Very good students?

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Hi all. New to the forums as a poster. So much good info as a lurker these past couple of months, although it's made me a little obsessed! :(
My DS is applying to USMA. He's a very good student. 35 ACT, probably will super score to 36 next month. Highly ranked in a top NJ public high school. Solid athlete, good CFA score.

I worry he's going to find a lot of academy kids not super academically prepared. I know this is going to come off as coastal elite and obnoxious and likely insulting. But if you look at the average scores, they are what they are. They are considerably lower than any other school he's looking at. Yes, I know they look at the whole person, and the experience goes well beyond the classroom. That's why I am in favor of his going to USMA and know he will benefit if he's fortunate enough to be appointed.

But, the fact remains that many of the kids are not top tier academically. I know scores aren't everything, but if you're going to respond to this thread, I'd rather you talk about how YOUR academically very bright DS or DD found the classes / academics at USMA, rather than quibble with my interpretation of what are materially lower standardized test scores than other top schools he's looking at.

Thank you.
 

Cookiemom

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There are Jedi classes. Most difficult. My DS was put in jedi math and physics due to testing results. He had to work his *** off in those classes.

He had a 34 act in math.
 
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Thanks for the reply. Learning the ways of the Jedi sure would be useful!
That's good to know. That was my assumption, that especially at higher level classes, he would be challenged and the professors would identify and challenge the better academic students.
Thanks again.
 

Capt MJ

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At USNA, there is a “UK Scholars” group, and I am confident there is a similar group nurtured at USMA. This group identifies high academic performers early on, and mentors the group with hand-picked faculty. This is the group that goes after Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall, degrees at Oxford, Cambridge, Trinity, MIT, Stanford, Harvard, etc. and a whole host of other post-grad opportunities, for the handful of new grads who are permitted to do this immediately after graduation on the Navy/Marine Corps dime and time.
 
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Thanks, Capt MJ. The other reason I am fully supportive of his going is that it's very clear that the higher-performing academic kids certainly have amazing opportunities for further scholarship. I know my initial post was probably construed by some as negative, but it definitely isn't. I'm super excited, if he gets appointed. I feel like the process can go any which way though, so trying not to get my hopes up.
 

cptenca

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I think you will find challenges available for all students. You will also find the more academically gifted will find each other and challenge themselves. Mine were not in that category so take that for what it’s worth.

When you compare average scores you have to look at the individual schools’ missions. USMA’s mission is not to produce the most Rhodes Scholars in the country. Nor is an Ivy League school’s mission to produce quality Army Officers although both can do exactly that. USMA average test scores include, for example, enlisted Soldiers who showed promise to become officers not necessarily through their academic prowess. There are other variables that go into scores at the other institutions that make it difficult to compare apples to apples.

Ultimately the decision will come down to what do you want to do for the 5 years after college.
 
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Yep, agreed and I do understand that. I just want him to be academically challenged and not just challenged because of the enormity of what they have to do while they're there. I think the way USMA does its class composition makes a lot of sense (though maybe too much emphasis on recruited athletes, but that's a whole other topic across all colleges).
 

NervousMother

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I’ve got a really academically talented hopeful as well. I worry more that all his life he’s been the “one” kid at his school with the excellent grades, the crazy high test scores, the hard classes. It’s going to be such a seismic shift in his world to be surrounded by such high caliber students. In his essay, he talks a lot about how that’s something he is really looking forward to.
I’m also on a different page as far as academic challenge. I’m looking forward to him being challenged in other ways besides academics. Learning to balance and lead, learning to fail a little. I don’t know how much more academically challenging one school can be over another, frankly. Calculus is calculus.
 
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I’ve got a really academically talented hopeful as well. I worry more that all his life he’s been the “one” kid at his school with the excellent grades, the crazy high test scores, the hard classes. It’s going to be such a seismic shift in his world to be surrounded by such high caliber students. In his essay, he talks a lot about how that’s something he is really looking forward to.
I’m also on a different page as far as academic challenge. I’m looking forward to him being challenged in other ways besides academics. Learning to balance and lead, learning to fail a little. I don’t know how much more academically challenging one school can be over another, frankly. Calculus is calculus.

