Life Lessons From Fall Term

Since I first stepped foot on campus, I’ve probably had at least ten conversations trying to figure out how in the world I got into Andover. I didn’t have particularly impressive extracurricular activities, my grades were good but not amazing, my interview went fine, and my application essay about being non sibi probably didn’t “wow” anyone. My parents like to pull out the classic “you’re here for a reason,” but I don’t buy it. This might seem like a very negative viewpoint, but it wasn’t always my perspective. 

On my first day at Andover, only three months ago, I was very confident in myself and my academic success. In middle school, I don’t think I studied for one test, or honestly had to put much effort in at all. It took about two weeks of classes, a fifty percent on a math test and spending three hours on an assignment for my pass/fail English class to burst that bubble. I didn’t listen to the warnings and was somehow surprised to find out that Andover was hard. I studied a ton for that math test, so the fifty percent wasn’t what I expected, but at the time I thought there was literally nothing else I could’ve done. I attended conferences, requested a peer tutor, did the practice problems, all of it. In the end, I was frustrated, but I had the mentality that “there was nothing else I could’ve done.”

As the term progressed, however, I realized that I needed to take more initiative in my classes if I wanted to succeed. Nothing proved this idea more than finals week, where I learned that there’s always something more to do. In the last couple weeks before Thanksgiving break, I spent the most time I ever have studying. Despite my efforts, as I walked out of my finals, I still felt as though I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been. In this case, I think the “something else” I could have done would have been to determine what was actually important for the final, instead of spending my time pouring over an entire term’s worth of material.  

My procrastination habits have also changed drastically since arriving at Andover. In middle school, I did pretty much all my homework at 3:00 a.m. before it was due while sitting on my bed and watching TV. Unsurprisingly, Andover proved more difficult. In order to adjust to that change, I now do my homework at a reasonable hour and leave 3:00 a.m. for Netflix. I feel less stressed and have more time for the things I enjoy, which has eased the stress of the transition to Andover considerably. I’ve made this shift to take more responsibility for my schoolwork. 

Another thing that I had a bit too much of is confidence in my social skills. I went to a private middle school. I had 40 kids in my grade, and walking through the halls, I never saw an unfamiliar face. I’ve always been pretty outgoing and friendly, so naturally, I thought this would translate perfectly to high school. It turns out that going from roughly 150 people to 1200 is not quite as easy a transition as I had imagined. I heard it from everyone when I got here: “It sometimes takes months to find your friends, don’t worry!” But I was worried. After some not-so-great experiences and some tears, I came to my next conclusion: “oh well, it’ll work itself out. If I just keep meeting people, keep trying my best, it’ll all work out in the end.” Now, I’m not sure this is true. Just like my perspective on schoolwork changed, my perspective on friendship changed. There’s always more I can do. I can put myself out there and introduce myself to someone I don’t know. I could spend more time in public spaces or simply even strike up a conversation with a person in one of my classes. There are so many ways to approach this challenge, and it won’t always be natural, but I know it’s important if I want to enjoy these next four years.

My attitude towards Andover has definitely changed a lot in the time I’ve been here. I went from an almost arrogant outlook on my social presence and my schoolwork to being humbled by the end of the first month. My Fall Term could have gone smoother, but heading into the winter, I want to focus on the most important aspects of my classes, rather than waste time on irrelevant topics. I want to spend time getting to know my classmates and peers, instead of staying safely within my group of friends. Overall, I want to constantly be on the lookout for where I can “do more” in order to have a successful Andover experience.