The First Semester (what to expect)

Cap. J

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I recently looked back on this website because it was incredibly helpful for me throughout the entire candidate process. All of the nostalgia of the application came back to me and I wanted to provide some down-to-earth information to the future classes ahead because I wish someone would have laid it out for me. I just survived my first semester at USNA, so here's a brief summary of how my life changed after June 30th and some free advice that I wish people would have given to me.

Before I-day, I was scared for a host of different reasons, some of which were:
*I love sleep
*I didn't want to be "that guy" at the back of runs
*I didn't want to leave my family for such a long and stressful time
*I was hesitant to "give up" my life to the Navy... or whatever the feeling of losing yourself is.

In time, I came to conquer all of these fears and adjust to life as a Plebe. Don't worry so much about what your life is going to be like; prepare for it! Get used to doing things outside your comfort zone and accepting them. Have the drive to do your best and you will succeed here.

I know that you have all heard that you need to prepare physically for Plebe Summer, but I will say it again. Prepare physically. Get to where you are comfortable running at least 4 or even 5 miles (if you start earlier, it will make your life better) a decent pace. Do pushups, abs, and sit ups. The three exercises that my summer company made us do every day, multiple times a day--outside of morning PEP--were Planks (from a push-up position and around 2 minutes), push-ups, and wall sits. Seriously, do a lot of planks. I had no idea that we would be doing those and my life could have been a lot easier with a little preparation. Overall, just accept the fact that parts of Plebe summer are uncomfortable no matter what kind of shape you are in. Make it better for yourself by starting early and working hard beforehand.

The best days that I had over Plebe Summer were the days that I dreaded waking up to. I loved when I killed a challenge that I was nervous and hesitant to complete, and the feeling of accomplishment that it provided. Strive to conquer everything and put yourself out there. Some of the things that I dreaded the most about the summer were actually not even that bad for me (rates, chow calls, and detailers). The worst enemy you have is yourself.

The Academic year is a whole different ball game. Suddenly you go from having every part of your day planned and escorted to having a million things to do on your own. I was an A+ student all throughout my high school career and I was shocked to have a D and a C for my first marking period. The two things I have for advice (I eventually came out with all B's at the end of the semester with God's grace) are as follows:
*develop a strong work ethic and desire to succeed. You have to want it. Show up for Extra Instruction with your professors. Get help when you need it. Put in work on an essay instead of goofing off. It will help you immensely in the long run.
*organize yourself. Use a planner or whatever fits your taste to keep track of what you need to get done. It's not all school assignments--there will be a ton of other random tasks that you will have to do. If I can come out on top of this one, you can too.

Above all, be a good shipmate. Be a great friend to all of your classmates and you will be rewarded richly with friendships, help on assignments, and just a better quality of life in general. Get out there and visit people or you may lose that connection. Don't forget to stay in touch with family either. They gave me some of the best support I had!

Looking back on the first two-thirds of Plebe year, I can't believe how much my life has changed. While it was an incredible process and really terrible at times, it offered even more reward: I learned to work more, enjoy small things more, persevere, and do things I had no idea I could do. This is not the place for everyone, but if you want something that will make you a better person, the Academy is where you need to be.

Leave me any questions you have about life here,

Beat Army!
-J
 

carter2000

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This is really good!
I wonder if you and/or others who have been through it could tell us hopefuls what you think is the worst thing and the best thing about plebe year?

Now I will go do some planks and wait for any replies lol
 

NavyHoops

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Answers vary for everyone. Worst - lack of sleep. Best - friendships.

Cap. J - what are the current rules on Plebe and sleep? I know they were looking at changing things up to allow more sleep.
 

Cap. J

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This is really good!
I wonder if you and/or others who have been through it could tell us hopefuls what you think is the worst thing and the best thing about plebe year?

