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Advice for Incoming Midshipmen

advice for plebe summer May 02, 2024

Advice for Incoming Midshipmen


Congratulations on your appointment to the Naval Academy!

You are about to embark on the journey of your life filled with every emotion possible.  

Having had some time outside of the Academy to provide me perspective, I can assure you that it will be an amazing four years and 100% worth the difficult and challenging times.  

While I was a Midshipman, I had the privilege of getting to serve as the Regimental Commander for the second set of the class of 2020’s Plebe Summer. While that doesn't mean anything, it gave me a high-level view of Plebe Summer and allowed me to witness what caused certain people to struggle and others to excel. 

Because of that, I would like to share with you all some words of advice that I hope will help you this summer.  



Be Proud of Your Why

Many of you may have decided to attend the Naval Academy for different reasons. For many of you, this may be your dream and you have wanted this for your entire life – to attend the Naval Academy and serve your country – and that is amazing! 

For others, it may be because it is a free four-year education, or because it was the best school you got into, or maybe even because your parents forced you to come.

For some, the main reason you chose the Naval Academy was because you were recruited to play a sport.  

And while the detailers may be telling you otherwise, be sure to know that there is no ‘right’ or ‘correct’ reason to go to the Naval Academy.

No one reason is superior to another. At the end of the day, you will all take the Oath of Office, and your "why" for being there will be your "why."

So, be proud of the reason that has brought you to this point in life.

Own Your Experience

As you go through Plebe Summer, some of you may hate it, some of you may feel pretty indifferent and just tolerate it day by day, and some of you may legitimately enjoy it. And once again, all of that is fine.

Hating plebe summer is not right, and it is not wrong.

Loving plebe summer is not right, and it’s also not wrong. It just… is.

It is just your experience. It is your story. It is your journey.

  • What you do with your journey & your opportunity to be a Midshipman at the Naval Academy is what matters.  
  • Your actions over plebe summer are what matters.
  • Your desire to learn and grow as a leader is what matters. 
  • Having the empathy to love and support your classmates who may be having a different experience than you, or doing different things and feeling different than you, is what matters. 
  • Just being a good person is what matters.
  • The attitude you choose to have every day and the effort you choose to put forth is what matters.

So when you show up for Plebe Summer, choose to be positive in a very challenging time.

Choose to make the most of the experience – whether you hate it, are indifferent to it, or love it – as there are lessons to be learned and ample opportunities to grow as a person and a leader.  

Every morning, make the conscious choice to bring energy, effort, positivity, and enthusiasm to PEP and carry that to every evolution of the day.

And then seek out someone who is having a different experience than you. Find someone who came for a different reason and is feeling differently than you. Help each other, and learn from one another. Show you care about each person and his or her unique journey. And if you do it every day, it’ll become a habit, and those habits will change your life for the better.

A Little Bit of Perspective

To put things into perspective: I chose to come to the Naval Academy because, on top of being a highly-ranked academic institution, it was my only Division I basketball offer.

That was my reason.  I went to the Naval Academy to play basketball.

When I got to plebe summer I was constantly told that I was there for the ‘wrong reason’ and I quickly became discouraged.

I hated plebe summer, every second of it.

I felt like I didn’t belong and I didn’t want to be there.

No, I’m very serious, I did not want to be there.

Told you.  

Somehow, and to this day, I can’t really remember (repressed memories) how I made it to the academic year.  

And now, fast forward to today as I – the kid whose reason for coming to the Academy was to play basketball and was moments away from leaving during plebe summer – writes to you as a graduate who loved his experience at the Naval Academy and as a Naval Officer.

I hope my experience will reassure everyone that your reason for coming is your reason and that your success at the Academy is dependent on your desire to learn and grow as a person and as a leader.

You might not realize it yet, but you have just made the best decision of your life in deciding to attend the Naval Academy.

Now embrace it!

Throughout my time at the Academy, I discovered and want to share the five main tenets that allowed me to truly embrace my experience to the best of my ability.

Five Main Tenets of Owning Your Experience

1. Attitude and Effort

The two things you have control over at all times are your attitude and your effort.  

No matter the situation you are in or the circumstances you face, you have the ability to determine the attitude you hold and the effort you exert.  Make a conscious choice every day to have a positive attitude and put forth your best effort.  

