Revisiting the Real Andover

Two years ago, I caught a glimpse of Andover for half a day on Revisit Day. During my brief visit, I was astonished by the academic rigor and sophistication of class lectures. Since matriculating, however, I have learned that there is far more to Andover than our course selection or curriculum. There is a rich social, cultural, and artistic community that exists at Andover – an entire world that revisit students are not exposed to. Unfortunately, revisit students are only given access to a narrow and incomplete look at Andover, one that, in my opinion, doesn’t do this campus justice. In order to fully capture the atmosphere and culture of this school, Revisit Day must reveal the extent of our extracurriculars, an aspect to our campus that arguably plays a greater role in student life than academics.

As a prospective student, I knew very little about the Andover community. Andover, in my mind, was attached to generalities and numbers: diversity quotas, student-to-teacher ratios, and number of courses offered. Because of my limited and one-dimensional understanding of the school, I wanted to see something beyond just statistics. I wanted to see the human side of Andover.

Unfortunately, Revisit Day, for the most part, shows only the academic side of Andover. As a revisit student, I received more numbers: the students had X amount of homework, they were part of Y amount of clubs, teachers piled on Z amount of assignments. Because newly-admitted students leave before the school day ends, they have little chance to see students participating in sports and clubs. Instead, they see only the parts of Andover that they already gather from visiting Andover’s website. Yes, Andover offers AP courses. Yes, Andover academic culture is highly competitive and selective. And yes, Andover sends a certain amount of students to Ivy League schools each year. But these facts are all numbers that anyone could find from doing a web search. Andover only shows the rigorous academic curriculum on revisit day and by doing so, neglects the vital, human side of the community that makes Andover truly outstanding.

As of now, Revisit Day does not explore extracurriculars offered at Andover. Yet these activities, sports, and clubs, are crucial to student life. The newly admitted students aren’t usually exposed to other wonderful parts of Andover, such as CAMD and the Brace Center, and they are unable to gauge how their unique talents will fit within the Andover community. In fact, I would argue that these parts of Andover determine the culture of the school to a far greater extent that our GPAs or course selection. Activities outside of the academic schedule are just as important, or more important, to students’ lives as academics.

I encourage Andover revisit hosts and the Shuman Office of Admissions to introduce newly-admitted students to parts of life outside of classes. For example, revisit day hosts could explain what clubs they are in or what sorts of Community Engagement programs they’re involved with. Extracurriculars are what make Andover flourish. They represent students’ different passions and talents, and that is not something that can be experienced online.

While Andover is a place of academic excellence, students must not forget that Andover is also a place for individual and social development, in areas from athletics to clubs. Students all play a role in creating the animated, thriving community and are the heart of the Revisit Day experience.  To do our school justice, we must share our plethora of extracurriculars. It is that part of campus that constitutes the human and also the extraordinary part of Andover.