Each year for the past five years I’ve posted a group to support parents of incoming knobs at The Citadel. It is now time to announce the group for parents of the Class of 2021, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021
Please note the parent groups by class are for the parents/guardians of the incoming cadet recruit (they aren’t cadets until Parents Weekend). While I understand there are family members who are very proud, the groups are limited to the parents only. Family members can follow the school via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat(TheCitadel1842), YouTube, Instagram, and Periscope.
The Citadel Family Association and the Parents page on the school web site are both great resources. Their web sites are accessible to anyone. The page for Freshman Parents features a series of helpful pages linked on the left hand side of the page (when accessed via computer). I highly recommend parents and their high school senior read through the Important Conversation page and watch the video there.
In the weeks and months to come I’ll post additional information and links geared towards new families. Be sure to send me an email or private message via Facebook after you request to join the group for 2021 parents. I verify each request to join the group to make sure only parents and guardians are accepted. Receiving an email makes the approval process go quicker. My email address is: Dorie at dorielgriggs dot com
Once a parent is accepted to the group they are asked to read and acknowledge the post pinned to the top of the page which outlines the basic ground rules for membership in the group.
A note about social media and cadets: It is best to tighten up the security of all social media platforms. Knobs should keep a low profile until their Recognition Day, the day the 4th Class system ends and they become full members of the Corps of Cadets. In addition to security settings an incoming knob should not use any Citadel related hashtags nor should they post photos wearing Citadel apparel.
***2/10/2019 Please note: I am no longer updating the blog posts for Citadel parents. See the official school website for the most up to date information***
Challenge Week is almost over for the Class of 2020. It is a challenge for many parents who are used to regular communication with their son or daughter. This is the week when the new parents are initiated into the time honored tradition of scouring social media in the hope of finding a glimpse of their knob, or as I like to call it The Citadel version of “Where’s Waldo.”
For many families their attention is now moving to Parents Weekend and visits with their cadet recruit. This leads to questions about when knobs can go off campus and when are the best times to visit.
According to the Matriculation Day presentation by General Rosa and Captain Paluso knobs can get off campus for their first general leave August 27. It is a great time for the knobs to get off campus with their new classmates and begin to make memories together. I know each family is different so I won’t tell anyone not to visit, but I will say this, if your student was at another college would you get in your car to go spend the day with them? Let them bond and make memories together. If you do go bring another cadet or two with you for a meal. you’ll enjoy their stories.
Parents’ Weekend is October 7 – 9 this year. Once the schedule of events is posted to the school website I’ll write more about this special weekend. In the meantime you can get an idea of what it is like by reading this previous post. For travel arrangements, keep in mind the knobs can get off campus Friday afternoon around 1:00pm and on Sunday they can stay off campus until about 6:00. This is a huge weekend on campus for the knobs who are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. It is also a huge weekend for the seniors who receive their rings on Friday afternoon. If you haven’t already be sure to get your hotel arrangements settled. You can see this link for some hotel suggestions. AirBnB also has some great options in the area.
When it comes to visiting knob year it is helpful to keep a few things in mind. Knobs want to sleep and eat with they get off campus. Getting to watch TV and just relax is a big treat. Don’t expect them to want to do sight-seeing around town this first year. The major weekends are fun to visit but you don’t get much time with your cadet recruit. If you visit on the Open weekend, that means they do not have a Saturday Morning Inspection (SMI) and can spend Friday evening with you until midnight, Saturday most of the day and Sunday most of the day. The Open weekends for the fall are, Sept 2-4; Sept 16 – 18; Sept 30 – Oct 2; Oct. 21 – 23, and for knobs not on ROTC scholarships, Sept. 23 – 25; and Nov 11 – 13. The ROTC scholarship cadets have training weekends these two weekends. To see the full schedule for the entire year go to the Yearly Planning Calendar on this page. Open means that qualified upperclass cadets can put in for overnights. Closed Weekends means all cadets must be in the barracks each night at the designated time on the training schedule.
In the days leading up to Matriculation Day new parents fall into a few different categories.
