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Phillips Academy Andover

School rating 4 / 5 by

180 Main Street Andover MA 01810 United States
9th to PG
9th to PG


Phillips Academy Andover review by .

Phillips Academy Andover is exceptionally strong at everything academically. I thought the History department was especially strong, but really we don't have a single weak academic department. (By acclamation, our physics and music departments are the best since they score so high on AP tests.) Once you hit your Upper Year you can start constructing your schedule around your interests - taking extra English or History electives, adding more advanced math and science to your schedule, taking another language, etc. and by senior year pretty much everything is at your discretion (although college counseling will make you take English all year - as they should). I can't emphasize how incredible the academics and courses are at the school - I was able to take classes in Renaissance art, metaphysical poetry, public speaking, quantum mechanics, Japanese, logic and comparative government. I even did an independent project on the Presidential election of 1824. The student body tends to be pretty competitive but in a good way. There's no way to really harm anyone academically - we all suffer together through these classes, and the more advanced classes require active collaboration (just try taking one of the advanced physics electives without being friends with anyone...). Things only got nasty with extracurriculars but that's the exception more than the rule, and I think my year had a unique combination of explosive personalities. And if hard politics aren't your style you can certainly succeed and be happy at Andover without playing any of those games. I can't overstate how influential Andover's academics were for my college experience. A lot of previous Andover alums have expressed similar sentiments, and many even thought that Andover was harder than college - this isn't true, but I understand the sentiment. Andover taught us how to struggle against mountains of work and incredibly competitive and talented peers, and even if Columbia may have been more difficult at times I was prepared for the challenge. Andover students, more so than even graduates of other well-known prep schools, have an intangible grit about them that we learned in high school somewhere in between crying over our first term paper junior (read: freshman) year and juggling five hours of homework a night with college admissions and club leadership our senior year. There's a reason why almost half of my Andover classmates at Columbia graduated magna cum laude or above. More specifically, Andover teaches you two key skills that apply to almost everything you will do in college. You firstly learn how to write well - we learned not just how to write pretty sentences but to construct arguments and argue for things persuasively, and express ourselves comfortably in written form. You'd be surprised how many students go to the Ivy League completely clueless in this regard - the SAT and AP tests that define conventional college admission success emphasize structure over content to an alarming degree and many of my Columbia classmates floundered as freshmen because of this. Andover alums don't have this problem, and its because we're prepared to write long, dense papers from the first trimester we arrive on campus. But secondly, Andover teaches you how to solve problems. I'm completely serious when I say this - problem solving is a skill that lies at the crux of any quantitative discipline, be it economics, physics, computer science or math. There's a reason our AP physics program is the highest scoring in the country - its because our teachers understand the didactic value of having kids struggle over six or seven tough problems a night instead of drumming out silly exercises, computations, "plug-and-chug" problems and busy-work. When you go to college and get your first problem set, you'll recognize how valuable this skill is. Even relative to other prep schools we performed extremely well in this regard - we don't recruit our competitive math team, we grow our best talent internally, and our classes aren't designed to cater to the smartest kid in the class and have everyone else play catch up. That's not the case everywhere else. Classes were small - most of my classes were somewhere in the teens in number, and many were well below ten people, especially at the more advanced level. I didn't go a single class without being forced to defend something or contribute in some way - even shy and quiet kids are expected to add value, and every single one of them does. I wasn't shy myself in high school, but I never felt like anyone was uncomfortable in this setting. If anything though, I think you'll find your peers are on the other end of the spectrum - opinionated, articulate, and fierce. And that's a good thing - I've never felt so engaged academically. Teachers made a point of always being available for a daily help outside of class during conference period (our own version of office hours), and some teachers will even invite you to their homes after classes ended for additional help. One teacher made himself available during his lunch hour. Conference period is also quite egalitarian - students help each other, the teacher makes sure to answer your question at least once, and everyone from the valedictorian to the PGs come by for help. I spent every single conference period with a teacher (usually in quantitative subjects, since those have the most value, unless you are discussing a paper topic or something) and I was first-round cum laude (top 10%) so it's not like there's a stigma of being seen as dumb in going to Conference period.

College Counseling

The college counseling office at Andover is an incredibly intimate one, and each of the....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

Applying to Andover was like a more personalized experience of applying to college. You....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

One thing about Andover that was really surprising to me when I first arrived was how nice everyone was. Everyone says hi to you on the path to class, it's considered rude not to hold open doors for other people, and your teachers make a point of getting to know you. Looking back on my time there, I definitely feel a profound sense of nostalgia for that little world in which everyone seemed to know one another, and even if we didn't get along all of the time, there was an unspoken understanding that we are ultimately all....

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