My son is struggling academically in his Freshman Year....

Discussion in 'Coast Guard Academy - USCGA' started by Wonderfulmom, Nov 11, 2015.

  1. Wonderfulmom

    Wonderfulmom Member

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    Hi. My son has been struggling at the Academy with Chemistry and Calculus. He has failed 2 Calculus tests and is holding on for dear life to a passing grade in Chemistry. I feel so scared for him and helpless. All I can do is pray and keep encouraging him; not to mention, we live about 8-10 hours away from the Academy. I know we have to let our children live and get their bumps and scrapes but it is so painful. Does anyone know how bad it has to get before he would be in danger of getting kicked out? At his high school he was in the top 10 of his class. I never thought I would be watching him struggle like this. Any advice would be great. Thanks.
     
  2. BlackKnight89

    BlackKnight89 Member

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    My son also struggled in Calculus during his freshman year and actually failed the class. He re-took it second semester and passed. There is some built in margin at the academy, however you probably don't want to fail two classes in a semester. There's a lot of help at USCGA and he should reach out to his academic advisor. Many of the cadets struggle in academics the first year. My son majored in management and ended up number one in his major even with the poor showing in calculus freshman year. It's not easy, but it does get better because over time he will learn to become a better student. Again, have him reach out for help and not give up...odds are he will be just fine. Best of luck!!
     
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  3. Wonderfulmom

    Wonderfulmom Member

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    Gosh, I hope so. Thank-you.
     
  4. skismuggs

    skismuggs Member

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    At USAFA the cadets are able to take advantage of Extra Instruction (EI), mine certainly did (a lot!) Most EI was given by the actual instructor or even the department head a few times. I would be surprised if the other academies did not have that. Anyway he has to ask them for EI ASAP (as in yesterday) before he really gets behind. They only have about 5-6 weeks of school so he shouldn't waste time. Sometimes the hardest thing for our kids (who have never known academic adversity) is asking for help and realizing they need help. Anyway just my $0.02. Hope everything gets better for him.
     
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  5. grevar

    grevar CGA Admissions Partner

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    Agree with BlackKnight89! Chem and Calc are what they refer to as "Swab Killers", and failing both, two semesters in a row would be difficult if not impossible to overcome. With that said, there is plenty of help available. Swabs are forced to get help the first year with mandatory tutoring and such, but they really need to reach out before it gets to that. Please encourage him to do so (if he hasn't already). 19+ credits per semester the first year is tough for anyone, and then add all of the military obligations to that, not to mention the trials of being a 4/C, and that can add to a lot of stress. Know that you (as a parent) and he are not alone.

    Like you, our son was in the top 10% of his class. (Like the majority of CGA cadets). He too struggled a bit the first year, especially the first semester. The first Chem test was the first test he EVER failed. It was an eye opener for him. (and us as parents). Learning to manage time is key. Learning how to really study also key. (He was the type that sailed through high school with very little studying). There is a huge support system in place for them. They need to take advantage of it. Something most of them have never had to do before.

    They adjust, learn to adapt to the schedule, and master time management, all while balancing a very short sleeping schedule. Keep encouraging him to seek help! Some say the academics get easier, and harder at times as they progress through the four years. I think it is pretty much always hard, they just learn to adapt, and have a better understanding of what is expected of them.
     
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  6. tug_boat

    tug_boat Member

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    Im so sorry you have to report this. It is a pressure cooker at all SA. Folks don't believe us here how difficult their first year can be, and its Chem and Math that can be the great separators.

    I know at all SA there are several layers of assistance before academic separation and he will know where to turn. But he must be the one to initiate the action.

    "If", he gets separated, welcome him home with open arms!! Don't judge and close the book. Open a new book of goals and never look back. He will have beat himself up more than anyone else, let him know how important he is and how much you love him!! He tried and still a winner!!

