Surprisingly Tough Decisions- will attending a service academy ruin my life?

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by USNA2020, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. USNA2020

    USNA2020 Member

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    Ever since middle school, joining the military and going to USNA has been a seemingly unreachable goal that kept floating in the back of my mind. After attending NASS and SLE, I had no doubt that I wanted to go to a service academy and continue on to serve my country. So why, now that I have the appointment to USNA in my hand and less than a month to commit, am I suddenly questioning everything I have believed in the last 5 years of my life? (long story short, my parents.)

    The dream of attending a service academy was entirely my own. Applying for seminars, training, applying for service academies, congressional nominations, etc. I had no intentions of even considering civilian college, and even now, I can't imagine myself in a place other than USNA. I was ready to accept my offer of my appointment when I received it almost 2 months ago, and I still am ready to accept it in a heartbeat. But my parents are desperately trying to make me reconsider. I know they want whats best for me, but I just can't seem to see eye to eye with them, especially because USNA is pretty much all I've ever wanted.

    Here are their arguments (with some of my counterarguments in parentheses): USNA simply isn't worth it. While the option offers a free, top-notch education, the program seems to focus more on training than learning. You would have more free time at a civilian college to study and focus on learning. (The structured, rigorous daily lifestyle is one I thrive under. If you think I'd be more motivated at a civilian college, you're crazy.) You are practically signing away the next 9 years of your freedom. (Yes, and it's going to be awesome.) If you choose to rejoin the private sector, the 5 year service requirement will put you far behind. Regular college graduates will have 5 years of more relevant experience in the work force already that you will never be able to have, being that you will already be 27 when you get out. (Yes because I'll have had 5 years of experience as a Naval Officer, holding more leadership responsibilities than I would ever have in 5 years of working as a fresh college graduate.)

    Honestly the debate never ends. They think I could be more successful at a civilian college with more freedom, individual thought, and room to grow. They think that I'm "too smart" to go to the academy. I think the academy is where I have the potential to truly find myself and become the best version of myself possible. To me, success is not about scoring an internship or job in a Fortune 500 company; it's about doing something that matters and that will impact many more lives other than my own. Of course, I could turn down the appointment, go to civilian college, then try the ROTC or OCS route in hopes of becoming an officer. But at that rate, why not just go to USNA now since I also value the academy experience itself.

    I'm sure my parents respect the military just as much as I do, but they want to make me aware of its potential flaws. And while googling "will attending a service academy ruin my life" as a joke to myself, I actually happened upon this article http://www.johntreed.net/gotousma.html by a West Point grad, illustrating some of the points my parents made actually spot on. (The article is 100+ pages long, so I just read part of it, but long story short he's telling people to not go to USMA.) And it's scary to think that someone who was just as eager to attend a service academy as I am, now regrets the decision fully. Maybe the service academy was not the right decision for John T. Reed, but who's to say that it's not the right decision for me? I know that if I attend civilian college, I will most likely live a life of what if's and regret. On the other hand, at 17, am I really equipped to make the decision that will alter the rest of my life and determine the next 9 years of it? Having no family history in the military, this is where I'm really hoping to get the opinions of forum members, especially those who have gone through the academy and their experience in the service. What do these next 9 years really mean? Have I really been too optimistic about going through a service academy? Will attending a service academy ruin my life?

    Sorry for the unnecessarily long post, and thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.
     
  2. ktnatalk

    ktnatalk Sailor. Shipmate. Parent.

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    While you should always respect your parents' opinion, it is your life.

    Not that others' desire should determine yours, but many are angry this moment just by reading what you wrote. Many would give up "anything" just to be in your position.

    You could "try" it for up to two years before signing your "2 for 7", or, if you truly are getting cold feet, turn it down and maybe someone could get an offer for your spot.

    Do you believe in taking a leap of faith?
     
  3. Blondie1

    Blondie1 Member

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    What do you want to do after college? What are your career desires?? I think it really is about what career do you really want. I have one at USNA and one at a traditional university. They are both working towards the same engineering degree. My USNA son has had far more interesting and rigorous classes than my daughter at a traditional college. My daughter has a LOT more fun and probably doesn't push herself as hard due to all the fun distractions. She will leave school with close to $100,000 in debt and doesn't have a guaranteed job after graduation. She wouldn't have it any other way. My son is certain he made the perfect choice for himself.
     
  4. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Academies don't focus on training more than education. They focus on education, and there's training, but because there are multiple obligations, there's less time to "explore" yourself, get 10 piercings and start making friendship bracelets.

    Look, there are multiple ways to join the military, and a number of ways of becoming an officer. If you think USNA isn't for you, don't sweet it. If you're concerned with what other people say, don't read too much into it. And if you've had a dream but now that it's attainable, don't worry about second guessing it. It's a big decision, and you won't let anyone down either way.

    Now here are my feelings from my experience.

