My Plebe Has Thoughts of Leaving USNA

Capt MJ

10-Year Member
I was in the counseling chain for mids wanting to leave voluntarily, when I was on USNA staff.

When a mid sat in front of me and told me they liked their friends, liked the Navy, liked their profs, but had realized military life was not for them, and they had already started school applications, were being thoughtful about their timing so they could have transferable credits, had made plans for a part-time job while awaiting a new semester to start elsewhere, and had had grown-up talks with family about their plan and how they would contribute at home, I knew they had left USNA behind in their heart and head, and were focused on their next goal. I particularly remember one mid, who was doing very well, the daughter of restaurant professionals, who realized she was baking and cooking complicated dishes at her sponsor’s home every weekend, and that she really wanted a career in “the family business.” She had already explored scholarships and financial aid at Cornell - she had a solid plan, with one foot out the door. Others, not so much. It is truly a shock for many to find themselves at the bottom of the class, and they can’t seem to find their footing to fight and grit their way out of it, so they think about leaving this tough new world behind, no matter that in their essays and interviews they talked about taking the harder road, wanting to be pushed to the limit, or being held to higher standards.

The OP has gotten excellent advice from a good cross-section of posters.

@Midmom2023

If you are connected with a USNA Parents Club, the parents of upperclass could doubtless tell you of many occasions when their mid was ready to bail.
 

Ronstat

New Member
I am posting to just you know you are not alone. My plebe says he is "figuring it out" and was his normal self over break. I got a call Sunday night that was quite emotional - VERY unlike him. I have no real advice that is novel but I want you to know others are feeling the same which may help a little.
 
So what are the most common things the plebes hate at the academy?

Morning PT
Food
Not Having lot of social ( party life)
Discipline
Tough classes
 
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NavyHoops

Super Moderator
5-Year Member
Plebe life is a grind. They are tired, the newness has worn off, they are seeing the real USNA finally, the academic load is weighing on them, it’s getting cold and dark. For many, there is no single item, it’s the entire system. It is meant to overwhelm you, to learn to prioritize, work under pressure, work as a team, plan ahead, learn tons of crazy info. It also seems like plebe year will never end while their friends back home are all living the good life. Every Plebe will say different things as to what is ‘hard’ or ‘difficult.’
 

williamsdr3

Member
Driving the sponsor plebes and youngsters back to the Yard on cold, icy Saturday nights in Jan-Mar, with a raw wind blowing off the Chesapeake and the prospect of frozen bumpy brick walks to navigate, the car would be VERY quiet.

When the weather broke, the air softened, the daffodils and tulips pushed their heads up, the prospect of spring break beckoned, and after that, with increasing confidence on the downhill run to semester end and Comm Week, the car chatter sparkled and fizzed. They had figured the place out, and while it still sucked, they had developed basic suck-management skills. They were going to make it.
Y'all are making me so thankful my hometown is Austin, Texas!

I do wonder about these warm-weather guys/gals moving up to Colorado or the East Coast.
 
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Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
Plebe life is a grind. They are tired, the newness has worn off, they are seeing the real USNA finally, the academic load is weighing on them, it’s getting cold and dark. For many, there is no single item, it’s the entire system. It is meant to overwhelm you, to learn to prioritize, work under pressure, work as a team, plan ahead, learn tons of crazy info. It also seems like plebe year will never end while their friends back home are all living the good life. Every Plebe will say different things as to what is ‘hard’ or ‘difficult.’
I would say this goes beyond Plebe Year. Sure, Plebe year is the hardest...The system AND the Upperclass are aligned against you, and it is a long, hard year , with constant pressure. However, the grind doesn't end with Plebe Year, it lasts for 4 year..its the little things like making sure your room is ready for inspection every AM, or loosing weekend liberty when your GF is visiting because your Battalion didn't do well in the Prade, etc. that just eats at you. Someone recently asked the question what the best part of the attending USNA was, and I was only half joking when I said graduation. The truth is , there are plenty of wonderful experiences (and great people),but you don't really appreciate it until Reunions years later .
 

THParent

Member
I cannot take credit for the following, because I got (most of this) from my pal @Capt MJ. I thought that it sounded very astute, so I ran it past my DS and his shipmates. They all said that it was pretty spot on. I embellished a little, because @Capt MJ is way nicer than me. :biggrin:

PLEBE YEAR
All about the RAH! Will parrot back anything that the upperclass say. Hopes and dreams not yet crushed. They are still so soft. Sort of like civilians, playing "military".

YOUNGSTER YEAR
Prone to the dreaded Youngster Slump. They begin to realize that they have three more years of this. Still no civvies on Liberty. Still no cars. Plebes are lazy. 2Cs shotgunned in last year are "soft" and have no idea how the company should be run.

2C YEAR
Cynical about everything. They talk about "bad leadership" all of the time and can't wait for the Firsties to commission, so they can start running the place the right way.

FIRSTIE YEAR
Just beginning to get a clue. Starting to realize that the Fleet or Corps awaits them shortly, and they don't know nearly enough to take on being a Junior Officer in that show. They are astonished that it is so hard to get Midshipmen (especially other Firsties - and even ones in Striper positions) to simply do what is asked of them. They complain constantly about underclass being so much worse than they were, "back in the day".

