Discussion in 'Service Academy Parents' started by LivinTheDream, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. LivinTheDream

    LivinTheDream Banned

    Sep 17, 2015
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    Hadn't heard from the DS for a while, so I sent him a text. He called me back, sounded a little down. A little prodding... and I found out he got a C on his first Calculus II test. Anyhow, you know how overachievers can be...I told him to study more. He said some are constantly doing all nighters, but his plan is to get sleep since he's in it for the long haul. He said a couple of his classes are really hard. Is this normal? How's everyone else DD/DS handling the stress?
  2. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Super Moderator 5-Year Member

    Jul 13, 2011
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    Yes completely and totally normal. At this time every year most Plebes/Knobs are sort of in shell shock as they realized they just covered what they would of done in 1 semester in high school in 5-6 weeks of school. And your son is doing right thing with sleep. All nighters every night catch up with them. If they get some sleep they can listen and process a lecture so much more than just struggling to stay awake. He is learning time management in a fire hose effect and is figuring out how to handle a list of things he has to get done. Well there isn't enough time to get it all done, so he is learning the I must, I need and I should prioritization. Also Plebe duties do get easier as time goes on and that does make life easier. Not to mention May seems so far away so they think this Plebe year thing will never ever end. It will, they learn to balance and adjust things, how to cope with it all and they all move on to being capable 3/C.
  3. fencersmother

    fencersmother 5-Year Member Founding Member

    Oct 10, 2007
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    Navy is right on... My sons covered in the first month at USAFA in Calc 2, what the local U covered in the first semester.

    All nighters are NOT recommended of course, because ultimately, they do more harm than good.

    And for most of the kids, they went from being among the biggest fish in their ponds, to guppies. It's a learning process. he'll get it.
  4. RedDragon

    RedDragon Member

    Dec 31, 2013
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    The service academy academic challenges are overwhelming for many a 4.0 former high schooler. DS knows a few valedictorians that have been on academic probation. It will be the first time in many of their lives where receiving "B's" will be a really good thing. We have heard on multiple occasions from him that the class average for a Chem/Calc test was 50%. DS's teachers have been really helpful with Extra Instruction but the key it seems is to ask for help before it is too late.

    For those future aspiring cadets....develop good study habits now....
  5. THS

    THS Member

    Jan 22, 2014
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    LivinTheDream, DS is a plebe at USNA and not doing well in Chemistry. We let him contact us on his terms and when he does call, he's pretty candid about how he is doing academically. He has mentioned there is not enough time in the day for all he has to do; he's commented about a weekly test he has to take - it's not an actual class, but stuff plebes must memorize. We know he is stressed, but when he calls his outlook has been positive. I think his involvement in other activities (boxing, for one) helps him manage the stress.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  6. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

    Mar 4, 2007
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    Calculus and Chemistry are called Plebe Killers for a reason. Most don't have a background at college level in these courses. They will survive.
  7. VelveteenR

    VelveteenR Just gathering dust in the nursery...

    Jul 24, 2014
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    I have to say that VelveteenCadet's boarding school prepared him well. He validated out of several classes that he says are the ones causing some of the shell shock as they appear to be taught in a "weedout/hazing" style that most kids have never encountered before, perhaps for the very lesson such style teaches? He’s enjoying his classes and says he has more time than he did at BS (he doesn't have to do his own laundry), no late nights, no lost sleep. However, he withstood the fire hose in his first couple of years at BS where it appeared there was too much to do and not enough time to do it all. That really wasn't the case; he just didn't know how to get it all done. Overwhelming the kids with the type and amount of work they would encounter at a rigorous college was the boarding school's way of preparing them to handle it. The BS taught him extreme time management, focus, and excellent study skills and habits through study training and productive/supervised daily study periods for four years. He learned that sports were the way to deal with the pressure and that not one single moment of any day was to be spent on any activity until the work was done -- and he had to be taught to recognize how much work was required each day and how to prioritize it and, yes, sometimes the right answer was to let something go, even at the expense of a grade. It takes a lot of supervised effort and trial and error to figure this out and achieve balance.

