My Plebe Has Thoughts of Leaving USNA

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving. I was until I saw a message from my plebe saying those words that every parent dreads hearing. He wants to leave USNA. I am still processing this, but I cannot think straight right now. I could tell he wasn't loving it, but he said he was alright. I know DS is looking at all of his friends home for the holiday and missing home, but I live too far and my budget is too tight for him to come home until Christmas break. At this point, I'd rather go visit instead of have DS come home. My heart is sinking right now. Suggestions are welcome.
 

SaltiDawg

Member
I believe that every Plebe in the history of USNA on at least one occasion had thoughts about leaving USNA.

I did.

He (or she) must remember that literally tens of thousands of Midshipmen before he/she "made it" without resigning and many of them were undoubtedly not as sharp and motivated as your son.

I'm not sure your visiting him is a good idea - but reassurance that you will support him in all endeavors is important no matter what his decision is.

Has you son shared his thoughts with his "Firstie?"
 

A1Janitor

Member
My son visited various groups of friends all day and night yesterday. One of his best friends just left WP. He liked it ok, and was doing well academically ... but decided it wasn’t what he wanted. My son supported him and his decision.

Today I took him out to his favorite wing place for lunch and the owner (my friend) pulled up a chair to ask him about how he liked USNA. He said nobody likes it there. It’s a love hate thing. My son also admits he is very fortunate to be there and is very happy he is there and would never leave.

So your son isn’t alone in how he feels at USNA right now. He needs to figure out why he feels that way, and if he can overcome whatever it is he doesn’t like.

Talk to the Chaplain. Talk to upperclassmen - they all have been there. Talk to peers. Ultimately he will make the right decision and you will support that right decision.

Good luck.
 
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Capt MJ

10-Year Member
As Salti notes, this is not unusual.

This could be a momentary and transitory dip (one of many) - SAs are designed to suck, it’s getting cold and dark earlier, Plebe summer seems easy in retrospect, realization there are more than 3.5 years left of what seems like an awful endless grind, they realize there are a ton of people who seem effortlessly smarter, more athletic and militarily adept, he is mentally exhausted. Or it could be the real thing, he realizes it’s not his path, and he starts actively making other plans.

Express your faith in him and his ability to figure this out, and you will be happy to hear him talk it through at Christmas. Encourage him to work hard at his academics, so if it comes to pass he decides to leave, he may have transferable credits. IMHO don’t go and visit, just listen and listen as he talks it through and works it out like the young adult he is. Ask him about anything funny that happened this week.

The trick is to sort out is he running FROM something, or TOWARD something. If he is running toward something different now, he will begin to take active steps to leave, apply elsewhere, make plans, etc.

If he does put in a formal request for separation, it doesn’t happen overnight. He will be counseled by the COC, who are familiar with the transient feelings vs truly-not-for-me state.

Encourage him to take advantage of the chaplains, regardless of faith group. They are skilled in counseling mids, and this is a familiar situation. Everything he says to them is completely confidential, unless he poses a danger to himself or others. There are also trained counselors at the Midshipman Development Center, same confidentiality rules. There is no shame in using them.



Many, many parents over the years here have posted similarly to you, and many have reported the mood upswings and downswings, within short periods, as being typical.

Ask him open-ended questions designed to help him think about this: Has your motivation to serve as an officer changed? Tell me about why you think this is not your path. What things have you tried to deal with the stress? Is there anything in particular that is frustrating you? How will you resolve that or work around it? Remind me of what you wrote in your application essay about why USNA was the place for you. What has changed? Do you think you will be able to adjust? And so on.

Some personality types don’t cope well at first. If he has some introverted traits, he probably feels like people are on top of him all the time in a shared room, so many things done in a group, and limited time to re-charge in blessed peace. Is his self-confidence being shaken after getting lower grades than perhaps he has seen before? And, finally, has he realized that despite all the shiny videos and glossy websites, his fellow mids and the leadership have feet of clay, as does he, and it’s not Camelot? For those with stars in their eyes, the human reality of USNA can hit hard. He can still take pride in that as an institution, it aspires to a high standard, and many times it attains it, more than other places he could have chosen to be part of.