    There are MANY smart people at a service academy. I went from being confidence, smart and very well rounded at a very smart school to less confident, just as smart but not as high of a performer. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I can say that I was relatively low key in high school. I was independent and happy going my own way. I'm not sure if that approach really helped me at CGA.

    I'm not sure if I every really "bought in" to the system. At some level, to do well, you'll have to buy in. That doesn't mean sacrificing yourself, but it does mean identifying with the general approach to things. Not only did I not do that, at least as much as I could have, at CGA, I'm not sure if I did in the fleet either.

    Did I feel stifled? Maybe. I realize that more now, after getting out and see how much more freeing it is on the outside.

    And don't get me wrong, I'm not some free spirit hippie. I have conservative tastes.

    A service academy will change you. It does. You will feel more responsible. You will feel more in control of your surroundings and yourself (even if you're not really that more in control of either). I think in someways I became slightly desensitized. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but there are times I wish I was more sensitive to the needs or pains of other people. Certainly some of the approach I took as a cadet and then as an officer wasn't as constructive as it could have been.



    At the end of the day, my time at CGA was an important period of my life. It had its ups and downs. It wasn't a perfect organization made up of perfect people, but at some level, I think it at least tried to be (and that's more than can be said for most).

    My Coast Guard career was a mixed bag. In a leadership role I made my share of mistakes. I think those mistakes have made me a better, more thoughtful person, but that doesn't erase a mistake. As an officer your mistakes affect others, so it's best not to downplay each mistake as a learning experience (although each is a learning experience, to be sure). I also had a number of successes, that I can be proud of.

    There's something to be said for serving others. It doesn't mean you don't benefit too. It doesn't mean you won't have fun, won't see the world, won't make money, get discounts, have sweet "military" deals. But you also feel you're contributing to society, and that you're making a difference (and in a small way, you are).

    When you're in everything you do becomes normal. When you get out, you realize some of what you did was dumb. And some of what you did was really cool. And you find out both by talking about what you did with people who didn't do it too.

    And when you get out there will be SOME "starting over" but not as much as you would expect. There's a period of transition, which some tackle with ease and other have difficulty doing. During your military career you can specialize in areas that may translate into a career on the outside.

    I was a public affairs officer. I had public affairs training from the Defense Information School, a master's in public relations from a private university and five years of public affairs experience (two as a collateral duty PAO and three as a PAO). When I got out I went to a PR firm. I went from the firm to a communications positions at an organization and from there another organization. My experience as a PAO didn't MAKE my career, but it did form a firm fountain for what was to come (which I really enjoy).



    My advice, having go to school with my classmates, few people are "too smart"for an academy, because there are so many extremely smart people already there. Academies focus on academics first (you get your diploma before you get your commission), but suck up much of the rest of your life with training and sports. You will learn to do great things, you will fail greatly, and you will learn from your great failures.

    And at the other end of four years, you come out a changed person, ready to tackle this narrow part of the world, ready to make a difference and serve.
     
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  5. murfthesurf

    murfthesurf DS - USNA 2020

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    Life is full of 'tough' choices....jeez...this one ain't one of those
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2016
  6. co2020fb

    co2020fb Member

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    Just so you know, John Reed is known for pushing his agenda and lying. If I remember correctly he was getting heat a few years ago because he was trying to put pressure on Columbia coaches to play his son more (We could have gone to any other ivy school but we chose you!). I'm not saying his points aren't valid, just take everything that he says with a grain of salt, he most likely has an agenda he is pushing. I didn't read all the way through, but I'm willing to bet that he resorts to his favorite tactic of all time, blaming everyone else!
     
  7. d22

    d22 Member

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    Attending a service academy won't ruin your life, but living in regret of the "what ifs" will haunt you. If you decide it's not for you don't sign the 2 for 7. However, I think you'll be living your dream...don't let it pass you by.

    All the best in your decision. Keep us in the loop on what you decide.
     
  8. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    You sound jaded.
     
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  9. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    I'd say, "Dad, Mom, I love you both and I'll be forever grateful for a safe and loving childhood but now it is my life and my adventure. I'll write often." And never look back.
     
  10. co2020fb

    co2020fb Member

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    Okay, I'm just going to quote this portion of the article and leave. The context is that this man sent Mr. Reed an email and is thanking him for keeping his son from making the terrible decision of joining ROTC or USMA (This is just an excerpt of the email):

    .....I credit several sources for the removal of the rose colored glasses about the military: your columns and your book Succeeding, a former Navy pilot-turned-history-professor who echoed your views to him, two recent Army veterans who told him that their experiences were even worse than what you guys talk about, and my own discussion about why I did not sign Air Force enlistment papers as an 18 year old......

