Over-Enrollment at Andover: Why It Happened and What to Expect Next Year

As newly admitted students have made their enrollment decisions for the upcoming school year, Andover reflects on its trend of over-enrollment and the effects it has had on housing arrangements. Over the course of the last eight years, the number of enrolled boarders and day students has seen a gradual increase; The number increased from 1125 students with 838 boarders and 287 day students in 2013-2014, to 1154 students with 847 boarders and 307 day students in 2016-2017, to a total of 1187 students with 872 boarders and 315 day students currently in 2021-2022.

According to Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, the over-enrollment is partially due to the Admission Office having to admit more students than the school can accommodate for. Every year, the school has to anticipate unexpected situations that might result in a decrease in the student body population.

“The admissions team typically takes more students than we actually have space for, because there’s typically some level of what we call melt in the summer where students and families make decisions for a whole host of reasons about changing status, whether that’s taking leave, whether that’s withdrawing, whether that’s shifting schools, or deciding not to come to Andover. And so we’re trying to anticipate and guess where that melt comes and help with the size of that melt,” said Elliott.

The pandemic has also influenced the total number of students admitted to the school over the last two years. Director of Admission Jill Thompson believes that more students have been interested in Andover during the pandemic as shown by the decline in the school’s acceptance rate.

“Over the past three years, our admit rate has declined from 13% in 2020 to 10% in 2021 to 9% in 2022. Since the fall of 2019, we have seen increased interest in Andover education given the challenges families and schools have been facing in the course of the pandemic. The appeal of an Andover experience, educational program, and residential community has become more significant during the pandemic,” wrote Thompson in an email to The Phillipian.

According to Thompson, the Andover Admissions Office has also intentionally enrolled more students as the pandemic posed uncertainty for the decisions made by the newly-enrolled and current student population.

“We have intentionally over-enrolled during the pandemic because of the widespread uncertainty and how that might impact the decisions of students and families to enroll at or continue attending Andover,” wrote Thompson.

Elliott explained that housing assignments were adjusted to accommodate the larger student body. Some rooms were reconfigured and new dorms were added, such as the Andover Inn.

“We’ve used triples in order to increase the size and spacing depending if we have a big enough room to be able to accommodate three guys, three dressers, three desks, three beds. Or if that’s not the case, then we get creative in other ways. We’ve had to create new doubles or triples, and reconfigure rooms. So we’re super lucky that our colleagues in the facilities department are creative and really accommodating,” said Elliott.

The arrangement of housing assignments depends on a variety of factors, such as the number of students in each grade and the number of students interested in all-gender housing. Elliott noted that housing assignments are a puzzle in which each factor can have a domino effect on subsequent housing decisions.

“You need to understand how many nine or tenth graders we have so that we can decide which dorms to assign them. We need to know how many students are interested in all gender housing so that we can get spaces for all gender residences and then adjust other dorms accordingly. So a number of different dominoes, some of them fall at the same time, some of them fall in different orders. So it’s like one huge puzzle every year,” said Elliott.

Andover has come up with strategies to bring the student population down from the trend of over- enrollment. This year, the Admissions Office intentionally admitted fewer students to anticipate having a student body size of around 1,150 enrolled students for the next school year.

“In response to a few years of over-enrollment in our student population, this year (for fall 2022) we admitted fewer students than we did for fall 2020 and fall 2021. Our aim was to ‘right size’ our student population for the 2022-23 school year. We anticipate that our student body will be closer to our 1,150 enrolled student target for the 2022-23 school year. We are pleased by this outcome and will be glad to be able to return the Andover Inn to hotel status this coming fall,” wrote Thompson.