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Freshman Files: First Year at a Service Academy

February 8th, 2016

Another of our students has graciously agreed to share notes about the first-year experience, and this student’s experience is far from typical. Today’s blog contributor, Jack Rawlins, chose a nontraditional college path when he accepted an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point. It would be an understatement to say that the rigors of military training and education are different from life as he knew it previously, yet Jack is undaunted. You’ll note his emphasis on the tightly structured program, typical of life at the service academies.

The West Point experience is very different from what I had expected. Beast Barracks (our initial 6 week training over the summer) was both mentally and physically challenging, but it is the academic year that is most taxing. We wake up at 0500 or 0530 every day to perform “plebe duties,” which consist of taking out the trash, collecting laundry, and cleaning common areas. After 0630 breakfast, we have classes until 12, followed by lunch. From 1250 to 1340 we have a testing block, followed by classes until 1555. From 1615 to 1800 we have athletics. From 1800 to 1900 we can go to optional dinner or order pizza or something like that. From 1930 to taps (2130) there is a mandatory study period for underclassmen. On weekends we are free to do homework and relax. However, we are not allowed to leave post without submitting a pass request, and underclassmen only get three per semester.

Despite these time constraints, I have found my first semester to be extremely rewarding. West Point is exactly the atmosphere I need to succeed. I have learned so much in so little time and am looking forward to the next three and a half years. We pick our majors next week, and I am planning on economics, engineering management, or electrical engineering.

Ultimately, the best things that I’ve gotten out of my college experience are the bonds with fellow cadets. West Point students experience hardships and difficulties that just aren’t an issue at the majority of other colleges.

We’re inspired by Jack’s willingness to deploy his talents in the nation’s interest and look forward to his updates, knowing that he’ll continue to encounter great challenges and success. U.S. service academies present exceptional opportunities and require an exceptional degree of accomplishment and commitment. Thank you, Jack, for choosing a path that will benefit our nation and for allowing us to share a snapshot of your experiences with the Shrop Ed community.

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