The first group is the ones who shopped early.They know their student is going to the school of their choice. While they know they will miss seeing their student the parent understands this is the natural next step in their son or daughter’s road to adulthood. From my experience with new parents this group of parents lay low and don’t post much to Facebook, they read the posts, take what they need and ignore what they don’t. These families tend to be the ones who leave the packing and other preparations to their student aiding as needed. They are also the minority.
The second group of parents are the ones who have read everything at least a zillion times, and join all the related the Facebook groups that they can. Focusing on the Success Packet List and the Nice to Have list tends to be a distraction for this group. They focus on all the items trying to make sure they get everything exactly right. This group tends to be proud of their students decision, but they are very nervous. Being connected with other parents and going over the lists keeps them busy and not obsessed with the fact their child is going to enter one of the most challenging experiences of their young lives.
The third group falls somewhere between groups one or two. They join the Facebook groups, but only ask an occasional question. This group goes from very certain they’ve done what they can to prepare their student to report, but will still visit the lists on occasion.
Families have so many questions before Matriculation Day because it is a huge unknown for them. What I’d like for these parents to know is that there is no one right answer to many of their questions. There are some suggestions that apply to more knobs than others.
For instance, one general rule is to show up with what is on the Success Packet list and what you’d like to bring from the Nice to have List, but do not bring anything that is not on either list. Once your student arrives and gets into their company they will learn that their company has a certain way that particular company does things. It is best to hold off on extras. You can mail them later if they want them. The other thing to remember is that the Cadet Store carries everything they need.
Another thing for all parents to realize is The Citadel is a leadership college. There is a system in place to train the cadets to be leaders. Many of the ways this is accomplished seem odd or illogical for a non-grad or non-military person.
I know it was very hard for me to see the reasoning behind many things they do on campus. I’ve learned from observing all these years that I don’t have to know everything. My son was the one who went through it. He chose this school and it was exactly the place he needed to be. If your child decided this is where they want to spend their college years, they have what it takes to get through it. They will learn the rules and how to succeed.
Once your student is on campus the roles reverse a bit. Parents of knobs have to learn that they will not drive their student’s schedules and how things are done. The knob will have to inform the parents where and what time they can meet them for example. Many times the knobs do not have any control what so ever of their time. They may say they can meet at one time, but then a cadre member, or later, an upperclassmen, will have a task for them to complete before they can leave the battalion. It can be frustrating if you are visiting from out-of-town, but understand this is what life as a knob is like. parents have to learn to be patient and just “Go with the flow.”
The days leading up to Matriculation Day are stressful, but remember each year hundreds of families go through it. Take the next several days and enjoy being with your son or daughter.
Within about 10 days after drop off you’ll hear from them and your questions will change from what to pack to what do you want or need.
Once classes start the most important question for parents to ask their knob is, “How are your studies.” I’ll address that a bit more in a couple of weeks. For now enjoy your time together.
Parents, you won’t want to hear this, but you’ll never get it all right. No knob ever does anything right. As parents you can only do your best to get what is on the lists and then as the song goes, “Let it Go!”
I have not been a knob. I have however watched each year as parents sweat over the Success Packet list and the Nice to Have List. I get it. I really do. You want to do what you can to make sure your son or daughter has what they need to succeed. The secret is, if you’ve done your job as a parent, regardless of whether they have the right plastic bins and other items, your son or daughter has the strength and confidence to handle what will come their way.
The Citadel is a leadership school. The students attend this school because they expect to be challenged. They know, or should know, they are expected to own their successes and learn from their failures. You’ve given them a firm foundation to launch into their adult years. It is your time to step back and let them take control of their life.
If you wonder if they should bring something, ask your student if they want it. If they don’t leave it at home. While the school does issue lists and some things are permitted like coffee maker, computer printer, some basic snacks, some knobs do not want to have them. It should be their decision, not your as to whether they bring them or not. Families with friends that are current cadets, you’ll get advice from those friends but remember they will speak from their experience. While uniformity is more of the norm the cadets do develop their own preferences of what to bring and how to do their tasks. For instance if you ask five people whether they should bring a printer you’ll get five different answers.
The 4th Class system will teach the knobs to pull together as a team. They will make their own decisions. They will face the consequences of their actions or inaction. You cannot do this for them and you should not try.