Take a breath. This may be a moment-to-moment approach to getting through it, no matter how it all turns out.
 

Capt MJ

10-Year Member
May I respectfully and peacefully ask we focus on a mom far away from her struggling Plebe, most likely surprised at this outcome after the long struggle to land an appointment? Both of you offered good insights. I started typing my response when there were no replies, and by the time I posted, there were good responses, and of course some duplication, which is a good thing from the different perspectives.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
The trick is to sort out is he running FROM something, or TOWARD something..
I've seen CAPT MJ post this advice before, and it probably the best single point in these threads. If DS truly wants to leave, encourage him to be running toward something, instead of away from USNA. Something drew him to USNA in the first place, ask him what has changed ?

This issue comes up frequently, and if someone did an analysis, they would likely find that Thanksgiving (the first time to stop, think and ponder, particularly if he was left alone in the Hall) and post Christmas (as the Midshipman hit the Dark Ages) are probably the most common times.

The Plebes are coming up to one of the best times to be a Midshipman (BEAT ARMY!) and one of the worst (first experience with College level finals). You should encourage your son to put his head down, finish this first semester hard, and if necessary talk to the Chaplain and/or Chain of Command before he leaves for Christmas break. Don't make any rash decisions, or even consider throwing life lines like holding off buying post Christmas return tickets.

Finally, while I understand the natural instinct to want to go visit, I would discourage it. First, he is going to be very busy through finals. Second, I am sure that some of the parents here will disagree, but I think that it is unlikely that a parent has the insight into life a Service Academies to really understand what a Midshipman in this situation is going through. The chaplains and chain of command know, and understand, and are better prepared to help him make a decision that he will be able to live with for the rest of his life.
 

justdoit19

Member
I suspect that a plebe, unable to come home over thanksgiving (if I read that right), would be super bummed. Hopefully talking it out as suggested, and getting back busy into the swing if things here in a couple days will also help. Plus the fact that Semester break is on 17 days away will provide further positivity!!

I’ve read before to suggest “maybe you can quit, but not today” helps focus beyond the immediate moment (I’ve used that before with my own for other things).

And for you momma, big hugs. Breathe. It WILL be ok. Even if there is a separation. This is only a moment in a whole lifetime. There’s so much hoopla surrounding an appointment that sometimes that can be a thing, but remember “this too shall pass”, no matter the outcome. Someday it wont matter. Just a story of his/her journey.
 

Dadx4

Member
The Dark Ages, ugh.
^^^This. It can get rough. DD went through it and wanted to leave. Friends who stayed local after HS also tried to get her to quit over the holidays. I remember talking to her in January and convinced her to stick out the first year. Now she's 6 months from graduation and proud of her decision. It goes fast. Encouragement and loving support . . . all we can do. Hang in there.
 

flieger83

Super Moderator
10-Year Member
I was appointed to USAFA on my second attempt. It was my desire since I was seven years old: USAFA and then flying jet fighters!!

I resigned during my "doolie" (think Plebe) year...three times. For all the same reasons you'll see here and on other forum topics here.

I was VERY fortunate...my AOC (Air Officer Commanding: a USAF officer assigned as dad/mom/commander of a cadet squadron) called me in each time, told me to relax, sit, let's talk about this. And we would...and in the end, he stood me up, at attention and asked: "Cadet...is it your intention to resign?" I'd say "Yes sir."

He would then look at me and then tear up my paperwork in front of me and say something like: "Uh huh, my answer is no...I will endorse your resignation when you come to me with a reason to resign, with a plan in mind, a goal, and not some whiny little answers like those you gave me..."

To this day I owe a BIG debt of gratitude to Colonel Benjamin C. Pittman, USAF, Retired.

Steve
USAFA ALO
USAFA '83
 
I believe that every Plebe in the history of USNA on at least one occasion had thoughts about leaving USNA.

