Phillips Academy Andover - Review #8

Read more details about Phillips Academy Andover on their 2018-19 profile page.
Phillips Academy Andover
5

About the Author:

College EnrolledCoe College, University of Chicago
Home Town, State Cedar Rapids, IA
Years Attended Boarding School4
Activities During Boarding SchoolI was a varsity wrestler as a 9th grader and was already the third best wrestler on the team. Then I injured my back and was never allowed to wrestle again.In 10th grade I placed 3rd in a school wide math competition and won a book which I still have not read. The solution to the problem I missed popped into my head as I exited the exam room.In the Philomathean Society I debated Scooter Libbey, who was a year older, many times (Google it, and him). We were arch enemies, and took turns losing.As a senior I won first prize in a paper airplane competition for longest flight duration (believe it or not my paper airplane stayed in the air for over a minute).My favorite club was the Mechanics Club. A lady gave us her old Mercedes and, because it was a Club activity, we were allowed to drive it around campus for 'test drives.' That was back when they didn't even let us have bicycles ...

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Andover has the most beautiful campus of any boarding school, college or university in the world, period. Yes, I've seen all the top competitors - none compare.But that is not why you should consider attending Andover.Andover is a world village, thanks to their 'needs blind admissions.' First you get in, if you're exceptional qualified. Then they give you as much money as you need to make sure you can attend.This means you won't be hanging out with a bunch of kids whose parents could afford to send them to boarding school. You'll be hanging out with a bunch of exceptional kids who have already proven they are smart, interesting, talented, personable, hard working, hard playing, and worth knowing.If you are this kind of person, too, Andover might be the place for you.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Andover was arguably the best thing that ever happened to me. I was extracted from small town Iowa and shipped off to a different reality without my parents really knowing how to stop me, because I applied, I got in, I got a scholarship, and they didn't know how to say 'no' when I pleaded, "Can I go?"It was four years of A's and F's, prize medals and prized punishments, great friends and great enemies, phenomenal teachers and hated teachers. I literally loved every minute of it, including the hundreds of dollars I made as a senior by actually starting the chain letter myself, instead of buying into it just before it was banned by the administration.It sort of spoiled me for college. When I was thrown into with a bunch of students suffering from an insipid public school education I only lasted a year before deciding I had better things to do with my life. I left the country and hitchhiked around Europe, the mid-East, and Asia for two years.Eventually I went back to school and earned a degree or two, always with a goal not just of getting an A but of being the best in the class, on every exam, preferably with a perfect score. Andover taught me how to learn, how to enjoy learning, and how to have lots of fun working really hard at it.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I wouldn't have let my mom pick out my clothes.On the other hand, she was better at it than I was.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
Teachers and fellow students. I have never been anywhere else in the world where I was surrounded by so much excellence.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
The dorms don't matter. The faculty member who runs the dorm does matter.Learn to hide from reality in the Sanctuary (it's a park, not a church). You can pretend Andover does not exist there, when you wish it did not.In your 9th grade year pick something you plan to stick with for four years. Try out a lot of other things, too.In your 10th grade year commit to something else you plan to stick with for three years.In your 11th grade year commit to one additional thing you plan to stick with for two years.As a senior, you should be one of the top leaders, in one of these things.If you are, college will be optional.Andover really can teach you the Great End and Real Business of Living.

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Academics in 1966-69 were brutal. A few geniuses managed to get top scores, the rest of us were battling for B minuses. I remember a physics class where I received an 84 on a test and when I told an older student about it he said, "I don't believe you, (Mr.) Jardine has never given anyone more than an 80."My French grades were so bad I can still remember them 45 years later. In 11th grade, needing to finish my third year of French in order to graduate, my scores were 45, 45, 60 for the three terms, and I was given a 60 for the year, which was the lowest passing grade. When I retired 30 years later I moved to Paris and studied French at the Alliance Francaise, where I did better.Math was my strong suit and I had a most amazing teacher for three years in a row. He was already a 40 year veteran of the classroom and on the only day I ever appeared without having done my homework he simply looked at me and said, "What's the matter Stewart, didn't you do your homework?" Thanks to him I scored 800 on both the SAT and on the Achievement test.English started out rough, I was surrounded by people who had read Shakespeare, while I was still proud of reading the Bobbsey Twins. During my four years this changed, and in the last term of my senior year I actually learned to write fiction well. It took another year, in college with an outstanding professor, before I learned to write polished fiction wellBiology, physics and chemistry were all enjoyable and allowed me to pass out of (or sleep through) each of those classes when I went to college.