    My son completed the cadet program in Civil Air Patrol, becoming Spaatz Award recipient #1800 and being awarded 2011 Outstanding Cadet …. He has continued his membership in Civil Air Patrol and promotes their Search and Rescue function. He continues to lecture to cadets at various squadrons and actually uses your articles as information he includes in his talks about applying to the Air Force Academy or the other Service Academies. He makes sure every cadet he comes across who expresses an interest in joining the military is made aware of your site and how to get to it. He does not militate furiously against the military so much as he tries to make sure they know that there are other experiences and views available to them that they would be well advised to carefully consider.

    I expect that you're going to catch more hell for your latest article about women in the military. What you say makes sense to me and is most likely, again, how it really is in the military. My own observations of girls my family has known that join the military is strongly indicative that military life is not good for women. Nice girls (and boys) from good homes enlist and four years later return as exceedingly foul-mouthed, heavily tattooed, heavy-smoking, alcoholics, often with illegitimate children. I wouldn't wish the sort of environment that produces such maladjusted individuals on anybody's child, least of all my own.

    Keep up the good work. My family deeply appreciates all you do.

    Yeah.....that's genuine. What a self serving jackass
     
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  11. Summer1975

    Summer1975 New Member

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    This has been you're dream. You're always going to wonder "what if" if you don't take this opportunity. you can leave at any time the first 2 years. Your parents are the ones who need to "man up." Seems very selfish on their part. Good luck with your decision.
     
  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    But that's not on him. Going against parents' wishes isn't the easiest course to take.

    But to USNA2020, sometimes you just have to try to difficult course, risk a little, and follow your dreams.

    Educate your parents. Show them videos. Go over the stats. Convert them to wannabe squids.
     
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  13. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    In fact, maybe suggest they come to SAF, ask questions and get answers here.
     
  14. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Just a dad

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    Clarification: OP is self profiled as female.
    The parents may have issues with that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
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  15. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Thanks for the clarification. That could play into it...
     
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  16. murfthesurf

    murfthesurf DS - USNA 2020

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    Oh,....I didn't know that.....:jaw:

    Damn, ...I'll leave now...

    Whelp, That was embarrassing !.................Sorry OP !
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  17. murfthesurf

    murfthesurf DS - USNA 2020

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    USNA2020, tell your Mom and Dad not to worry, our sons and daughters will have your back.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  18. HassamaMama

    HassamaMama Member

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    I am in a similar situation...
    I have wanted to be in the military, to be a soldier, since I was in the first grade.
    The problem is, I'm a Pakistani Muslim. So you can imagine what the view on the military is and has been, what has been pushed on me.
    Because if this, I kept it to myself. I didn't tell anyone, I always pushed it to the side because it just seemed unattainable.
    Then I found the SAs, USNA in particular. It offers me a chance to continue my education, which is crucial to my parents, as well as grant me the military life I have desired.
    As of now, I have a LOA to the USNA, and I am waiting on a Medical Waiver - I have no clue how long this will take once the process starts. This is upsetting my parents, because for some reason they believe that it is extremely difficult to get a waiver and that I should just commit to one of my safety, civilian schools. Just like yours, my parents keep saying that I'm so smart I could be in Princeton right now, which I know is not true, and that I should not be going to the Navy because those are the people who do not want to go to college - even though the USNA is a COLLEGE. Basically, they are being very blind about it all, making it clear that I do not have their support and that they do not believe in me.
    Besides all of this, their opinions will not influence my decision if I get officially appointed. They should not influence you either, especially if this has been your dream specifically for years. I know you care for your parents but if they are not in support of something like this you must make the choice for yourself, not for them. I hope this helps.
     
  19. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    The one thing I can tell you for certain is that the 5+ yrs you spend in the USN/USMC will definitely NOT hold you back in the civilian world. Employers love SA grads b/c we know how to get stuff done. And grad schools love SA grads b/c they know we got a first-rate education while doing a bunch of other stuff at the same time.

    I spent 8 yrs on AD. Zero problem getting into grad school. Zero problem getting a job. And the time spent in the military was time very well spent. Sure, I was a bit "behind" at first. But the maturity, get stuff done approach, etc. allowed me to "catch up" in a hurry and then move ahead. The former CEO of GM is a USNA grad. Don't think USNA or his time in the service held him back. Ditto with current/former CEOs of 7-Eleven (USMA grad), General Dynamics, Exelon, Northrop Grumman, Pepsi -- just to name a few.

    Want to be honest with you -- it will be harder for you if your parents aren't supportive. If you decide to go to USNA, try to get them to join a USNA parents' group. While those aren't for everyone, they can be an invaluable resource for parents who have issues about USNA, the military, etc.
     
  20. billyb

    billyb Member

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    I am not making light of the situation, because I can see why it is stressful for the OP but dang I wish the biggest issue I had with my kids was that they have an appointment to USNA and I don't want them to go there.

    I do want to congratulate the OP for being wise beyond her years in knowing what she wants to do and taking the bull by the horns to make the opportunity a reality (if she so wishes).
     
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