Do not miss a single opportunity to learn and grow, and make the extra effort to seek out mentors and experiences that will benefit your development.  The access you have to Navy and Marine Corps leaders in the form of Senior Enlisted Leaders (SELs), Company Officers, Instructors, and other staff is what makes the Naval Academy such a special place.  

Pour into the experience.  Invest in your development by being proactive and reaching out to potential mentors who could drastically change your experience in Annapolis.

Own your experience, focus on what’s in your control, and be the most positive and hardest-working person in the room at all times.

2. Humble and Hardworking

Plebe summer revolves around teamwork, plain and simple.  

If you want to excel during plebe summer, you need to be a great team player, and great team players all have two things in common: they are humble and they are hungry.  

Humility is the single most important aspect of being a team player, and it is partly what you would expect it to be.  It is critical that you leave any arrogance at home and don’t bring it with you to the Academy, because you are about to be surrounded by one thousand other men and women who are just as qualified as you.  

However, you MUST be confident in your abilities and your character, because they have brought you to this moment. That’s why I want to address this misunderstanding of humility that can best be summed up in a quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

Define your success by the success of your squad, platoon, and company rather than individually. Be confident in yourself, and while you must own your experience, don’t be consumed by it.

Think of others more and think of yourself less!

Hardworking people are always striving for improvement and embrace discomfort because they understand pain is the price of growth.

Plebe summer is going to challenge you daily, so embrace the difficult moments, the discomfort, and the pain, and push through.

3. Be the Peer Pressure

I once watched an interview of a college student-athlete who was asked how he avoided falling into peer pressure, and he had the most simple yet profound answer, saying “I am the peer pressure.”  

This resonated with me because it is the embodiment of leading by example, even amongst your peers. The way you live your life, through your actions, should influence people to want to do the same.  

Don’t allow the negativity around you to dictate your mindset and actions.

Be Positive. Be Humble. Be Hardworking.



4. Be Disciplined

While discipline can often be surrounded by a stigma of being almost robotic and by the book, I choose to define discipline as “choosing what you want most over what you want right now.”  

Being disciplined requires that you have a vision of where you want to be, and what you want most in life and that you constantly align your actions to support that vision.

Many times, it is easy to choose what is fun or easy at the moment, but to be disciplined you must habituate choosing and acting by what you want most: to grow, develop, and improve as a person and as a leader.

5. Don't Make Permanent Decisions Based on Temporary Emotions

On multiple occasions, I was frighteningly close to leaving the Academy because I was momentarily unhappy.  Had I done that, I would have never had the life opportunities I've been blessed with as a result of my affiliation with the Naval Academy.

The Naval Academy is one of the most special places on earth.  The power of the Naval Academy journey and the Naval Academy network can be a life-changing, family-changing, and generational/community-changing.

While times may be tough and emotions may be high, NEVER make a permanent decision based on a fleeting emotional state.


If you want to make the most of the Naval Academy:

Be proud of your why.

Pour into and own your experience.  

Have a great attitude and a relentless work ethic.

Be humble. 

Be the peer pressure.

Be disciplined.

And never make a permanent decision based on temporary emotion.


Once again, congratulations, and good luck as you begin your journey.

If you want more insight into Plebe Summer Preparation, I have a discussion with Grant Booker, another (and much younger) Naval Academy graduate, and former Plebe Summer Regimental Commander, about our high-level Plebe Summer Advice.

Check out the Video Podcast here or listen to the podcast on your preferred podcast source.

For any questions you have, send me an email at [email protected]

Beat Army!


Grant Vermeer is the founder of Academy Insider and the host of The Academy Insider podcast and the USNA Property Network Podcast. He was a recruited athlete which brought him to Annapolis where he was a four-year member of the varsity basketball team.

He was a cyber operations major and commissioned into the Cryptologic Warfare Community. He was stationed at Fort Meade and supported the Subsurface Direct Support mission.

He separated from the Navy in 2023 and now owns The Vermeer Group, a boutique residential real estate company that specializes in serving the United States Naval Academy community PCSing to California & Texas. 

Connect with Grant Vermeer, The Academy Insider here: