VMI questions

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by tonk002, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. tonk002

    tonk002 Member

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    Hi all.
    With my junior year in full swing, I am looking to apply to Norwich at the end of the year. VMI has grown increasingly interesting to me, in large part because of the fantastic academic review that I have gotten from teachers here at school. Coming from NH, I don't know much about the school, so I would like to ask some questions about VMI:

    1)As a parent and an alum, how is the Ratline experience?

    2)Culture: I have lived in NH for most of my life. How much, if any, is the culture shock coming from outside VA?

    3)I have been talking to many people about ROTC. After visiting USMA, I just didn't feel right there. I think that the size of the school was really the factor. How is ROTC at VMI? I will be applying for both an AROTC scholarship and a USMC scholarship. I'm hoping to fly or be in Intelligence.

    4)Finally: When I told my parents that I wanted to be in the military, my mom wasn't sure what to do. She is slowly understanding that this is what I want, but she is still scared. Any advice as to how I should explain that VMI is a good school? We will be visiting VMI after the new year.

    Thanks for your help.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Tonk:
    The Rat line is one of those defining events in your life- you can expect it to be physically challenging, emotionally and mentally demanding and you will discover that very little if any of your time is your own. It is however, very well done - frankly I believe it is a far more professional run system than my own Rat year. Compared to when I was a Cadet, most of the things in Rat year these days seem to be much more focused and part of a coherent plan, and the Cadet cadre and leadership is much better trained and planned than it was 34 years ago.

    I'm not sure what your question about culture means. VMI has Cadets from virtually every State- for example in the current Rat Class (Class of 2014) there are 10 cadets from Massachusetts and 16 from California and 5 from Taiwan so if you are concerned that as a cadet from New Hampshire you will be alone in a sea of Southerners - eh I don't think you have to worry. Lexington itself is a lovely little town which is the home not only of VMI but also Washington & Lee University right next door so it actually is a fairly cosmopolitan place. (Not that you will actually have all that much time to spend in town- virtually none as a Rat and then very little the next couple of years and as first classman (Senior) if you have a car you will be fleeing at every opportunity!) Climate wise- it's cold in the winter but not compared to NH , and hot in barracks in August and September - but it's not South Texas hot.

    ROTC is an integral part of VMI. Every Cadet has to complete 4 years of ROTC although you are not required to take a commission upon graduation. The Superintendents goal is for 75% of the graduating class to get commissioned- they are not there yet but I believe will be about 60% with this graduating class of 2011. Army and Marines commission the most of the 4 ROTC programs at VMI- and both have long distinguished histories there.

    As far as what to emphasize to your Mom- well I don't know her, but I would start with the fact that VMI is a good school- whether you wind up going into the Army or not. The average GPA this year for entering Rats was 3.47 with about a 50% acceptance rate. USNews ranks it as the number 3 public Liberal Arts college in the US- behind USMA and USNA and ranked #60 overall- and Forbes ranks it about the same. The Student to Faculty ratio is about 12-1 and your largest class is likely to be not much larger than 20. 97% of the faculty have PhDs and since it is all undergraduates - all of the faculty are engaged in teaching- so instead of a GTA you will get your classes from the professor. Finally- everything at VMI is conducted within the framework of the Honor Code. The VMI Honor Code is absolute- first offenders are separated from the school which is frankly- hard. It may be the last school in the country where this is only one penalty for honor violations of any type. But very quickly every VMI cadet learns that their word is their bond. Frankly- the country would be a heck of a lot better off if more of its citizens believed that honesty in things large and small is absolute and not negotiable or dependent on the circumstances and cost to themselves.

    So to sum it up- what you will get out of VMI is to learn to deal effectively and succeed with highly demanding physical and mental stress and time pressures, juggling multiple competing priorities and learn to lead others in what is essentially a 24/7 leadership lab. Finally- you will be closer to your Brother Rats (your classmates) than you can possibly imagine- and you will stay that way through out your life. VMI has a phenomenally close knit alumni association- we have the highest per capita giving rate of any college in the country- not because of their extraordinary prowess at wheedling money from alums, but rather because most of us truly do believe in the place. My son is there now- rooming with the son of one of my best friends from my class and a number of other classmates have their sons or daughters at the "I" now or who have already graduated from VMI.
    As you can tell- I have strong feelings about the school. Don't be confused- it is a hard and demanding 4 years and you have to want to go there, because if you aren't honest with yourself about what you are in for, or if you are primarily going there to satisfy someone else- you will hate it. But if it is right for you, you won't look back.

    Rah Virginia Mil!!

     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010
  3. tonk002

    tonk002 Member

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    Wow-great information, I really appreciate it.

