The Continuous Search for Andover’s Approval

Newly admitted students, vessels of anxiety, excitement, and sweat. Usually, most new students are able to return to campus as revisits. They have the opportunity to be an outsider, to look into a history class struggling with creating a fruitful discussion using tiny prompts in bingo boxes, or an art class guiding students to connect art with their identity. However, as a freshman that was accepted into Andover during the middle of Covid-19, I was never able to participate in tours or tag along with a current student to their classes to experience life at Andover. Essentially, when I said yes to Andover, I realized that I would only ever be able to experience it from the point of view where I wouldn’t truly know whether Andover was the right school for me until after I said yes. And then, I couldn’t really say no. But having been a revisit host for two new prospective students, I am somewhat grateful that I didn’t have to experience what it was like being a new student. During my time as a host, there was a need for academic validation from new students, which was only amplified by the culture to be exceptional.

The new students that participate in revisits are already accepted into Andover, and it’s simply up to them to decide whether they will take the offer or reject it. However, whether it be by solving problems in their host’s math class or adding meaningful contributions during English discussions, they still believe that they have something to prove. It is not enough to receive a letter congratulating you on your acceptance into the number one high school in America; you have to prove to yourself and everyone around you that you deserve to be accepted, that you are just as good, or better than the current students.

 While I understand that there is a certain level of stress and pressure that accompanies the prospect of attending Andover, the culture of success at Andover has only exacerbated the burden of being worthy enough to say yes to Andover, even though it has already said yes to you. During revisits, I heard students asking their hosts about what they should study to place into a higher math class, or about what clubs they should join that would look good on their applications for future high school programs or college. And frankly, I wasn’t surprised; that’s the scary part. At Andover, I am accustomed to people asking what my math level is. I am accustomed to people interrogating me about what awards I’ve won or how fast I am when I tell them I like writing or competing. Attending Andover, I constantly question whether I belong, whether I am truly accepted, or whether I am right back at the drawing board waiting for Andover’s letter of acceptance or rejection. There is no end. For new students looking into a community that seems to ascertain their intellect through numbers, they feel they need to display what they know in order to be proudly welcomed into the Andover community. It isn’t just about being accepted, but continuously proving that from the moment you are shown around during revisits, to when you enter Andover as a student, you are worth the congratulations letter that was sent to you.

Revisits should be a time where newly admitted students get to evaluate Andover, not the other way around. It is a time when new students should feel safe and already a part of the Andover community if they plan to say yes. The anxiety, excitement, and sweat should come from the fact that the decision to attend Andover is in their hands, and whether or not Andover is the right fit for them, not whether they are smart enough to fit Andover. But that will only happen if we as a community change what we put our worth in, and understand that success and intelligence manifests itself in a multitude of ways, not just numeric values.