Many bright-eyed freshmen enter the corps every year, hoping to have a different college experience than their peers.
Graduating as a civilian, or as a member of the corps, is a decision often faced by new corps members. Ultimately, some decide to drop out.
“The corps is not for everyone, said Major Carrie Cox. “It’s about finding what is the right fit for you for your college experience, and what type of college experience you want to have, and in the future as well.”
The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets consists of 1,066 students, and this year almost 40 percent of the Corps consists of freshmen. This was the largest incoming class since 1968.
There are several reasons cadets may decide to drop out of the corps. This ranges from disorderly conduct, to time complications with majors, as well as health issues.
Freshman political science major Brandon Smith, who always dreamed of being a marine, decided to leave the Corps a few weeks ago after he realized a peanut allergy would stop him from serving in the military.
“You wish you could do something about it, but sometimes you just have to cut your losses and move on,” Smith said.
Other food allergies, wool allergies, asthma, ADHD, or mental disabilities may also affect a person’s entry into different branches of the military. Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets follows the same medical standards the military would. For this reason, Smith was not allowed to join the ROTC.
“If you were to have an attack, it could hamper the mission of those around you, and they may not be able to take care of you,” Cox said.
There are many other reasons some students decide to leave the Corps.
Freshman Collin McAtee made the decision to leave the Corps because of a time clash between the corps activities and classes for his art major.
“As an artist, I probably need 10 hours per assignment to just go chill in the studio,” McAtee said.
He was worried his grades would suffer as a result of the corps strenuous time commitment. Since leaving, his grades have risen.
“It’s a time commitment,” Cox said. “We have many cadets that strike that balance, but it’s challenging. We are not saying it’s the right fit for every college student but we do believe it’s a strong option for many.”
One path, which both Smith and McAtee were a part of before leaving the corps, is the citizen-leader track. According to the corps, the purpose of the track is to create leaders of “character and integrity, regardless of whether they choose a civilian career upon graduation or whether they choose a military career.”
Smith appreciates the aims of the alternative, and the opportunities it provides.
“(The civilian track) builds you to be a leader in the community,” Smith said.
Within this program, students go through all of the same experiences as the military-track cadets, including the very strict first few weeks of school, known as the Red Phase. This is six weeks in which the freshmen “rats” focus all of their free time, and more, on learning the traditions, values and rules of the corps.
If a cadet decides to drop out before the end of the Red Phase, they will then be required to drop out of the university all together, for the rest of the semester. They have the option of reapplying the following semester for admissions back to the university.
There are several implications for dropping out of the corps. If cadets have a scholarship, it will be dropped upon their departure. Also, dropping out requires a change in housing for freshman.
Although McAtee and Smith chose to leave, both said that being a part of the Corps was a positive experience.
“The camaraderie is really awesome. You end up being really good friends with a group of thirty people. It was also awesome learning the traditions of Tech,” McAtee said. “How many people really know that the colors are Chicago maroon and burnt orange?”
Smith agreed with McAtee’s sentiments.
“The first few weeks in the corps made me realize a lot about myself, and it changed me overall for the better,” Smith said. “Something I’ll take away from it is teamwork, and camaraderie, and to be proud of what you are and what you stand for.”