We visited Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts to see what makes it the best high school in America. The school is often confused with Phillips Exeter. There are 1,154 students on Andover’s campus. Tuition for students living on campus is $US53,900. Tuition for day students is $US41,900. Andover has a “need-blind” admissions policy which means they accept students based on merit, not wealth. There are 44 states and 44 countries represented in the current student body. Following is a transcript of the video.
Jenny Elliott: Folks who are not so close to Andover or who haven’t experienced something like this will say, “you were sent to boarding school.” And, a sense of agency for kids to feel like, “I wasn’t sent anywhere. I wasn’t sent by my parents. I chose to go to boarding school.”
David Tsai: I’m a senior from Natick, Massachusetts. I have attended Andover for four years. And it is a distinct pleasure of mine to bring all of you around on what I believe is the best school in the world.
The most important thing you learn on this campus is how every single faculty member and every single student, when they are walking on, these are called the paths, they’re smiling. They’re clearly enjoying themselves at this school.
I believe that the boarding experience is so much more beneficial to the student because they get to live on their own and they get to experience high school as most people experience their college years.
John Palfrey: What we’re trying to accomplish here is to be absolutely excellent in the classic ways of academics, of sports, of arts, of community engagement — all of those things — while also really focusing on the young person in their wholeness and to make sure that we encourage kids to have wellness as central to their experience. To make sure they’re getting sleep, to make sure that they’re eating well, to make sure they’re exercising. All of those things I think go together with this idea of excellence. And I think that that combination of things is working really well right now.
Elliott: We don’t post grade point averages. We try to take some very specific steps not to elevate competition in those ways. We do a lot of collaborative work in classes, we do a lot of collaborative work on teams, we do a lot of collaborative work outside — and we do, in terms of our leadership positions for students, there are many positions where there’s actually co-presidents or there are co-leaders to send a clear message to our kids — collaboration is a skill that you’re going to need to develop well in order to be able to move forward here with success.
Tsai: Mental health here is one of the most important things on campus because the only way for you to show your affection for someone, to love someone else, to build connections and build bonds, is to firstly love yourself.
Palfrey: The most distinctive thing about Andover’s program is the need-blind admissions policy in our 11th year. How can you have a morally responsible high school with a $US1 billion endowment? It’s when you actually do admit kids solely on the basis of their admission criteria that have nothing to do with wealth.
Tsai: I am so happy that I made the decision to come here because there is so clearly a universal commitment to being loved and to love that you don’t find at any other school.
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