Now I will go do some planks and wait for any replies lol

Absolutely!
The worst part of the summer for me and a lot of people was just the isolation factor. It doesn't sound that bad before you go in, but being separated from the entire world for that long (especially with all the pressure that you face every day) gets you down a lot sometimes. For the AC year, I would say just the constant amount of work you have. That's not to say you don't get used to it; it just takes some time.
The best part of the summer was definitely the teamwork and friendship you build with your classmates. I loved how the spirit of the group was the highest even in the worst of times. We could be down in the worst set of exercises of the week and you could still see it on everyone's faces. Use that to inspire you and get you through. There's nothing like going through Plebe Summer to build comradery between people! In the academic year, it would be the same thing, but there are a lot of more perks as well--time off the Yard, freedom, and waking yourself up.

Keep in mind that every company does things a little differently, so yours might not do quite as many planks as mine did. I'm sure you will be doing some though, so it's great that you're starting early. Good luck!
 

Cap. J

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Answers vary for everyone. Worst - lack of sleep. Best - friendships.

Cap. J - what are the current rules on Plebe and sleep? I know they were looking at changing things up to allow more sleep.

Great question.
Over the summer, you sleep from 2200 to 0530. Don't worry about going to bed later than that--you detailers will make sure you don't. It's not the best, but it's not the worst either. It does not feel like that much sleep because of how much you have been doing throughout the day. They always griped at us for being sleepy because "you get more sleep than anyone in the academic year," but that does not have to be true. In the ac year you have to be asleep at 2300, but it's a lot more lenient. You decide how much sleep you get then by how much work you do beforehand. We have to be up before 0530 and 0700 depending on the day and what we have going on, and you get to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays.
They just changed the rules for napping this year, and we are all glad that they did. Beforehand, Plebes could not re-enter their racks until TAPS at night, but now they can during any free academic period to nap (of course this is only during the academic year). Thanks for the question.
 

NavyHoops

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Naps as a Plebe! That would of made life so much better for me. I know lots of old grads gripe about the change, but I think it's for the better if a Plebe can time manage. The cycle that I see so many Mids getting in (and college kids in general) is they nap so much then stay up all night and then can't stay awake in class. Not a good path.
 

Brawny77

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You will be chanting "Plebe No More" before you know it Cap. J! Good luck on your last plebe semester.
 

yellowjacket

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J- One can only hope to be in your position next year! What was the hardest classes you took in your first semester?
 

sean_k01

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Cap. J, congratulations on completing your first semester at Annapolis, and I have one question, since you've been there and I haven't yet. Out of all of the plebes that you became closer to, how many of you guys stuck through it, and how many dropped out?
 

Cap. J

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J- One can only hope to be in your position next year! What was the hardest classes you took in your first semester?
Sorry for the late responses, my days are getting busy again! I struggled the most with chemistry and calculus (surprise!), but I eventually learned great study habits and ended up doing way better at the end of the year than I thought that I would be able to do. I wish I had a hidden secret for success in these classes, but honestly you just have to put in the work and get organized to do well. Don't be scared about it, though. It gets easier as time goes on!
 

Cap. J

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Cap. J, congratulations on completing your first semester at Annapolis, and I have one question, since you've been there and I haven't yet. Out of all of the plebes that you became closer to, how many of you guys stuck through it, and how many dropped out?
Good question, as I had no idea what the numbers would have looked like when I was in your position! I only know of one person who chose to leave, and he was in my company over the summer. He left pretty late for some personal reasons, so I did not know for sure his decision process. It was not because he was struggling to complete life as a Plebe. My thought process on quitting was just the fact that everyone here wants you to succeed, so you're never in this alone. The only one who can make you quit is yourself, and that was something that I held on to. Keep in mind that life does get way better and there is a normal, happy world a few hundred yards away. You come here to keep it that way.
 

Cap. J

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Good question, as I had no idea what the numbers would have looked like when I was in your position! I only know of one person who chose to leave, and he was in my company over the summer. He left pretty late for some personal reasons, so I did not know for sure his decision process. It was not because he was struggling to complete life as a Plebe. My thought process on quitting was just the fact that everyone here wants you to succeed, so you're never in this alone. The only one who can make you quit is yourself, and that was something that I held on to. Keep in mind that life does get way better and there is a normal, happy world a few hundred yards away. You come here to keep it that way.
For your information, that's roughly 1 person out of 80.
 

carter2000

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Cap J I went to a academy day where I got to talk to a couple of recent grads. One said the food wasn't too good and the other said he liked the food. What do you think of it? Can you order a pizza once in a while? Sorry if that's a dumb question. I was just wondering.
 

