Service academies

Discussion in 'Service Academy Parents' started by agolson, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. agolson

    agolson Eagle43

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    What makes service academies harder than civilian colleges? I have always heard that they are more difficult but always wondered why?:wink:
     
  2. rotorhd

    rotorhd Member

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    Agolson - Books have been written on this subject, but here are a few bullets to ponder:

    - At civilian colleges, students are graded on academics. At Service Academies, Cadets / Midshipmen are not only graded on academics, but also graded 24x7 on military performance, leadership, physical fitness.

    - Course load. Typical semester at SA is usually 15+ hours. Sometimes as high as 20. I would bet this is more than your typical civilian college. Regardless of major, you complete a "core curricullum" and will take math up through Calculus / Differential Equations

    - General Atmosphere. Service Academies are preparing future military officers, therefore the general atmosphere surrounding our service academies might seem austere when compared to your typical civilian college. No frat parties / PDA.:frown:

    Just a few off the top of my head. I'm sure others will chime in here.
     
  3. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    Course load -- often 18-20+ hours (+ lab hours) per semester and almost never fewer than 15.

    No "soft" courses -- Basketball 101, "basketweaving," sociology, etc. to balance out the hard courses and lighten the load

    Must graduate in 4 yrs

    LOTS of stuff to do other than academics that take away from study time.
     
  4. WAMom68

    WAMom68 Founding Member

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    If you attend USMA course load every semester will be high. My son is a military history major and has not had a semester under 18 credits. He tells me the engineering majors have 20-26 credits every semester! :eek:

    More reasons why it is harder than civilian college:
    -On top of a heavy academic load cadets have other duties that take up their time. They must learn time management to get things done and/or give up sleep.

    -Weekends are not always free time, there will be mandatory events or duties.

    -No skipping classes when you feel like it.

    -No typical dorm room items such as refrigerators, microwaves, TV's, etc.

    -Can't leave post unless you have permission such as off post privileges or a pass.

    -Not allowed to have a car until after spring break Cow year (for USMA).
     
  5. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    Also, on top of the above, each cadet (speaking in USAFA terms here) will have a job within the squadron. 3 degrees will sit CQ (Squadron desk duty), 2 degrees will be coaches for the freshmen and also hold staff positions. The firsties will have leadership and Command positions in the Squadron, Group, or Wing.

    Imagine a 20 credit semester while also being the Training Officer for 120 squadron mates, keeping up on your own workouts because you have a PFT test every semester, and also keeping your room and uniforms inspection-ready all the time. Then try having a girlfriend, or a hobby like skiing or snowboarding, too. It amazes me how they do it.

    Stealth_81
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  6. blackhawkmom

    blackhawkmom Member

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    Man this parent could write a book on the differences-lol----Physical-emotional and academic demands at a service academy are brutal and most rewarding---No where else does a young man or woman have their bodies and minds challenged like at a service academy. Take a star athlete and watch them struggle on a course --take a honor student and watch them receive the first b/c/or yes d in their stellar lives -and what do they do they say--"look how well i have done mom!" The child you send to an academy and the adult you meet at the end of the summer are like watching them go from birth to adulthood in a minute. What a honor and privilege to bear witness to your child coming into their own in a matter of weeks --and guess what --for the first time YOU had nothing to do with it --they do it on their own---priceless.
     
  7. mumsyto3

    mumsyto3 Member

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    Very well put Blackhawkmom:thumb:
     
  8. USNA1982BGO

    USNA1982BGO Retired Staff Member

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    SA = Blood, sweat, tears, leadership, honor, honesty, duty, valor, determination, service, time management, cleaning skills, attention to detail while utilizing a whole bunch of brain cells :eek: minus the loud music, partying and lack of social life and car in the early years, all while living in a clean and organized dorm room and adventures of a lifetime during the summer. :shake:
     
  9. SteveHolt243

    SteveHolt243 Member

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    What makes it more difficult is the monotony, the grind, and the thousand little pinpricks that add up.

    A bunch of the other things mentioned are a bit of rhetoric in my mind. Yes, you'll take a lot of credits, but many aren't very time consuming outside of the classroom. Similarly, the other responsibilities aren't difficult as much as tedious, monotonous, and sometimes time-consuming.

    To be fair, this will all continue after graduation, so it's a decent enough system. The most "difficult" things after the Academy are tedium, monotony, and repetition.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2011
  10. mom3boys

    mom3boys Parent

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    I would add that the weather is sooo depressing! If you are from the "sunny south," where sunshine is a part of nearly every day, months of gray and gloom get to you after a while. Having to wear long underwear in October (as opposed to shorts and flip flops) is a downer as well! :frown:
     
  11. ColtDad

    ColtDad Member

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    It would seem that there has to be something enjoyable about the academy experience also. Obviously, many see where it will be rewarding in the end but to make thousands of teenagers have an interest it has to be better than just tolerable. Reading the forums would make one think its close to a prison sentence.
     
  12. Casey

    Casey USMA 2015

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    From the cadets we knew while living at West Point, their take is you have your ups and your downs, and for the most part, the ups outweigh the downs. Yea, some stuff sucks, but at the same time, cadets get opportunities that their classmates at a traditional university could only dream of. For example, one of the possible summer assignments is to go to Airbourne or Air Assault school. Where else are you going to be able to jump out or rappel out of helicopters? The camraderie you get between cadets is also unparalleled at a civilian institution. The motto "Cooperate and graduate" is something most cadets figure out pretty quick. The academics are great and offer a variety of majors; no TA's, professors with real life experience as Army officers who give a fresh perspective of what it means to actually lead soldiers.