Clearly *I'm* not too smart, since it took me my 4th reply to see the quote button!
I'm most excited about the leadership aspect and he's most excited by the prospect of everyone being focused. He doesn't waste a lot of time and wants to be around other driven people.
But I would disagree that calculus is calculus, especially across a wide variety of class subjects like history, sciences etc. The professor can make the class a lot more interesting if he's leading kids forward rather than teaching remedial stuff, and the kids benefit from smart discussion in class amongst their peers.

This is something I worried about a few months ago but have definitely gotten very comfortable with it. My post is just my curiosity of how other parents have thought about it. I appreciate all the thoughtful replies.
 

Capt MJ

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Taking the really long view, none of the academic stuff matters as much as cadets and midshipmen maturing into capable leaders who look after their troops, who exhibit integrity and steadfastness as they carry out their duties, and most critically, performing well in chaotic operational situations. Give me someone who gets the mission, can think on their feet, leads well, is respected by peers and troops, is proficient in their warrior skills and ethically sound, and everything else that happened back at their SA or ROTC school fades into insignificance.
 
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Taking the really long view, none of the academic stuff matters as much as cadets and midshipmen maturing into capable leaders who look after their troops, who exhibit integrity and steadfastness as they carry out their duties, and most critically, performing well in chaotic operational situations. Give me someone who gets the mission, can think on their feet, leads well, is respected by peers and troops, is proficient in their warrior skills and ethically sound, and everything else that happened back at their SA or ROTC school fades into insignificance.

yep, agreed with that as well. It's less the book learnin' than being challenged by others and it sounds like he certainly will be. I appreciate all the input and thoughts! I'm hoping it works out. But don't worry, I won't bother posting a "Assess my appointment chances?" post ;)
 

justdoit19

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Inquiring in an admissions visit with both of you would be a good idea, imo. To make sure you both go in with eyes wide open. I hear a lot about “the caliber of students” from parents. Truth be told, there are all sorts of “caliber of students” at a SA, as well as any college. There are bad eggs in every bunch. Thinking a SA is a perfect place of ONLY honorable, high achieving students is not reality.

Additionally, part of a student’s ultimate OOM is their ability to get along with others and be a team player. Which is beyond their academic achievements. So contributing to the team, perhaps at the expense of their own advancement in a given situation, is a “thing”. IOW, perhaps a student with a lower grade may actually do better overall than the one with all A’s.

DS had a roommate for a bit, one of (if not THE) the smartest in his whole 1,200-ish class. But the kid was not liked. Received counseling (or whatever it’s called) about getting along with others. Ranked the lowest by peers and upperclass.

Point of my post, is that I believe this is a big difference at a SA vs regular college. Regular college you are competing against your classmates. At a SA, you are competing WITH your classmates. Different attitude/mission. A very important difference depending on what your DS’s goals are.

BTW, IG my DS’s would be considered one of your ‘lower caliber students’ by your standards.....but he is rocking it at his SA. ‘Ya never know who will succeed! It’s more than standardized test scores and GPA. I also guarantee your DS would be challenged and not bored.
 
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Inquiring in an admissions visit with both of you would be a good idea, imo. To make sure you both go in with eyes wide open. I hear a lot about “the caliber of students” from parents. Truth be told, there are all sorts of “caliber of students” at a SA, as well as any college. There are bad eggs in every bunch. Thinking a SA is a perfect place of ONLY honorable, high achieving students is not reality.

Additionally, part of a student’s ultimate OOM is their ability to get along with others and be a team player. Which is beyond their academic achievements. So contributing to the team, perhaps at the expense of their own advancement in a given situation, is a “thing”. IOW, perhaps a student with a lower grade may actually do better overall than the one with all A’s.

DS had a roommate for a bit, one of (if not THE) the smartest in his whole 1,200-ish class. But the kid was not liked. Received counseling (or whatever it’s called) about getting along with others. Ranked the lowest by peers and upperclass.

Point of my post, is that I believe this is a big difference at a SA vs regular college. Regular college you are competing against your classmates. At a SA, you are competing WITH your classmates. Different attitude/mission. A very important difference depending on what your DS’s goals are.

BTW, IG my DS’s would be considered on of your lower caliber students by your standards....but he is rocking it at his SA. ‘Ya never know who will succeed! It’s more than standardized test scores and GPA. I also guarantee your DS would be challenged and not bored.