You can be their sounding board. Listen to them vent, but don’t get caught up in the ups and downs of knob life. Remind them of their strengths. Remind them that they are prepared to meet the challenge. You can remind them to think through the processes to solve their own problems. It is a tough year, but they, and you, will have plenty of support.
Last week the Summerville Citadel Club hosted a send off dinner for the class of 2020. One of the members who is a graduate and the father of a 2019 cadet invited me to be on a panel for the dinner. While I’ve spoken at the Atlanta area send off dinners, this is the first time an alumni group outside of Atlanta has invited me to address parents at their club. It was a high compliment.
It was a fun visit. Thursday afternoon I stopped by campus to say hello to a few friends and met a few people I only knew by name before. It was a fun couple of hours.
Thursday evening I was on a panel with Col. Robert Pickering, Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Services and International Studies and Ombudsperson, and Lt. Col. Bob Sberna, assistant commandant for discipline. We each took a few minutes to give our background and then share a bit of advice, followed by questions
The moderator asked me to address social media during my time with the microphone. It is an aspect of knob year, and cadet life that didn’t need to be addressed just a few years ago. With Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Tinder, and others the cadets now have multiple ways to make bad decisions.
Before a student begins knob year it is best to tighten up the security on all social media. This is good advice for everyone. For entering knobs who want to keep a low profile and be a “Ghost knob” it is essential. Cadets and alumni will find posts with hashtags related to The Citadel and share the posts. Photos, status updates and more that are public will be shared widely.
You can’t always help what someone may find when searching the internet for your name, but it is a good idea to do your own search and see what someone may find out about you. Students who played in varsity sports or who made the news for academic achievements can’t remove the news articles, but at least you’ll know what someone else will learn about you if they do a quick Google search.
After I spoke about social media the rest of my short presentation was addressed to the parents. It is an anxious time for many families. As I mentioned in this blog a number of times Citadel parents have to learn to let go and move to a supportive role. Your son or daughter will have to learn the system and sort through the huge amount of tasks in front of them. Knobs will not get encouragement in the traditional sense. That is where parents and friends off campus come in. You cannot go through the system for them, but you can be a safe place for the knobs to vent.
The biggest problem the first few months is sleep. The knobs try to get everything done sacrificing sleep. If a knob isn’t getting sleep their priorities are not in order. Yes, they will get yelled at if their brass is polished or their shoes aren’t shined, but they will not be asked to leave for unpolished shoes. The Citadel is first and foremost a college. If a knob does not prioritize academics they will not be a cadet for long. If you are the parent of a knob and they complain about lack of sleep remind them that they are at a college. No one was denied a diploma because their shoes weren’t shiny enough. (BTW – they will never be shiny enough the first year) Time management is a huge leadership lesson cadets learn during their time at The Citadel. Staying up all night to shine shoes and brass is not a sustainable plan.
Three years ago this week my oldest son returned from his first deployment to Afghanistan. It was a difficult deployment. The battalion lost three men and quite a few others were seriously injured. I am usually a very patient person on the Facebook groups for new parents, because I know how scary it can be to sen da child to a military school. The 9 months my son was deployed I will admit to being a bit less patient with anxious knob moms. Cadets at The Citadel do have it tough, but no one is shooting at them and they will not run over an IED as they walk to class. It is important to keep your worries in perspective this first year and the three years following. It is a tough school, but not a war zone.
The advantage of having a student at The Citadel is knowing where they are every night at midnight. Knobs must spend the night in the barracks every day first semester knob year. They can go off campus on the weekends when they are granted general leave, but they much be back by midnight. Parents of non-military college students have no idea what their students are doing day-to-day, and much less at night.
The system at The Citadel helps the cadets take ownership of their successes and their mistakes. As journalists nad veteran Dave Cullen pointed out recently time is the most precious commodity to military cadets. The ability to decide what to do with your limited free time is a luxury. So when designing the discipline system taking away the freedom of choice is a very effective form of punishment. Cadets who are caught in violation of rules are given tours or confinements. For tours the cadet walk on the quad back and forth for 50 minutes while carrying their rifle. Confinements mean the sit and do school work either in their room or other designated location for a set amount of time often missing out on the fun off campus activities their friends are taking part in. I’ve heard from many cadets and alumni it is a very effective way to deter poor decision-making.