    For kids who grew up with the all-consuming and interruptive technologies that are part of the air our kids breathe, it was tough to learn to disengage, so the BS structured freshman year to help them unplug—no cell phones during the school day or study periods and campus-wide internet shut-off and lights-out after a certain hour. (And an honor code that specified no personal hot-spot or flashlight usage to circumvent these rules.) As for video games and Netflix, only after all work was done but perhaps neither of those was the best use of anyone’s time. By senior year, organization and prioritization were ingrained and most students were able to find free time and use it wisely.

    As for grades, well, when every incoming student pretty much had all As and top (SSAT) test scores, that bacame average. By definition, 50% of these “top” students would find themselves in the bottom half of the class at various times over their BS stint. It would be a tough lesson for those who defined themselves by their GPAs. Earning a “C” or, heaven forbid, a lower grade would absolutely happen to every one of them as they learned to deal with zero grade inflation, zero do-overs, zero extra credit. Same with sports as the boarding schools are filled with recruits and not everyone makes the teams. But these scales taught them to weigh themselves honestly and showed them what true excellence looked like and what level of work was required to clear the bar. It taught them humility.

    I’m not posting this as an advertisement for BS (many kids learn these same lessons at home and at their local public or private schools if they are fortunate to have good ones) or to say that VelveteenCadet has it all figured out (he doesn’t—get off Yik Yak, VC!), but to illustrate the tough process and discipline necessary to achieve excellence or, at least, know what it truly looks like and understand the effort to get there. Some kids learn this earlier, some later. These are the lessons that a good high school or college will teach and most colleges, even the likes of West Point, do not expect that our students have it all figured out yet. This is the United States Army, ground zero for discipline, shock, and awe. How not to be intimidated? How not to feel you don’t measure up? The Army IS hard. It IS relentless. But, like Beast, the WP academic year is designed to push our students to their limits and beat them up a bit, show them where they are wanting, but not with the intent of leaving them broken, but to eventually build them up into the leaders they are meant to become. No one said it wouldn’t hurt or that, for parents, it wouldn’t be hard to watch. But it won’t last forever. As fencersmother said, it’s a learning process. All of our kids will figure it out eventually.

    So, cadets and future cadets: Develop good study habits, put down the phone, unplug from all distractions, do not be discouraged by failure, support each other, learn that asking for help is a sign of strength (and do it often), get some sleep, and never, ever give up!

    Oh, and call home once in a while.
    Jtboiler, Rugbyftbllaxmom and Roxane like this.
  8. MombaBomba

    MombaBomba Member

    Jan 13, 2014
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    Mine also values sleep and avoids all nighters. He said he needed the sleep to handle it all, as it wasn't just about the academics but all the other "stuff." There are a lot of stressers outside academics during their 4 years, especially their C4C year.

    Some classes were and are more of a struggle for him than others. He doesn't have a photographic memory nor is he an uber genius, and he has always had to study to get good grades. His high school was challenging and didn't hand out A's like candy, so studying for a good grade wasn't really a new concept for him. But he does have to study a lot more now than he did in the past. The struggle is real!

    Like all colleges, some of the instructors there are great and some are not so great. There was a Russian instructor last fall who was let go after one semester. The USAFA does tend to weed out the horrid ones. There are also some fantastic teachers there, so even though my son didn't get an A in their classes, he said he learned an awful lot, liked those teachers and thought the those teachers did a great job. Also, there are various teaching styles which your son may not have experienced before. He may want to check into EI or peer tutoring if he is having difficulty. Lots of kids use EI, though some hesitate because they think it reflects on them negatively. This isn't the case at all!

    One other thing, they do like their grade distribution curves at the USAFA. So someone has to be in the top and someone in the bottom of the class. Some courses curve, while others are know to have a base line built in curve , like Chem (10 points). Other classes don't tend to curve at all. Makes for an interesting game of "guess my final grade."

    I asked my son about tests and all, as I was getting confused, and he finally shared it with me. This is my basic high level understanding of what he told me.
    Each instructor has individual quizzes and tests that he or she can give his/her own class.
    All classes for a particular course will take the same high level test called a GR (graded review). A GR is not necessarily a midterm or final, though it can be, and they usually have around 4 of them a semester (could be more or less depending on the course). GRs are designed by the academic department.
    Some papers are instructor dependent, and some are required by the academic department for that course.
    GR's and academic department papers are weighted a lot more in grade computation than the instructor tests, quizzes and papers.

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