Notes for New Citadel Families

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A newly shaved Knob next to the statue of General Mark Clark

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.

Be sure to read through the new and improved parent webpage, especially the section for Freshman parents and the Challenge Week section .

For readers who are not 2020 Parents, you can see the photos I’ve taken from Matriculation Weekend on Facebook here:

Matriculation Day, 2016

Matriculation Sunday

Matriculation Sunday Evening

Challenge Week – Monday

Oath Ceremony

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Members of the Class of 2020 prepare to take the cadet oath.

What type of Citadel Parent are You?

Another knob reports

A member of the Class of 2016 checks in matriculation morning.

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.

Bravo Company lining up with their cadre members or as i like to call them, "The Hospitality Committee"

A member of the Class of 2016 checks in Matriculation morning.

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.

Citadel Parents: Let it Go!

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Family and friends outside the barracks. Matriculation Day 2015

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.

If you are the parent of a knob, join the Facebook group for 2020 parents and the Citadel Family Association Facebook group. Follow the school Facebook page and the Citadel Photography page.

Five Days and a Wake up until Matriculation Day. You’ve got this. Let Go and enjoy the ride.

If you haven’t already, see these links about Matriculation Day:

What to Expect on Matriculation Day

An interview with Capt. Geno Paluso

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that First Day

The Citadel: A Visual of the First Few Days

 

 

The Citadel: Parent Information for Starting the Year

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A member of the class of 2019 turns in his cell phone to the first sergeant on Matriculation Day 2015.

A few parents in the Facebook group for 2020 parents have joined this week. We are now at 497 members of the group. All members are 2020 parents along with five parents of grads who help answer questions.

Most Matriculation Day and Weekend information can be found on the school website and this blog, but to make it easier to find I’ll include a few links here:

The Matriculation Headquarters page has the essential information. Read every link and all hyper links on the pages.

The Commandant’s Matriculation Information page is linked on the Matriculation Headquarters page and also has essential information.

My previous blog post about Matriculation Weekend includes some tips for parents.

Saturday, August 13 at 5:30 there is a dinner planned for 2020 families. The Charleston Citadel Club is hosting the event and allowing us to use their registration system. Advance reservations are required, Register HERE. Just enter Parent of Student from the drop down menu when it asks for Company name. Members of The Citadel Foundation and The Citadel Alumni Association are also helping with the event.

The Citadel main web site has a page for parents which includes helpful information including this page titled What to expect on Matriculation Day.

Another important link on the parents page of the school web site is for all parents and cadets to review titled Important Conversations to have with incoming Freshman and Upper Class.

The Useful Links page on the parent’s page is also a good one to book mark.

On this blog site there is a page called Helpful Web Links to help you find the web pages parents use most often as well as helpful blog posts.

Book mark this entry for easy reference later. Enjoy the time you have left with your soon-to-be knob. You’ve got this.

The Citadel: Small Changes

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Members of the Class of 2019 “meet” the cadre on Matriculation Day 2015. The crew length socks that have been the mark of a knob for a few years are no longer approved for unit PT.

When my son decided to attend a military college, I never imagined that years after he graduated I would be answering questions about socks, underwear, and shoes.

Many alumni don’t understand the changes that have taken place over the years. Communications have changed over the years for everyone. For instance at The Citadel the paperwork cadets used to fill out is all done online now.

The families helping their soon-to-be knob prepare for the new year use online searches to find the required items to matriculate. They also resource with other parents. Instead of running out to K-Mart, Target, and Wal-Mart for items, more and more people are purchasing the required items online. Families are connected online via Facebook. Not to hover, but to share tips on saving money. Shoes are at least $100 a pair the boots  are more expensive. With out of state tuition over $40,000 a year any way to save some money on required items is welcomed. Don’t even get me started on the elusive plastic bins. The school posts the sizes of two clear plastic bins they are allowed to have. Unfortunately the sizes are listed as “no larger than” and you can’t easily find boxes that are close to the dimensions.

This year a small change that is causing a BIG stir is the change from crew socks to ankle socks for all cadets for unit PT. For years, I don’t know exactly how long, knobs were required to wear white crew length socks. This year in the official Success Packet it is specified:

“Twelve [12] pairs of plain white cotton athletic ankle socks (Socks must be void of visible logos or color, and must cover the protruding ankle bone. Low cut quarter socks are permitted.)”