During the Q&A session Lt. Col. Sberna reminded the students present to begin studying their knob knowledge in the Guidon online. Entering the school year having already memorized the alma mater and other bits of knob knowledge will help. That is of course in addition to breaking in your shoes and being able to meet or exceed the physical fitness standards.
The fall athletes report in a week and the rest of the Class of 2020 will report a few weeks later. Best wishes to everyone as they begin their journey on “the road less traveled.”
One week from now some members of The Citadel Class of 2020 will be on campus for Citadel Success Institute (CSI). That means across the country and beyond families are busy getting the necessary items and preparing to say good-bye. The parents of athletes who report July 26 and the parents of the cadets reporting August 13 have a bit more time, but they too are spending their time pouring over the Success Packet list and the Citadel Family Association’s “Nice to Have List.”
Military schools have a tradition of making sure everyone looks the same. Uniformity and not standing out is stressed. Because of this emphasis the families readying their student to report get a bit anxious. Everyone wants to make sure their student has what they need.
What I’ve come to realize though is while you do have lists of things you need to have and lists of things that are nice to have, the cadets still manage to carve out their own way of doing something. For instance, they all need flat white sheets to go on their twin sized bunks, but some cadets will decide they like to have a little extra fabric to tuck under and will want extra long sheets, others do not want the extra fabric. Some cadets use T-pins to secure their sheets to the bunks, others like the elastic straps made for this purpose.
Since the Class of 2020 has not started the year yet, the parents and their students are left with the official list and the Nice to Have list and must make decisions about what to bring. The knobs will develop their own preferences as the year goes on. Parents will slowly learn that no matter what they send, their son or daughter will still find something else they want or decide they do not need what was packed. This is all part of the 4th Class system, maybe not in a formal way, but finding their own way on a very regimented path is a by product of the 4th Class System. (see the PowerPoint on 4C Learning Outcomes)
There are rules for everything, but the cadets still find a way to be their own individual. Some will make their mark in Physical Training (PT). Others will stand out in the classroom, or athletics, or clubs. Some knobs will strive to be a “ghost.” They will do what is expected, but not do anything to bring attention to themselves. Others decide they want to stand out in their field of endeavor. For instance, if they are good at physical training they will do things that may mean extra push ups as a result. The person who is good at PT doesn’t mind extra exercise.
For the non-military person, like I am, this all seems pretty strange. That is alright, we non-grad/non-military parents aren’t the cadets and don’t have to understand it. As parents we are just supposed to be supportive. As I mentioned in a previous post being supportive in this context is helping them with the things they need to report, then encouraging them throughout the year.
I tell new parents each year not to stress about the lists of items, just do their best to get what is listed. Each year the parents worry and obsess over plastic bins, underwear sheets and shoe polish, then soon learn what size bin was sent, or type of sheet really doesn’t matter. In a way I believe parents need the lists to obsess over to distract themselves from the fact their child is going off not only to college but to a military college. The parents can’t control what happens once they arrive at the gates, but they can try to make sure their child has what they need.
If you are the parent of a student entering this year, get the items they need, then take time now to be with your child.
It is a tough year. No matter what they do or don’t do, they will get yelled at a lot. Nothing will ever be right. They won’t get positive reinforcement on campus, that is what you can provide.
They will make friends that will become their family. The cadets have a saying, they spend four years trying to get out of The Citadel and then the rest of their lives trying to get back.
If your son or daughter has chosen this path they have the strength to get through the year. Remember that and remind them of that fact often in the months to come.
In two months, less if you are an athlete reporting the end of July, the Class of 2020 will report for Matriculation Day at The Citadel. This time of year is stressful for the families of the incoming knobs.
The students are starting to get their “game face” on. If they are smart, the incoming knobs are breaking in their shoes and working on their physical training. I’m told by cadets and alumni those are two things a knob can do to help them self out the beginning of this challenging year. It will still be tough but if you can meet or exceed the PT standards at least the new cadet recruit won’t have to do remedial physical training on top of everything else.
