We Need More Structure

The great amount of freedom Andover grants its students may in fact hamper our motivation and discipline. Upon arrival at Phillips Academy, I knew I was coming to one of the most prestigious schools in the world; where I live, its reputation was that of a school with magnificent opportunities. After seeing what this school has to offer, I am not disappointed. The talent of the students at Andover is perhaps unmatched at any other school in the country. A student, however, will struggle to succeed without a good work ethic, no matter his or her intellectual ability. Much of one’s potential will go to waste without a certain amount of studying and work ethic. At boarding school, one loses a parental support system. All parents are different, but being with them is a significant advantage for most students. Not only are parents present in person to help in tough moments, but their comfort and oversight make it easier to work in general. One will not be as comfortable at Andover, at least for the first year, as at home, and this can make it hard to focus on work, which can seem trivial when faced by all the new stresses one feels at a boarding school. It can be easier for a day student to concentrate than for a boarder. Day students certainly have their own challenges, but it is often easier to work at home than at a place miles away from home. Boarders have more adjustments to make. Making the time to work is simply another adjustment, one that can be assuaged: with closer supervision, the worry of procrastinating will exist in a less powerful form. For instance, if I were monitored by an open-door study hall from eight to ten, not an uncommon rule at other boarding schools, I would not be so inclined to procrastinate. Instead, many times this term I have not started my work until eleven, as other challenges, distractions and the responsibilities of becoming a boarder took preference. Andover’s weeknight rules are less strict than at most other schools. There is no time at Andover when a student has to be in the room studying with the door open. One can visit any Internet site, bandwidth minding, at any time. Many schools shut off the Internet at night. Although Lowers and Uppers are supposed to be in their rooms at a certain time, there is no enforced lights out except for Juniors. It seems enjoyable to have such relatively loose rules, but the responsibility that comes with this freedom can be a difficult burden. Without a required study hall, a student has to find his own time to study unmonitored. This can work out well; a student might find the perfect balance between relaxation, sleep and work. It can, also, however, be a stressful difficulty, as in my case. Many nights this term, my first at Andover, I sacrificed a significant amount of sleep because of the late commence of my work. The procrastination was completely of my own doing, but structured hours of study would have helped me learn how to work earlier and get into a rhythm. It feels oddly to be writing on the benefits of less freedom when one’s strong inclination, including mine, at 15 years old, is to seek more freedom, but after three months at Andover, I must be honest in admitting the burdens of this wish. It is probably naïve of me to ask Andover, one of the largest of boarding schools, to emulate smaller ones, but when I think of the benefits of some of the rules that many call annoying, it is hard not to wonder why at least some of them are not still standing at Phillips Academy. I am not advocating for a military school, nor do I think that Andover ought to enforce all of the rules that stricter schools have. A bigger school should have more freedom, but the freedom at Andover is a little excessive, particularly for younger students. The amount one could accomplish and the amount of one’s free time would increase substantially if one had simply two hours of monitored study. Most students at Andover treasure the freedom they have and even want more, but a little less of it would actually benefit them.