People, Not Statistics

This past week, hundreds of prospective Andover students and families inundated our campus for the annual Spring Visit program. During this time, many current students took the opportunity to reminisce and fondly recall some of their first memories of Andover. That nostalgic lull was short-lived. In a speech made by Jane Fried, Dean of Admission, at last Wednesday’s All-School Meeting, the innocent nature of these visits suddenly evaporated. Our spring visits were to be regarded as a battle fought between Exeter and us, and guerrilla warfare would triumph over all. We would fight not with our students, but with newly founded, formidable offenses Fried referred to as “Yield Machines.” Anyone and everyone could be a Yield Machine; all it required was the ability to sway candidates into attending Andover. According to a memo from the Office of the Head of School, Andover’s percent yield, the number of students admitted who choose to attend, is the highest in our “peer group.” While maintaining a relatively selective acceptance rate last year (only 20 percent of all applicants were accepted), 74 percent of those admitted students chose to attend Andover. As this institution welcomed hundreds of prospective students in the past week, Fried’s speech emphasized a need for us to promote Andover to these guests. While we should be advocates for Andover, should we do so at the expense of honesty? The aggressive nature of Fried’s speech led me to believe that our responsibility to accurately represent our school was in jeopardy. How were we to be candid with our guests, so as not to deceive them or create a chimerical image of our school in the process? There are things about Andover that some students might now find appealing, but it would be an injustice to the students and ourselves to ignore them. We have all committed ourselves to Andover and as a whole, are generally happy; in The Phillipian’s State of the Academy survey, over 93 percent of Andover students reported that they were happy with their decision to come to Andover. Therefore, with an almost unanimously happy student body, most students will only have positive experiences to share. However, as many students realize within the first few weeks of the school year, “Camp Andover” can only last for so long. Once our grueling schedule solidifies, and only the tough-skinned can survive. We cannot deny that we have become accustomed to late nights, taxing schedules and homesickness. For Andover and for us as students, it would be a grave act of imprudence to ignore the challenges we endure in giving prospective students a taste of our lives. Nonetheless, the intelligence of prospective students should not be underestimated. While age may reflect upon their maturity it will not impede their ability to discern fact from fiction. Although “Camp Andover” is a more appealing proposition, scrupulous responses will create the foundation necessary for a student’s ultimate decision of whether to matriculate. Once our lifestyle is covered, we have ourselves, the Andover students, to describe. There is a particular uniformity among us that cannot be refuted. Since middle school, the phrase “overachiever” has abruptly been eliminated from my vocabulary. With the majority of the student body far exceeding the terms to which this particular word describes, it is no longer necessary. We pride ourselves on the athletic student, the mathematically inclined actor and the environmentally conscious linguist who must all hold themselves to a high level of academic competence and success. For a candidate who may be wary of these challenges, a lack of candor will result in an unnecessarily arduous situation. To the Admission officers’ credit, it is not a simple task to determine how a student will acclimate himself to the Andover community. Standardized test scores, report cards and essays will highlight academically capable students. Extracurricular activities and recommendations will affirm a candidate’s qualifications. The ever so important interaction in interviews can make or break an applicant’s chances at an acceptance. A qualified Andover student, however, will not necessarily lead to a well-adapted Andover student. We should not be compelled to compete among one another, or even among our peer schools, to see who can be the best “Yield Machine.” These prospective students are humans; we should not think of them as statistics, but as actual people who will one day impact and influence our community. Celia Lewis is a two-year Lower.