How does CGA compare to other engineering programs?

Discussion in 'Coast Guard Academy - USCGA' started by aChipmunk, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. aChipmunk

    aChipmunk New Member

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    Hi everyone! I was just awarded a conditional appointment to CGA class of 2020 (DoDmerb needs an additional form) and I am having trouble deciding what to do. I hate to admit this, but I applied to the academy almost on a whim. I've never visited, never talked with an AO or even with any real Coast Guard personnel. Nobody in my family has even been involved with the military in any form. However, I am a bit of a disaster awareness hobbyist (taking classes with LAFD and studying to become and EMT) and this, along with a strong admiration for the coast guard and their mission, lead me to apply. I know there are people here who would do anything for my spot and I feel some remorse for not taking this more seriously.

    I am a HS senior choosing between mechanical engineering programs right now (Berkeley and UMich are my top choices after a stanford waitlist) and my question is purely from an educational standpoint, how does the CGA compare? What are job prospects like after service? But most importantly: should I even be treating the CGA like another school when I has such a strong service component? If I can't visit before may 1st how can I get a better idea about what being at a service academy is like and how it differs from a traditional school?

    Sorry if this is vague, I am just trying to face the reality of what I have applied for.
     
  2. proudofmyboy

    proudofmyboy Member

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    If you have to ask that question, a Service Academy may not be for you.
     
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  3. MaggieMae66

    MaggieMae66 Member

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    I would really think about your decision. Going to any one of the military academies is not like going to a regular college. You are getting up every day at 0600 to do PT. You have to stand watches. You march everywhere. Your life is really not your own and you have to be prepared for that. The people on here who have applied and are waiting for news, they have researched and are fully aware of what they are getting into. I would seriously consider going onto the Coast Guard Academy website, look under cadet experiences where it talks about daily routines. I would also read the cadet blogs. There are also YouTube videos of swab summer and R-Day. This is not your normal college experience. I would have really done a little more research before applying to something that you were not fully aware of. Good Luck on your decision.
     
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  4. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    You do not get up every day at 0600 for PT... First.


    What should you do? Do a search on YouTube for Coast Guard Academy and watch videos. Do a YouTube search for Coast Guard Academy Swab Summer and watch them.

    Do some actually research on your own (easier now than ever before.)

    CGA has a great engineering program, but you'll have relatively miserable living conditions (compared to other colleges) for four years.

    After you graduate you'll go out into the real Coast Guard. My best friend was a civil engineering major. He went to a ship, grad school after that and gas since been in engineering billets (more than he'd like).

    Every year people go to academies who gave no idea what they're getting into. Many quit after the realization. So do yourself a favor and research it. Contrary to popular belief, researching involves more than just asking questions on a forum. I do think a forum is a great place to fill in holes and provide more "meat".
     
  5. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Better late than never to think about these things. This path does not "have a strong service component," it IS active duty service, first in pre-commissioned under instruction status, then as a commissioned officer for a set number of years. You take oaths to serve and obey, and it's 24/7 immersion in the military. You cannot walk away after a certain point.

    If your goal is to become an engineer, that's not what USCGA is designed to produce, in the same way as a civilian engineering school would. USCGA delivers well-rounded professional officers, with a deep understanding of engineering and professional military knowledge, ready to serve at sea and ashore in a wide variety of roles. Some of those roles could be as engineers.

    LITS has great advice above.

    It's great that you admire the CG. That's different from knowing enough about it that you can see yourself serving in it. I urge you to take action to become better informed before making a final decision.
     
  6. rjb

    rjb Member

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    I believe you are posting two questions - 1) How does the USCGA engineering program stack up? and 2) Is the USCGA the right place for me?
    Regarding the first question, you can search the numerous threads on this forum for school standings and educational reports as well as the academy's website detailing the school engineering program. As to the second question, only you can determine the answer. I believe there a few current USCGA cadets that view this page. Perhaps they can provide you with the best insight. (Sorry parents!) By all means try to visit the academy, or at the least, visit a Coast Guard station in your area, talk to the Coasties stationed there, and get a first hand look at what your signing up for.
     