    Good Luck

    Push Hard, Press Forward
     
  7. Maplerock

    Maplerock Proud to be an American

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    He can overcome it. Low grades are not rare during the first year at any academy. It's a shock to the system when you feel like the dumbest person in the class (or school) after feeling like one of the smartest in high school. It's tough to raise a low gpa after the 1st semester, but it can be done. Tell him to dig in. Don't expect miracles, and there may be summer school in his future (cancelling summer break) but he CAN do it if he wants it bad enough. Going to an academy is a wake up call for a lot of kids.
     
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  8. Wonderfulmom

    Wonderfulmom Member

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    Thank-you. It hurts so much to watch your child hurting and feeling so helpless. Sometimes, I wish he hadn't made it in. I know God has a plan. I am going to keep on praying. Thanks for the advice. I will keep after him. What else can a mom do?
     
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  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    It's s hard year. I failed Calc II and went to summer school after my 4/c year. It'll get better as he begins to focus on his academic interests. I was on Academic Probation (Ac Pro) too.

    He should take advantage of the different study sessions and work with his academic advisor.

    The help is there! I certainly wouldn't have made it without that help when I was a cadet.
     
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  10. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    My sympathies. When I was a USNA Battalion Officer, Chem and Calc were and are still the "plebe-killers." It is indeed a shock that for all these high school high performers, the realization that someone at their Service Academy gets the C, D or F grades. And it could be them.

    Express loving support and confidence from afar. Remind him that the SA had enough confidence in his skills to choose him over thousands of others. He will either figure it out or he won't, especially the time management part. I am sure USCGA is like USNA, with a culture of offering EI, company study groups, or classes in effective study skills and time management. His priorities will shrink to water, food, sleep, PT, study, swab duties, sport. He will have to ration social media and goof-off time, and as I noted, he will either figure this out or not. If he was the kid in HS who could read the material for the first time in the AM before school and ace the test, without organized studying and effort, this experience can be a very cold shower. It is also agonizingly embarrassing to feel stupid after years and years of success.

    If he is an introvert by nature, it can be hard during first year at an SA to get the private re-charge time he needs to thrive. I used to find mids tucked away in all kinds of unusual places around USNA, desperate for some alone time.

    If he gets himself through this, the self-confidence and pride will just flow from him, and he will climb out of the hole. One of our sponsor mids said "my brains grew back" her 3/c year, after a horrendous plebe year, and she had figured out the routine that worked for her. She ended up on the Supe's list and graduated in the top 100 of her USNA class. She is now an extremely successful naval officer headed for command, who counts that plebe experience as something that helped build a leadership style that understands struggle.

    DS should evaluate if there is anything he can take off his plate that does not fall into the water, food, etc., list above.

    If this does not work out, take it as a "meant to be." If he still wants to be a CG officer, there are some other paths. If he no longer wants to serve, then he has learned something valuable about himself, that perhaps this wasn't about serving but about competing to get into an SA. All those lessons about resiliency and self-reliance you instilled in him will bear fruit, and you will have to sit back and let him find his new path. His brains will grow back, and he will find a way to succeed. I still remember one mid, academically separated after plebe year, a great kid, whose dad, uncle, granddad and great granddad were all USNA grads. He failed, and he was horrified by what he saw as letting down his family. He got into Georgetown, excelled, and is now a highly successful career Foreign Service officer. His family couldn't be prouder of the service niche he found for himself.

    Take it day by day, express confidence, encourage balance, and say you know he will figure it out, whatever way it goes.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
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  11. AuxNoob

    AuxNoob CGA Admissions Partner

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    Each of these parents has mentioned how important it is for your cadet to reach out for help, and how hard it can be for a high school star to do that. DS knew that going in, and it was a slog, and a near thing, but he made it through the first two years of calc. "2.0, Good to Go" is the saying. I had a cousin graduate in the early 2000's who was on Academic Probation several semesters. He persevered, and when he got in the fleet his first CO wrote that he was one of the best leaders he had had ever. That is the goal.
     
