Separated Midshipman: Please Help

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by FormerMid2014, Aug 22, 2014.

  1. FormerMid2014

    FormerMid2014 New Member

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    Hi Everybody,
    I'll try to make this brief.
    I was given a General Discharge (Honorable) in years back from USNA at the beginning of my second class year for failed urinalysis (marijuana). I knew I screwed up big time (such idiocy) before coming back to school, and did not sign the 2 for 7 contract, voluntarily separated, and enrolled in another university.
    Weeks later (I'm not sure why the delay) I received a call about my failed test (which I predicted), and was informed I could go back for a court martial to fight it or have my discharge downgraded to General (UHC). I chose the latter (of course).

    I refuse to accept that I ruined my life, and would stop here to ask if anyone has resources I can contact for counseling before I continue.

    At the USNA, I had a spotless record up til this incident, maintained a 3.24 GPA (top third of my class), and my last 2 peer review rankings I was ranked 6/41 and 13/~40, respectively, in my company (is there any way I can pull these records to show that I wasn't a complete scumbag and did more than just study?).


    Questions and recap of previous concerns:
    Resources for counceling?
    Can I get my records showing that I was a good midshipman in non-academic matters?
    Is a discharge upgrade worth applying for given the following?:
    I consider my citizenship to have been excellent since my discharge (no arrests, etc...).

    I am applying for law school, have scored in the 90th percentile (looking at Berkely) on the LSAT, and I believe the discharge will negatively impact my chances of admittance.
    I have maintained a 3.85 at my new University.
    I have learned enough Mandarin Chinese to have earned a full semester scholarship at a prestigious Chinese University (Hangzhou).
    -Qualified for Nationals in swimming
    -Top speaker award in regional law school competition

    I'm very nervous, and I don't want my work since separation to have been for nothing. Direction, discussion, and references will be much appreciated

    -Former Mid
     
  2. BR2011

    BR2011 USAFA Cadet

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    You'll probably submit some sort of Statement of Purpose on your grad school application. Generally they ask for information not gathered in other areas of the application and explanation of negative information. That would probably be a good location to bring up the circumstances and what you've learned etc. Also if you had a supervisor at the Academy who is sympathetic to your situation and is willing to write a letter of recommendation that may help as well.
     
  3. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Sorry I cannot answer any of your direct questions with any background - USNA processes and procedures on these items isn't anything I know of firsthand.

    That said, and you've probably already thought of this but I would think including some of this information - from your perspective - on you law school applications proactively with some explanations; and assuming it is accurate that being able to help others in the future overcome early life "faux Paux" like led to your disenrollment would be looked positively by at least some of the less conservative law school review boards look past that incident to the rest of your application.
     
  4. mom3boys

    mom3boys Parent

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    Because you left before commitment, how would they know if you left because you didn't like it or if you had an issue? People leave academies every year for a variety of reasons. Your years at USNA show as just another school you attended on your transcript.
     
  5. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    It's been a LONG time since I applied to law school, but I believe most only request your college transcript for the time you spent there. Any LORs are obviously going to come from your civilian school profs. An OTH or dishonorable discharge (if it came to light) might raise a few eyebrows, but I would be surprised if most law schools knew -- or cared -- about the differences between Honorable and General.

    Also, I'm not going to defend using marijuana; however (based on what I heard in my day) if it were grounds for disqualification from being accepted to law school, I doubt there would be many students currently in any law school (and maybe not too many profs, but I won't go there:smile:).

    IF anything comes up regarding your departure from USNA, address what happened openly and honestly. I find it hard to believe this will be an issue.
     
  6. dohdean

    dohdean Member

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    I'm a lawyer -- I have sat for, and passed, the Bar exam in 2 states. I recommend that you think about your options more broadly than whether your discharge will affect/can be explained related to your law school admission. Assuming you successfully complete Law School and sit for the Bar -- this issue will probably resurface when you take the Bar Exam and seek admission to the Bar in one or more states. At that time (per my experience) you will undergo a thorough back ground check and will/may have to go through this whole explanation again. I know Law students who forgot about MIP (minor in possession) tickets that they received their college years (or thought had been expunged) only to have them come up when they sought Bar admission. They had to go back and explain/clean up the problems before they were accepted for admission to the Bar (event after satisfactory performance in law school and after passing the Bar exam). It may be worth it to take the time and effort to try to clean this up now to the fullest extent possible -- not only for your admission to law school (which I agree, may be doable through your proactive explanation of your admission essay(s)) but also in anticipation of eventually applying for admission to the Bar of one or more states. Granted a number of students applying for law school have probably had an alcohol or drug ticket -- but it's much easier to try to fix this now than have to go back when you try to get admission to the Bar. I think you need to know now (if you have any idea the state or states where you eventually hope to practice) whether this is going to make it difficult for you to gain admission to the Bar. The State Bar examiners office in that state or states can probably help you to work your way through this from the perspective of Bar admission.
     