    So, I will be able to use another one of my college visit days after the new year. What would be a good time to visit VMI? Should I do an overnight? Where is the best airport to fly to, and how long is the drive to Lexington?


    Also: I saw that VMI has a tri team. Ive started to get into tri's and have loved them. Is there a cycling team?
     
  4. sprog

    sprog Member

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    If you can, attend one of the Weekend Open Houses that Admissions runs while the Ratline is in effect. If you can't do that, A spring Open House is the next best thing. Overnights are pretty valuable, so do it if you can.

    Roanoke is the nearest airport. I think it's a little less than an hour away from Lexington. Dulles is over three hours away, but is the nearest major international airport.
     
  5. tonk002

    tonk002 Member

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    When is the Rat line usually done? I would like to visit before it is over.
     
  6. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    The Rat line will end around the beginning of Feb. I think that the last overnight that you can participate in that will definitely catch the Rats in full strain is in early December. I agree with Sprog- you will get the most out of going during the ratline, but if you can't make it then you can still get a lot out of one of the Spring time overnights. The Rats may be out of the Ratline then but they won't exactly be living in the lap of luxury - you just won't get to experience them straining while tooling along the Ratline.
    Alternatively- they will start running the overnight program again in Early September if you can wait that long.
     
  7. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    You have to take it day by day. You'll be asked to do things you know you can't do, because part of the Ratline experience is to push you beyond artificial limitations you put on yourself. You'll learn a lot about yourself through this process.

    This is part of what breeds the stereotypical obnoxiously arrogant attitude of the "ring knocker." You'll walk around like you can do anything, because you'll have a better idea of your true limitations.

    But you know what they say: if you find yourself in Hell someday and show them your VMI diploma at the gate, they'll give you four years off for free. :smile:

    Honestly? The Ratline brings culture shock for everyone.

    I wouldn't worry too much about being an out-of-state cadet, other than tuition. I was born in NY, and moved to Cincinnati when I was 3. My family lived in the same house until I left for matriculation. I went back to Cincy for about six weeks after graduation until I found a job back down here in the Shenandoah Valley. My mom told me just recently that she knew she'd "lost [me] to Virginia" pretty much as soon as I got home for Thanksgiving my rat year.

    Cadet Command recently decided that Army ROTC units can't use dummy grenades for field training. This is very unfortunate, because I had a lot of fun talking to my buddies who did ROTC at other schools.

    "Wait a minute, you actually get to fire blanks at each other?"

    "Yeah. On Spring FTX this year, the OPFOR attacked us at like 3am. My battle buddy and I were just getting off guard duty, but we could tell something was about to go down so we stayed awake. When they opened fire on us, she and I both rolled over in our sleeping bags and returned fire. A little while later, after we were both out of our sleeping bags (we slept with them unzipped so we wouldn't get stuck), one of the OPFOR tossed a dummy grenade right by me, but I kept shooting at him. I was pissed that no matter how much I shot at the OPFOR, they never died. So I decided I wasn't going to die, either. But it was actually closer to me than was safe for this kind of exercise, because I felt the heat from it."

    "...Oh. We use tennis balls for grenades."

    My Mama -hated- it when it became clear that my heart was set on VMI. She could not stand the thought of her baby girl going to a tough military school 8.5 hours away, where people would be mean to her just because she was a freshman. But as soon as I matriculated, she became the proudest VMI Mom ever. She has two VMI Mom coffee mugs, the tote bag, the pewter Moe jewelry set, the Moe watch, and even a VMI umbrella. And the vanity tag "VMI MOM" for the state of Ohio.

    It might never be her first choice school for you, but she'll support you in the end.

    Good luck,

    Jackie M. Briski '09
    First Class PVT (Ret.)
     
  8. bjkuds

    bjkuds Parent

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    Honestly I was terrified that my Son wanted to go ROTC at first....
    My son applied for early decision at VMI..already has been accepted at Norwich which is his 2nd choice..regardless of ROTC scholarship or not he wants to go to VMI and he wants to serve as an engineer in the Navy or possibly Army. As a Mom from Pa having to figure out of state tuition if scholarships dont come through, now my biggest fear is that my son won't get his dream for financial reasons. He basically has worked his but off getting excellent grades, taking a course load that is way beyond average, hits the gym regularly and has put forth effort to make his scholarship applications competetive. If you show your Mom that you are serious, because of your commitment level, she may go from fearing you will go in the service to be like me and fearing you won't get your dream and praying that it all works out for you. Reality is we live in a dangerous world and our kids are going to grow up and be in harms way if they are military minded. Better to have the education and training of a school such as VMI behind you. The overnight experience is was sold my son and its what sold me. The Professors and ROTC staff are top notch. I would rather he attend there over the academies as well because of the civilian option exists..not so much if he changes his mind..but if he would be injured or something would happen where he would physically be disqualified from serving his education can continue. If you show your Mom that its really what you want, maybe she will be like me and her priorities will change in her heart..but likewise, we are in a war, I do have fear for my childs safety..and you cant expect that to change..but I figured Ive raised a young man that wants to serve his nation and he is pretty bright too..so that makes me proud
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2010
  9. muzikrox

    muzikrox New Member

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    To the questioner regarding VMI> I sent this on to my daughter to get her responses as I thought that might be of more help. Also, I think you can respond to my email address if you want to get intouch with her to get more/detailed/whatever answers.

