Below is a collection of admissions story from Phillips Academy Andover graduates who are attending Ivy League universities.
Andover is more interested in graduating people who will contribute to society than they are in graduating glorified test-taking machines
By Phillips Academy Andover Graduate and Columbia University Student
Applying to Andover was like a more personalized experience of applying to college. You take a test, you write essays about overcoming adversity, you interview (generally with someone on the admissions committee), you take a tour and you tell them what sort of clubs you are interested in and how you spend your free time. It's a lot of fun for a fourteen-year old - you get to reflect on your life and talk to someone who is paid to be interested in you.
Interviews, essays, and the selection process are becoming more and more akin to college admissions, but significantly less bizarre in my opinion. Hopefully, Andover will continue to maintain its ability to provide a personalized assessment of every candidate. See my thoughts below for doing well with prep school admissions.
You can look up what exams are accepted, but I'm pretty sure most people take the SSAT. The incoming scores for accepted students are naturally quite high and my year the average was around a 95% overall. As with the SATs, the higher, the better - no one was ever rejected for having scores that were too high.
I think the interview, however, is much more relevant for your admissions chances. Andover is more interested in graduating people who will contribute to society than they are in graduating glorified test-taking machines, and how you carry yourself in your interview is a great indicator of how well you will do at Andover. It's not just that people like well-spoken applicants - Andover students are graded on how well they express themselves in class. People who interview well are also generally more mature and have easier transitions to boarding school. Practice your interviewing skills - it's the most high-impact preparation you can do. Do dress conservatively, and in terms of questions asked be prepared for the usual cookie-cutter stuff "Why do you want to come to Andover?" "Do you think you will do well in a boarding school environment?" "How do you spend your summers?" "What do you do outside of the classroom?"
The most important thing about applying to Andover is having control over your narrative. If you can tell the admissions officers why you want to go to Andover and why you will fit in you make it much easier for them to advocate for you when decision time comes around. For example, I talked about how I had gone to school with the same kids for more or less my entire life and how I was ready for a change - I had went to CTY over the summers and loved the experience of being away from home and meeting kids from all around the country. I was a semi-successful Junior Olympic sprinter at the time, and I talked about how Andover's top-ranked track team would be a great fit for me (they had won the league championship the year before). I also talked about how I turned my weaknesses into strengths, how I used to not be especially strong at math, but how I had studied math over the past two summers to compensate and was then taking Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. My own narrative planted little flags in the mind of the lady who interviewed me - specific reason to go to Andover (track), comfortable living away from home (academic summer camp), proven resilience under pressure (math studying), ability to express myself without sounding like an idiot (demonstrated in the interview). High school admissions, more so than the randomized nonsense that is college admissions these days, is more of an exercise in matching economics than anything else, and as long as you demonstrate you are both interested and interesting you should be fine.
It does pay to be a bit of a specialist in something - we could fill our class with perfect scoring violin players from Massachusetts, but then we wouldn't have a full orchestra (nor a full representation of American students). I think there is room for many bright well-rounded kids (how specialized are middle school students anyways?), but you increase your chances if you have some skill or ability that will contribute to the school. Two of my peers, for instance, did debate in middle school and Andover really liked that.
When I was a student, Andover also really valued various types of cultural diversity, so if you think you'll look good on an admissions brochure you're probably in luck. By the time I left Andover, the demographic cross-sections in vogue were conservative kids from the Rocky Mountain states but things might have changed since I left. That being said, you can never get enough students from Spearfish, South Dakota, so honestly I doubt things are all that different. I will say, however, that you should be careful to know your audience. If you are a quiet kid who grew up in some upper-middle class suburb to striving Asian parents and played the violin and piano and did really well on the math team it will be harder for you to stand out. It's not because the admissions officers are prejudiced but because so many of the same sort applicants apply to Andover. Remember my earlier comment about matching economics - this is fundamentally a supply and demand issue.
My SSAT scores were all in the 99th percentile, but I don't know how much Andover factors these in.
