• Your first year. The Rat Line.

    The first year at VMI is very different from other colleges.

The First Year – The Rat Line

Throughout most of the first year, new cadets walk at rigid attention along a prescribed route inside barracks known as the “Rat Line.”  Cadets must be meticulous in keeping shoes shined, uniforms spotless, and in daily personal grooming. Additionally, new cadets must memorize school songs, yells, and other information and recite at any moment.

The Rat Line is a time of tough training, mentally and physically, to prepare you for the next three years in the Corps.  The rat experience begins with Matriculation Day, continues through winter and generally ends in January or February when rats “break out”.

Don’t do ordinary.

Because rats rely on one another during this time, it is in the Rat Line that the legendary Brother Rat bond is established.

The Rat Line taught me more than how to follow; it taught me how to lead.

Alyssa Ford ’14
Regimental S5 Captain

First Year Programs

Summer Transition Program

The VMI Summer Transition Program (STP) is designed to improve the academic and physical fitness of incoming cadets. All who commit to matriculate at VMI in August are invited to enroll in this voluntary program.

Participants take one class for credit, live in barracks, eat in the mess hall, and participate in physical training.

There is an advantage to breaking-in your boots before you run three miles in them.

First Year Initiative

The principal goal of  the First Year Initiative — FYI@VMI — is to facilitate academic success for new cadets while they meet the demands of military duties, cadet life, and especially the Rat Line. FYI@VMI is designed to close the gap between high school and college.

Selected cadets take two five-week courses that teach study skills and priority setting and introduce academic resources such as the Miller Academic Center, Preston Library, Career Services, and Cadet Counseling.

Rat Adoption

While it is not an official program of VMI, adopting rats is a well-known tradition in the Lexington community. Local residents have the opportunity to “adopt,” or sponsor, new cadets, which offers them an opportunity to spend some authorized time off post with their adoptive families.

After Breakout, when new cadets receive new privileges, many cadets continue to develop bonds with their adoptive families,  bonds which may endure throughout the cadetship and beyond.

Rat Life

Rats wake up, get dressed, roll their “hay” (mattress), and report to their dykes (cadet mentors) by 6:40 a.m. — 0640 — for chores before breakfast.

At formation, corporals inspect rats for appearance. After breakfast, rats return to their rooms to clean for morning  inspection.

After academic duty,  the Corps reports to military or athletic duty. All cadets participate in some activity at this time.

After the evening meal, rats may study side-by-side with upper-class cadets as the Rat Line gives way to the demands of academics during study time.

Taps (lights out) is 11:30 p.m.  Sunday – Thursday. Taps on Friday is midnight and Saturday is 1 a.m.

Following Saturday morning activities, most of the Corps is free of military or academic duty for the weekend. On Sunday mornings, cadets may attend services at one of the local churches or the cadet chapel. Rats are generally confined to post throughout the fall semester. There is little time for recreation or leisure due to academic demands and the demands of the Rat Line.