Since knobs have worn crew length socks for years I contacted the commandant’s office for clarification. I was told that this year ALL cadets will be required to wear ankle length white socks for unit physical training.

The other change that was made a year or so ago was the labeling of clothes. For years that task was completed the first week. Now the school suggests knobs label their clothes before they arrive as a time saving measure. Since time is a precious commodity to knobs anything they can do before they report to save some time once they are on campus, should be done. The labeling instructions are on the Success Packet list:

Labeling clothes:
As a time saving measure, though not mandatory, it would be helpful to write your last name and first two initials in your clothing using a permanent marker. The location of the name should be inconspicuous when the garment is worn (e.g., bottom of each sock, rear waistband of underwear, and the front shirt tail of t-shirts).

Household linens such as towels, sheets, and pillow cases should not be labeled. The Cadet Laundry will affix a permanent label to these items.

Bottomline in less than two weeks the Class of 2020 will report for Matriculation Day. Talk of socks, shoes and plastic bins will give way to questions about General Leave, Parents Weekend, and why is the food so bad and the laundry service so slow.

Ahh the signs of Fall at The Citadel.

Summerville Citadel Club Send off Dinner

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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

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L-R:Moderator, Bryce Maddray, Dorie, Bob Sberna, Robert Pickering

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.

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The panel discussion

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.

13690836_10154322805629747_9204941944420649182_nThe 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.”

 

 

Matriculation Weekend Tips

Screenshot_2016-07-13-19-37-46The Citadel,  Class of 2020 reports the morning of August 13. By now the soon-to-be knobs should be checking the Matriculation Headquarters page each week for updates. Just last week they posted the schedule for the weekend.

A few tips to prepare for weekend:

  • Be sure you have made hotel reservations.
  • Instructions for reporting.
  • Drive to campus from your hotel the day before so you will know how to get to the Holliday Alumni Center. (See Traffic Diagram here) Getting lost Saturday morning can really add to the stress of the knob. (Ask me how I know)
  • Be sure you have a full tank of gas. You wait in your car in a long line Saturday morning. You won’t want to be the family that ran out of gas before you report.
  • Say your real goodbye’s before you leave the hotel or your home. Once you arrive on campus things move quickly and the knobs time will not be their own.
  • The knobs turn in their cell phones when they go into the barracks. They should turn them off before they walk in. They won’t get them back for at least a week.
  • Arrive on the early side. The line starts around 6:30am. Check in begins at 7:00 am. It will be hot arriving early means it will be a chilly 85-90 versus 90-100.
  • Once you get to the barracks the Citadel Family Association volunteers will be there to help unload your car and let you know where to move your car. They have blue shirts on and all of them have been in your shoes.
  • Once the boxes are unloaded the knob reports in on their own. (With their FERPA form) Parents must wait with the boxes.
  • Once the knob comes out you’ll do what he or she tells you to do. How things happen from here can vary by company and each year the process is fine tuned based on the current cadet leadership.
  • All families must be out of the barracks by 10am. Many families leave earlier because their son or daughter is ready to start their process .
  • There is an information fair in the McAlister fieldhouse. It is a great time to get your questions answered and meet people from various departments. The fieldhouse is air-conditioned and there are restrooms, and water fountains.
  • The President, Commandant and the Citadel Family Association rep address parents after the information fair.

FAQ

  • Extended family members can come with you, but you should be aware there is a lot of standing and waiting around. Ask you son or daughter who they want to drop them off. One good option is to have everyone at the hotel and only a few go to campus that morning. No know wants to report with a huge entourage.
  • If you have young children, bring quiet toys, snacks and water.
  • If you have older family members or family with disabilities that make standing difficult, bring a folding chair.
  • The presentation should be over around 12-12:30
  • You can attend Sunday worship but you will not interact with your son or daughter. They are divided into groups for worship, Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, and Ethics seminar.
  • The oath ceremony takes place Monday evening. The school has live  streamed it in the past. If you are in town you can attend. You will not interact with your son or daughter.

NOTE: Parents of the Class of 2020, if you haven’t already, join the Facebook group, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020. Go to the page request to join, then email me to let me know you are the parent of a knob.

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