Deerfield Academy Ask Me Anything

Coming into Deerfield Academy as a New Sophomore?? I would love to answer questions!

Hi! That’s very kind of you - My son will be a sophomore in the fall. Are you hearing anything about return to campus for the fall ? Also he was placed into Algebra II. Is that a typical math placement for a sophomore - Thanks!

My son will also be a sophomore at DA this fall. I’d love some advice for the boys if you have any! He is not a laundry whiz nor is accustomed to wearing a tie, do you recommend the local cleaning service? What is the simplest, best bedding you recommend? Any advice on what he should be doing this summer to prepare? Thanks so much!

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If your son is also a new sophomore perhaps our boys could meet over zoom so they Know each other in advance ? I don’t know how to private message but if that sounds good to you pls private message me (if you know how;))

@pendulum @Londonkid Folks, it’s time to let go and stop helicoptering. Your kids will survive, learn knotting ties & laundry, and meet lots of friends in the Fall.

Always nice to welcome new Choate students to the thread!

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@Golfgr8 - There’s nothing like coffee coming out your nose… Thanks. :wink:

Will the Deerfield football team play this Fall?

@Londonkid Hi! I am sorry for the really late response ( I know it is literally mid July). Of course, you have now been updated about returns and stuff like that but I can tell you about placements for math. I am actually a student at Deerfield Academy and I have been highly active in math for many years. Algebra 2 is absolutely a good placement for sophomores as many sophomores and juniors take the class. Your son is in good shape and is on track to doing calculus senior year

@pendulum If you are set to have your son do his own laundry, that will work as there are washers and driers under every dorm. However, if you are thinking of other options I would recommend looking into Swift’s Cleaners which is a dry cleaning service that partners with Deerfield students where they wash and dry clean their formal clothes and can wash other things for them too. I highly recommend this because it is said to be more efficient than E&R laundry as well as they pick up/drop off clothes twice a week. Also, it is hard to keep formal clothing nice if it is washed in the laundry machine just a heads up.

@Teahupo As you have probably heard, founders league sports were cancelled for the fall (so sad), and that league contains many of the people we play, so I am doubting competitive football to happen this fall (sucks cause I was looking forward to Choate Day)

Do you remember the interview questions? lol? Both for you and for the parents?
Also, can students start writing their essays in the summer? Or the topics will change once new admission cycle will start? The last question, was Deerfield your first choice? Do you have any regrets choosing it?

To @chemsider, when kiddo applied a few years ago we heard that the questions very much depended upon who interviewed you. For kiddo, the DA interview was the most challenging, with a couple of the questions about current events and what would you do if you were in a political office or a diplomat. Yep - luckily this was something our student was ready for based on schooling and mealtime discussions. Lesson is for you to be prepared to discuss current events and the complexities of certain issues. The questions were@ the UN Security Council and news regarding recent UN resolutions. Besides that, there was a typical question like “What does your mom typically make for dinner? Uh…a phone call for take out”

Good tips for DA and any school: Do know something about the school history! Understand the meaning of the school motto and/or symbol or mascot. Also be prepared to discuss something about yourself to make them remember you - or something that makes you an interesting applicant. Be prepared to explain WHY you want to attend that particular school. Know why that school is a good fit for you. Do homework!

Regarding essays: You can check out last year’s questions - but I think the new questions are posted @ Aug 1st?

Regarding if it was a first choice: It was tied for first-choice with another school often mentioned on here (all great schools). Revisit week made the difference. The campus vibe, school spirit, and access to taking certain tech/design classes in 9th & 10th grade sold us. Also, being able to pursue both performing arts and varsity athletics - without having to give up one or other.
No regrets. Bon Chance!

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@Golfgr8 gives very good advice.

One thing DD2 and I did that was great interview prep was we took each school’s view book (or brochure/catalog) and we flipped through all the pages and with a pen circled the things that jumped out at us, and we wrote in the margins the ways in which she would love to participate. It was a great exercise to get very clear on why DD would want to attend a specific school. It helped her paint a picture of how she would fit in; what her life would look like.
Reviewing each school’s catalog with our notes in the morning of the interview really helped, both because it gave our tour some focus, and because it helped her paint the picture for the AO where she would fit in.
Every single school on her list had a compelling reason for being there, and we could both tell you exactly why that school made her list.
Also, do your very best to have the tour before the interview. Really big difference.

