My Take: Balancing Life as an MIT Student and ROTC Cadet

Cadet Alyssa Pybus '16

Cadet Alyssa PybusWhen people find out that I am an ROTC cadet, one of the first things they ask about is how I balance ROTC and school. It’s not an easy thing to do. When you have to wake up before 0600 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for morning physical training (PT), finishing homework at 2 am every night isn’t a sustainable option. One of the hardest and most beneficial lessons I have learned from ROTC is how to manage my time.

As a cadet, my college experience is very different from that of a typical student. On any given Wednesday night, while friends are getting homework done or hanging out at the dorm, I am out in a forest running STX (Squad Training Exercise) lanes, where we practice battle tactics like squad attack and squad ambush, or at an Army camp familiarizing myself with M16s, or downstairs in the unit building learning how to clear rooms in MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) fashion. One weekend a semester, I leave civilization to conduct Field Training Exercises. And that’s not all. There are ceremonies to attend, color guards to march, counseling meetings to hold, visits to supply that have to be made, ASU (Army Service Uniform) inspections to conduct, and this semester’s particular joy of illusive MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) packs to assemble.

During a typical week, cadets spend at least ten to twelve hours doing ROTC-related activities. So, it is unreasonable to think of ROTC as another class or extracurricular. It demands a certain lifestyle. The real key to balancing school and ROTC is getting work done when you have the time. For example, most of us have an extra hour or so between PT and the start of classes where we can knock out part of a P-Set. Also, there’s usually time from the end of classes to the start of Wednesday Leadership Labs where you can quickly get some work done instead of waiting until afterwards. It took me a long time to figure this out, and it changed my life.  Being more efficient means I can get few more hours of sleep, which allows PT to be stress-relieving instead of causing me extra worry about that P-set or paper I need to finish when I get back; it means I can focus during a Leadership Lab and really learn something, which is what college is all about.

While living the cadet life isn’t easy, even for the most intense among us, ROTC is a welcomed break from school. The trying moments are counterbalanced with many more fun and rewarding times. And I don’t think you will find better company anywhere else on campus. So, I tell those who ask me how I balance ROTC and school that it isn’t easy, but ROTC is the most worthwhile decision I have ever made.