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  7. TennisDad

    TennisDad CGA Admissions Partner

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    First off, congratulations on your conditional appointment. It sounds like you have some excellent schools from which to choose. I did engineering at Berkeley and have a son at the Coast Guard Academy. They are both very fine schools, but night and day in terms of a college experience. While engineering was tough at Berkeley, I didn't have to first make it through Swab Summer in order to go there. My biggest concern was "am I in the right major," not am I willing to make considerable sacrifices for four years for the opportunity to serve and then do the same for another five after that.

    Berkeley is a large city with San Francisco just a bus or BART ride away. I could head out of my apartment at any time, any evening, to go out to eat or do whatever I wanted. The Coast Guard Academy sits on a relatively small campus. Unless you are granted liberty on weekends or traveling with a sports team, you are inside the gates all of time - no popping out for a pizza on Wednesday evening.

    You will not have the opportunity of taking a light course load one semester; you are loaded up with courses every semester. On top of that you have all your military obligations. If you are on a varsity team, you have to factor in the time spent training and competing. Your time is not your own. You are told what clothes to wear. Your summers will not be spent at the beach. Except for three weeks of leave, you'll be training.

    It takes tremendous commitment to make it through a service academy. Drops on request are not uncommon, particularly during Swab Summer and the first several years. If you are still seriously considering the academy, you owe it to yourself and the CGA to visit the campus prior to your decision. Talk to as many people as you can while there. Search out graduates in your area and learn from their experience. It is not a decision to be taken lightly or "almost on a whim." Good luck.
     
  8. HillTop

    HillTop Member

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    Congratulations on being a senior and having several wonderful options ahead of you. I knew that there would be wise replies posted for you. I am replying to you as a high school science teacher, and as a former surgical PA. All of us on this forum have had to plan and prepare as we started our lives as young adults, and have guided our children to do so as well. You obviously have read by now that attending an Academy is a huge decision and honor. Beyond that, it is hard work and a commitment to serving others in the name of your country that many do not understand. You did not "win" this, you were bestowed an immense responsibility and obligation.

    You most likely have planned and prepared for college for the past few years, you also indicated that you study and prepare with the fire dept. and emergency services. My questions to you... why haven't you prepared for the CGA? Do you want to serve others, every day? Do you want to be accountable?
    Your impulsiveness to apply "on a whim" is an indication that you are not ready for an Academy college experience ( yet). Many people have taken time to assist you in your application-- your references, teachers, coaches. Many people have read through your application and are serious about the selection process to find the right candidates who are sure about what they have started by applying. All of this has taken hours and hours just for one application like yours. The admission process and the people selecting candidates rightfully assume you have educated yourself about the Academy. They chose you with confidence that you were serious about your application, and that you did your part by educating yourself as with your other options.


    So many bright, young adults have been preparing for at least a year for the Academy. Many have not come from military families. They have applied to the AIM program, and attended during the summer before their senior year. They are tapped into social media and watch what our CG does in the world every day. They have met with CG reps at ports or college visits. They have visited the campus (just as you may have visited Berkeley or UM), they have attended clinics and camps at the Academy, and they have been training physically for what is ahead. Many students take the SAT and ACT over and over to attain an acceptable score so they may apply. They have worked hard and are excruciatingly waiting to hear, even today. Their parents have traveled with them to the Academy, and in some cases at great expense and sacrifice. I remember a lovely family who drove from Iowa to bring their son to AIM last summer...they were a family of 9-- yes, 7 kids in a van. Neither parent had attended college before, their son was the oldest.

    It is an honor to attend an Academy, yes...but it is something that you know in your heart that you want to do. An appointment to the academy will also impact your family and friends, and hopefully you have their support. Just as with the LA fire department or EMT, you would ask to experience it as an observer or job shadow before jumping into it as a career. I hope you have done so with your other options. Stepping into this blindly and recklessly, and then finding out that it is not for you takes the appointment away from someone who knows it is what they want, and it denies the CG and our country of a qualified and prepared candidate.

    Because you are young, I forgive your naivete' and casual forum post to all the parents and outstanding individuals who have applied, been rejected, or have the immense opportunity with an appointment, and those who have/are serving in the CG. I hope by now, you are understanding that getting an appointment is not like a college acceptance letter, or winning a full ride offer to traditional college. It is a door opening and an awakening to a life path. Please talk with your family and get yourself to the academy "tomorrow" before accepting.
    I sincerely wish you well, and pray that you will make a thoughtful decision that is best for you.
     
