I'm no longer a cadet but it's only been 18 months since I graduated so maybe I can help out a little bit. I can also answer questions about the "real Coast Guard." If I don't know the answer, I'm sure LITS could help out and I could talk to a few people as well.
Thank you for the opportunity. Did you go to AIM? If so, how was your experience?
I attended AIM in 2008 and then was an AIM cadre (an Academy 2/c cadet that trained the Aimsters) in 2012. In my opinion, AIM is a great program. I'm actually an Academy Admissions Partner now and will hopefully assist with the AIM program in the coming summers if I can get approval from my command. AIM is designed to be an introduction to cadet life in terms of Swab Summer. Aimsters are placed into one of 8 companies (Alfa-Hotel), organized into divisions, and treated like Swabs in a sense. There is mental and physical stress and the overall experience is gut check for a lot of kids who thought they wanted to attend a Service Academy. As an AIM cadre, I trained around 100 Aimsters in 3 weeks and had about 10 ultimately apply that I know of with 4-5 accepted. Any specific questions about AIM?
Regarding the rigor of the classes so far, can you tell us the difficulty of the academics?
I would honestly say the most difficult aspect of classes at the Academy is an individual's ability to mange their time and ask for help. At my heaviest course load, I was taking around 22 credits. As a Government major, I struggled with all science and engineering based courses. For some reason, I was actually pretty good at calculus. I figured out early on that I was not going to succeed on my own. I formed study groups with classmates, received help from upperclassmen, and spent a lot of time with instructors. After my first two years, my cumulative GPA was around a 2.5/2.7. In high school, I had maintained over a 4.0 with maybe 1/2-3/4 of the effort. It was a bit of a blow, especially because you have classmates who look as though they breeze through with little issues but honestly, I was just happy to not have to worry about being disenrolled. My second two years, I got into my major courses, did well, and I ultimately graduated with honors. Within the Government major, I was accepted for an internship, an Advanced Research Project, and selected to go to Italy to participate in an International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict with cadets from military academies from around the world to include England, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, France, Nigeria, India, Brazil, etc. I still talk to some of the people I met. If you work hard, you will most definitely be rewarded. The faculty are amazing and office hours are nonexistent. By that, I mean I was more than welcome to approach a professor at any time. Most of my teachers gave cadets their personal emails and home/cell numbers. I clearly remember working with teachers as late as 10 or 11 PM. They were all extremely dedicated to seeing cadets succeed.
Have you decided your major? If so what is it and how did you come to your decision?
I applied as a Government Major and graduated as one. I went with my passion for humanities, policy, and international relations and I never once regretted it.
What do plan on doing after you graduate (if you know)?
I'm currently service as a Deck Watch Officer on a 270' Medium Endurance Cutter. In fact, I'm underway on a patrol right now. I'll be finding out my second tour in about a month and I am hoping to be assigned to a job in the intelligence community.
Have you had any flying time or is there an opportunity to fly while at USCGA?
Oh by the way, could you answer my questions on the USCGA sports thread I started?
The Academy's aviation program has definitely expanded since my 4/c year. Aviation week is held in the fall semester and there are various events that cadets can go to. There is also an Aviation Club that hosts a lot of meetings/interactions with pilots. We were even able to conference call with the International Space Station. In the summer of your junior year, you spend a week at either Air Station Elizabeth City, NC or Mobile, AL. I went on 2 C-130 flights and a helicopter while I was there. You can also work towards your private pilot's license as an elective and I think the Academy just received funding to install flight simulators.
How is dating handled on campus? do kids still go on double dates?
There are rules about who you can/can't date. As a freshman, you can only date other classmates. As a sophomore, you can date your classmates or juniors. As a junior, you can date a sophomore, other junior, or senior and as a senior, you can date a junior, a classmate, or a JO from the class above you. I dated a guy in the class ahead of me for my sophomore, junior, and some of senior year. I'm sure double dates happen.
Is the Prep Scholar program beneficial towards the time at the actual Academy?
I'm not sure what you mean by this question. Does it help prepare you for the Academy? I think a lot of my classmates who attended the program would say yes. It prepares you with a similar academic course load and introduces you to the military lifestyle.
What do you do after the Academy as an officer? What kinds of jobs can you have?
Immediately following graduation, about 85% of each class will be assigned to a cutter as either a Deck Watch Officer (DWO) or an Engineering Officer in Training (EOIT). You'll be assigned a division and a ton of collateral duties. From there, you work on your qualifications, learn how to lead, and learn more about the real Coast Guard. The qualification process for a Deck Watch Officer is about a 6-8 month process depending on patrol schedules, underway days, etc. About 10-12% of each class goes to flight school and the rest are assigned to Sectors, or land billets, in either the Prevention or Response fields. Prevention deals with domestic and foreign vessel inspections, facilities inspections, investigations into maritime incidents, etc. Response is broken up into Incident Management or Enforcement.