A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step: A Reflection on the Admission Season with Jim Ventre, Dean of Admission & Financial Aid


Jim Ventre ’79, Dean of Admission & Director of Financial Aid

Just as the seasons change from summer to fall while new students enjoy the second month of their Phillips Academy journey, my colleagues and I in the office of admission experience seasonal transition as our admission process runs its yearly course.

Autumn foliage and a slight nip in the air signify the end of summer and beginning of fall term, and our campus is in full bloom as we welcome prospective students for tours and admission interviews. All the while, admission counselors travel near and far, visiting schools, hosting admission receptions, and offering off-campus interviews for prospective students throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Winter signifies the beginning of reading season as our admission committee hunkers down in Shuman Admission Center to read and evaluate the more than 3,000 applications we anticipate receiving in a given year.

Finally, as winter chill gives way to spring thaw, families receive admission decisions and our attention turns to Spring Visits, when all newly admitted students are invited back to campus to experience Andover firsthand.

Each year the cycle refreshes and repeats, while one thing remains constant – the new students we welcome each year were at one time, perhaps just like you, prospective students considering applying to Andover. A common question for prospective students is, simply put, Where do I begin?

The first step is as simple as visiting our web site to schedule a campus tour and interview – a required part of our application process.

It’s often said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Ready to take that first step? We know you are and are ready to help you on your journey. We look forward to seeing you this fall on our campus or in your home area.

-Kevin Graber, Associate Dean of Admission

The Application Deadline Draws Near – FAQ & Answers

Hello again from Andover!

As our January 15 deadline draws near, questions often arise as students and families work to complete and submit application materials. The following frequently asked questions and responses should help. In the meantime, congratulations! The finish line is almost here!

Q: May I still take the February SSAT?
A: Yes, but please be sure that any outstanding application materials have been submitted by the Jan. 15 deadline. When registering for the exam, remember to list Phillips Academy as a score recipient using SSAT school code 5758. Please don’t wait to view results before submitting. This prevents us from processing your application in a timely manner.

Q: The January SSAT was postponed due to inclement weather. Is it okay if the scores arrive a few days late?
A: Absolutely.

Q: How do I submit additional materials?
A: Please submit brief updates, such as a recent award or achievement, in Part 2 of the application under “Additional Information.” For longer items, you may upload up to four additional PDF documents using the “Optional Additional Documents” section on Gateway. These can be added any time after Part 1 has been submitted.

Q: How will I know when my application is complete?
A: We’ll snail-mail you a confirmation postcard shortly after we process your materials.

Q: How can I check receipt of individual materials?
A: Log in to your Gateway account to access your materials checklist. Only materials submitted online through Gateway will register on this checklist. Please do not contact the office of admission to ask if specific items have been received. We will contact you if missing materials are preventing your application from being complete.

Q: Will you contact me if something is missing from my file?
A: Yes, via e-mail, and we will afford you the opportunity to submit the missing piece with no penalty, even if it’s after the deadline.

Q: May I still schedule an interview?
A: Yes, but very few on-campus appointments remain. Prospective students unable to schedule an on-campus interview, please visit our list of Alumni Admission Representatives to arrange an off-campus interview in your area. Alumni representatives interview more than 1,000 students a year and are excited to share their Andover experiences with you. Students who interview off-campus are not at any disadvantage whatsoever.

Q: How do I apply for financial aid?
A: Complete a parent financial statement (PFS) online at www.sss.nais.org/parents. Follow the instructions to submit your 2012 US 1040 or the equivalent via upload or mail. Your 2013 1040 and W-2 are required; however, we understand it may not be available by January 15. We will accept your 2013 documents even after March 10.

Good luck, and let us know what we can do to help!


The Andover Admissions Team

Recommendations for Recommendations

Recommendations are such valuable resources in our admission process.  Our application requires four of them – one each from your current math and English teachers, a personal recommendation from an adult of your choosing (perhaps a coach, mentor, or teacher), and the School Report, which comes directly from your school.  New this year is an optional Special Interest Recommendation for students who are particularly proud of an artistic or athletic talent or extracurricular interest.

We’re often asked, Why require recommendations from students’ current teachers rather than last year’s?  Simply put, teenagers grow and evolve so much from month to month, let alone year k_graberto year, and our goal is to get a true sense of the person you are at the moment we read your application rather than the person you were last year.

