With the start of a new term last week, countless students flocked to the Dean of Studies Office with requests for course switches, section changes, and level shifts. The scene was chaotic, but to veteran students, it was nothing new; the first few days of every term at Andover begin with long waits and fluttering Add/ Drop slips.
Because schedules are released over break, students are unable to make any scheduling changes until they return to campus. Students must then meet with their advisors and wait in a long line to sort out their schedules — often only to be told that their desired courses are unavailable. Many students are forced to float between classes for days, not knowing when their schedule will solidify or if they will be able to get into the classes they would like to take.
While we understand that creating schedules for the entire Andover community is an arduous task, with so many people to place and classes to fill, this work has a tremendous effect on the life of each Andover student. The classes that we attend are the most important parts of our days. It matters immensely to each of us who our teachers are and what subjects we are learning. And while we know that every adult on campus wants each of us to be happy with our academic work here, it feels increasingly as though it is impossible to control our schedules.
Although it would be entirely unreasonable to expect all students to attain the exact daily schedules and course loads they desire, the current scheduling system offers little flexibility and does not recognize the great impact that our course schedules have on our lives at Andover. Our classes determine our lives at Andover, and when we do not have sufficient opportunities to control and understand our schedules, we lose the opportunity to choose and shape our own Andover experiences.
Considering the lack of an Open/Closed List, a valuable resource and time-saver for students wanting to change their schedules, students have no choice but to enter the re-scheduling process with no knowledge of the viable options. When these lists were available in the past, students were able to research the available courses that might fit into their schedules, without trying to enter closed courses. Bringing back the Open/Closed List could significantly improve the current scheduling process.
According to the Andover website, the school has a 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Yet, it feels more and more each day as though there simply are not enough classes available for students to enroll in – or at least not enough they actually want to take. This year it has felt especially challenging to find open courses or to move into new classes after the initial schedule announcement. It feels as though the school has overenrolled without expanding the faculty size to accommodate student needs.
Many students come to Andover because the school offers an unparalleled course of study for a secondary school. Many applicants are inspired by the incredible selection of courses, and that may be a major component in their decisions to attend Andover. We come to Andover because we believe it is a place where we can grow academically, emotionally, and socially. And we are able to do so by spending countless hours learning beside peers who came to Andover with the same ambitions.
But when scheduling complications and limited class sizes deny us the ability to control our daily lives and academic endeavors, our Andover experiences differ from than the one advertised, as they become less about our individual learning interests and more about whether the classes we wanted to take are already full. We have little say in a critical aspect of our daily lives, and at a place like Andover, where each day is long and challenging, this can have a devastating impact on our happiness.
We must be able to make our Andover experiences what we want and need them to be. In order to do so, our school must make the course scheduling process more transparent and organized; students should be given access to the information they need so they can educate themselves on their options without requiring so much assistance. Other suggestions for improving the process include increasing the number of teachers and classes offered, providing students with updated Open/Closed lists, and starting the scheduling process much earlier – perhaps making student schedules available before the end of the previous term.
As we look to the coming weeks, especially as preparation for next year’s new schedule continues, it is absolutely imperative that Andover considers what a more efficient, transparent, and open scheduling system could do for Andover.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXXXIX.