. I will forever be grateful to the place.

    Being a Rat is tough, but it gets better. There are things I did at VMI which were truly amazing, and I wouldn't trade them. For instance, I got to study at St. Anne's College at the University of Oxford (UK) one summer, which is an experience I treasure. There are also things about the place that suck the soul out of you, with Rat year being at the top of the list. All that said, everything there makes you a stronger person, and if you see the big picture, I think your son will realize it's a great place to be (or if you're a cynic, to be from). Nothing worth having comes without sacrifices, and thus after experiencing some of the bad at VMI, you'll really appreciate it when you earn the good.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010
  8. Buddy

    Buddy Member

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    My son went though some serious second thoughts about West Point after he had his first visit a year and a half ago. He had already accepted his appointment before he actually visited and the visit really shook him up. He like all the plebes he met but he was taken aback by how cynical and negative they seemed about WP. He did some soul searching for several weeks after he got home before deciding that he wanted to go after all. He told me at the end of his plebe year that he had learned that he visited at the worst possible time– when everyone was sick of the cold, gray weather and sick of being a plebe. The bottom line is that he is very happy with his choice.
    Here is a thread that I started at the time that might be helpful to you: http://www.serviceacademyforums.com/showthread.php?t=5647

    As to VMI, here is a funny story. My dad and his brothers went there in the early 50s. Growing up, we heard story after story about VMI, particularly about their rat years. We also made many “pilgrimages” there when we were young while my dad waxed rhapsodically about his time at VMI and the impact it had on his life. One day, when we were visiting my grandparents, I found a box of letters that my dad had written home his rat year. The theme of almost all of them was “I hate this hellhole.” That night (after we did dramatic readings of some of the more colorful letters at the dinner table) we confronted him with the contrast between all the great things we had heard from him and our uncles and the letters. He just laughed and said, “Well, hell, I didn’t know anything back then. I was just a kid!”
     
  9. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Buddy- great post & it is so true. Nothing really changes-reminds me of The old attitude check:
    Squad Leader: "Sound off for an attitude check" R: "This place Sxxxs!";
    Squad Leader: "NO- Sound off for positive attitude check!" R: "THIS PLACE POSITIVELY Sxxxs"!:eek:

    I can vividly recall the first phone call home (for you VMI old timers -from the bank of pay phones down in the old concourse next to the mailroom)- I could barely speak because I was so close to crying when I heard my mom on the phone. But on Graduation day- I also could barely resist the tears as well, both from relief at it finally being over, and from the sadness that it was in fact all over.
    The truth is that at some points it does bite. Rat year is the longest of those times, as are the "grey days" when the sun never seems to shine and the commandant's office seems to live for the opportunity to "bone" you for every little pencil out of order on your desk. But then the sun comes out- you are in the spring of your 3rd Class year and you actually realize that you have found a home and you wouldn't trade it for anywhere else. It balances out as you go along.
     
  10. hopefulparent

    hopefulparent Member

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    Thanks for all the comments. I'm sure my son will make the right choice.
     

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