Into the Fold

My first day of classes at Andover was different than that of most students. Instead of a room of 15 eager new students ready to meet new people and start a new school, my first class seemed to be a welcome back party for those who had already spent a year here. Only a few other kids were new, and together we were lost in Andover’s social web as we tried to find our way within its many shapes or forms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone in this process; my experiences were shared by over 100 new Lowers, Uppers and Seniors. Unlike the majority of students who enter PA as Juniors, we find ourselves entering an entirely different world which for the most part has already been established.

Socially, freshman year is such an influential, nearly-irreplaceable time at this school. While new Lowers, Uppers and Seniors are applying to Andover, the social groups that they will join when they arrive are already being determined. The identity of their class is already being formed. Tight bonds are made, so closely knit that when new Lowers enter the class in the coming fall, they have trouble finding their place in an already existing social structure. Because asking returning ninth graders to greet their friends from freshman year and welcome eighty new Lowers at the same time is a tad overwhelming, new student integration is one of the toughest social paradoxes at Andover.

Whenever new people come into a preexisting social environment, it’s always difficult to integrate, regardless of who they are or what they do. New Lowers and Uppers might always tend to cluster together and form their own groups. These groups might prevent these new students from accessing the full range of social opportunities that might have been available to them had they been here since they were freshmen.

To combat this, a focus must be put on improving class unity. Doing so would equalize the social playing-field for new students.

For example, many new upperclassmen are relegated to dorms filled exclusively or primarily with other new students. They are excluded from the social opportunity of living in a dorm with students of all classes. We could alleviate this problem by placing new students in dorms where there are returning students. When new Lowers are living with only other new Lowers on the farthest edges of campus, possibilities for social mobility disappear. Some argue that the system helps new students create bonds with people in similar situation, but if anything, this situation impairs new student integration and disrupts class unity. If, instead, new students were spread out among the larger dorms on campus, they would have a much easier time joining Andover’s intricate social web.

New students could also be given time to meet some returners before the first day of classes to help make the initial transition easier. Even if a new student walked into his or her first class of the year knowing one or two returning students in the room, it would go a long way in crafting a smoother beginning for that student’s Andover career.

Granted, new student integration is not an easy problem to tackle. It is impossible to guarantee every student a flawless transition to Andover life. However, the possible exclusion of new students is a problem not just for these students. If new students were integrated more effectively, returning students would also get a chance to meet all of Andover’s new students every year and to be exposed to all of these students’ talents, hobbies and personalities. While there is no need for the school to gather around in a circle and hold hands, everyone deserves a smooth landing.

Alex Rubin is a new Lower from New Paltz, NY.