DD interviewed at 14 schools, including DA, and had no “trick” questions at all. Nothing seemed like any sort of “test” of her intelligence. Sure, some questions made her think, but honestly they were all questions that followed naturally in conversation, and were in her wheelhouse. For example – She is an entrepreneur and has done work in marketing for a large consumer goods company, so she talked business with a few AO’s, but she was completely up for the task. That isn’t to say there won’t be those AO’s who are asking questions that are kind of random and make your palms sweat. But I wouldn’t binge-read the news or heady publications in preparation or anything. I think being an aware human being would be enough. What matters more is how you answer, I think.

Regarding essay questions – I answered in more detail a month or two ago (so you can search my posts, if you don’t know that yet – took me a couple months to realize that!). But the short version is: The preparation for essays, in my opinion, has little to do with the actual questions. It is a deep dive into who you are, what you bring to the table. We used a pretty specific format to create a document for my daughter that was the driving force behind all of her essays, even though schools did ask slightly different essays.

Short version of how we approached it: Brainstorm your life and interesting stories about your life and successes. Go through each story and decide what each story shows about you (you are smart at math! or you are kind! or you are weirdly musically talented! or family means everything to you!). Create a single driving description of the magic that is you. Literally one sentence that is kind of your mission statement. (Another way to think of it: what would one AO say about you to describe you to another AO at lunch in the cafeteria.) List 4-6 pieces of evidence to “prove” that magic. This document of 1 sentence + 4-6 pieces of evidence were the core of her application process.

List 4-5 more things that would be “nice to mention” but not “critical.” (This came inn handy for short answers, or for schools with longer word counts where she could fit in some extra layers.) Consider which of your original stories could make good essays. Once the essays are all done – Step back and make sure that EVERY school has all of the pieces of evidence reflected SOMEWHERE in the essay set for that school. (Literally, we printed them and used a red pen to check the evidence items off.)

Also: Use your document (single sentence + pieces of evidence chunk) to check against your list of extracurriculars. What do your extracurriculars say about you, and how are they also supportive of your single statement + pieces of evidence? And use your document to help you put extracurriculars in order on the application!! (Do NOT think you need to do them chronologically!!! Do in order of importance!)

And, use the document to create your into letter to all of your recommenders. Of course they will and should write whatever they want about you, but trust me – it is SO helpful to have some idea of how the candidate is viewing themself when you write a rec. Teacher may think you are super kind, but if you let them know about the non-profit you created for baby hamsters, well then it helps to give them support for their assertions.

I’m assuming you are applying for more than just DA? If so, my strong suggestion is to get the SAO essays done first. They are an excellent set of standard essays that you can use as a starting point for all your Gateway schools. (BTW I highly recommend applying to some SAO schools, because if you need to make some late applications on M11 – it happens – well, you are one quick credit card number away from a school having a complete application at their fingertips.)

I suppose what I am saying is that the majority of the work of essays is the work of knowing yourself well, and finding your magic.

You are not selling your writing; you are selling you. (Although your writing shouldn’t be horrible, obv.) You are NOT there to impress as much as you are hoping for an invitation into their community.

I hope this helps!

ps. Let me finally accept this about myself: there is rarely a “short version.”

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@chemsider @Golfgr8
I do rememeber some of my interview questions and personally I felt blessed to have an interviewer that really just wanted to know more about me. Personally, I felt the Deerfield interview was the easiest because it was my second one - after I had bombed my first one with Andover :frowning: and really needed to figure out what how I was valuable as a student. That being said my interviewer asked me questions on the lines of this:

  • What interested me in school (specifically my passion)
  • What I liked to do for fun
  • What book I had most recently read (please make sure you have read or watched something or at least know a book or movie you would like to talk about) * my recommendation for this one is to steer clear of cliches- classical books, highly acclaimed books that are requirements for read in schools- they make it look like you are trying too hard to sound smart. Instead, try explaining to them a recent book that had some type of struggle with identity ( like an immigrant learning how mold into a new society) or a mostly historical fiction or just fiction book about current events (immigration, climate change, world hunger, protest, war). OR if you don’t want to talk about any of that, you can take a different kind of approach and say that reading is more of a hobby for you. For example, I LOVE young adult novels; I started replacing watching netflix with reading so in my free time, I could rip through two in a week and a half. So you could also take that approach.
  • What my community means to me and how I’m involved in it

That’s pretty much all I remember but don’t sweat it, over all BE YOURSELF. I cannot stress it enough because they want to see the real you and see that you are an excellent addition to their community.