Our teacher recommendation forms are designed to give us a sense of your proficiency in math and English, but that’s only part of the equation.  We’re actually more interested in learning about what you add to classroom culture.  Are you the student who finishes your work first, pats yourself on the back, looks around the room, and says “I’m so smart!  I need to be at Andover, where people are as intelligent as me!”  Or are you the student who finishes your work first and immediately looks around to see who you can help?  If you’re the student who’s always ready to help others, you may be a fit for Andover.

Asking adults to write recommendations isn’t always easy.  Your teachers and mentors are busy people – this we know.  The best approach is to be thankful and humble in communicating your request, while maximizing your recommender’s time by relaying clear, concise instructions.  Consider the following steps:

1)      Pick a quiet time, perhaps before or after school, to individually approach your recommender.

2)      Ask if they would be kind enough to complete a recommendation on your behalf.

3)      While completing your application online, you will be prompted to enter e-mail addresses for your recommenders.  As such, your recommenders should understand that they will then receive an automated e-mail with instructions and a link to our online recommendation form.

4)      Inform them of our January 15 application deadline.

Why online forms rather than traditional paper recommendations?  Going paperless saves trees, and that’s always cool, but it also brings the added benefit of allowing us to process your application as quickly and efficiently as possible.  We anticipate receiving more than 3,000 applications this year alone.  Imagine having to process that much paper?  Our goal is to, as best we can, limit the possibility of your recommendations or any part of your application getting lost in the shuffle.  Submitting your materials online ensures that your application materials will be received and processed in the most efficient manner.

And don’t wait!  Allow your recommenders plenty of time to write on your behalf, and more importantly, give them great things to write about! Be the student that teachers love to teach.  Work hard, participate in class, and help your classmates whenever you can.

We look forward to reading your application soon!

– Mr. Graber

Application Timeline

Happy fall! 

At Andover, classes began just seven weeks ago, and the admission office is already gearing up to find the next group of new students.  Many of you are just beginning the application process.  We thought it would be helpful to provide a timeline of what to do and when to do it.  We thank you for your interest in Phillips Academy, and we look forward to getting to know you throughout the next few months.


–          Request a catalog from Andover, if you have not done so already.  While you wait for our catalog to arrive in the mail, check out our website, especially our course catalog and virtual tour.  

–          Call our office at 978-749-4050 to schedule your on-campus tour and interview.  We are open for tours and interviews now through January 24, 2014.  If you are unable to visit our campus, please contact one of our Alumni Admission Representatives to schedule an off-campus interview in your local area.


–          Register to take the required standardized test.  We would prefer that candidates take their required test in October, November, December, or January.

●  Applicants to grades 9 and 10 may submit either the SSAT or the ISEEThe SSAT or ISEE must be taken in the academic year during which the student is applying (i.e., scores from June 2013 will not be considered).

●  Applicants to grade 11 may submit the SSAT or the ISEE, but also have the option of taking the PSAT or SAT.

●  Applicants to grade 12 and postgraduate candidates must submit the PSAT, SAT or ACT

●  International students for whom English is not the primary language are encouraged to submit the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in addition to the appropriate standardized test listed above.


–          Ask your teachers for references.  In our application, we require recommendation forms from your current English teacher and your current math teacher.  We also require a School Report from your guidance counselor or secondary school advisor, including your transcripts since the 6th grade.  Lastly, we have a personal recommendation and optional special interest recommendation that can come from other adults who know you well.

–          Complete the Candidate Profile, which is Part 1 of our application. 

–          Begin writing your short answers and application essay, Part 2 of our application.


–          Parents should begin to fill out the financial aid application.   The Parents’ Financial Statement is available online as of November 1, and due by January 15.

–          Finish your short answers and essay, and make sure you’ve taken the appropriate standardized test and scheduled your interview.

–          Confirm with your teachers and other recommenders that they have until January 15th to submit their recommendations online.


–          Day student candidates, as well as local boarding student candidates, are invited to attend our Day with Andover open house on Saturday, January 18.

–          Submit all pieces of your application online by January 15.  In this era of sustainability, we no longer accept paper applications. 


–          Our decision letters will be mailed on March 10. 

–          If you are accepted at Andover, we will invite you to our revisit program in late March/early April.

–          If you are accepted at Andover, we will want you to confirm your enrollment by April 10.

I hope this application timeline is helpful!  Please post a comment if you have any questions.

