Tiers for academic majors

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by lbrown, Jan 1, 2013.

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  1. lbrown

    lbrown New Member

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    I have been told that there are tiers for academic majors and that your choice of major may be an important factor for admission. My son loves English and history, but he wants a career in the Navy much more. Would he be wise to try to figure out a math/science major that he would enjoy instead of a liberal arts one? Is a history major an undesirable major for a future Naval officer? Will he have a harder time getting accepted with a liberal arts major? We are not a military family and don't know how to advise him. Any guidance is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
     
  2. navydad17

    navydad17 Member

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    Our son also applied for the NROTC scholarship, and it states right on the application that 80% of the scholarships go to tier 1 and tier 2 majors (hard math & sciences) I can't say that I've ever seen this so stated with the USNA, but you can assume that they're looking for the same type of applicant.
     
  3. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    There may be some cart-before-horse issues going on here...perhaps I don't understand your question. Or there may be a part of the Admissions process/applications that I am no longer familiar with, so other posters will have better comments.

    A choice of major (Group I, II or III, read more at www.usna.edu) MAY influence chances at a warfare specialty or service selection during senior year at USNA. All midshipmen receive a B.S., regardless of major, and are considered prepared to tackle any post-commissioning programs in the Navy or Marine Corps. You can be a history major and go into submarines. You can be a Chinese major and go aviation. But - class standing and many other factors influence that career selection as well. The mids receive plenty of informational briefings on majors choices and select their major a few semesters into their USNA academic career. No matter what, strong performance in math and science is a key to both getting into USNA, as well as succeeding in the core B.S. curriculum.

    The Naval Academy offers a variety of majors, pure science, engineering, liberal arts, and values them all as part of the education that makes up a well-rounded Navy or Marine officer. Math and science skills are indeed important to a tech-savvy military officer, but developing analytical skills and learning the lessons of history, language and politics are also important. Many senior officers, current, former and retired, are accomplished writers and analysts, in the warrior-scholar tradition.

    Hope that helps, and Happy New Year!
     
  4. Hurricane12

    Hurricane12 USNA 2012

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    For NROTC this is true.

    At USNA, there is an increasing tendency to push STEM majors. I am not sure if that extends to admissions. It didn't when I was applying, the theory being that every USNA MIDN receives a much more thorough dunking in STEM courses, regardless of major, than NROTC types. That was many moons ago now, and a current BGO will know the real answer.

    After graduation, your major doesn't matter that much. The only possible exception is nuclear power school for submarines (and nuke SWO), but I've known enough history, English, and poli sci types who've succeeded that, again, it doesn't matter as much as you might think. Being a history major (right on, by the way) will only hold him back if he wants to be an astronaut, engineering duty officer (different from serving on a ship in an engineering capacity) or other very small community focused on doing hardcore engineering things. For the mast majority of officers, major matters much less than a capacity to think critically and work hard.

    As a bit of unsolicited advice, the history department at USNA is actually quite good. The classes are small, the teachers are by and large top notch and eager to help students, and the major is very flexible with lots of opportunities for outside research. A lot of kids get caught up in the STEM thing and worried about fewer opportunities if they choose a "Group III" major and it's really a shame.

    Signed, a history major who is doing just fine.
     
  5. lbrown

    lbrown New Member

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    Thanks so much for your help. I am new to these forums and don't really understand the technical jargon/lingo. I was referring to admission to USNA-I thought that I was posting in the forum relating only to USNA. Sorry for being unclear. My son, a sophomore in high school, loves English/history, but the potential opportunity to attend USNA and become a naval officer is his goal. He would gladly major is another discipline if a different choice of major would help his chances at getting accepted to USNA. He wants to be a career naval officer. We have been told that students (candidates?) who intend to pursue English/history majors are less likely to be accepted to USNA. I was wondering if the choice of future field of study was a factor, to any degree, in the admissions decision. Thanks!
     
  6. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    There has been a recent "push" to emphasize (but NOT require) STEM majors to students. While it's not widely known nor understood, this is in large part a complementary function of the concurrent push to recruit and appoint minorities. In doing so, the standardized exam scores have declined significantly, notably in the important math testing. This is to be anticipated as the research that has been resulting from 50 years of affirmative action shows that the primary reason there are so few AA engineers and scientists, and virtually a negligable number of AA Ph.D.s in these areas, is because they have been collectively so sorely deficient in these areas. And we see a number of strategies and tactics to alleviate and remediate this problem.

    Now, take this issue to an institution where solely BS degrees are awarded, meaning all students must show some modicum of proficiency in STEM courses, and that the number of minorities has doubled in the span of 4 admissions cycles ... And pressure on to further alter the traditional mix of the student body, well you have major (no pun intended ... ok, it is) stresses, strains and problems. ESPECIALLY when those engineering majors are REQUIRED to complete their requirements for an ACCREDITED engineering degree in 4, not 5 nor 6 academic years.

