General Advice for Life at an SMC

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by RahVaMil2009, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    Someone recently asked me for some general advice on life at VMI, and I thought it would be beneficial to start a thread to discuss it. Many of the challenges faced by VMI rats and Keydets are not unique just to VMI, so the purpose of this thread is for current Cadets/Midshipmen and Alumni to answer questions on how to succeed in the crazy busy regimented lifestyle of a SMC.

    Keep it real,

    Jackie M. Briski
    VMI Class of 2009
     
  2. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    Academics

    VMI has what's known as the Miller Academic Center. Right across the hall is the Writing Center. A quick visit (less than 2 minutes) at The Citadel's website produced information on the Writing and Learning Strategies Program. Virginia Tech has the Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence, and Mary Baldwin College (VWIL) has the Learning Skills Center. Every SMC will have a similar program/center. Go early, go often. Frankly, you're in college now, not high school. If you never had to study in high school but still got higher than a 3.5, I'm going to be brutally honest: you've got the GPA to get accepted to your SMC of choice, but you don't have the study skills you'll need to succeed there. Take advantage of the academic support resources that are available to you.

    Never prioritize your to-do list by who's yelling the loudest. You'll have to get everything done (and you'll be held accountable when you don't), but never forget that academics come first. You'll have to do some pushups if your shoes aren't perfect, and you might get a few demerits if your Cadre can't see his ugly, sneering face in your brass. But your professors won't scream at you before failing you. This doesn't mean you shouldn't shine your shoes; it just means that you shouldn't spend all night (supper formation 'til Taps) perfecting your uniform. Face it, you're a rat/knob/rook/nULL/fish/swab/plebe anyway. You'll never meet their standards. :smile:

    You aren't really as busy as you think you are. You'll think I'm NUTS for saying that, because you will likely be facing time management emergencies like never before. But don't forget that you can do homework during the day, too! Many rats and upperclassmen alike at VMI talk about how they never have time to get all their work done, but they waste time on Facebook or checking their email every five seconds during their free class periods when they could easily knock out some of their assignments between classes.

    GET OUT OF BARRACKS! If you study in barracks, your Brother Rats will be constantly coming into your room for various reasons. Someone needs to borrow your shoe polish, someone else wants to borrow your brasso, another person wants you to help them learn rifle manual, and before you know it half the company is in your room swapping Ratline stories. It can be hard to motivate yourself to go out and study. I can't speak for the other SMCs, but at VMI, you have to be in a proper uniform in academic buildings. You can be more comfortable (gym shirt and shorts) in your room. But the effort it takes to go out to the library or an academic building is worth it to skip the distractions so you can get your work done in a timely manner. At VMI, the Biology Department has study carrels for each Biology major out in the Science Building. The Engineers go out to Nichols Engineering Hall to study in the labs at night. Many of the NCAA teams have mandatory study halls (with reserved rooms) for rat athletes. I took over a room in Scott Shipp Hall my First Class year (many of the profis in the Modern Languages Department referred to it as my office). Find what works for you, and stick with it. It's a little easier to get stuff accomplished in barracks as an upperclassman, because you can put your headphones on to reduce distractions. But there were some nights as a General Committee (cadet government) subcommittee president and Cadet Chaplain my First Class year that I was so busy in the line of "duty" that I didn't even get to start studying until after Taps (11:30pm). On nights when I had a ton of homework (most every night, as a First :smile:), I had to get out of barracks so I could get it done. It's important to form good study habits early on.

    Be wise with study buddies. It's best to study with someone who is struggling a little (hopefully not in the same areas you are! :smile:) but is committed to doing well. If they're at the C level but really want a B, you can work together to sort things out. I always got annoyed when people who slept through class wanted me to help them, and when people who never took notes in class suddenly wanted to copy mine when it came time to take a test. It's good to study with someone who's smarter than you, because they can explain it to you in the way that made sense to them, which may very well be different from how the professor explained it in class. It's also really good to study with someone who's struggling a little more than you, because you learn so much more when you teach it to someone else. It's one thing to understand it in your head, but it's completely different to be able to articulate it in such a way that it makes sense to others.