  12. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    Wonderfulmom sorry to hear about DS. I can totally relate to your DS. When I was a Plebe I nearly flunked out due to Chem and Calc. I struggled badly. I went to tons of EI and really worked on my study skills and time management. I used to sit down on Friday nights and map out my plan of study for the weekend and week ahead. Its a very hard cycle to understand why things aren't sticking, how to balance it all and to pick yourself up after seeming to just fail at it all. Luckily I had some great professors who went to bat for me at my ac board. The reasons I was retained was because I did all my assignments on time, I always got EI, sat in the front row and stayed awake. Alot Plebes will think studying all night will help. There is a balance of studying and sleeping. If you aren't sleeping enough (there never is at a SA) the material won't stick in class at all. This is tricky to learn. Learning how to study and retain knowledge is hard. The academic center at most SAs have classes and programs to help with this. Like others said, my brain returned after Plebe Year. I even made Dant's list a few times after that. So it is recoverable. Its a matter of finding the magic formula that works for him in all this. Bottom line is keep pushing, keep trying and don't give up. The effort is noticed and will go a long way. He may have to repeat a class or two and possibly make those up down the road. Tell him from one grad to another... This semester doesn't define his success at the CGA, in the CG or the rest of life. Its an eye opener, but the determination, drive and perseverance he is learning right now will make him a better Cadet and Officer down the road. Keep pushing, eventually it all comes together.
     
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  13. LongAgoPlebe

    LongAgoPlebe Member

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    This is all really, really awesome advice and counsel. I want to chip in as a professor. First, CGA is a lot like my college - small, everyone knows everyone else, and (almost all) professors really, really care about students. There are no "weed-out" courses; if you made it into my college or CGA, you belong there, period. Come to student hours/office hours/extra instruction. Have a list of questions. Avoid at all costs saying to your professors, "I just don't understand this stuff." I can't help that, and I can't help a student who can't articulate what s/he knows and does not know. Start working on THAT habit.

    I've written about this before. Where I see my students struggle in the first year is in the transition from someone ELSE being responsible for your learning, to YOU being responsible. Sure, kids get it pretty fast about scheduling, study time, doing homework, etc. What I'm talking about is in two areas: 1) really believing that you can learn anything (because it's true - you may never be a true expert or a master, but everyone can learn definite integrals, knitting, or Japanese), and 2) doing whatever it takes to make #1 happen.

    What that looks like is pretty hard and no one really tells you how to do it, though. You have to do the homework problems, all of them. Then voluntarily find and do more of the hardest ones, the ones you don't get. You have to stop slogging through reading and put away the multi-colored highlighters, read short portions at a time, and ask yourself, did I really understand that? Could I explain it to my roommate? Here, let me try... . If you do not understand, you have to go back and work on it until you do. That may not be now, this minute, because "composting time" is important too, but see #1 above! And then you have to do it again, and again. You MUST above all else stop believing you are stupid, or that you do not have a head for math (chemistry, English, nav, whatever). Stop repeating the stuff you already know and pound away at the stuff you don't.

    Limit distractions. ALL of them. Shut off Facebook and YikYak (don't know if swabs rate those anyway), turn the phone OFF so you won't be tempted to respond to texts, shut down Halo, sit your butt down in your chair and Do. The. Work. You can wait half an hour to get a drink, pee, and text your GF or BF, because your future matters more than those things right now. Set measurable standards of behavior, not just outcomes. It's one thing to say "I will finish chapter 9." It's another thing to say "I will finish chapter 9 and summarize the 3-5 main points of the chapter." One is a tick mark in a box. The other applies to actual learning.

    These are all things that accomplished students and future officers do.
     
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  14. Wonderfulmom

    Wonderfulmom Member

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    Thanks for all of this great advice. I just sent a link to this board and these posts so he can read this. I hope it helps! Thanks again.
     