  9. USCGperson

    USCGperson Member

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    Congratulations on your conditional appointment! Although you have applied almost on a whim, your decision should be made after a lot of research. Other posters have given you very useful advice. I am a mother of an appointee to the class of 2020 and have a few other things I want you to consider. 1. The academy accepted you, so they obviously think that you will make a good officer. You have it in you, but you must decide if this is what you want to do. Because if you aren’t totally committed, I fear that you won’t make it through the academy. Don’t waste the academy’s time and money if you aren’t sure this is your calling. 2. The vast majority of Coast Guard officers (83%, I think) remain in the service after their commitment has been satisfied. That figure reflects a high job satisfaction rate. 3. Every time I mention that my DD is entering the academy, people respond by gushing about the Coast Guard. They say that Coast Guard personnel are professional, timely, well-educated, resourceful… I am good friends with someone who was rescued by the Coast Guard after helplessly floating out at sea for several days with only ice in their ice chest. 4. Any scholarships that you turn down from other schools might no longer be available if you go to the academy, drop out and then apply to civilian college. 5. Visit the academy and all the schools for which you have applied before you make your decision. My DD was invited by the Naval Academy for a visit. She enjoyed it and was considering applying. But after visiting the Coast Guard Academy, she dropped the Naval Academy off her list. 6. You will be at the academy for four years and then have at least 5 years of service obligation. Give as much thought to your service as you do for the academy. Good luck and start researching.
     
  10. Jcc123

    Jcc123 Member

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    I can agree with a few of the points made by other posters, but I disagree completely that you're taking a spot away from another candidate - you earned your appointment as surely as someone who is obsessively watching Coast Guard YouTube videos. And, the fact that someone else had to take the ACT "over and over to attain an acceptable score" is frankly not your problem.

    Now, though, you need to weigh your decision carefully and with some knowledge of what you're signing up for. I'd wager that no 17-18 yr old who has never attended an academy can possess a complete understanding of what academy life (let alone post-academy service) will actually be like.

    So, educate yourself as to the rigors of the school and the commitment required after graduation, and then decide if that's something you'd like to do. It's really that simple. It does not require a lifelong obsession in order for you to be successful at the academy and beyond, or for you to enjoy it.

    Best of luck in making your decision.
     
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  11. SueRI

    SueRI Member

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    I congratulate you on your conditional appointment! I recommend calling your AO and ask to attend The Cadet For A Day before R-Day. It will give you a 24 hour dose of the Coast Guard Academy and a chance to get to know the cadets and their mindset. Best of luck...I truly hope you make the right decision for yourself going forward.
     
  12. Next Generation

    Next Generation Member

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    Believe it or not, I'm a career counselor (although currently employed as a classroom teacher). I will be speaking to the question of whether or not a SA is a good match for you rather than how the USCGA stacks up as an engineering school.

    Let me ask you a question. I'm sure over the past few years you've had a chance to do a career inventory, maybe several. Did "military officer" or "military" come up within your top five career choices? Preferably your top choice? If not, then you are very wise to question whether a Service Academy is a good choice for you.

    Questions that will lead to a military match include: How important is it for you to work with people? How attentive to detail are you? How much do you want to include physical activity in your daily work? How important is structure in your daily schedule? How important is serving a cause? How willing are you to take risks to accomplish a goal? Add to that high academic interests in science and math, and you will likely come up with "military" as a top choice.

    However, you can fulfill all of the above on your own in another college setting, and you can follow up public service interests in different capacities as well. So other questions to ask yourself would be: Do I bristle when told what to do? Will I see military involvement during school as a distraction to my studies or something I would thrive on? Is having my education paid for and guaranteed employment for five years worth the military focus during school, or would I rather have a typical college experience and seek ways to serve my community or country in other capacities? What will I regret more - not going to USCGA, or not going to one of these other great schools?

    You are obviously an awesome guy or you wouldn't have received this appointment. I also appreciate that you are sensitive to the fact that our DSs/DDs would love to receive an appointment. However, without having the chance to process with you the above questions and all the others that would surface during our conversation, I would recommend 1) trying to find a career counselor (not a recruiter) to discuss this with more thoroughly, or 2) if you have ANY hesitation in the questions I have asked above, looking into other options such as ROTC or OCS that will give you more time to explore what military service would be like.

