Andover’s Exclusive Extracurriculars

The sheer variety and volume of clubs at Andover is overwhelming. In theory, students have hundreds of clubs, organizations and associations to join. Unfortunately, the reality is far more limited. Clubs on campus are often discerningly selective. There are certain skills that each club requires as unspoken prerequisites in order to join, severely restrictive opportunities for novices and beginners.

At Andover, our highly competitive talent pool allows us to form clubs that are ambitious, aggressive, and ruthlessly successful. This allows experienced students to interact with peers of similar skill levels and face appropriately challenging environments. Unfortunately, the elitism of this talent leaves novices in the dust. When students come on campus, they are expected to have a certain skillset in order to join a club. Students who wish to participate in a capella groups must already know how to sight read, debate club hopefuls must already have experience under their belt, publication enthusiasts must already have a strong grasp of writing, and it is difficult for inexperienced students to find an avenue of participation. Clubs that require applying and auditioning tend to cut out other people.

Not all groups on campus project this same elitism. For example, Andover always prides itself in encouraging students of all skill levels to play sports. There are intramural and instructive sports for beginners, and from there, students can ascend from JV2, to JV1, to Varsity. There are even instances of kids who start off with no experience as freshmen and end their senior year as Varsity athletes. Even if students are not interested in playing competitively, they are still given the opportunity to participate on the intramural level.

An example that needs to be seen more other than sports is Hypnotiq. Hypnotiq has recently implemented a club extension that welcomes in students of varying levels of dance with their creation of Junior Hypnotiq, a secondary division of dancers. Thus, students unable to participate in dance at the highest level still have the opportunity to engage in their passion and hopefully hone their skill with hip hop.

Unfortunately, most clubs on campus neglect to welcome in novices. In order to truly take advantage of talented and capable students on campus and expand upon their potential, clubs need to work towards greater inclusivity. Students, regardless of skill level, can greatly contribute to a club. Often, they just need a chance to learn and grow. By making Andover a place where students can start and grow their interests on campus instead of outside of campus, this brings a platform of more diverse talents and opportunities for future Andover generations to use.

There might be some clubs who do have novice programs. They however, do not advertise much of their programs, or put an emphasis much on their programs. Clubs on campus should be able to open more opportunities, host more activities for novices. They should also advertise said opportunities on campus.

I am not arguing that we should abolish audition processes or eliminate applications. Rather, clubs do need to place a greater emphasis on welcoming beginners. It can be as extensive or as light handed as the club prefers; something as simple creating a space for beginners to practice their skills goes a long way to projecting a message of inclusivity. In order to build this culture of encouraging novices to pursue their passion at Andover, carving out a space for them in the club is crucial. Otherwise, students with enormous, unweighted potential could be passed over.

Celine Cheung is a New Lower from Hong Kong.