Also very helpful, and that certainly makes a ton of sense given the mission.
 

THParent

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NJDadofDSUSMA2024Hopeful said:
...he will benefit if he's fortunate enough to be appointed...
Thousands find out how big an "if" that is every year, when they receive that thin white envelope. Best of luck to him.
 
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davejean90

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First of all, I am not going to try to talk you or your son into going to West Point. Your son needs to get as much information as possible and make a decision if offered. I will tell you this much that if your attitude is transferred down to him and he lets that get out to an admission representative you will not have to worry. Standardized scores at West Point tend to be lower because the academy admits enlisted soldiers and under-represented minorities whose test scores tend to be lower than students from affluent families. Because of this I think that USMA is, as Teddy Roosevelt said, absolutely American. Cadets at USMA encounter the most diverse group of students they will ever see and not be cloistered in an ivory tower full of students with high test scores. And that is a good thing, because wait until a graduate gets commissioned and enters the US Army. Not a lot of high test scores among the enlisted soldiers and NCOs. But, although those soldiers and NCOs can be frustrating to dealer with, in total there is not a more loyal and inspiring group that you will ever work with. The point of USMA is to create officers who will lead those soldiers. By the way many of those test scores are driven higher because more fortunate students are able to attend ACT/SAT prep sessions where they are taught test shortcuts and ways to program the calculator in order to move quicker through the test. Now your DS may be a natural 36, but most high scores are products of multiple attempts and tutor sessions.
 

GH148

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^^^^^^^ Is exactly right, spot on to be exact. My DD (Plebe Year now) was somewhat in the same academic boat, however the fellow Cadets she most respects and talks about are those who were prior service and enlisted. You can not underestimate what those, perhaps lower scoring, prior enlisted soldiers bring to the more academically inclined Cadets (at least initially).
 

Dadx4

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My DS had comparable numbers and chose USMA over all other schools (Ivy, top tier, etc). In fact, when his SAT was near 1500, his regional officer wrote to him and wanted higher scores before an appointment was offered. My DS wants to be an Army Officer and is proactively making that happen. Leadership is accomplishing the mission through others' achievements. Leaders inspire others to be better.
 

tug_boat

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Very interesting conversation going on here. Two of my sons fall into different categories. My oldest son had enlisted. He wanted a full experience with the Army and is very successful (how ever you want debate success). He was asked if he was interested in attending WP and he took the challenge. His younger brother had very high school academics that were above the base line for his class. However, due to the competitiveness of receiving a nomination in our area he didn't receive a nom and attended NWP. On his second application he received a nom and acceptance into WP. Southern California is very competitive in sports and academics. Where as other areas of our great USA are not. Its easier to receive a nomination lets say Montana than California. Since Montana is less competitive than SoCal a student that can receive a nom and may struggle at WP academics. My second son was identified after affirmation to be gifted. He received a scholarship and finished his masters cum laude and published. He's been asked to tech at WP. This is the same guy who can't tie his own shoes!! But my enlisted/old grad son/ was a 68W with the 82nd and does proudly displayed his CMB badge. He is the hard charger.

What I'm saying is not every Cadet is MacAuthor or a Patton

Everything you see in your community the Army "needs". They need accountants, transportation, security, politicians etc

Every Cadet is evaluated to match the "needs" of the Army.

And as parents, we have no vote on what we want for our Cadet.

Its really about the desire to serve our country.

Push Hard, Press Forward
 
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All great answers. To @davejean90 you don't need to talk me into anything, and my son is 100% enthusiastic. It's easy to say I don't "get it", ie the totality of the place. I do get it. But it's certainly a fair question when the SA's tout not only their leadership and army fitness but also their academics. Do they not? They do. And when you read articles that I'm sure all of us have seen that question the academic commitment of some of the students, it's a fair line of inquiry I've opened up, with which others on this thread have graciously engaged.
I've read a LOT about the students and these issues and these answers reinforced all the positive thoughts I had and why I'm very supportive of his applying to USMA. And despite his grades and total package, I'm not remotely sure he'll get an appointment. NJ, like Southern Cal., is very competitive for nominations and appointments.
I thought it would be interesting to hear all these perspectives, including yours for sure, and you guys didn't disappoint!
 
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