    For quesiton 1: He dad and I were/are very supportive of her decision. At this point, she does not plan to commission ( her dad retired AF 30 years.) That may change. Either way, the education is phenominal. Bear in mind though - it is very tough! Tough, mentallly, physically, emotionally and academically. The hardest thing has been watching some of the ratline experiences, though those are the things she takes more in stride.

    It is not a school for wimps. She has had a rough road with knee problems, foot problems, etc. Therefore, it is hard to watch from a parent's standpoint. No one wnats to see their child having difficulties. That said, we also know beyond a shadow of a doubt she will come out of this a much better person. (Though she was already pretty great to start with :) ] Anway, the alum stick together.We ahve seen first hand students who have jobs before they graduate ( in their respective fields) just through alumni. It is a great resource.

    There are opportunites for parents to see their students throughout the fall (ratline) though you would think not. Students cannot have cell phones their first year, but can use internet and our daughter has the opportunity to borrow a phone and call at least once a week. So we are not incommunicado.

    There is also a great parent council there to helps parents struggling with their student. They can be a great help. Two big points though - as she mentions, you should not come here for ANY reason other than because YOU want to and it will really help you if your parents are on board.
    We hope this helps. Her answers follow mine. Good luck with your decision. If you should decide to email me, please say in the subject column "regarding VMI" so I know it is you! Have a great day and enjoy your junior fall year!

    Answer for number 2:

    It is a definite shock. The people aren't really different since its fairly mixed, but we have a statue and an arch dedicated to Stonewall Jackson. I can't really say that the school really as a whole supports the north or the south anymore, but it puts alot of emphasis on the Civil War and VMI's piece in it.

    Also, the weather and food are a bit different. We are in the mountains, but it still reaches 90s in the summer and single digits (if not lower) in the winter with alot of humidity in summer. The food is more southern. Biscuits and gravy, grits, fried chicken, etc. Don't know if that really counts, but I don't think some of my more northern friends had ever seen grits.

    #3

    Depending on the branch choice at VMI, you could have different experiences. As of this year, only Army goes on field triaining exercises. The Air Force allows you to sign up for the Civil Air Patrol and go flying on Sundays. The other branches still do branch-related activities, but most are kept on post. When applying for a scholarship, be sure to think about 'Do I really to work for _____ for the next 4 years?' I've had multiple friends who have joined branches and found out the hard way that it wasn't for them. Different branches have different rules about being able to drop scholarships, but be sure you look through it carefully.

    #4

    The military can be a scary idea. For some its just a natural path, others need to really think about it. If you have done your research and know what your options are, then you are a little more prepared. The military has alot of great benefits and its share of consequences. Depending on your career, you could be shipped overseas, but not necessarily in harm's way. What alot of people don't understand is that not every member of the military sits in a tank with an M-16. If you commision, you immeditately cut down your chances of getting that job.

    The military can pay for college, gives you great medical and housing benefits, the list goes on. I will say that based on your ASVAB score, you may not get the particular job you want right away. But, like I said, commisioning can change the whole thing.

    VMI is NOT for everyone. And I say that with the greatest sincerity. You have to be here because you want to, not for anyone, not for the resume, not to prove a point. if you are set on the military, then it is a great option. I've heard people say the VMI is harder than basic, I can believe that. But if you change your mind on commisioning, it is still great for the civilian world. The skills you learn here are hard to replicate in any other way. Many grads have careers waiting for them beforethey even graduate. There's not many cadets who graduate and end up working at McDs to pay the bills.

    Plus, VMI will take care of you. The faculty are here because they love their jobs and will wait hand and foot to get your grades up. There's a center here specifically to get academic help, to get tutors or to have someone help you with papers or even help you plan out your day more efficiently. They have a hospital with a nurse on call 24/7 and a real hospital down the road, and a counseling center to help with emotional stress. On top of all that, the bond you create with your brother rats is amazing. There is always someone to help you, even 50 years down the road.

    I hope all of this helps!

    Very Respectfully,

    Rat EM
    Alpha Company
     

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