    Wishing you the best in this all-important decision.
     
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  13. TennisDad

    TennisDad CGA Admissions Partner

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    Addressing only the engineering question, I would go through the course catalog found on the Registrar's Page under the Academic tab on the website. Compare the courses offered to those at the other schools you are considering. The core math, science and engineering classes are much the same wherever one goes. Although the engineering program at the academy is good, it may not offer the breadth and variety of engineering electives due to its smaller size.
     
  14. Norfolk63

    Norfolk63 privateer

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    Is this for real?
     
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  15. AuxNoob

    AuxNoob CGA Admissions Partner

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    Yes, this happens. It can be a wonderful and unlooked for opportunity. Or it can lead to a Drop On Request when the Swab realizes this is not what he or she expected. The OP is going to have to work that out.
     
  16. AuxNoob

    AuxNoob CGA Admissions Partner

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    This is a good point. CGA is consistently listed as one of the top engineering schools in the country. The flip side is that, as he says, the engineering majors are limited. Important point, we don't have a nuclear program, or biomedical engineering, OK?
     
  17. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    This isn't that surprising. Plenty of people show up without an idea of what they're getting into…. of course, back when I applied there wasn't a Youtube…. so I bought the videos.
     
  18. Momofcga2021

    Momofcga2021 New Member

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    Coast Guard Academy personnel that my son has had contact with have emphasized that it is very important not to choose the CGA at the urging of their parents.
    Many students don't succeed at the CGA when they choose it at the urging of their parents, rather than a deep desire to serve. Good luck in your decision process.
     
  19. aChipmunk

    aChipmunk New Member

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    Wow! Thanks you guys for all of your great responses. I really didn't expect all this and I was pleasantly surprised checking my computer this morning.

    Ok, so it may sound like from the first post that I haven't thought about this at all but that's not true at all. I've read every page on the USCGA website and it has been one of my most visited pages that shows up on chrome for the past year and a half. I've watched every youtube video posted and I follow current rescue efforts on social media. The Coast Guard has been so attractive to me because it is one of the few organizations where I fully believe in their mission and what they are trying to accomplish. I am planning on going into engineering, mechanical specifically, and my passion since I was probably 6 or 7 has been large scale industrial accomplishment (ships, bridges, planes, rockets). Since it is one on the Coast Guard's mission to protect these interests at sea, a career in this area is something I am interested in.

    The other thing is that at least at the basic level I am aware of the military aspects (summers spent training, athletics every day...) and it's not something that scares me, rather a healthy intimidation. In terms of academics, I have been looking at the course listing between Berkeley and USCGA and found that they are both accredited by the same body and have similar engineering specific classes (although Berkeley does offer more in-depth upper division courses in terms of manufacturing and design)

    As a response to a couple of other things I have seen here:
    This decision has nothing to do with money or my parents. My parents will support any decision I make and they are not pushing me towards any school based on monetary factors. This is a decision I am trying to educate myself about so that I am not in a position of regretting going/not going to USCGA or any other college.

    So in response to everything I have read here I would like to clarify my question if I can:
    1. Will graduating from the academy ONLY set me up for a career in the Coast Guard, or 10-20 years down the road will I be able to take my USCGA degree to the private sector successfully? Basically is it the kind of engineering degree that can be used universally or only in the Coast Guard?
    1a. If I even have to ask question 1, should I quit now?
    2. How can I get into contact with Coast Guard personnel in my area if I am not able to visit the academy?
     
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  20. AuxNoob

    AuxNoob CGA Admissions Partner

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    There are two ways (or more) to get in contact with CG personnel near you. Obviously, I don't know where you live, but try Google, Coast Guard, and near your town. Small boat stations will not have an officer contingent. They are commanded by senior enlisted. However, most are willing to give a tour, just call ahead. A cutter homeport or sector will have officers, at least some of whom have gone to CGA. You might also contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary, as they may in turn be able to help you make a contact. Academy Admissions Partners in your area are definitely willing to help (I'm one, so is Grevar). Feel free to PM me if you want more specific details. I have contacts with AAPs on the west coast, and in the CG Aux.

    Your best bet is to get in contact with an alum who can answer your question on the future of your degree better than I. Bear in mind that while your first tour as an ensign will likely be afloat, your second tour may well be doing mechanical things.
     

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