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| Perhaps it is a repetitive cliche, but the Naval Academy is truly a good place to be from, and at times a bad place to be at. It is a difficult academic experience compared to what your typical college entails; the demands of the military education and standards clearly infringe on academic study. An unprepared or undiciplined student will either have to learn quickly and adapt or will have a difficult, miserable time.|
This all being said, I enjoyed my time at the school. I believe I received a superb, well rounded education. I know that the diploma opens doors and is highly regarded in both the post-graduate academic world and the business world. The Naval Academy exists, however, to produce officers to fight our country's wars. You will be tossed into that role after school, and the relevance of USNA to your job as a military officer will be minimal, at best. I am a history major, and I fly jets. Classmates who were "leaders" and well ranked at USNA now are ridiculous and unrespected as leaders of enlisted troops, while many "underachievers" have gone on to be stellar officers and leaders of men. It will not build you into a "leader," but you will learn to manage time and cope with the bull$hit of military life. By neccesity.
I don't think the USNA is an institution that builds character, so much as one that reveals it in an artifical environment you will never encounter again. It is difficult, but rewarding. It will hold you to a standard of physical and mental fitness you cannot get at any other school. I reccomend the school, but attend for the right reasons. Don't go because your family pressures you, or you want to fly jets, or just to be an officer. These can all be accomplished more simply at ROTC or OCS programs. Go only if you want the challenge, you want to serve your country, and you are willing and ambitious enough to parley your academy ring into something important down the road. And don't forget to hit ACME Bar & Grill as often as possible. The collection of drunkards, WUBAs, skanks and false Jimmy Buffet afficianados makes the experience tolerable. Say hi to Bobby!
|Dec 28 2004|| Alumnus Male --
Class 2000 |
| As of the new Supt and Dant, this place will test you, but it will reward you accordingly. Nights of sleeping at 2200 every day are completely possible if you have 15 credits. You can even have a whole day of school off every week provided that you validated a considerable amount. The workload is what you make of it. You can put efficient and wholesome effort into it and you will understand it, but you might be sleeping at 2400. You can completely skip homework and readings and you can either ace the course or barely pass it (or fail). Honestly, provided the varieties of skill sets available here, you will often be humbled by the person you thought was a dirtbag. On another note, the professors are, on the whole, amazing. Most (and I mean most) will bump your grade up if you show considerable improvement and/or effort. However, it goes the other way as well. If you are a sleeper (as most of midshipmen are) then your professor might not be as inclined to do so. They are availible pretty much from 0600 to 2400, so it is amazing considering the extra instruction and Mid Group Study Program. You will be challenged to balance your workload between academics and professional duties, so time management is a great skill to have, but is often not necessary. Overall, the academy is here to foster whatever attitude you have toward it. If you are a go-getter and are able to orient yourself toward success, you will succeed with the faculty and your shipmates to augment your experience. This helps especially if you want to intern with the NSA, FBI, or CIA over the summer or if you want to conduct undergraduate research (which looks really good for postgrad. We have a lot of MIT, Stanford, Harvard bound mids here. In the end, regardless of the work, it is always comforting to know that there is a weekend life. (Video games help during the week) |
|May 16 2011|| 1st Year Male --
Class 2014 |
| Right up front I will tell you that I bailed after plebe year. It was not that I didn't like the place; I simply decided that I did not want to be a naval officer.|
I am a woman, and I entered plebe summer in 1982. I tell you that also because I know that the atmosphere for women then is fundamentally different than it is now. It was damn hard being a woman at USNA in 1982. We were always thought of as weaker, slower, less able, less motivated, more demanding of time and resources. In my experience this was no more true for us than for our male classmates. But there it is. Despite that, I loved plebe summer. Well, I hated it too, but I loved it. It's hard to explain until you've been there, done that. How many 17 and 18-year-olds get a chance to push themselves mentally and physically FAR, FAR past what even these bright, motivated, fit people think is possible? How many times can you say you've developed friendships that last to this day, over 20 years now, within six weeks of meeting someone? How often can you say you would do literally anything for a classmate, even when you don't really know them, because you've shared adversity and accomplishment? Sure, it sucked (P-rades in whiteworks alpha on humid, still, 90-degree evenings especially blew), but it always passed, and every time I got to say, "Well, I survived that...I wonder what else I can do?" Chow calls, rack races, chopping in mother B...it's a little frightening that I can still pop off a chow call 22 years after I was there.
I loved the academics. My classes were all small, and try getting a small class as a freshman at a state university anywhere. The worst professor I had was competent but boring. The best one was...wow, just fantastic. My one complaint is that at least for plebe year, the courses were quite rote -- we used to call it plug and chug. (All plebes, or fourth classmen, or freshmen, take the same schedule of classes unless one validates courses -- there is no transfer credit). You choose your major in the middle of second semester plebe year, or technically they choose your major, but everyone generally gets their first choice. ECAs (extracurricular activities) were many and varied, and I highly recommend that all plebes get into at least one or two things. It gets you away from Mother B, where you're getting harassed all the time by uppers.
Physical ed was uniformly despised by mids, or at least they said so. I found PE classes fun and cool and demanding. The one thing that blew then, that they have since changed, is the lame self-defense class for women (the men got boxing and wrestling). The requirements for women and men are exactly the same academically and ethically. There are only slight adjustments to uniform and grooming standards and to performance on the twice-yearly physical fitness test. Saturday mornings were reserved for company training time, which meant a time for the plebes to get training. Most of that was actually fun. We'd do stupid shit like parade practice and close-order drill (which WAS uniformly despised by all mids except the tools), but most of the time we'd do stuff like fieldball (a cross between rugby and dodgeball), company runs, hide-and-seek (not kidding, it's a great recondo exercise when it's a large chunk of the campus), sailing, stuff like that. Summers are devoted to class "cruises", where you get fleet experience on naval vessels and with Marine units.
There are a lot of rules and regs when you're a plebe. Plebes don't "rate" (deserve or get) much of anything, including daytime rack time. Sleep in the library or a deserted classroom instead. Plebes must be in the uniform of the day at all times, including on liberty and departing on or returning from leave -- right down to a uniform for sleeping. Inspections suck but you'll be attentive to detail like you would not believe long after you stop getting inspected all the time. You can have a sponsor family, a local family you can visit to get away for a little while, and that really helps. The food was okay to poor when I was there, I've heard that it has since improved. Contrary to what you might think, though, upperclassmen generally stop harassing plebes by late September or so, as long as you're doing your job consistently. You learn pretty quick that having no excuse is not just a chance to get flamed, it's a chance for you to figure out what went wrong and do something else instead. There's a lot of power to removing all your emotional attachments to how you think things should be, and just doing what works, and you find out in the meantime that no one expects you to be a robot.Like I said, I just decided I didn't want to be a naval officer. I did great academically, pretty well physically and fine militarily -- all three of these are used to evaluate your place in the order of merit, which, in large part, determines your service selection and first duty station after graduation. This illustrates another odd paradox: you learn from day one that no one gets through this place on his or her own, but things are also incredibly competitive: individually, through the OOM, and all the way up through squad, company, and brigade. They are dead serious about turning out excellent naval officers and excellent human beings. It wasn't always pleasant, and there were many days where my mantra was "IHTFP", and the day my class climbed Herndon is still a highlight of my life. Although I only went for a year, I credit that year for instilling a work ethic and a dedication to acting as a principled, thoughtful, engaged citizen of the USA and of the world. I am still friends with several of my classmates.
|Nov 30 2004|| Alumna Female --
Class 2000 |