Guest Blog Entry from Amy ’14: My Summer in Peru

Hi! My name is Amy Morin, and I will be a senior this fall here at PA. I am a day student from Lynnfield, MA, and I am working for the admissions office this summer. Mrs. Mallick asked me to write a little about my experience during the HUACA project, which was an amazing trip to Peru, and since I can’t speak highly enough about it, I was really excited to write this!

I had to apply to go on this trip; twelve of us were chosen out of 38 applicants. I had heard about it from my Spanish teacher as well as word of mouth.  I really like archaeology and nature, and my friend Emily and I both love hiking, and she told about this, so we both looked into it.

This was the first year of the HUACA project, which stands for Human Understanding through Archaeology and Cultural Awareness. It was run through the Robert S. Peabody Museum and the Spanish department together. Mark Cutler, a Spanish teacher, and Donny Slater, a Peabody Museum educator, were the two awesome leaders of this trip and did an amazing job of putting it all together. Prior to the trip, we had a few orientation sessions to meet everyone, talk about what the goals of the trip were, and what supplies we were going to need. At one of the orientations, we also met up with the Niswarth program, which would be traveling to India at about the same time period we were, and we talked about etic versus emic ways of viewing culture; in other words, we had to observe whether we were outsiders looking in with our own cultural baggage or we were really trying our best to understand the culture around us and be as close to it as we could. All I knew was by the end of the orientations, I was beyond excited.

The actual journey began on June 10th, 2013, when we all met at two in the Peabody, bidding farewell to our parents, and heading off with our new surrogate family. There were twelve students who were accepted into the program, and Mark and Donny as well, who went on the trip. Two graduated seniors, Tori and Cam; nine rising seniors- myself, Emily, Miguel, Joey, Janani, Eric, Rebecca, Jessica, and Sarah; and last but not least, one rising upper, Alex.  Throughout the trip, we would learn each other’s life stories, learn new facts, and just become one family. We bonded over similarities and celebrated our differences, and it was really the most amazing group I have ever been a part of. I learned so much about other people, and I also learned a lot about myself, too. I will never forget the conversations we had, in all different places, the most memorable of course when we fit all twelve of us in one tent. This trip could never have been the same if it wasn’t the same fourteen people who went. People are what make life special, and on this trip, I got to know the most amazing people. And I feel so incredibly lucky to have been a part of it all.

We would spend the next three weeks together, exploring all different parts of Peru and trekking through all different terrain, gaining new knowledge, perspective, and adventure as we went, and getting closer to each other as well.  We started out in Chiclayo, which is in the northwest region of Peru, and slowly worked our way down the coast, seeing the archaeological sites spanning from around 3000 BC to when the Spanish conquered the Inca. We also went into the cities, and conversed with the locals about local culture, practicing our Spanish at the same time. It was really interesting to see the comparison of the ancient to the modern ways of living, both the similarities and differences. At the core, we are all really human, and though some technologies may change, human nature remains at the very least similar. After the coast, we went up into the mountains, watching the cities turn into towns and countryside. We climbed on ancient military forts and we crawled through ancient water ducts. We swam in ridiculously cold rivers and we ate some guinea pig. We sang, we played cards, we made friendly bets, we played the circle game. I can’t even start to cover all of the things we did, but I know that it was the combination of every little piece that made it the awesome trip that it was. I made some small revelations, found out more about myself and the world around me, and I also just lived, plain and simple. Traveling is what I want to do with my life, and this trip only intensified my previous thoughts of traveling. Each day is filled with exciting things to see, new things to learn. Overall, I just gained an appreciation for the diversity of culture that this one country could offer, and the diversity of the world as well. Part one of our journey ended on a prop plane from Huaraz to Lima, and before we knew it, we were up in the air again, headed for the former heart of the Inca empire.