  15. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Give me a little and I'll recount my horrible academics….
     
  16. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    In high school I was near the top of my class. All A's, all honors or APs. I went to a nationally ranked academic magnet, and my classmates were impressive (and have gone on to do some great things). I enjoyed science and math in school. I had dyslexia and ADD and in my final year in high school I went off of my meds, as was required to gain acceptance in any service academy.

    I got to the Coast Guard Academy in 2002.

    I finished my first semester with a 2.32. That was shocking for a 4.0 student. I had C- 's in a few classes. But hey, I was smart, so of course I'd turn it around. In my second semester I FAILED Calculus II. I went to Summer School and missed out on EAGLE (I failed late enough that I was able to go on an operational cutter but missed EAGLE, usually it works the other way). I passed Calc II over the summer, and was able to get ahead a bit by taking Macroeconomics.

    In my first semester of my 3/c year I made two D's. My semester GPA was a 1.81 cumulative GPA at that point was a 2.08. I was placed on Academic Probation and had to drop Club Sports. My room was under Academic Quarantine, meaning other cadets couldn't enter during study hour. My Physics I professor said I wouldn't pass Physics II. I had a different professor and did well in Physics II.

    I went to study sessions and got extra help from professors. I worked with classmates and my academic advisor.

    I did what could, got over my pride and asked for helped and realized this was the new normal for me.

    After that my grades improved. Down the road I would get 2.8-somethings or 2.9-somethings and my cumulative GPA would inch up, slowly, to 2.39.


    Now, I'm not a dumb guy. Heck, I'm a Mensan, so I at least have a cadet saying I'm not a dumb guy. My issue was time management. I was distracted, the ADD probably didn't help, and I allowed myself to drive. Instead of doubling down on studying, I would walk the halls of Chase Hall and socialize.

    It wasn't an easy change…. from being a high performing, top of my class, well rounded, well adjusted person to someone who seemed to struggle all the time….. that's not an easy change at all.

    Eventually, after four years I graduated, in the bottom half of my class. I went on to a ship, then headquarters, and mixed in there, grad school, where I did very well. I left the Coast Guard and have done well since.


    Don't let this period of his life get him down. There's plenty of support at the Coast Guard Academy for cadets who are struggling academically.

    And after he graduates and gets his transcript down the road, the academy actually has a cover letter that talks about how difficult the school was and, with the competing demands for academics, athletics and military obligations, cadets who didn't distinguish themselves during their cadet careers often are very successful in other endeavors.

    Keep your chin up!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
  17. Jacante

    Jacante New Member

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    My son is a 4/c this year, and I feel your pain!
    I will say, he's had some bumps in the academic road but has been actively reaching out for help & it's made a world of difference. If your son is apprehensive, I would suggest he starts with upperclassman in his company. They've been a great source of information for my boy, guiding him towards getting the help he needs.
     
  18. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Your sons professors, company officer, and upperclass (especially the upperclass directly responsible for him) want him to do well.
     
  19. F15DOC

    F15DOC Member

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    I have always wondered if the kids that struggle the most in college and the academies are the ones that found high school the easiest. Even the very high performers, they have always been the golden child, always relied on their intellect to get them through, but because it was so much easier for them, even the AP Scholars, they never needed to work "hard" at academics. Then when they get to a place that intellect alone wont be enough, they crumple. The distractions, the time crunch, the difficulty... it just overwhelms them.
    The good news for most is that their awesome intellect will kick in, they will see where the problem is (focus and time mgmt.) and they will pull it out. The challenge is to not give up and push forward. The ones that give up weren't meant to be... the ones that struggle through the diversity will be all the better for it! I can't wait to see what happens to my son, he may shine or he may be in the same boat... only time will tell and then we will see what their real character is! I hope you post updates for us (the cheering section) !!
     
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  20. grevar

    grevar CGA Admissions Partner

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    I think you are completely accurate with this statement. No question about it.
     

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