While the incoming knobs, also called cadet recruits, have concrete things they can do to prepare the parents task is not as straight forward. Parents need to begin to prepare to, but their preparation is more mental than physical. Sending a child off to The Citadel is a scary task, especially if you do not have any military background. I know it was scary for me.
Parents need to remember that sending a child off to college should be a time of celebration and focus on the success of the recent high school graduate. Too many parents dwell on the change in a negative light, forgetting that there are some exciting time ahead. Yes, we all miss having our children at home, but sending them off into the world is a sign we have done our jobs as parents.
I’ve learned that for some parents they cope with their anxiety by obsessing over the Success Packet list of items to bring and the Citadel Family Association’s “Nice to Have List.” The problem with that plan is the parents tend to over think the list. There is not one perfect kind of sock, underwear, or the exact size plastic bin. You really can’t make a mistake. If something isn’t brought with them the knobs share with each other. They can also purchase items they need from the Cadet Store and the Bookstore
The big difference in sending a child to a military school like The Citadel is the abruptness of it all. The knobs turn in their phones the very first day they arrive and do not get them back and do not have computer access for a week to ten days. Some parent handle this better than others.
My suggestion is to keep yourself very busy that first week. Limit your time on the computer and social media. Let your friends and family know you’d like to get together for a visit, spend more time on your other children and your spouse. Most likely they’re feeling a bit strange about this new normal too.
It’s also a good idea to try and let go of some of the control over your son or daughter’s time now. In a couple of months you will have very, very little input as to how they spend their time or what they are doing day to day. Get used to that now.
The first few weeks that the knobs are on campus some photos will be posted to the school’s Facebook page , and the Citadel Photography page as well as the parent Facebook groups. You’ll begin to understand the game of “Where’s Waldo” in a whole other context. Once they get their hair cut and wear the same uniforms it is very hard to find YOUR Waldo. (Pro tip: If they are in the PT clothes look for their athletic shoes.)
Between now and Matriculation Day step away from Facebook and spend time face to face with your family.
It is high school graduation time. Parents of graduates who will be attending The Citadel in the fall are turning their attention to the various lists of items their son or daughter will need when they report to the school on Matriculation Day.
There are now close to 200 Class of 2020 parents in the Facebook group The Citadel Parents of the Class of 2020 right now and more requesting to join each day. (If you want to join please go to the page request to join then send me an email, email@example.com, letting me know you are the parent of an incoming knob. The group is only for new parents, not extended family.) The questions asked in the group at this time of year revolve around shoes, boots, socks, and other required items.
That will sound odd to parents and others who have no experience with a military school.
When a student attends a military school they are given a list of items to bring with them. Most of their clothes will be provided to them by the school since they wear uniforms every day, including the weekends. The cadets also have very strict rules about what they can and cannot have in their rooms.
This is a stressful time for many families. The process of sending a child to a military school can bring on a mixture of feelings. Some of these feelings are shared by all parents of college bound freshman. Some are unique to the parents of military college students.
I thought it would be helpful to the parents of The Citadel, Class of 2020 to include a list of advantages of being the parent of a cadet at The Citadel.
When retail stores begin their sales pitch to college students in the summer, touting their dorm room decorations and bedding, families of cadets at The Citadel can ignore the ads.
When other families have to caravan to get their student to college in order to bring all the things for their dorm, Citadel families can fit everyone, and the incoming knob’s required items, in the family car.
Unlike parents of other college students on move in day, you won’t have to decorate and unpack your cadet recruit’s things. On Matriculation Day, the day first year cadets report, families carry the things in, with the help of the Citadel Family Association volunteers, and your son or daughter will unpack after you leave. Parents do not stay and unpack and decorate the room. You can go into town and enjoy the many wonderful restaurants and toast your success as parents.
When other parents are worried about the decisions their college student is making with all their new found freedom, Citadel parents know exactly where their knob is by midnight each night of first semester, right in their barracks room.
The “freshman 15” usually refers to the weight college students gain when they are away at college. Thanks to the physical training Citadel knobs go through, they usually lose weight and gain muscle. Your knob will end the year in the best physical shape of their lives.
