Phillips Academy Andoverreview by University of Chicago student. The academic program at Andover looks, at first glance, to be extremely broad. The Course of Study teems with offerings in Critical Race Theory, the work of Jane Austen, and Non-Euclidean Geometry. Though these courses do exist and students (myself included) take them, the majority of academic life at Andover centers around a few core classes; almost every student takes them at some point in their career. These courses are: Math 320-360, followed by 520, 570, or 580; Biology 100; Chemistry 250 or 300; English 100, 200, 300; History 100, 200, 300; Language at levels of 100, 200, 300, and 400. Of course there is some variability even within these options - sometimes the language courses in particular are given fancy names; further, students are required to take a number of electives in arts and philosophy - but the basic outline stays constant. Certainly, students in their first 2 years at Andover will be taking some combination of these classes. The most general comment about these classes is that they are all very solid. The instructors have taught these classes for many years and the material has been worked out in order to provide a solid foundation for students who take them. This quality preparation becomes evident in the school's high AP score averages, particularly in math, as well as in the ease with which students take college placement exams in math, language, and writing. Now, moving to those courses that make the Course of Study so thick, we really get a mixed bag. Some of these courses are excellent. For example, I took a course on Virginia Woolf's novels from a woman who got her PhD studying Woolf's work. She knew everything about both the books and the author and the she taught at an extremely high level. Others are not so great. First of all, Seniors - who make up most of the population in these classes - do tend to get lazy as their time at PA wanes. Second, teachers are generally more focused on their work in the "core" classes; consequently, the electives can seem like they're less "solid." The proceeding may be a function of the fact that the courses often try to cover in 10 weeks of high-school classes what is often covered in a university over a semester. Nevertheless, students often discover their academic passions in these courses. Andover's strengths certainly lie in the humanities. The school teachers you - across the English, History, and Philosophy curricula - to think creatively and write precisely. At university, it is clear that most students do not have anything close to this level of preparation. The thing that truly makes this area Andover's strength, though, is that the faculty in these departments have such small classes sizes. They can, and do, focus an enormous amount of attention on each student and each essay. This is not to say that math and science are weaknesses at Andover. It is simply the case that the school provides extremely solid foundation for study in these areas for students who are not particularly inclined to win Nobel or Fields Prizes. In other words, Andover isn't the best place for you if you want to focus very intensely on your high-level math work. It can be done, but it's not really the easiest thing because your humanities courses take a lot of time and require focus and creativity. If you are a mathematician or a physicist, there are plenty of opportunities for taking coursework far beyond the level of a high-school student (i.e. fluid mechanics, organic chemistry, etc.). Andover prepares you very well for college. As I said before, you just get a very solid grounding in every subject. This fact comes largely from the amount of time that you are required to spend preparing for each class. Students simply get really comfortable with the material because they have spent so much time working with it (and even if the topics aren't at a high level, students are expected to perform with high quality). Andover's academics are certainly of the type whereby you get out what you put in - and almost everybody puts in a lot.
Andover was definitely a love-hate relationship. That's the way that everyone feels, though. The reason for this sinusoidal reality is that there are weeks where it seems like everything's going well, and then there are weeks where it seems like the world is going to collapse because you have so much work. If you're not up for that, don't come to Andover. If you are up to that, you will have that love-hate relationship while you're at the school, and then you'll miss the place like crazy because you'd give anything to stay up all night with an English paper, a lab report, and a test the next day. I couldn't explain it, but it's good for you. You'll love the work, you'll pursue the knowledge, and you'll stop caring about your grades; then, you'll emerge from commencement a stronger person. The campus culture at Andover is very liberal, and very social-justice-oriented. Honestly, I stayed away from this culture because I found it toxic to real discussion. Look at the school's newspaper, phillipian.net, to find evidence of these tendencies. There are a few very outspoken people, and then a huge silent majority that keeps to itself and does its work. That silent majority is, though, very excited to participate in the clubs and organizations that the school boasts. Andover the town and Phillips Andover are majority upper-middle or upper-class and majority white - the town itself is very safe. That's normal for a boarding school and boarding school town in New England. There is a huge push to make PA more ethnically and economically diverse. That's happening slowly. The real fact is that the school is very accepting of everybody. A few other tidbits: commons, the dining hall, is fantastic; the library is very good, the librarians are very helpful; the music facilities are good; the athletic facilities are good, and being renovated; the health center is brand-new.
Everybody at Phillips Andover is involved in a million things. That's the classic Andover student. People generally balance their myriad demands by just not sleeping enough. Kids take their school work and their clubs very seriously. The school makes this possible by just giving students the latitude to do what they like. There's really a lot of freedom at Andover. Andover students certainly socialize, as well. Don't get the impression that the place is all work and no play. The school doesn't work particularly hard to produce well-rounded individuals; the culture does that by itself. Students want to explore as many areas as they can, and this attitude is infectious. Andover students are generally well-rounded. They like to become expert at things, and they try to use their education well.