Phillips Academy Andover review by Yale University student. Andover is very difficult. I worked significantly harder at Andover than I did my freshman year and first semester of my sophomore year in college. I probably spent 4-5 hours a night on homework on top of playing varsity sports and playing in a number of bands I started with my friends. The difficulty of the classes and workload served as a kind of glue that bonded me very closely with a group of friends that I'm sure I will remain close to until the end of my life. Andover really has no departmental weaknesses. There are almost no limits to the classes you can take, and you will most likely have many classes you want to take but cannot fit into your schedule, and you most likely will not max out the classes in a department. Across all fields, the majority of classes I took were taught by teachers with great expertise in their subjects and with the patience and charisma needed to engage the students. The atmosphere can be quite competitive, particularly in math and science classes, although I didn't find the competition stifling. Usually a good number of the people in your classes are close friends, which relaxes the mood, although the competitive barometer really depends on the people in your classes. However, I think the teachers in general do a good job getting students to work together. The small class sizes (usually 10-15 per class, sometimes smaller) give you a chance to get to know your teachers on a level that most college classes, particularly introductory classes, do not permit. I am still in contact with a number of my Andover teachers, and still occasionally go up there to grab a meal with them. Academically, I cannot imagine being more prepared for college than I did after coming out of Andover. Many of the classes in college feel like repeats of classes I took at Andover. I feel that I was fairly socially unprepared for college. The freedom of college can seem rather overwhelming at first, and it is easy to slip into a rebellious mindset against the rules and regulations Andover had in place. However, the adjustment is not a hard one, as it is always easier to gain freedom than to lose it, and in college, you gain ALOT of freedom as compared to your time at Andover.
I would say that Andover's quality of life is for the most part excellent, with times of extreme stress and misery. These periods are the only reason I did not give it 5 stars for quality of life. The food is VERY good, the people are fantastic, and the facilities are top notch. However, I sometimes found that I had so much on my plate that I could not really take time to appreciate the things I was doing there. I feel in general that most people find their niche. The dorms all have different cultures, from big to small, jock to artsy. I lived in a small "stacked" dorm with eight of my friends for my Upper and Senior years at Andover, and I think I can safely say I will never be more close to a group of people. Also, I was surprised by the diversity of my peer group. I am a white kid from the Boston area, but in my nine person dorm, aside from the three other white Massachusetts boys, there were two Koreans, a guy from Japan, a guy from Nigeria, and a guy from Ecuador, and in my 10th grade dorm, my next door neighbor was a guy whose parents were from India, went to middle school in Australia, and now lives in Papua New Guinea. Andover is need blind as well, which means that anyone who needs financial aid will get it without it affecting their admissions decision. I certainly think Andover goes a long way in disproving the stereotype of a traditional New England prep school. I would say people tend to lean to the left politically, but plenty of my friends had conservative views as well. Political positions almost never got in the way of friendships or relationships between any of the students. The faculty is equally diverse. My first house counselor (dorm parent) in 10th grade grew up in Puerto Rico, while my 11th and 12th grade house counselor was a former navy seal from Texas. I would say Andover introduced me to a fantastic and interesting array of people, and for that, I am very grateful to it.
There is an old saying at Andover that you can pick two: Social life/extracurriculars, grades, and sleep. For this most part, I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment, except in some rare cases who manage all three, and equally rare cases who only manage one. Everyone is required to play a sport each season, ranging from ones with minimal time commitments (instructional ice skating, intramural basketball etc.) to ones with major time commitments and travel schedules (any varsity sport). However, most people really enjoy whatever sport they are involved in. In terms of other extracurriculars, there are clubs and clubs and more clubs you can join, again ranging from those that require very little time commitment (ping pong club, quidditch club) to those that take up a significant amount of time (model united nations, philomathean debate society, The Phillipian newspaper, etc.), and all those in between. Andover also makes it quite easy to start new clubs, although most people find that the clubs that already exist are more than sufficient. There is also a vibrant music and arts scene at Andover. I was very involved in privately organized rock bands at Andover, and probably played 3-4 significant shows a trimester. For classical musicians, there is the primary school run orchestra and also a number of student run productions, as well as a number of choruses and acapella groups. Andover is very collegiate in the number and level of its musical groups. The art scene is equally vibrant. You are also free to use many of the musical, athletic, and artistic facilities on your own time.