ALUMNI
Been there, done that. It was way tougher on everyone when they were there. Only a handful of Plebes even made it through Plebe Summer "back in the day". There was no air conditioning in Bancroft Hall. You got to see your parents once per year, at Christmas. No phones, just letters. There were formations for every meal and every meal was mandatory. You got bread Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and water on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Saturday and Sunday you got bread AND water. No one slept more than 2 hours per night for all 4 years. Parades were every weekend, and twice on Sundays. Life was good. Would do it all over again, if those whiteworks didn't shrink so much, over the years.
 

A1Janitor

Member
I cannot take credit for the following, because I got (most of this) from my pal @Capt MJ. I thought that it sounded very astute, so I ran it past my DS and his shipmates. They all said that it was pretty spot on. I embellished a little, because @Capt MJ is way nicer than me. :biggrin:

PLEBE YEAR
All about the RAH! Will parrot back anything that the upperclass say. Hopes and dreams not yet crushed. They are still so soft. Sort of like civilians, playing "military".

YOUNGSTER YEAR
Prone to the dreaded Youngster Slump. They begin to realize that they have three more years of this. Still no civvies on Liberty. Still no cars. Plebes are lazy. 2Cs shotgunned in last year are "soft" and have no idea how the company should be run.

2C YEAR
Cynical about everything. They talk about "bad leadership" all of the time and can't wait for the Firsties to commission, so they can start running the place the right way.

FIRSTIE YEAR
Just beginning to get a clue. Starting to realize that the Fleet or Corps awaits them shortly, and they don't know nearly enough to take on being a Junior Officer in that show. They are astonished that it is so hard to get Midshipmen (especially other Firsties - and even ones in Striper positions) to simply do what is asked of them. They complain constantly about underclass being so much worse than they were, "back in the day".

ALUMNI
Been there, done that. It was way tougher on everyone when they were there. Only a handful of Plebes even made it through Plebe Summer "back in the day". There was no air conditioning in Bancroft Hall. You got to see your parents once per year, at Christmas. No phones, just letters. There were formations for every meal and every meal was mandatory. You got bread Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and water on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Saturday and Sunday you got bread AND water. No one slept more than 2 hours per night for all 4 years. Parades were every weekend, and twice on Sundays. Life was good. Would do it all over again, if those whiteworks didn't shrink so much, over the years.
That is simply outstanding.
 

VelveteenR

Just gathering dust in the nursery...
5-Year Member
I just laugh when I read posts from kids who return from NASS/SLE saying how much more fired up than ever they are to attend an academy as if those week-long summer camps bear any resemblance whatsoever to actual academy life. This thread and the sage responses from @NavyHoops, @Capt MJ, @THParent and others should be what every potential applicant should read and understand as they consider whether a service academy is for them. It's an extremely tough way to get through college, and there is no way to genuinely understand that four-year grind beforehand. This thread and others like it do more service to that reality that any summer camp or info session.

Hugs to you @Midmom2023. I have a feeling your mid will get through this, as most do, but it's tough to watch. Do report back when this is resolved.
 

MidCakePa

Member
Often repeated on SAF, though I don’t believe yet on this particular thread: The USNA experience can be divided into three parts of roughly equal duration: First is plebe summer. Second is the remainder of plebe year. Third is the final three years.

So if OP’s DS can get to the end of plebe year — which feels like the point when one has given USNA a fair shot — he is 2/3 of the way to being done. Then comes the fun part!

Just noticed: Cross-posted with @justdoit19.
 
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A1Janitor

Member
Often repeated on SAF, though I don’t believe yet on this particular thread: The USNA experience can be divided into three parts of roughly equal duration: First is plebe summer. Second is the remainder of plebe year. Third is the final three years.

So if OP’s DS can get to the end of plebe year — which feels like the point when one has given USNA a fair shot — he is 2/3 of the way to being done. Then comes the fun part!
I read that too!
 

Dadof2

Member
@Midmom2023

You have received some excellent advice. We went through this with our DD a few times during Plebe year and to a much lesser degree during youngster year. We told her it's OK if you want to leave and do something else, but you need to have a plan, and that plan can't involve sitting around on our couch trying to figure out what is next. We told her that she needed to complete whatever semester she was in at USNA if she made a decision to leave and had to have a plan locked in at another college, or at a job, or something constructive and well thought out. We had this discussion the first time she talked about leaving. Whenever the subject came up again we pretty much just listened and she worked it out. The first couple of years we made a few trips to USNA to visit and get her some time away from the Yard. By 2nd class year it was clear that she was too busy and didn't really need us visiting anymore so she would usually politely dissuade us from visiting most of the times we offered.

DD stayed and graduated last year in the top portion of her class in a tough major. She is happy that she stayed the course. This doesn't mean staying is right for everyone.

I know I didn't add much to what has already been offered, but just wanted to share a story from someone who recently went through what you are going through now. I truly wish you and your DS the best no matter what he decides.
 
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