Education Consulting

Boutique is an education consultancy that specializes in editing and enhancing the admissions application essay, as well as other education services. Founded by Juli Min, Harvard and Andover alumna.

Filtering by Category: boarding school

One Vivid Andover Memory

I was a 13-year-old girl from a mostly white and Asian suburb in NJ. I had never been acutely made aware of my Korean-American background. Race wasn't an issue in my life. 

I was in large part naive; my surroundings allowed me to remain so. I had read books dealing with race, and I had an understanding of history and current affairs. But I had no firsthand experience with discrimination, and race was not something I thought about often. 

When I came to Andover, there were no issues of race as far as I could tell. Kids were nice, well behaved. In that kind of environment, it's easy to forget about a problem that isn't yours. 

Every Wednesday afternoon, Andover students gathered in the chapel for All School Meeting, or ASM. Usually, ASM is a performance, a program, or a guest speaker. 

One Wednesday, a speaker walked on stage, and I'll never forget how he opened his speech: 

"Everyone raise your hands," he ordered. All 1,100 students and faculty raised their hands. 

"Now, keep your hand up if you've ever thought about the color of your skin in your life." Most students kept their hands up. A few very honest ones pulled them down.

"Now keep your hand up if you have thought about the color of your skin in the past year." Many students and faculty lowered their hands. I, too, lowered my hand. I hadn't thought of my race since I could remember, really. 

"Keep your hand up if you have thought about the color of your skin this past month." Even more hands dropped.

"Keep your hand up if you have thought about the color of your skin this week." Few hands remained. They were distinctly the hands of minority students at Andover.

"Now keep your hands up if you've thought about the color of your skin at least once today." 

Those hands stayed up. 

I was shocked. Maybe it was because some of those students were my friends and I never thought of us as remarkably different. Maybe it was because I didn't think there were race issues at Andover, which seemed like the safest haven in the world. Or maybe it was the truth that shocked me: that every single day, these students thought about the color of their skin, whereas I didn't have to. How different our lives were, and how much energy that must consume. 

What stayed with me that day was a sharper awareness of the world and a reminder of the non-sibi (not for oneself) philosophy that Andover tries to impart on its students. Without that lecture, who knows how much longer I would have gone through my young adulthood only thinking about racial awareness as an abstract idea through my own subjective lens, without thinking about how racial issues impacted the psychology of others? Maybe only a couple years. Maybe my entire life. 

That Wednesday's ASM stands out to me as an example of what a great school can do for its kids. And one reason why parents might choose to send their students to one school over another. I was fortunate to attend Andover, with its resources, great teachers, college prep, and financial aid endowment. But Andover was truly great because it went one step beyond facilities and opportunities. It also sought to make its students better, more understanding, more enriched and engaged. Those goals were written into its motto. And they were achieved through the school's unique structure, its funding of special events and programming, and its emphasis on living a moral life. 

To parents looking at schools, I suggest asking the school what it stands for. What is its motto, or its vision for its students, beyond academics? And  what does the school do to back that up?

Even though I graduated from Andover 10 years ago, I remember that ASM vividly to this day. I can still remember the jolt of understanding I had, the feeling of illumination and also discomfort at dealing with a new reality. Those feelings are the germs of learning and growth - in school and in life.

Many Young People Flourish in Boarding Schools

I wrote a letter to the editor at the South China Morning Post in response to Kelly Yang's column "Think Twice before Farming out Parental Duties to Boarding Schools." It was published in the paper and the website today, Tuesday April 21. 

Here is a link. Full text is below:

In reply to Kelly Yang's column, "Think twice before farming out parental duties to boarding schools" (April 1), I would say think twice before dismissing these schools.

I graduated from Phillips Academy Andover and then Harvard University in 2009. Despite what her article might lead your readers to think, my time at Andover was not dominated by substance abuse; I was not sexually harassed; I maintain a close relationship with my mother. I had a great boarding school experience, and I am not the exception to the rule.

If Yang's issue is with sending students to boarding school too young, then she should narrow the scope of her argument instead of making sweeping criticisms of boarding school.

She says boarding school is recommended when a student is internally motivated to apply. Of course, it would be great if all 13-year-olds knew exactly what they wanted, but that is rarely the case. Parents are often the ones to find, and then direct and nurture, ambitions and opportunities for their children. I did not know much about Andover before my mother suggested applying. That does not mean it was the wrong choice for me, or that I gained less from attending than a student who knew of the opportunity earlier.

Boarding schools are not the only places where dangers lurk. School administrations need to be held accountable for punishing and weeding out threats. That does not mean boarding school as a concept is flawed.

In the end, top boarding schools will accept students who are likely to flourish and willing to attend.

Families should be realistic and informed when applying, and of course prioritise the student's needs. On the other hand, parents thinking about boarding schools should realise they will miss their child immensely. Though my mother does not regret her decision, she does regret that we missed out on some of the last years we could have lived together under the same roof.

Juli Min, New York

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Many young people continue to flourish in boarding schools