    One of the strengths of the academic program at VMI is that, for the most part, the professors are there because they love teaching and they love working with cadets. I'm sure it's very similar at The Citadel and Norwich, although I'm not entirely sure how it is at some of the bigger name (research) schools that have Corps of Cadets or regular ROTC programs. Take advantage of this! You've got a Ph.D (as opposed to a grad assistant) teaching you. If you don't understand something, you can go talk to an expert in the field during office hours! Getting to know your professors through talking with them out of class is an excellent way of beginning to form a professional network within your field, especially if you do undergraduate research. I use my Department Head, my Academic Advisor and one of my English professors as references for job applications all the time. I knew my Department Head and Ac Advisor my whole cadetship, but I didn't have a class with the English professor 'til spring of Second Class (junior) year. It pays to work hard and talk with your professors outside of class!
     
  3. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    STP/CSI/Future Leaders Camp/Preknob Visits/Open Houses

    (Edited repost from http://www.serviceacademyforums.com/showthread.php?t=5951.)

    At VMI, they have a number of cadets who will serve as STP Counselors. If they're rising Firsts, many of them will be rat shopping. A few of them will inevitably be Cadre members for next year, and they'll be watching everyone to gauge the attitudes of the incoming ratmass.

    There was a situation a couple summers back where an STP student cheated on an exam. He was not drummed out since he hadn't signed the Matriculation Book or received any Honor Court training, but he chose not to matriculate in the fall (at the strong encouragement of the Commandant of Cadets). This was a very wise decision since the entire Corps would have known within a week of matriculation who he was and what he had done. While this is an extreme case, it's a great example of how the decisions you make during STP/CSI will follow you.

    To anyone who is going to STP, I have one piece of advice: always be mindful of your reputation. By all means, have fun! Get to know your BRs, become familiar with the facilities and layout of the Post, and ask all kinds of questions to try to prepare. But the STP Counselors will be watching you and they will form opinions based on the behavior they see. Perhaps more importantly, your future Brother Rats will be forming opinions of you. You won't make it through without them, so you don't want to burn any bridges before having a chance to cross them.

    Whatever you do, do not start dating a future classmate, or even flirt with them! For those with "naturally" flirty personalities, take great efforts to curb this behavior. You do NOT want to begin your cadetship with a reputation for having gone to your chosen SMC for all the wrong reasons. Always be respectful to the STP Counselors and other upperclassmen you run into, and never give up during morning PT sessions. The reputation you build during STP will last far beyond Matriculation and the Ratline/knob year/Rookdom.

    For open houses or recruiting receptions, dress conservatively. Don't wear a suit or formal dress, but don't wear grungy jeans and a dirty t-shirt either. I've seen both, and neither leaves a good impression. Don't wear your CAP/JROTC/Young Marines/USNSCC/military high school uniform, either. Especially if you have a ridiculous amount of ribbons and medals. Khakis and a polo or button down with comfortable shoes (for lots of walking) are appropriate. Especially if you'll be having your admissions interview during the visit.

    Keep Alumni contacts. If they've put effort into recruiting you and helping you prepare for matriculation, send them thank you notes and the occasional update regarding your progress within your cadetship. You never know when they'll be able to help you land a summer internship, or a job after graduation. Just knowing them will help you connect with other Alumni. I was talking with an '83 Alum on Legacy Day, and he told me a couple stories about our very own Bruno, who's Class of '80. :smile:
     
  4. tucker92

    tucker92 Member

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    I want to thank you for your generosity of time and advice you give to me and to all who haunt this board. Many thanks.

    Right now my daughter is focusing on USMMA and The Citadel, VMI and Norwich (in that order). There will be time to look at civilian colleges later; we need to know if the service is the right place for her. She thinks it is, and I think it could be, but she needs to see for herself.
     

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