I did.

He (or she) must remember that literally tens of thousands of Midshipmen before he/she "made it" without resigning and many of them were undoubtedly not as sharp and motivated as your son.

I'm not sure your visiting him is a good idea - but reassurance that you will support him in all endeavors is important no matter what his decision is.

Has you son shared his thoughts with his "Firstie?"
Thank you for that perspective. He said that he's shared these thoughts with a Firsties and Chaplain, but not anyone who could set things in motion.
 
I was appointed to USAFA on my second attempt. It was my desire since I was seven years old: USAFA and then flying jet fighters!!

I resigned during my "doolie" (think Plebe) year...three times. For all the same reasons you'll see here and on other forum topics here.

I was VERY fortunate...my AOC (Air Officer Commanding: a USAF officer assigned as dad/mom/commander of a cadet squadron) called me in each time, told me to relax, sit, let's talk about this. And we would...and in the end, he stood me up, at attention and asked: "Cadet...is it your intention to resign?" I'd say "Yes sir."

He would then look at me and then tear up my paperwork in front of me and say something like: "Uh huh, my answer is no...I will endorse your resignation when you come to me with a reason to resign, with a plan in mind, a goal, and not some whiny little answers like those you gave me..."

To this day I owe a BIG debt of gratitude to Colonel Benjamin C. Pittman, USAF, Retired.

Steve
USAFA ALO
USAFA '83
I love the way that your AOC responded to your misgivings about USAFA. I pray that someone will do the same for DS. There were some "whiny little answers" so I called him on them. I refuse to entertain that sort of talk and I let him know that I see some of the underlying causes for what he's experiencing. We talked after my post. I am sure we will talk again. Thanks a lot Steve.
 
^^^This. It can get rough. DD went through it and wanted to leave. Friends who stayed local after HS also tried to get her to quit over the holidays. I remember talking to her in January and convinced her to stick out the first year. Now she's 6 months from graduation and proud of her decision. It goes fast. Encouragement and loving support . . . all we can do. Hang in there.
Dadx4, it is rough. I am sure that local HS friends have something to do with DS wanting to leave. I can tell exactly which dumb idea came from which friend, too. I've managed to convince him to stay, for now. It seems like talking about it with me helped. Being encouraging and giving DS loving support is sound advice. Thank you. I'm hanging in there.
 
I suspect that a plebe, unable to come home over thanksgiving (if I read that right), would be super bummed. Hopefully talking it out as suggested, and getting back busy into the swing if things here in a couple days will also help. Plus the fact that Semester break is on 17 days away will provide further positivity!!

I’ve read before to suggest “maybe you can quit, but not today” helps focus beyond the immediate moment (I’ve used that before with my own for other things).

And for you momma, big hugs. Breathe. It WILL be ok. Even if there is a separation. This is only a moment in a whole lifetime. There’s so much hoopla surrounding an appointment that sometimes that can be a thing, but remember “this too shall pass”, no matter the outcome. Someday it wont matter. Just a story of his/her journey.
You read correctly. He was unable come home then facetimed his buddies at home having "Friendsgiving". I will try the "maybe you can quit, but not today" next time. Separation seems like a fate worse than death, though I would tell others that it isn't the end of the world. I needed to be reminded to breathe and that "this too shall pass". Thank you.
 

justdoit19

Member
They just don’t have the perspective of maturity. Life experience.

One thing that may help if it’s friends and their life back home that’s painful, is to get rid of social media accounts for a bit. Hard to do, but very ‘freeing’. My non-USNA dd did this for a while. It IS painful to be excluded (for whatever reason) from all the marvelous activities posted all over the place. Nonstop. Maybe this isn’t his particular issue...but may be helpful anyhow.

One thing my now MIDN DS said one time is that ‘when I see all the awesome things my friends are doing that I can’t, I remember that when they graduate, they hit their desk jobs for th rest of their lives.....and when I graduate, I’ll be doing really cool stuff basically for the rest of my life’.
 
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