At other colleges, during your first year, you would be referred to as a Freshman; but at West Point you are a “Plebe.” A shortening of the Latin word plebeian, the underprivileged commoners of ancient Rome, Plebes are the entry level cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. The use of the word “Plebe” is both symbolic and practical in that Plebes are entry-level cadets who must practice and master strong character as a means of achieving merit and earning leadership opportunities. Plebe year is an exciting and challenging start of your journey at West Point, where you will develop into a leader of character over the course of 47 months of academic rigor, physical fitness, and military training. Your Plebe year is a rite of passage where you will advance through several different stages of personal and professional development and grow beyond your own imagination.
Every obstacle overcome and milestone passed during your Plebe year lays the foundation for your future career as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. Beginning with your first summer and Cadet Basic Training (CBT), then continuing on through the academic year, you will be taught the Thayer Method, indoctrinated in the tenants of strong leadership through physical education, and inculcated with the arts of task and time management, practicing patience, and maintaining a positive mental attitude.
ACADEMIC Milestones During Your Plebe Year:
During your Plebe year, West Point's academic balance of physical and social sciences has emphasis on fundamental principles of engineering and developing strong communications skills. The goal is to cultivate your abilities as a creative problem solver, capable of expressing original ideas. Required courses during your Plebe year include Calculus, Physics or Chemistry, Literature, Psychology, English Composition, and an introductory Computer Science class, among others. The milestones of your Plebe year include:
1. PL100, General Psychology for Leaders - This required course is your first look at the science of leadership. The coursework includes a multidisciplinary study of the human dimension, behavioral sciences, and components of leadership. For most Plebes, this course has a significant impact on their approach to leadership and in how they shape their own leadership style.
Learn more: PL100 Course Details
2. Major Selection - During the spring semester of your Plebe year you will select your academic discipline in which you will earn your degree. During this time, academic counselors offer one-on-one counseling to assist you with making the choice that best suits you. Also — no worries — you will be able to request a change of major if your interests change later on. West Point offers 36 academic disciplines from which to major ranging from any number of engineering disciplines to physical or social sciences, and liberal arts. Choosing your major determines which courses you’ll take during your remaining 3 years at West Point and it also impacts which opportunities you’ll want to explore including internships (AIADS, Advanced, Individual, Academic, Development) and other related learning experiences.
Learn more: Things to Know When Choosing Your Major at West Point
MILITARY Milestones During Your Plebe Year:
West Point is renowned as the world’s leading academic institution for developing leaders of character. Your military development at West Point begins during your Plebe year where you receive your first instruction in military ethics and are taught the core values of the U.S. Army. Serving as the academic foundation in your skills as a professional leader, the milestones of your military training during your Plebe year include:
1. Acceptance Day - Also known as “A-Day,” this ceremony occurs at the end of your first summer at West Point; it marks the end of CBT and it is your passage from “Cadet Recruit” to being accepted as a “Cadet” into the U.S. Corps of Cadets. This will be your first real break in the action from your training where you can enjoy the day on your own. After A-Day, enjoy “walking privileges” — restricted freedom where cadets remain in uniform and within 75 miles of the U.S. Military Academy. During this time many cadets opt to celebrate the moment with friends or family.
Learn more: Former Acceptance Day FAQ
2. MS100 - This course develops your primary leadership skills. Where you learned how to function as a soldier during CBT, in MS100 you will be instructed in the fundamental military tactics and knowledge that will be the foundation for all your subsequent military science courses and future field training at West Point. In MS 100 you will learn about Army unit organization, capabilities and missions, as well as the strategic and leadership roles of commissioned and non-commissioned officers.
Learn more: Military Science and Training
PHYSICAL Milestones During Your Plebe Year:
For many, the physical program during your Plebe year will be the hardest. This is because your Plebe year is when you are first exposed to the demanding physical requirements and challenging fitness regime of serving as an officer in the U.S. Army. Physical milestones of your Plebe year include:
1. Plebe Boxing - Plebe Boxing consists of 19 lessons in technique and sparring and three graded bouts. Introduced as a required course in 1905 at the suggestion of President Theodore Roosevelt, Plebe boxing cultivates confidence and instills mental toughness by teaching cadets to face and overcome fear through practiced discipline and strength.
Learn more: Boxing Curriculum
2. Military Movement – In this course, also known as “Plebe Gymnastics,” you will be exposed to a variety of fundamental movement skills, all relevant to the physical requirements of combat maneuvering. These movement skills include basic gymnastic tumbling and upper-body strength development. Mastering these fundamental movement skills are a prerequisite to taking additional, more advanced courses, with increasingly more demanding physical requirements.
Learn more: Military Movement Curriculum