  7. dohdean

    dohdean Member

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    One thing I left out of the previous post re Bar admission. In many states, law schools try to alert students at the time of admission if the school sees something in the student's past history which may affect the student's ability to sit for the Bar exam after graduation and/or to be admitted to the Bar. The school(s) you apply to may also let you know whether they believe your circumstances will affect your ability to eventually apply for Bar admission in the state where the school is located. But I wouldn't necessarily rely on the school bringing this to your attention. As mentioned above, I know several people (recent law school graduates) who believed their Freshman drinking tickets had been expunged -- only to have them come up in the process of applying to take the Bar exam. It was time consuming to go back and fix these problems years after the events -- if you are serious about being licensed to practice, I'd try to deal with all of these issues to the fullest extent possible now.
     
  8. FormerMid2014

    FormerMid2014 New Member

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    Thanks for the in depth reply.
    The character and fitness section of the bar is probably my top concern for posting this in the first place. I plan on fully disclosing this issue in my application.
    How do I "deal with all these issues" right now? An upgrade to honorable seems highly unlikely. Should I contact the state bar personally?
     
  9. dohdean

    dohdean Member

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    I can't answer the question about exactly how to go about this. Someone more knowledgeable about discharges will have to give you that info. Maybe someone in the admissions office at the law school you are most interest in (or the law school closest to where you live)-- can give you some advice. I would assume this kind of thing has come up before -- your biggest question is probably whether the type of discharge you have now will prevent you from getting into law school and/or getting admitted to the bar. If the answer to those questions is No, then figure out whether the reason for your discharge category will prevent you from getting into law school (or can that be handled in essay) or will it prevent you from getting admitted to the bar. If the answer to those questions is both No, then you may not need to do anything at this point. My advice was really to explore now both the effect this may have on getting into law school and the effect it may have on being licensed --I raised the later issue (bar admission) more so it does not come as a surprise 4 or 5 years down the road from now when it may be harder to put together the paperwork, etc.
     
  10. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    1. I don't think you have any easy or welcomed answers coming. First, you weren't a good midshipmen in non-academic matters.... you failed a drug test. That's worse than "he didn't use sir sandwiches or properly shine his shoes." Records are spotless, until they're not. That's how it always works.

    2. I spent a few months in the Coast Guard Senate Liaison Office. Senators and Congressmen get "I got kicked out for drugs" letters all the time, from every service. It means nothing to them. The law and rules are clear. You make the bed you sleep in. You made a bad decision, and there are consequences for those decisions. Sometimes those consequences ripple through the rest of your life.

    3. Not being bad does not mean good. No one gets a pat on the pack for NOT breaking laws. "I've been a good citizen because I haven't been arrested." So has a majority of the population, only most people don't think not being arrested is some kind of achievement. I haven't been arrested. I haven't come close. On a list of "what have you done right" "not being arrested" doesn't show up. It's a given. Being arrested, on the other hand, can really mess things up.



    Look, people make mistakes. Own your mistakes. Will your past poor decisions affect your future? Probably. But you can avoid TRYING to move forward just because your worried about your past. Own the decisions that got you here, don't shy away from them, and commit to make a change. You are not the first person, and won't be the last you screwed up royally. Your GPA at USNA was higher than mine ever was a CGA, and I'm sure your peer rankings were better than mine. At the end of the day, that big issue overshadows those positives. That's OK. You can only control so much. Understand, because of your decisions, it may be an uphill battle. It may cause you to shift focus or reevaluate your options. I think you should apply, do your best, and put your fate (in this single decision, not your entire fate) in the hands of the admissions folks. If you aren't accepted the first time, try again and again and again.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  11. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I'm no lawyer (I try to avoid them, ha!) but on the issue of what kind of discharge you received, it DOES come up now and then. I'm not entirely sure if it was part of my application to grad school or it was a job application, but "Have you ever been discharged from the military, with anything other than honorable" or something to that effect, was asked. It may have been on USA Jobs (for federal positions).

    Great advice above, I didn't even think about Bars.
     
  12. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO Member

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    All good advice --- however, the final answer probably rests with the Bar Examiners of the State you intend to practice in. Rules for admission of each state varies, and many states have an background/character review process. You should contact them, and find out if the General Discharge is disqualifying.

    For what its worth, I would not think this scenario would be held against you.
     

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