    Well, one of the manifestations of this phenomenon is that the USNA will of necessity push all those who CAN successfully complete engineering and other STEM majors into those areas. Why? Because one of the over-riding mandates of the Academy is to graduate 65% of its BS grads with legitimate, predominant BS majors, not merely BS degrees in history or Chinese. And that institutional mandate will become increasingly difficult to achieve in light of these political pressures and mandates.

    As we always learn, there is no free lunch, and there are always prices to making the kind of changes that politicians have mandated without concern to these other, historical and continuous expectations.

    Now, more immediate and pragmatic for individuals, as others may have noted, majors can be inkled at and preferred, but in fact, all Mids select major areas in the spring of their Plebe season, and not before. And if the "preferring aero eng" Plebe now decides she wants to be an English lit major, well they ain't gonna boot her out or even haze or shun her.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  7. Hurricane12

    Hurricane12 USNA 2012

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    Without getting too far into my epic spiel about why the STEM push is a silly idea, I think this is off base.

    For one, the Academies have traditionally been predominantly engineering schools. Majors, let alone humanities majors, are relatively new to both USNA and USMA.

    The STEM push is Navy wide and is popping up in the Army and Air Force commissioning sources as well (Marine Corps...not so much). It's not limited to USNA and NROTC...STEM degrees are being preferred for OCS as well, even in designators where a liberal arts education doesn't matter as much, like intel. Personally, I think this is because:

    1: Training for almost all Navy designators out of USNA requires a certain degree of technical or mathematical aptitude: flight school, nuke school, being a SWO, and even EOD and SEALs.

    2: Perceived prestige/marketability. For some reason, people think that if you're a liberal arts major you're doomed to live in a subway tunnel. It's a great selling point for the Academy (to potential candidates and their parents) to say that XX% of our students are successful engineering majors. This is especially true when many of my high school friends who attended civilian institutions are unemployed and in danger of living in a subway tunnel, or, worse, their parents. Obviously it doesn't matter when every medically sound USNA grad goes on to be employed for 5+ years and leaves with good employment prospects (which, according to every former officer now employed as a civilian I've talked to, are more because of officer/military experience and less because they took thermo), but I think it comes across as a safety net.

    3: This one's kind of in left field, but...cost. Setting up, maintaining, and getting employees for different labs is more expensive than getting a blowhard with a PhD and leather patches on his elbows to talk in a classroom (and, of course, funding his research...which also costs less than the engineering professor's). To be a good engineering school and have mids doing good projects, we need those labs and that gear. But it makes more sense cost-wise to have 20 kids playing with the giant boat-tank than 10.

    4: Again, a little out there, but: sustaining the Academy's reputation and "usefulness." We've beaten to death here how much more an Academy ENS/2ndLt costs than an NROTC or OCS ascension. Pumping out a bunch of people with a quality STEM education (see #1) in consistent numbers is a good point for the Academy's continued existence. Known product with a known quality education. I'm not saying that engineers from NROTC schools are "bad," but USNA's engineering dept. is pretty damn good, probably better than many of those other schools.


    Edited, again, to add: I'm not trying to downplay engineers and STEM types or say they don't have a place. I personally think there's value to having some enginerds around, and even more value to USNA having a good reputation as a quality school.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  8. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    To return to the OP's question . . . it's my opinion that your intended major COULD have a SLIGHT impact on your application.

    USNA graduates mids for two different employers -- the USN and USMC. The USN increasingly wants officers with technical backgrounds/majors. The USMC doesn't care. Thus, USNA strives for 65% technical majors and thus needs to attract people who are interested in and have the aptitude for such majors.

    All things being equal, USNA may be more willing to offer an appointment to a candidate with demonstrated interest and aptitude for a STEM major. However, before everyone automatically tells USNA and the BGO he/she wants to major in Mech E . . .

    (1) One-third of each class majors in a non-technical major. The two recent Rhodes Scholars were Tier III majors. So it is NOT the kiss of death by any means to say that's what you want to do.

    (2) Honesty is key. You do not want to start out your USNA career by telling USNA you want to be an engineering major when you have zero intention of pursing that major.

    So, what to do if you are a lover of English or Poly Sci? Review the STEM majors. Hopefully there are a couple that interest you. Given that you will be taking a lot of math, science, and engineering, once you get to USNA you might well find that you actually want a STEM major. Explain to your BGO that your primary interest is English (or whatever) but that you are open to [STEM major of choice].

    If you are dead set on a humanities major, acknowledge it.

