College Admissions

Phillips Academy was, until recently, a feeder school to Yale University. We still boast an extremely competitive college matriculation record: approximately 30% of our students attend colleges in the Ivy League, MIT or Stanford. Additionally, according to a 2002 Worth Magazine article, Andover stands at the pinnacle of all high schools in terms of matriculation to Harvard, Yale and Princeton—no school sent more students to those three institutions over the four-year period that Worth Magazine examined. Some students, or their parents, know this as they apply to prep schools. Do some students attend institutions like Andover to boost their chances of admissions at selective colleges? Perhaps. It certainly appears that some students engage in a multitude of resume building activities for the expressed purpose of applying to college. Maybe some students don’t actually care about stopping the genocide in Darfur, but they become much more interested when they can jot down their activism as the admissions season rolls around. I’ve personally heard that some students only take certain courses—like History 340—to increase their chances at a better college. Now, before I ask the obvious question on the tip of many reader’s tongue-why would one inflict so much misery on oneself for such a superficial goal? I have a little irony for all my delightful college fiends. According to Nancy Tessier, a college admissions officer, “We’re looking for a commitment to and a passion for an activity outside of the academic setting—we’re looking for depth rather than breadth.” Not only are some people creating stress for themselves, but ironically, their misery is unnecessary. These guys are playing the game the wrong way. The solution for our unhappy peers is to minimize and subsidize. Pick a couple activities that you genuinely enjoy and allow yourself to pour your passions into them. Colleges will see your passion show through and your life will be all the better for it. However, the students who never work don’t represent a better state of mind. It is perfectly acceptable to feel that certain students need to lighten up, about college or otherwise, but advocating perpetual partying and “living life to its fullest” is almost worse. Andover is, by definition, a hard school to survive and thrive at, and anyone who feels they need to constantly “enjoy” their time here should re-think why they are here. This school is not easy but there are other places that are. Andover is a place of dynamos and movers and shakers. Excuse me for being the bearer of bad news, but changing the world can be hard work. I do not mean to imply that all unhappy Andover students need to leave. For some students, Andover is not a proper fit- this school not for everyone. Many students can and do thrive here but remain unhappy. At the end of the day, everything is about fit. So it is with colleges: aiming exclusively for the Ivy League is an unnecessary and quite frankly a stupid decision. The Ivy League is just a sports conference—Brown is not Columbia, which is not Yale. One’s dream college might not be on the East Coast or even in America. But the closed mindset perpetuated by some excessively driven students creates and purports this harmful notion. For everyone’s sake: lighten up and look around.