First year cadets really appreciate visits from family and friends. They love to get off campus to sleep, eat what they’d like, and take long hot showers. When your friends with college students complain that their student doesn’t want them around, you can brag about how happy your knob is to see you.
The first year knobs are not in control of their time. This means when families visit they end up waiting outside the barracks for their cadets. Life long friendships are made among families as they wait for their knob to exit the barracks.
Parents of the Class of 2020, there are plenty of other reasons to be proud and happy your child has chosen “the road less traveled,” for their college experience. Try to focus on the positives right now.
You’ve given them a firm foundation. Now sit back and watch them soar!
Photos clockwise from top left: Dorie with her son, daughter and a high school friend and fellow knob enjoying dinner out in Charleston in September knob year. Parents Weekend promotion ceremony. Cadet Lalli and his senior mentor, Carrying the guidon on Recognition Day, Graduation Day, Ring Ceremony, He wears the Ring.
Across the country high school seniors are graduating. In the South the graduations have already begun. In the North June tends to be graduation month. That means families getting their students ready for Matriculation Day at The Citadel are turning their focus to getting things for their soon-to-be Knob.
The school will post an updated list of items the new students are required to have. (you can view the previous year’s information on page 6 of this document. it changes very little from year to year.) The Citadel Family Association also has a list of items that families have found helpful to have. It is called the “Nice to Have List.” You do not need everything on the Nice to Have List. Parents should ask their student what they would like from that list since they will be the ones to go through the 4th Class System.
I will pause here to give a word of advice to parents. Your student will be attending a leadership school. I’ve written previously about what I learned about what that means. The hardest, but most regarding lesson for parents of cadets is this, your student will have to be the one to navigate the rules and regulations of the school. You can help them get ready to report, but once they are on campus the students are the ones who must take control of their process. Your role will move from one of guiding and teaching your child, to the role of encourager and support person. You WILL NOT be able to navigate the system for them day to day.
This first year is a rollercoaster of emotions for the knobs. My advice to parents is to avoid getting on that rollercoaster with your student. Obviously you will be concerned, but try to remember that the challenges your student will encounter are learning experiences for them. You will be the only one they can confide in and vent to this next year. Often times the knobs will vent to a parent, leaving the parent worried, while the knob moves on and never tells the parent they’ve resolved the issue.
In the next several months local alumni groups sponsor “Send Off events” for incoming knobs and their families. You can check with the Citadel Alumni Association to see if the club in your area will host an event. The Citadel Family Association also has area reps who are current parents who volunteer to help the new parents. you can find a list of the Area Reps here. The Atlanta Citadel Club has asked me to serve as the chair of the new Parent Committee. We will have a parent orientation meeting in June then the club will host a send off event August 4. Contact me if you’d like additional information.
There are three things an incoming knob can do NOW to prepare for the next year: (The office of the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs also has a good list for incoming knobs. You can access the link HERE.)
Begin to memorize the Knob Knowledge in the Guidon. It is available online or in the bookstore. You’ll get a copy when you report.
Parents often wonder about company assignments and roommates. The majority of cadets will find out their company and roommate on Matriculation Day. The athletes who report in July will all stay in the same barracks then move to their regular company assignments in August when the Corps of Cadets report. Unlike other colleges cadets will change rooms through out the year. The moves can be for a variety of reasons.
If you live out of state and don’t want to ship the items to campus, you can order times from Bed, Bath and Beyond or Wal-Mart and pick them up from the stores in Charleston. If you choose this option you will have to arrive in town before Matriculation Day. If you ship items to campus it is a good idea to arrive Friday morning to retrieve them from the warehouse on campus. Contact the warehouse directly with any questions about shipping items in advance.
I know it is a very stressful time for parents who do not have a military background or do not have a history with The Citadel. I was in your place in 2007. Much of what happens seems really strange. As my son would tell me every time I would question something, “There is a reason behind everything we do.” It is the knobs challenge to learn these reasons. A parent needs to encourage and support them in the process.
If you are the parent of an incoming knob, please join the group for 2020 parents on Facebook to meet fellow parents and to have a safe place to ask questions. Go to the page and request to join, then end me an email to confirm you are the parent of an incoming knob. firstname.lastname@example.org
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.