Before arriving there, Donny had described Cusco as magic. I wasn’t quite sure how a city could be magic, but upon arriving into the central city square, with all of the colors and life, the only way I can describe it is magic. There was a festival celebrating the winter solstice and the sun god, so we quickly became immersed in the singing and dancing all over the city. It was from Cuzco that we left to go to our homestay, where we camped out in the backyard of a wonderful farmer and his family. They graciously hosted us, and we lived (or tried to live) two days like they would. It was truly incredible. The best part was when all of the village kids taught us to dance, and that moment right there was one of the happiest moments of my life, just the pure joy of dancing this dance that so many had done before me. From there, we continued onto the Inca trail, which was a four day hike up and down mountains until we reached Machu Picchu. I would say this was my favorite part, but there are so many amazing parts that I really can’t say that. But I love to hike and I love to see Incan ruins, so what’s not to love? I love to camp (shout-out to my tentmate Emily), and it is truly such a connection with the earth- there is also the awe inspiring feeling that there were so so many people who were here before you. And the stars. The stars never cease to amaze me, and also they set me at ease. They make me think, but at the same time I can think about nothing. Never in my life had I seen as many stars as I did lying on the ruins of Wiñay Wiyna, and never felt closer to them. In the end, Machu Picchu was that much more amazing because we had worked hard to get there by hiking the trail together, and we had so many more experiences along the way, too. It was weird returning to Cuzco and that level of civilization, the world we had grown to know over the first two weeks, and then it was the strangest experience when I was home again in the comfort of my own house, in the world I had kind of forgotten had existed. I wish that I could have stayed in Peru forever, but unfortunately the real world had to come back sometime. I just have to smile because it happened, and hold these memories close to me for the rest of my life.

When I started writing this post, I began writing as if it was a journal entry for myself or someone else who went on the trip, and just wrote everything that came to mind. I reached one point when it dawned on me that I couldn’t write about every single little thing that happened. Some things are meant to be kept to myself and just treasured for what they are. I can’t share my whole story with the internet, or else I would kind of feel like it wasn’t my own anymore; some things only would make sense in our context of the trip. So I still kept it as me, and I made it as personal as I could without feeling I was betraying myself, if that makes any sense. I want to share the amazing experience I had, but I want to keep some pieces to myself :) There would also be no way I could cover everything we did because of the sheer volume, but if you have specific questions on certain aspects of the trip or want more details about something in particular, feel free to email me at amorin@andover.edu. All I can say is that this trip was truly the most amazing experience of my life, and I loved every single minute of it.

Frequently Asked (Interview) Questions

A blog reader asked, “What kinds of questions are usually asked in an interview? And do you think that different admission officers have different ‘styles’ or ask any different questions than each other?”

Great questions, Brian!

Admission Team

The Andover Admission Team

I’ll admit that, at first, I hesitated to respond to the first question. Although I am happy to share sample interview questions with prospective students, I will ask you not to “practice” answering them too much. You see, the best interviews are natural, back-and-forth conversations. Sometimes when students practice for their interviews, they sound overly rehearsed. And sometimes, if I ask a question that the student didn’t practice answering, he or she might get totally stuck and flustered. It’s good to think about what you might be asked, and how you might respond, but you don’t want to sound like a robot.  We want to meet the real, authentic you!

Your interview will be conducted by one of three types of people: an admission officer, a teaching faculty member (many of whom help us by doing one or two interviews per week), or an alumni admission representative (AAR). With more than 30 interviewers on campus and more than 700 AARs off campus, the answer is yes—we all have different styles!  However, we all have certain things in common: we enjoy talking to students and their families, we love Andover, and we are eager to get to know you, and to help you get to know Andover. Continue reading

Summer Interview Season

CommencementYesterday, we celebrated the graduation of the wonderful young men and women of the Class of 2013.  As I walked around congratulating some of my favorite seniors—David, Demetri, Devon, Kana, and Sam—I thought to myself, “Wow, it wasn’t all that long ago that I interviewed them, and now they’re graduating!”

Today—Monday, June 10—is the start of the summer interviewing season.  We’re open through August 30th to meet with prospective families interested in applying for entrance in September 2014.  For those of you who are just beginning the process of applying to Phillips Academy, our process is a little different than, say, applying for a job.  Here at Andover, you have to interview first—before you even apply!

Our interview season runs from now until the application deadline: January 15, 2014.  You may be inclined to hold off on having your interview until the fall.  Since we receive more than 3,000 applications each year, we can’t accommodate all of our applicants from September through January.  We also don’t want applicants to miss school in order to visit the campus for their interview.  So we encourage any 2014 applicants—especially our local, day student candidates—to visit campus in the summer.  It’s a great time to have a campus tour and interview.  The weather is great, the tour guides are all local students who are excited to share their experiences, and the pace is slower for the admission officers—which means we’re all a bit more relaxed and able to take our time in getting to know you. Continue reading