Tenth graders at Andover are called “lowers.” Each year Phillips Academy welcomes roughly 75 new lowers to the campus. These new students come from all over the country and all over the world and come from various school backgrounds: some from public high schools, some from private junior schools and others from charter or independent schools. Each year the admission committee reviews more than 600 applications for the lower year and excitedly seeks to add boys and girls from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of interests. The majority of the incoming lowers are boarding students and the group transitions to the campus through the dorms, classes and extra curricular activities.
Andover has recently altered the academic program for lowers in an effort to create more flexibility in the schedule for all lowers, new and returning. As of the fall of 2008, incoming lowers will take five or six courses per term in a variety of disciplines, some of these courses are required of all lowers while others are determined by placement based on ability and/or prior classroom experience.
All new students will take a year long English class (English 200) coupled with a trimester each of History (usually History 200), Religion and Philosophy, Physical Education, and Personal and Community Education (PACE). In addition the majority of lowers will also take a term each of art and music. These courses combine to form the base of the lower program and are designed to give students access to a broad range of disciplines while intentionally building strong foundations in reading, writing, research and critical thinking. In addition, this required course work emphasizes the role of the individual in a large and active community. The curriculum intentionally highlights the importance of personal health, history, and creativity but then places the individual in the context of a larger, diverse and multi-cultural community.
In the areas of math, science and world language students place into the appropriate course level based on “demonstrated ability,” which is to say based on prior course work and placement tests that students take the summer before arriving at Andover. Incoming lowers come from a variety of different school settings and experiences and thus have very different levels of experience in these courses. Each student has the chance to place into the appropriate level in math, science and language and work forward from there. In these disciplines students are encouraged to challenge themselves and accelerate through the program as far and as fast as they can and it is not uncommon to have 9th and 10th graders with a particular aptitude for math in courses with 11th graders and seniors.
All this considered, a “typical” 10th grade schedule might look like this:
Math 330, 340, 350 - year long math sequence in pre calculus
Chemistry 300 – year long college chemistry class, requires math level of at least 310
Spanish 200 – year long Spanish course
English 200 – year long English course “Writing to Read, Reading to Write”
History 200 / Religion and Philosophy / PE – rotating on a term by term basis
Art / Music – as needed / wanted as a 6th course, often paired with a term of PE
PACE – assigned on term in the year, considered a half course
At Andover, all 10th graders (“lowers”) transition into the upper class dorms at the start of the year. New and returning lowers join the 11th graders and seniors in dorms ranging in size from as few as five students to as many as 35 students, depending on personal preference and availability. The fact that all lowers, old and new, transition to new dorms makes the transition easier for incoming students because the new lowers are not the only students new to the dorm community. The idea is that all lowers are new to the upper class dorms and thus the new and returning students are on some common ground as they start the school year and make connections in their new home on campus.
Typically new lowers will live in doubles with a roommate who is also a new lower. Also most often, the new lowers are placed in the larger dorms so that they might meet and connect with a large number of students with diverse interests and backgrounds. All upper class dorms are run by faculty members who live in the dorms and who, most often, teach, coach and advise students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades. These faculty house counselors are joined by Proctors who assist in managing and organizing the dorm. These proctors are seniors who are selected by the faculty to serve as mentors and leaders. Many students, once situated in a dorm, remain in that dorm for the remainder of their time at Andover as they build connections to the other students as well as the house counselors in the dorm. At Andover there is a lot of dorm pride that is fostered through meetings, group outings and study breaks and most kids in the dorm take a certain amount of pride in being part of the community and having a place on campus that feels like home away from home.