High school graduation season is upon us here in the South. For families with a student who will attend The Citadel in the Fall that means the annual scavenger hunt for items on the Success Packet “Clothing /Personal Items” list is about to begin. As of this writing the list for the Class of 2020 is not available. The list for the Class of 2019 is still on the school website. The basic items like underwear, socks, flat white sheets have not changed in years. For tips on these items you can see my previous post here. The Freshman Assessments and Placements link is updated for the Class of 2020.
Preparing for knob year to begin is different than other college freshman, for both the student and the parents. Since I’ve never been a cadet, but I am the parent of a graduate, I can best speak to what it’s like for parents.
The transition from high school to college is a big step for any family. Sending a child to a military college feels more like a HUGE leap, especially if you are not familiar with the military. I learned early in the process that The Citadel is a Leadership College. That means the students are expected to take responsibility for their actions/in action.
For parents it means learning to let go and let them take control of their life. With the advent of electronic media, cell phones, Skype, Facetime, texting families are more connected than ever. When I went off to college in the summer of 1977 I was 7 hours from home and shared a land line with my roommates. I spoke to my parents once a week on average. I’ve heard stories from graduates of The Citadel from that same time period who talked of waiting in long lines to make a call home on a pay phone then only have a few minutes to talk. While cadets can now have cell phones and have computers in their rooms, the first year knobs cannot use their phones and computers at will. This is a major adjustment for many families.
For parents of incoming knobs if you are used to constant communication with your student begin cutting back on the daily communication now. If you don’t already, allow your son or daughter to take control of the decisions that impact them directly. When Matriculation Day arrives you will not hear from your knob for at least a week. Keep in mind that parents who send their child off to enlist in the Army don’t hear from their son or daughter for weeks.
A couple of things you can do now to ease your anxiety over this transition is to join a couple of parent Facebook groups. I administer a group for Parents of the Class of 2020. Go to the page and request to join, then send me an email to let me know you are the parent of a cadet. Only new parents are approved to the group. No cadets, extended family, or parents of upperclass cadets are admitted in. It is a safe place to meet other new parents and ask questions. I’ve invited some trusted friends who are parents of graduates to help answer questions. Once you are in the group for 2020 parents, join the Citadel Family Association (CFA) page. They will post helpful information throughout the year. The Citadel and Citadel Photography are good pages for you and extended family members to follow for photos and campus news.
The tendency for most parents is to obsess over the list of required items and the “Nice to Have List” in the months leading up to Matriculation Day. When I asked the Parents of the Class of 2019 to pass along their advice to new parents many of then said, do not let yourself get stressed. While I agree with that advice, I have observed over the past eight years since my son was a knob that parents seem to NEED to obsess over the lists. It is far less stressful than focusing on sending your child off to a scary new adventure. So if it helps you to have that list and focus on getting everything (you do not need to get everything on the Nice to have list) go for it. I do encourage you to involve your student in getting the items. If you have a question of whether they want something, ask your student. They are the ones who will have to live through the 4th Class System when you drop them off. Examples of optional items are coffee makers and printers. If you ask five cadets at The Citadel about them you’ll get five different answers. Some like to have a coffee maker or hot pot. Others do not want them. Begin letting go now by asking your son or daughter what they want to do.
While I cannot advise on getting through knob year from personal experience, I have listened to enough send off speeches by alumni to give you a few pointers to pass to your son or daughter. These are basically the same things I’ve written about in previous blog posts. I’ll include a list of links to knob year related blog posts below too.
Break in your shoes. That includes the plain toe black Oxfords, the boots and athletic shoes. The largest single cause of knobs going to the infirmary at the beginning of the year are complications from blisters. Get the shoes now and wear them every day.
Physical Training In addition to breaking in shoes an incoming knob should report being able to meet or exceed the physical training standards. The Physical Fitness web page has very helpful information including the standards the cadets are expected to meet or exceed for weight and physical training. A knob should be able to meet or exceed the number of push ups, sit ups, and run 2 miles in the times listed for their gender and age. Males / Females
Since we have a few months before Matriculation Day this is enough advice for now. In the weeks and months ahead I will share other tips. If you are the parent of an incoming knob, please join the Facebook group for Parents of the Class of 2020. We answer questions daily there. The links below include helpful information for this first year. Read at your own pace. Please remember to always refer to the school web site for the most up to date information.