    Besides, you have to remember, cadets are still young adults. They definitly find ways to entertain themselves even if they aren't always in the most traditional ways.

    For me, I want to go, besides wanting to serve my country and getting the best possible training before doing so, is that I want a challenge. I have friends in college who are doing well, getting their degrees, partying, but they really aren't being challenged and developing as much as they could as people. The cadets that I knew, they were the kind of person that I wanted to "grow up" to be. I'm glad I have that chance, and hopefully, I'll do them proud for their belief in me when I was younger.
     
  13. 2012mom?

    2012mom? Member

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    New cadets/Plebes have a lot of growing up to do in short order:
    - Attention to detail - there's a proper way to do everything from making one's bed to lining up books on one's desk
    - Make good decisions about priorities, and take responsibility for your actions
    - Taking care of those around you, not just "looking out for #1"

    Real examples:
    - How many "regular college students" would be required to write a punishment paper about why their roommate failed to meet a particular responsibility???
    - How many "regular college students" are required to "stand watch" periodically, even if they have papers and projects due?
    - How many "regular college students" are REQUIRED to graduate in 4 years?

    These are not necessarily bad things. And as others have mentioned, there are opportunities you can't get anywhere else. How many "regular college students" do you know who have actually been handed the controls of a ballistic missile submarine? How many "regular college students" get to do acrobatics in a jet trainer?

    For the right type of person, it's a great atmosphere in which you make incredible life long friendships and have amazing opportunities.
     
  14. jennyp

    jennyp Parent

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    Aside from all the extra duties and responsibilities, the academic classes at USNA are just plain tough. MY 3/C mid has 21 hours this semester. He had 18 and 19 as a plebe. I am not sure who takes 15, maybe athletes with a heavy practice and travel schedule??
     
  15. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    For students overly focused on subject matter, SAs can be enormously frustrating, trying. For pre-med chemistry students @ a secular institution, study and lab are names of the game. For SA students, those are nearly distractions to a bigger "attraction." Always some who fail to assess on the front end, their primary motives for attending, and consequently, something like this can, and occasionally does, become a massive thorn and deterrent to success.

    One other major suck on Mids and Cadet time and energy ... the frequent 1 credit courses ...nav, weapons, etc. ...which are often taught by the subject's Major Zealot, who likely wrote the text and is implicitly persuaded that learning about the M1 Garand and its unique values in the Big War are all that his students have to do ...and in any case ought to be equally fascinated and immersed as he is. Thus the 1 hour credit often requires 5 hours of Carnegie Unit time. :confused: :mad:
     
  16. FBItomboy007

    FBItomboy007 Member

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    Whistle Pig, I understand your point about making sure students are coming for the right reasons. However, I have always been very passionate about my schoolwork and, while my main objective is to become an Army officer, I am now wondering about the challenge of and focus on academics. How do the classes compare with civilian universities in regard to difficulty and material learned?
     
  17. LongAgoPlebe

    LongAgoPlebe Member

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    Again, books have been written about academics. In general, though, the service academies' academic programs are exceptional. Just like civilian colleges there will be some variance - "meh" classes and "wow" classes. There will be some variance in professor quality, and variance in intellectual challenge. But if you think of all the classes in a normal curve (a "bell" curve), that curve is, I suspect, shifted toward the top end of the distribution and also a lot skinnier - so the "worst" classes at a SA are merely "meh" not "OMG the worst waste of time I ever had in my life" kind of thing.

    SAs have no classes taught by TAs. Here again, Whistle Pig is inclined to say they're all bad, but I have some really excellent TAs myself. None the less, your courses will always be taught by the professor. This is typical of other public and private lib-arts colleges as well.

    The depth and pace of material at SAs, like other LACs, is "much" and "fast," respectively.

    While there are not a ton of electives at SAs, they're good ones - and they tend to be driven by student interests, not (just) professor interests.

    I'm sure others wll have other points to add, but there's a start.
     
  18. 2012mom?

    2012mom? Member

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    tomboy, Most people cannot broadly compare course rigor from multiple colleges and universities, as they generally have only attended one or two.

    Here's one factual comparison about class size. I attended a Big 10 university and took organic chemistry, among other things. Ours was a lecture class of 250 students. "Small" group instruction was "taught" by grad students who didn't want to be there. The "small" groups had 15-30 people in them. In contrast, my DD's organic chemistry lectures (2 semesters) at USNA had 15-20 people in them. Her biochemistry prof is also her lab teacher, not some TA.

    Here's another factual comparison about laboratory quality. At various times while DD has been at USNA, I have visited various lab spaces there. I have worked in a number of labs in industry and in major universities, and I can tell you that the laboratory facilities at USNA are outstanding.

    USNA and USMA generally have similar numbers of winners of top graduate scholarships (i.e. Rhodes) as the Ivy League schools. Now, is that because the starting material is great, or because of the college education, or both? Probably both, but IMO it's another indication that a great education is available at our SAs.
     
  19. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    True, though I wouldn't be a good grad if I didn't point out that USMA has almost twice as many as USNA (85 vs. 43, by my count) :wink:
     
  20. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    I know things have changed "since Dinosaur's roamed the Terrazzo at USAFA..."

    But just from an academic perspective, this statement was very accurate. My "easiest" semester was 18 hours, my worst was 27 (I don't think they allow that much anymore).

    The LOAD is the hard part.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     

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