Alrighty... here we go.
1. I read on last years prospectus of the incoming class that 35 students applied as transfers and to my amazement all 35 were excepted. Now I understand they obviously fit the bill VMI was looking for, but is it normal that all 35 were accepted?
I can't answer this one, but I do know a number of cadets who spent a year or more at another college/university before coming to VMI. Some of them miss their previous freedoms, but several prefer the structure that VMI offers.
2. As a transfer student, I would have to enter the ratline with the entering freshman class. Would I just live my first year there as all rats/fourth class men would? (sharing quarters, etc.?)
You will be a member of whatever class you go through the Ratline with. VMI has a much stronger class identity than the other academies/SMCs, from what I can tell. They all seem to identify a lot more with their companies, but at VMI, it's all about the class.
I think the reason is that we're so much smaller, comparatively. The Commandant of Cadets told me tonight that the Corps started off spring semester with 1325 cadets living in barracks. I'm not talking about a class... that's our entire Corps
. An incoming class has 425-450 rats, on average. Four years later, somewhere around 250 will graduate. By the time Ring Figure came around in November of Second Class year (we get our rings before any of the other schools), I knew everyone in my class. I may not have had a conversation with all of them, but I at least recognized their faces and had names to go along with them.
Your closest bonds will probably be your Brother Rats within your company. But when you meet Alumni, the first thing you'll ask each other is what class you're a member of. Sometime later in the conversation you'll probably mention what company you were in, but again, it's all about the class. I have no idea what company Bruno was in, but I can tell you that he's Class of '80. And based on that, I can throw out a couple of names of guys who were there around the same time he was, to see who we know in common (COL Trumps '79, LTC Levenson '81, LTC Funkhouser '82... all currently serving on the Commandant's Staff).
3. Upon completion of my first year, is it possible to apply for something such as a reinstatement to my rightful academic class (2012/09 +3)?
As far as academics go, there is no official application process. Next year, you would be considered an academic Third Classman (sophomore) even though you're in the Ratline.
For the Class System, no. You'll be with the Class of 2013 (10+3) forever. Even if you graduate with the Class of 2012, you'll be wearing the Class of '13's ring, because you'll be a member of that class.
It all sounds strange now, but trust me... you won't want to wear '12's ring when the time comes. You'll want to go through everything with your Brother Rats, wearing a ring that your class designed to commemorate your experiences.
4. Lastly, being one year "senior" with prior college experience under my belt. Would I be a rat taking my normal second year classes that I would be just as if I had been there from the get go?
This depends on your major. They'll have you fill out some paperwork to get course equivilancies and such, and then your academic advisor (normally a professor within your department) will determine where to go from there. You may or may not receive credit for all your courses. Some of the department heads are picky, but didn't you mention that you're transferring from ODU? They should transfer over nicely, if you're continuing in the same major.
You'll be taking classes with some upperclassmen, but don't let that scare you off. I had advanced credit and wound up in PO-314 American Government as a rat. I got there early the first day and picked a desk near the front of the classroom so I wouldn't be intimidated by all the upperclassmen surrounding me. Then as my luck had it, the dude who sat down next to me was the Regimental Commander and Honor Court Vice President. If I can be brave and speak up in class sitting next to Cadet Captain Mark T. Searles (an International Studies major from Woodbridge, VA... you'll get used to hearing narrations like that during parades
), you can too!