Is Andover Worth It?

When Andover is mentioned to prospective students, our admissions officers relate that we have both an impeccable learning and athletic environment and also an outstanding college counseling program. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some phenomenal students who roam the Great Lawn today may be stuck with their fourth or fifth choice come Commencement. Some students, however, would argue that the advantages of attending Andover far outweigh any stresses of transferring or spending a few years at a reasonable, but not exceptional, college or university. This article seeks to address both sides of the problem as well as devise a reasonable solution to all the ‘madness.’ Andover is to most students, an amazing place to live, learn, and flourish. Andover simply offers many opportunities that one cannot experience at almost any public school; students at Phillips Academy have the opportunity to speak with experts in fields as diverse as economics, government, and communications. Students at Andover also learn valuable study and social skills. Boarding students especially are thrown into an environment with almost no friends and, somehow, by senior year they manage to cultivate relationships that will (for lack of a more obvious cliché) last a lifetime. This alone is a great skill that almost no public school can offer. Study skills are another valuable tool that Phillips Academy teaches and reinforces. Not only do students learn time management but members of the Phillips Academy community learn how to get ahead and stay motivated. Often, students work harder and do better at Andover, academically, mainly to compete with themselves and others. All of these factors truly make Andover an excellent place to be. After 3 years of strenuous academics at Andover, most students are more then ready to take on the workload that any Ivy League college would throw at them. Many have the talent and drive to star on college athletic teams, and to dominate and lead extra curricular activities, clubs and publications. It is fair to say that the majority of students graduating from Andover are “Ivy League material,” but those select schools need to fulfill certain diversity requirements, meaning that they cannot accept all prospects coming from PA. Although 50 students might apply to a prestigious college, only about one-third of them will be accepted. Imagine if Harvard accepted 50 Andover students! Although all applicants might be more than qualified, schools must maintain a certain level of diversity. Instead, only the best of these 50 applicants will be accepted. Now, imagine a student applying to the same colleges, but from a less prestigious school (such as any US public high school), one who has a much easier time maintaining a position at the top of their class. This person has significantly higher chances of being accepted at the college of their choice, even though they may not be as well prepared, or even as qualified, as one of the PA students who was rejected from the same school. This is the huge disadvantage that PA students have to understand and agree to. Although one might be qualified to attend the college of their choice, by applying from Andover, one is competing for that select spot against many other similarly qualified applicants in their class. The problem is that there is no logical solution to solve this. There is no way that every Andover student can be accepted into Harvard or Yale, and it is clear that the school teaches some extremely valuable lessons. We must thus consider a solution that encompasses the best of both situations. By attending Andover, you are signing on to four years in an amazing environment, but you are also agreeing to a much more difficult and competitive college application process. “You get some and you loose some”; you get four years at an amazing school, but lose your good chances of acceptance into the college of choice, which you would have from high school with less notoriety and prestige. The problem with Andover is not that the institution has any particular problems, but rather that the students themselves begin to make assumptions: they are guaranteed a spot in the country’s elite colleges and universities, just because of their high school’s name.