Into a New Era

We are now treating prospective students like prospective customers. We have to market Andover to consumers, to Coca-Cola drinkers and Adidas wearers. We have to market our education and the experience that Andover offers as though it were any other product. The fancy redesign of our website, unveiled two weeks ago, is a step forward that will undoubtedly give Andover a leg up in catching the attention of the Red-Bull-fueled, YouTube-watching generation. It’s an unfortunate reflection on our time, however, that we have to spend so much energy and money crafting our image in order to compete in the market for the world’s best and brightest. If only it were all about substance. Our website’s new format, heavily laden with profiles and videos at every turn, takes advantage of the tendency of even the greatest minds of our generation to veer off course. It is designed to distract and engage the iPod-toting members of Generation Y (and their jaded parents), so they will spend more time exploring the site and learning about the school. Gone are the days in which a prospective student would log on, fill out the catalog-order form and close out without batting an eye. The website’s new features are sure to engage them for record-breaking times. Nonetheless, for someone trying to find a particular piece of information on the website, it is confusing and full of gratuitous plugs. The experience is akin to having to walk all the way through a grocery store to get to the milk or bread in the back of the store, while the candy is right up front. And now you’re almost certain not to find milk, but some kind of sugarcoated dairy derivative that leaves a foul aftertaste. The faux parchment banner, meant to evoke a sense of history, is about as real as the manufactured epiphanies shared in the profiles of the carefully-vetted students. Still, the redesign, though a bit overdressed, is right in spirit. As we continue into the 21st century, it’s crucial that our website has a particularly broad and engaging appeal so that we can continue to attract students who might otherwise think boarding school is a place only for delinquents or elitists. Still, we should put information and practicality first — before marketing and distracting layouts.