Capt MJ

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Cap J I went to a academy day where I got to talk to a couple of recent grads. One said the food wasn't too good and the other said he liked the food. What do you think of it? Can you order a pizza once in a while? Sorry if that's a dumb question. I was just wondering.

I had to chuckle at this one - drive by Gate 1 most any evening, and there are mids waiting for Papa John or Jimmy John's. USNA is a govt institution, allotted x dollars/head to feed 4200 plus/minus mids. You will get institutional food. Just like anywhere else, much depends if you are picky about food or just happy to have chow. There are mid favorites; I think Buff Chicks are currently in vogue. You are eating fast, because you have a million things to do.
Mids hit the Mid Store where the snack aisles are well stocked, as well as the Drydock snack bar. There is also a place inside Bancroft Hall (dorm) whose name just escaped me, but is an after-hours snack bar.

USNA does make an effort to offer variety, vegetarian options, and be responsive to mid feedback. It's a challenge.

Just outside Gate 1, there is downtown Annapolis (DTA) and lots of great places. When mids have town liberty, they can be found in DTA, or near the mall areas, where the usual franchises abound.

If you decide to take advantage of the sponsor program, you might luck out with great home-cooked meals there.

If your family is famous for delicious home cooking, you will miss it. If your family taught you how to make EZ Mac at age 10 and great food wasn't a priority, then you might be perfectly happy with USNA chow.

It's a personal thing, all in the eye of the beholder, or ... mouth of the taster?
 

serendipityRN

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If your family is famous for delicious home cooking, you will miss it. If your family taught you how to make EZ Mac at age 10 and great food wasn't a priority, then you might be perfectly happy with USNA chow.
?

My plebe is not a fan of the food but I think what he most misses most is doing his own cooking. I let his sponsor parents know that he is a fairly talented chef and now he cooks at their house, which seems to make him and them both happy. He said that the food is fine just bland and very cafeteria style as you would expect.
 

nuensis

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There are days when you get ten pizza bagels for twelve grown adults. Or lunch is hamsters and there's eight hamsters. Or the evening meal for Sunday is pizza, and you see the same pizza for lunch on Monday, with the boxes singed because they just tossed the whole box in there.

Both quality and quantity were an issue at times. Mids would have to raid leftovers from other tables (especially the team tables) at rolling tray. Don't know if that was corrected in the recent semester, but I personally sent up plenty of comment cards. Commandant started frying Mids that took stuff (cereal packs, oatmeal, etc) out of King Hall outside of meal hours as well, which was disappointing. Brigade Feedback chalked it up to fiscal constraints.

Drydock and Steerage. Steerage for upperclassmen. Fill up those yard cards (or plain old cash works too), your mid will love you forever.
 
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Capt MJ

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Way back in the day, one of the Navy's A school's (basic training) for enlisted mess cooks was at USNA. Everything was made from scratch, including bakery products, soups, etc. Plenty of labor. All meals were mandatory, except for some weekend meals, so getting an accurate head count for meal-planning was easier. It was also the only source of food. Now, of course, the function has been outsourced to a contractor, who has contracted to feed x meals at y dollars and still has to turn a profit. Minimum labor, low-cost meals, pre-cooked bulk menu items, "creative leftovers," etc.

The Navy had its own dairy farm which produced its own milk, butter and ice cream until the 90's, I believe. That was a holdover from long ago to protect against certain diseases. The Navy still owns the land but leases it out.
 

Sandydesert

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Regarding the question about food: My plebe likes most of the food that is served. He was particularly impressed one week when Maryland held a statewide " Crab Fisherman Appreciation Week". USNA served crabcakes for dinner to everyone.
 
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