Not Quite Ready For The Coast Guard Academy?
by U.S. Coast Guard Academy
June 23, 2021
The college experience can be a grueling academic gauntlet for
any young person striking out on their own. For most, those trials
don’t include carrying a heavy log.
Cadets at the
Guard Academy (CGA) bear the load of academics, athleticism and a
mastery of military skills, a balancing act reserved for the
tenacious students that are admitted. Before the famed log carry
that concludes Swab Summer, a worthy few within each class commit to
an extraordinary effort to prepare for the service academy
Academy Scholars (CGAS) Program sends students for one year of
preparatory school to develop academically, physically, and
U.S. Coast Guard Academy Scholars walk between morning classes at Georgia Military College at an unspecified date. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photo.)
Designed to develop the
necessary foundation for success as a CGA cadet, the program begins
with a rigorous three-week orientation at the Academy’s campus in
New London, Connecticut, after which 70 Cadet Candidates are sent to
Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama, the Naval Academy
Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island or Georgia Military
College in Milledgeville, Georgia.
Maybe they were a military kid with math credits that did not quite
add up after all those relocations, or maybe the inertia of their
high school physics coursework needs to be advanced. With collegiate
needs as unique as their individual backgrounds, a single academic
year spent at one of the three preparatory schools is often more
than enough to bridge the person they are with the cadet they will
Each future cadet works with a Coast Guard mentor
through every phase of their prep year.
“The goal of the Coast Guard Academy Scholars
Program is to get every single one of those students to and more
importantly through the Academy,” said Chris McMunn, the Associate
Director for Operations at the Academy’s Admissions Office. McMunn,
who graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1997, stressed the
individual level of support given to each of these scholars. The
year at the prep schools ensures an equitable start to the Academy
experience, “We want them [CGAS Cadet Candidates] to not just
survive, we want them to thrive once they get to CGA. We know how
challenging the first year at the Academy is for anyone, so we set
them up for success.”
Once selected for the CGAS Program,
the future cadet candidates are matched with the preparatory school
that best offers the opportunity for not just academic but also
personal growth, taking extracurricular programs like aviation
training, music and performing arts groups, or athletic teams with
strength & conditioning regimes into consideration.
staff coordinate a calendar of both in-person and virtual visits,
morale boosting and professional development outings, immersive
Academy experiences, and maintain a close partnership with each prep
school’s liaison officer.
The support from CGAS staff
includes running a switchboard of resources: directing students to
online and on-campus tutoring, prep school academic staff and
assets, and providing a steady person-to-person connection, familiar
with the complexity of a civilian to military transition.
addition to support with navigating academic matters, the Coast
Guard’s senior leaders stationed in areas surrounding the prep
schools have been known to check in on their future coworkers.
According to McMunn, the visits not only motivate and help the
students remain connected to their chosen service, but they also
sometimes result in a professional connection that lasts well beyond
the prep school experience.
“We obviously believe there is
something special about these individuals. The Commandant of the
Coast Guard, our [CGA] Superintendent, district commanders, and
local area commanding officers have visited the prep schools,”
McMunn said. “We want every single cadet candidate to be successful.
If there is something they are struggling with, we are going to open
multiple lines of communication for them to tell us. This is not a
journey that we are expecting them to make alone.”
well beyond VIP visitors, formal mentorship pairings have played an
important role in the high retention and graduation rates of the
CGAS Program. McMunn explained both the personal and professional
support that mentors provide, “We assign individual mentors at both
the cadet and junior officer level. By pairing them up with a cadet
who was in the [CGAS] program just two or three years ago, each
cadet candidate has direct access to someone who knows exactly what
they’re going through because they did it themselves.”
Junior officer mentors are often CGAS or CGA alum, but also include
direct-to-commission officers with careers or backgrounds that align
with the CGAS Scholar. The wizened teammates help their CGAS mentees
understand the long game, “They have the perspective of time and can
tell them, ‘I understand your calculus exam or room inspection is
going to be hard this week, but this is why you’re doing those kinds
of things now. These are some of the amazing experiences and
opportunities that are over the horizon and waiting for you in the
Coast Guard,’” McMunn said.
Lieutenant Brandon Strickland,
the CGAS Program Manager, serves as the primary CGAS point of
contact in the ecosystem of resources built around these students.
“We are sounding boards, we are mentors, we are guides, but what’s
most important about all this is that we’re getting them partnered
with the right organizations that care about the same kinds of
things that we do, that share our core values.”
While most participating in the CGAS Program would be
considered traditional students ... headed straight from high school
to the collegiate path ... the CGAS prep school pipeline was initially
built for enlisted members who had stepped away from the formal
academic environment while serving.
While not as common
today as it was in the past, the junior enlisted to CGAS Cadet
Candidate transfer does occur every year. The military bearing and
maturity that these experienced enlisted-to-cadets bring to the
Academy often results in immediate recognition from their cadet
colleagues, many being selected as class president or filling other
leadership roles among the Corps.
CGAS AT A GLANCE
- 20+ year old program
- About 60 future cadets complete prep school
- Average CGA graduation rate is 88% – the same as CGA
cadets who didn’t go to prep school
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