By Phillips Academy Andover Graduate and Stanford University Student
I felt like Andover really liked to see well-rounded students apply. During my interview, the topics covered almost all of my interests, and I could see that they really wanted to see what I had to say about each.
The interview I had was with an admissions officer who ended up being my lacrosse coach, and so naturally we talked a bit about sports. However he seemed just as interested when I discussed my other interests in academics and music.
I definitely felt comfortable being candid and genuine in my interview, and I think this really helped. My SSAT scores were all in the 99th percentile, but I don't know how much Andover factors these in.
I certainly had friends whose skills were more artistic or athletic as opposed to testable subjects and they got in just fine.
The tour itself is more for the prospective student to get a picture of the school; tour guides have little to no input on the selection process so the tour should be a relaxing part of the visit.
The interview is definitely something that gets considered in the process, but even it should be taken more as a conversation than an interview. Staying relaxed and talking openly is the best way to make a good impression on the admissions officers.
Andover doesn't offer scholarships outside of financial aid, but it does help admission to be good at sports or music.
As I said above, Andover's admissions department favors people with well-rounded interests, but it definitely helps to be a star at something or another.
Confidence and composure are far more important than any particular achievement or award you have received.
By Phillips Academy Andover Graduate and Yale University Student
Do not stress about the interview. Confidence and composure are far more important than any particular achievement or award you have received.
Parents should be pretty "uninvolved" in the admissions process, aside from maybe a read over the admissions essays if the kid wants it.
Andover is not looking for any particular type of kid, provided the kid is academically motivated and wants to improve him/herself in areas of interest (not limited to academics of course).
There is no dress code at Andover, and when admissions officers tell you you don't need to get dressed up for an interview, THEY MEAN IT.
One of my best friends wore a tie-dye shirt and flip flops to her interview, and was accepted all the same. However, there are certainly things not to wear (old sweatpants, baseball hats, etc.). Try to look like you at least thought a little bit about what you wore to the interview. Also, do not wear Andover gear, or gear from any other school for that matter.
I think the SSAT is the primary entrance test Andover accepts, but I'm not sure I can point to a range of scores they accept. Most people I knew did quite well (in the 90's in terms of percentile), but that is certainly not a be all end all of being admitted. Other factors are equally if not more important (your transcript from middle school, for example).
Also, if you are looking to play sports at PA, talk to the coaches for your sport during the admissions process (you can find their emails on the Andover website). Getting yourself on their radar screen can help if you feel that playing sports will be a big part of your time at Andover.
The biggest piece of advice I would give is to really think about why you want to attend boarding school.
By Phillips Academy Andover Graduate and University of Chicago Student
I had really good grades in middle school and got a high SSAT score; I'm also a very serious pianist. I didn't attend a feeder school, I'm not a legacy, and I don't play any sports. My interview went well, I think.
It isn't easy to say exactly why I was admitted to Andover, but I think that my application was just in good, solid shape.
The biggest piece of advice I would give is to really think about why you want to attend boarding school. When you figure that out, communicate it clearly to the admissions committee. Why do you want to attend this school? How will you take advantage of its resources? When applying to a school with such a low acceptance rate, you need to figure out why the school is a good fit for you, not only why you are a good fit for the school.
Attending a feeder school might help, but it's certainly not necessary. There is a small population of students from Fey, St. Bernard's, Fessenden, Pike, and The Tower School; however, most kids just went to their local public schools.
The most common story that one hears about Andover students is: "So-and-so told me about PA, and so I figured that I might as well apply because there was nothing to lose."
The quality of your application is WAY more important than where you went. Honestly. Students should prepare for the interview by just thinking about what "turns them on." Preparing answers or saying things like "I'm glad you asked that" is more likely to hurt you than to help you. You should, though, ask questions about the stuff that excites you with the honest intent of figuring out how the school will fit your needs.
Show that you are articulate and friendly! I wore a black sweater over an oxford shirt with khakis (no tie). Some kids wear blazers with ties. Either way is fine, but you should wear a shirt with a collar, and you should certainly tuck it in.
Read more Phillips Academy Andover admission story, here
Photo credit: By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright: Public Domain