If you are getting ready to attend the academy, I want to share with you a philosophy that can help lead to academic success: Treat the academy as a full-time job. This premise may sound simple, nearly an overstatement of the obvious, but following this philosophy will give you focus throughout the academy. You have strived hard to get here and your career is dependent upon your completion. Treat this experience as if your life depends on it. Indeed, your life may depend upon the skills you learn now.
Most academies and departments do not allow secondary employment while you are in the academy, and for good reason. Your job is to learn with full devotion to build your knowledge, skills and abilities. The academy is not and never will be a straight 8 to 5 job. When you return home after a grueling day at the academy, you still have to prepare your uniforms, study, complete homework, and don't forget the gym and/or roadwork. For those of you who successfully complete the academy and later look back upon this experience, you will doubtlessly recall the multiple hours of preparation for the classroom. For those of you just embarking upon this journey, these hours will prepare you for your new vocation.
When I was on the academy staff, I counseled many recruits about dips in their grades. When asked why this happened, they provided a ton of excuses. The goal for my students is performance, not excuses! Don't tell me that you had a bowling league, or the new movie was out, or you were chatting with your new love interest. I cannot emphasize strongly enough: Get your life in order. Prioritize your needs over your wants. Decide how much you want this job.
In the academy you will learn skills that you will use for the rest of your life. For instance, laws change and their applications change as a result. How well you understand and apply basic skills and adapt to change is learned in the academy. Many officers who have survived critical incidents will also tell you that what got them through were the skills they learned in the academy.
Your job in the academy will not start with the morning's alarm. How you perform in class will depend upon how well you prepared the night before. First, eliminate distractions and be ready to study. In the afternoon, decompress with a light workout and a proper evening meal. Then review your notes and prepare for the upcoming academics. Perhaps practice some psycho-motor skills. Weekends are no different, except that you have some time for yourself, family, friends, and your spiritual renewal. But you still have to study and get ready for the coming week. Prepare a schedule and stick to it!
Keep your goal in mind at all times. For those of you who are military veterans like me (Hooah!), you know how the basic training experience set your foundation. Your drill sergeants constantly instilled military values into you that lasted for a lifetime. When you attend the police academy, there will be no drill instructor to keep you focused when you are off-duty. All the more reason for you to get your work ethic in shape now. If you need the cordial voice of an old instructor to scream at you to make you perform, I will call you.