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Athletics were required for everyone four days a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays reserved for inter-school competitions. The selection included sports I had not previously heard of, like squash. By the time I left there was karate, 25 years later when my daughter attended there was ping pong.I was already an adequate wrestler when I started at Andover, the coach and his wife became my lifelong friends. I was on varsity as a 9th grader and one of only two 9th graders who earned varsity letters that year, but an injury ended my career.I wasn't much of a competitor in any other sport, but enjoyed the Club rivalries (intraschool).

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
There was always music and theatre but I was neither a musician nor an actor.In 11th grade we had to pick between chorus and art, I decided chorus was the lesser of two evils. The director probably wished I had chosen better. I tried out for the spring musical, for which one received a slightly higher grade, but failed the audition.I was in one play, Anthony and Cleopatra, and had one line. "He stays against your will!"As for what is available for those with talent, it is practically endless. My friends were writing plays, producing plays, and acting in them. This group was the artsy fartsy crowd, way beyond my feeble midwestern imagination. Two of my classmates are now professional playwrights, but they weren't the artsy fartsy people, if I remember correctly they were the silent types.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
We used to have something called 'Community Service.' Every winter I scheduled this in such a manner to allow me to miss required Sunday chapel. I considered this an upgrade. I was given a taxi ride to the Essex County Training School for Boys (these boys were not volunteers), where I interacted in various ways but mostly by playing whatever games were on the schedule and talking to the boys about their lives in and out of the institution.My motives were suspect, but when my first career was in law enforcement I realized how valuable the experience was.I also became a bit of a New England quaking bog specialist, when I volunteered to map one belonging to an instructor. It took quite a while, using a canoe and a bamboo pole, and I picked up a nasty case of poison sumac, but I still appreciate the natural wonder that is a bog.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
I thought I preferred living in a double with a roommate, but ultimately realized I did not. Senior year my friends and I finally figured out how to all get onto the same floor of the same dorm, which made for a very sweet year. Six of the eight still get together on a regular basis 40 years later, we have even managed to turn all the wives into our good friends (or so they claim).Andover has beautiful old dorms, constantly being remodeled and brought up to date. Bring your own memory foam mattress topper, however, for a better night's sleep. We stay in them during reunion weekends (every 5 years) so I can safely say - you will enjoy the Westin more than your dorm room, but you will enjoy the other people in your dorm room more than the other people at the Westin.

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
From 1966 - 1969 the food was wretched. I'll never forget Chicken Fricassee on Rice. No matter how hard I try. As 9th and 10th graders we had required breakfast - attendance was taken, cuts were given, it was actually possible to be thrown out of school for missing breakfast too many times (although I don't believe this ever actually happened).They remodeled the Commons (dining hall) once, in the 1980's, and did a wretched job of it.So they remodeled it again about 10 years ago, gave it a donor's name (Paresky Commons), and wow!I suppose it still can't compete with the latest Palo Alto eatery, but compared to what we were fed it seems absolutely gourmet. When your parents come, however, you'll still want them to take you out for dinner.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
My first year I used to go downtown to buy sub sandwiches. Real subs, the kind I have never eaten since. So much roast beef you wondered if they killed a cow every day. Sadly, that place was downgraded to some long forgotten fast food slop joint.The Andover Shop was popular for boys with money. I bought a tie there once, just to say I did.The bookstore was and is still my favorite bookstore in the world. On Saturdays they served free cookies so I read books and ate cookies on a regular basis.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
When I was there it was all boys, so the social life was limited to what you could get away with by breaking the rules. They used to bus a load of girls in from a girls' school somewhere, for a 'dance', the goal was to find someone you could sloppily make out with before their chaperones herded them back on the bus with their clucking.I was marginally successful. Hopefully none of the girls remember my name.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
7:00 AMBreakfast
8:00 AMClass
9:00 AMClass
10:00 AMAssembly
11:00 AMClass
12:00 PMLunch
1:00 PMAthletics
5:00 PMClass
6:00 PMDinner
7:00 PMStart five hours of studying
Weekend
11:00 AMWake up
12:00 AMLunch
1:00 PMSun bathing (spring only)
6:00 PMDinner
7:00 PMBridge in the dorm's common room
12:00 AMStart all night rap session
Read more details about Phillips Academy Andover on their 2018-19 profile page.

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