Phillips Andover is said by many students to be 'harder than college'. While this has not been true in my experience, I feel that Andover has prepared me incredibly well for my undergraduate career. As a student who took full advantage of the breadth of the school's course offerings, there is no one department that I would say outshone any of the others with regard to classes and teachers. Every single teacher I had was stellar. (Although some take a month or two to fully appreciate!) In the humanities department the emphasis is heavily on reading comprehension, engaging discussion, and writing. It is impossible to graduate from Phillips without being at the very least a good writer. While math and science classes are primarily lecture/problem solving based, Phillips has a designated half hour EVERY DAY for "conferences" with teachers, both scheduled and by drop in (like college "office hours" but much more personal). I've been in classes that have four people and classes that have eighteen, and both experiences have been fantastic. The small classes are very intense and require a lot of preparation. While in larger classes you are not put "on the spot" on a daily basis, all of the teachers require participation, and I found that larger classes provided a larger range of perspectives, and often inspired very spirited debate. The average workload depends on how easily your courses come to you, however, I would definitely say that 8-11pm is the very least required as an upperclassman. Because Andover has rigorous academics, the school has many layers of academic support for students, however the opportunity to challenge yourself is never exhausted.
The school offers a huge number of extracurricular events, and I didn't ever know a single person who wasn't involved in something. There is always the stereotypical tension between arts and sports, theater and music, music and every-other-evening-commitment, but generally, if you choose what you love, you can make time for it, AND you can obtain a leadership position if you are interested. If the club isn't "good", rather than leave, Andover lets you take responsibility for turning the organization around. My freshman year at PA I was very shy and didn't really participate in extracurricular events, but my my senior year, I was involved in a variety of events 10-15hrs/wk. One of the greatest things about boarding school is living in a dorm with your friends. You can be really busy during the day, but you cannot be lonely when you are surrounded by your dorm community to help you stay balanced. Again, Andover has a really strong support network, ranging from teachers themselves, to house-counselors, to the random faculty/staff you say hi to on the path that eventually start being regular people you check up on and talk to.
Dorms: No matter what "cluster" you are in, your dean will be great if you are willing to put in the effort to get to know them. While not all the dorms are equal in modernity, cleanliness, or personality, that is part of the charm-- you really make your own experience. Food: Got way better since Commons (dining hall) was renovated. Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner are all great times to socialize in between the rest of your life. Commons felt like a social hub while I was there, and it was fantastic because students, faculty, faculty families, and staff all eat together. Ethnic/Socioeconomic: Andover is surprisingly diverse, and the friendships I had reflected that diversity. If you are interested in more organized communities, CAMD is the center for diversity and hosts several clubs such as AfLatAm, Asian Society, Womens Forum, and a whole host of other events. Andover even has a biracial/multiethnic club that deals specifically with being interracial. I was not religious, but many of my friends were, and they really liked Rev. Gardener. Andover is a "second chance school", meaning that they understand that students can make mistakes. That being the case, I feel that in my experience, most people understood that being at Andover was more important that anything else, and people didn't particularly test the boundaries. Andover is fairly liberal in that it allows students to decide their own bedtimes (after freshman fall), their own work schedule, and a lot of their coursework (as upperclassmen). Andover allows you to take full responsibility for yourself and your life, and in my experience, this was a key factor in learning how to grow up and be independent. I know that my friends from PA will be some of the best friends I'll ever have.
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