Deerfield Academy review by University of Chicago student. The school's academic program definitely excels in math and science, with loads of AP and research opportunities and a gorgeous building with very modern lab equipment. Humanities is also a strong point, which a large variety of history and English classes. History class options range from ancient civilizations, to the middle ages in Europe, to Modern Europe, American, from a civil justice standpoint, African and Latin American history, etc. English classes include 50s literature, nature writing, biographical writing, and other creative writings along with the traditional analytical essays. Perhaps the best classes in the school are their interdisciplinary courses, such as American Studies - a junior year class integrating English and History into an unforgettable telling of American history. The language program is also reasonably good, including offerings of Arabic and Mandarin and study abroad options all over the world. Thanks to Deerfield, I travelled to Peru, Uruguay, Botswana, and Spain. I definitely feel prepared for university. Deerfield tries to use discussion-based teaching in all its classes; I never felt uncomfortable asking a question or sharing an opinion. The largest class I had at Deerfield was 18 students, and the smallest had 5. Class sizes are small and effective. The faculty are mostly accessible, with hours on duty at the dorms and offices you are usually free to visit. My math teacher set up extra-help sessions every night one year. The average work load depends on the classes you decide to take - at the very least, it is manageable, and at the most, it is nearly impossible. However, the work was always challenging and useful (not busywork).
The quality of life at Deerfield was good, although a bit isolated. All students are guaranteed singles (although over-enrollment in the 09-10 year compromised this). The dorms are heated and room size is comfortable. The dining hall is relatively delicious for an institution of its size and includes vegetarian and vegan options (I was vegan for a year and the dining hall was incredibly accomodating). 7 meals per week are "sit-down", 9 students with one faculty member per table. These can be annoying, but enable students to meet other students and faculty they might not otherwise get to know. Deerfield has virtually no crime, and for any problems that do arise, the security office is very efficient and accessible. The school-sponsored social events range from dances to lectures and are generally well-attended. However, a lot of students spend free time simply hanging out in the dorms, watching movies, or going into "town". Deerfield is majority affluent whites. There is a significant Asian and African-American population - probably 10 or 15% each. The middle class is also left out; they are not "poor" enough to get a lot of financial aid, but not "rich" enough to pay high tuition. Most middle class students are day students. 30% of the student body receives financial aid, and about 15 or 20% of those would be almost full scholarship students from "poorer" families. The faculty would follow about the same description, and includes some "out" gay and lesbian professors. The dorm residents are generally supportive and have weekly or bi-weekly gatherings with food for students on their hall. There is a peer-counseling program as well as adult counselors. The Health Center is always open and very good as long as it isn't abused. Each student has a faculty advisor; some of these meet once per trimester, other weekly - it depends on what the student wants and needs. Deerfield's "tradition" is strong for half the school (affluent white males and some females) and completely disregarded by the other half. It is really what you want - if you want a slightly sexist, racist, and homophobic environment, you can always create or find one no matter where you are. But if you are open-minded and liberal, there are lots of students - probably the vast majority - who are as well and are beginning to fight against the few vestiges of sexism, racism, and homophobia still present. The school's approach to discipline was good. It seemed a bit rigid sophomore year with required study hall from 7:45 to 9:45 in the dorms, but in retrospect the structure is helpful.
Deerfield Academy requires that each student participate in a co-curricular every term - either a sport, art, music, community service, or theater. Extracurriculars such as clubs have meetings in the evening. I think Deerfield structured a good balance between academics, activities, and social life - mealtimes, free periods, and evenings were all free for "hanging out" and often your classes and co-curriculars were with many friends. Sports offerings are really varied, including "cop out" recreational sports and intense competitive sports. Deerfield especially excels in lacrosse, basketball, baseball, football, swimming, volleyball, and ice hockey. Most of the male athletic teams are more intense and successful than the female teams, and male teams definitely enjoy greater audiences, etc - the "sexism" of sports events has often come under fire. Other athletic options include a wonderful dance program for everyone from no-experience to someone who has been on pointe for years, and an outdoors activity including hiking, canoeing, and camping. For motivated students, the music and art offerings are very good. Teachers are willing to give lots of one-on-one time, and art is accessible due to the fact that students don't have to buy their own supplies (and the school's supplies are very nice). The theatre program is exceptional, culminating in a trimesterly play or musical always of outstanding quality. Community service is increasing its presence on campus with every year; Deerfield recently instituted a once-monthly community service requirement for sports teams and dormitory halls. There are abundant community service options from serving on the student community service board to serving meals to the homeless once a week to assisting with Special Olympics to three-times-a-week cocurriculars to one-time big projects at local non-profits. Deerfield students are rather well-rounded, with at least 10 hours dedicated to extracurricular activities per week.