Just ten days after their admission to Andover, new students and their families were granted an opportunity to learn more about the school from current students and parents. On the evening of March 20, twelve current Andover students answered questions about life at Andover to newly admitted students and their parents on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform. The event was organized by Michelle Zhou P ’17 ’22, who currently serves as the host of Andover Parents Group. While the group has been established for more than eight years, the Q&A event was first initiated by Zhou three years ago, with its goal to provide insights about Andover to the prospective families in guiding them while making the commitment decision with informed knowledge.
This year the panel was led by Solar Lu ’24, accompanied by fellow panelists Amber Chou ’24, Ava Chen ’24, Andrew Wen ’23, Claire Wang ’23, Gloria Chen ’24, Jun Fan ’24, Jonathan Ji ’24, Joyce Li ’23, Jenny Jin ’24, Karen Wang ’23, and Melissa Chang ’23. The event consisted of a closed-question session, where students answered questions collected prior to the panel, followed by an open Q&A session, hearing questions directly from the participants, with each question answered by two or more students.
Zhou believes that an entirely student-led panel constitutes an honest and open environment for the new families who may have many questions about Andover student life.
“[The accepted students] might come here. They might go to Choate or Exeter. So we have to let them know the pros and cons… of Andover. That is why I hold the talking session every March 20 evening. We have a live session where eight or twelve of the current students respond to some of the gathered questions regarding every aspect of PA. It’s from current students who all volunteered from their Non Sibi spirits, so it’s very honest, very humble, and very down to earth. So the prospective families really appreciate that because they are not sugar-covered by any parents or admission office or anything. There are no adults involved in this. It’s all kids,” said Zhou.
During the event, the panelists tried to cover well-rounded perspectives about life at Andover, ranging from academic courses, extracurricular activities, boarding life, community service, as well as adaptation to the Andover environment such as stress and time management. Aside from delivering the logistics, the students also shared some of their personal experiences throughout their time at Andover and offered advice for the incoming students.
Concerned about Andover’s academic rigor, many newly admitted students and parents were curious about the course selection process and sought advice on choosing what courses to take. Aside from offering details about the diploma requirement, Claire Wang ’23 wanted to encourage the incoming students to follow their passions and take risks when requesting courses.
“When I first came, I had some misconceptions of how clubs and activities worked, as well as placement and course selection, so I wanted to give these new students a head start. We tried to alleviate some of the worries parents had and help future students succeed and be happy at Andover,” said Wang.
According to Anny Wang, a newly accepted student, the Q&A session served as an opportunity to ask about her concerns and receive assurance on her experiences at Andover.
Wang said, “The responses I heard from the students really showed me how much they loved the school, the community, the faculty, and their friends. Many said that they had similar concerns as me but were able to find numerous support around campus. Now, I have a better understanding of the challenges I might face, fabulous friends I might meet, and potentials I might discover. I am very grateful for the students who answered our questions!”
Andrew Wen ’23, also recalling his Junior year and the struggles he had faced, shared his suggestions on adapting to the academic rigor and the environment at Andover. According to Wen, he volunteered to be one of the panelists because he wanted to share more of his experience that might be helpful for incoming students.
“I thought it would be nice to provide new students with my insight because Andover could be a tough environment, and I didn’t want them to go through the challenges I had to go through when I first joined the community as a [Junior],” said Wen.
Similarly, Joyce Li ’23, who reflected on her own personal growth throughout her time at Andover, thought the panel was meaningful. She hoped that after the panel event, incoming new students would be more motivated to fully engage in their Andover experiences.
“I have been living in the same place my whole life—I went to public school for eight years until Andover, and I think that when you’re in that environment, it is very easy to fall into the pattern of doing things because everyone around you is doing, or you do it because it’s expected of you. And when I came to Andover, I had to almost deconstruct myself. What do I want to do? I am interested in what club? Who do I want to be friends with? Because there is no purpose in doing things that the community expects, you really have to think about what you want not just at Andover, but in life in general,” said Li.
Li continued, “I always wanted to share these thoughts and encouragement with the newly accepted students and to people out there who might be immersed in all the intimidation and worries of starting life at Andover. Even to myself when first joining this community, I wish I could’ve told them to try out more things and be brave, which is why I volunteered to join the Q&A session.”