    Finally, it is important that you are at least willing to do a STEM major because there have been years when folks have been "voluntold" to select such a major. If you aren't willing to pursue a technical major under any circumstances, USNA may not be the right choice for you.
     
  9. Grad/Dad

    Grad/Dad Member

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    I will pass along some advice that a personal friend of mine who is a BGO gave us, tell'em what they want to hear be it in a USNA or NROTC interview. The Navy is hot after STEM majors so tell them that is your interest. Once you have the scholarship or appointment you are free to choose your own major,
     
  10. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    That certainly is not true of NROTC. You need permission to change your major and going from Tier I or II to a Tier III is near impossible... at least if you wish to keep a Navy Option scholarship. As Hurricane12 pointed out the Marines don't care although I think that technically you still need permission to change.
     
  11. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    Personally, I would never advise a candidate to lie.

    And, if a candidate starts lying now to get something he/she wants . . . well, I think we can all predict where that approach to life will lead.:rolleyes:
     
  12. MIDNDAD

    MIDNDAD Member

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    A couple of years ago I had the chance to meet the Director of Admissions Outreach at a Navy event. We got into a discussion on majors at the Academy. His description of students enrolled in Tier III majors at the Academy was that they were all "Stealth Engineers". What he meant by that statement was that you could take a typical Tier III student from the Naval Academy and drop them into a top civilian engineering school like a Georgia Tech or Purdue and they would survive because they had excellent backgrounds in the STEM courses coming out of high school. His overall point was that Tier III students, at the Academy, do not select engineering because it's not their "thing" not that they can't do the work.

    Going back to the OP's original line of questioning.... To get into the Academy your son should have a heavy emphasis on the core STEM courses offered by his high school. They are looking for the kids that excel at math and science courses. As far as a major at the Academy, go with what his interests are.
     
  13. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    MIDNDAD: :thumb:
    Son/Daughter, His/Her:shake:.
    Daughter, USNA, Chinese Major, USMC, Paris Island.
    Go with what interests and commensurate with the needs of the Navy.
     
  14. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    Several points ...

    1. "A couple of years ago" ... things are significantly changed and changing from just a handful of years ago. Check the standardized math scores if you doubt.

    2. He/she was overstating to make his/her point. However, your word and apparently his/hers of "survival" is likely quite correct. Many Mids would not flourish or even survive at the GA Techs, MITs, Rennsalaers, Cal Techs, UVA, Penn, Olin, Webb,Carnegie Mellon, Rice engineering programs. He was blowing pure smoke there. Many would. Many would be gone like the warden at Shawshank described Andy Dufresne's disappearance ... "Like a fart in the wind."

    3. In truth, MANY go to USNA because they know they want a Tier III (and or even Tier II) major, that it is available, and can survive the low end science and math classes ... but would NEVER, EVER have gone there if they were in fact required to pursue, left only to engineering programs. They would have neither the proclivity nor capacity. And this is becoming more so each year. By de facto, if not desirable design.

    4. While it's all relative, it's pretty common knowledge that "General Engineering" at USNA has a number of very decent students as well as many who are wannabe engineers and couldn't spell arrownauticle.

    5. btw, in this line, it's quietly maintained info that there are numerous sections of sciences and calc for those who cannot readily do Tier I - competitive work in those areas. Sections are not one-size-fits-all.

    6. Who is the "Director of Admissions Outreach?" Do you know what his/her job description is? This may in be in fact a euphemistic "stealth position."

    None of this is to bad-mouth or diminish USNA, but rather to put some of our chest-beating in perspective. It's a grand place worthy of our chest-pounding pride.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  15. Vista123

    Vista123 Member

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    whistle pig, I love you dearly, you know I do...but many of your answers appear outrageously slanted to support your negative perception of minority recruitment.:rolleyes:
     
  16. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    Vista, I love you too, and wish POV were the issue. That could be readily addressed. My observations are all based purely on the numbers and ensuing research. Which do you disagree with? Usually being specific can help clarify misconceptions and incorrect information. Perhaps I can edify your misconceptions.
     
  17. Vista123

    Vista123 Member

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    wp

     
  18. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    And? What do you think is "outrageous" about this? More important, why do you perceive this information as somehow negative?

    Do you know when STEM was begun? It's purpose? Do you perceive this as random? Coincidence? Serendipity?

    Are you familiar with the history and purpose of STEM academies more generally?
     
  19. Vista123

    Vista123 Member

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    Nope
    :)
     
  20. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    So, if as you indicate, you do not perceive USNA's establishment of its STEM as random or coincidence, why do you perceive it was funded in a time when budgets were being stretched, slush funding created? Trying to get at what you perceive STEM's purposes, founding, continuance, focus has been in making your allegation? Help me to help you, please.
     
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