@Calliemomofgirls I absolutely agree with knowing your school’s history. For example, if one of your hobbies is gardening, talk about Deerfield’s huge greenhouse and their AP Biology program that does experiments there. Knowing tiny details that take extensive research precisely shows that you did extensive research. I highly recommended doing this. I made a whiskey with fast facts and very specific knowledge about all the schools I interviewed with and it helped. I promise.

@chemsider Sorry I didn’t get to your questions in my other reply. The parents have questions like how would you describe your child in 3 words and a couple things about why the parents support their child’s decision for boarding school. I agree with @Golfgr8 ‘a response on when questions come out. I think they come out early fall. The topics do change every year but not by much, and you will find that many schools’ topics overlap a lot. I applied to Deerfield a little late so by then schools had already been full and had a very long waiting list. My parents’ first choice for me (thank God I didn’t go there) was already absolutely full so I applied but there was no chance. It was like that for many other schools. If I had applied on time, I think Exeter would have been my first choice on paper, but when I ended up visiting Deerfield because they offered me a spot, I fell in love with the campus and the vibe. So, I’m glad it all worked out and I ended up at Deerfield, but truly, my parents would have sent me somewhere else. I have absolutely no regrets, but I when work piled up I sometimes say “ugh I could have stayed home and been chilling right now ?” as a joke. But really, no regrets.

@deerfieldgal77 are the academics as rigorous as Andover and Exeter, I’m trying to figure out which one to go to, (providing that I get in). Deerfield seems like a great place to be but I’m trying to get a non-biased perspective on the academics at deerfield. Also, does the school make it easy to balance athletics and academics? Thank you so much and I’m sorry if I rambled a bit there.

My kids don’t go to deerfield but I can answer the question about rigor in general. The academics are incredibely rigorous at all of the top 10-20 BS AND beyond. You will be well prepared for college and it will not be easy to get an A.

If you are playing varsity sports, no it is not easy to balance sports with academics and none of the top schools make that easy. They don’t need to make it easy. They have kids who can do it while it’s hard so they have little motivation to change.

Just adding to the helpful response @one1ofeach

Yes. I believe the academics are more challenging and faster paced than the school is known for. I kind of hold the DA marketing people responsible for that. Most people on CC (and in NE) think of athletics more than academic rigor when they think of DA, IMHO. Actually, the students are extremely well rounded and seem to excel in multiple domains. Many students enter as a triple-threat: Sports, Academics, & Performing Arts. There are many multi-sport athletes who are also Honor Roll students. Well rounded students.

It is a competitive school - competitive in sports, competitive academically, and competitive to get into certain EC’s and competitive in the classroom (not nasty competition, but you need to be assertive at the table). It seems students are not competitive with each other about academics, but more competitive with themselves.

  • Side note: DA and many other schools, don’t give letter grades to 9th graders that first marking period. I remember it as P/F or something like it. This helps with some of the anxiety you may have coming into BS.

Yes. The academics are rigorous - and very rigorous in Honors and Accelerated courses (especially in Math & Science). Our kiddo’s experience has been that the academics are even more rigorous than was anticipated and the grading system is very tough. Our kiddo’s experience has been STEM focused and really great with boundless growth opportunity in math, science, tech/CS. The CS courses and math courses at DA are super strong. Just focusing on those courses because they are favorites (no offense to English or other departments). Also, history is very strong - great teachers, diversity of study options, and a lot of work (this based on pre-COVID and pre-P/F experience). We have friends with kids at several schools within the top 5, and the academic rigor as well as amount of work, is equally challenging. I can tell you from our kiddo’s experience that the math is extremely fast paced, as is science & CS. Note that the teaching and hard work you put into the learning pays off.

One thing that has been discussed and written about (in the past) is the grade deflation at DA. You will work your tail off, get “Excellent” written on your work, get higher scores on tests, but still get an 89 on your report card. Even if you participate daily in discussions, contribute, go to office hours, do extra work - How does that happen? So, just to be prepared. There is actually a meme about this. You will find this situation at many schools, not only DA.

It’s very hard to break into that top tier of High Honors, or earn an average above 93 at DA. I think this is true at many of the frequently mentioned schools on here. So, if you are currently applying to BS and have a really high GPA be prepared for it to drop. We know students who transferred into DA as uppers and were in for a shock when their GPA plummeted - not only due to rigor and tough grading, but also from the weighted format at their former school to unweighted grading.

Helpful Hint: You can go onto the school portal and check out the “school profile”. You can also check out the academics link and click on “grading”. Check out the grade distributions, also, on the profile page. This is actually a good exercise for you to do when exploring different boarding schools.

For you golfers: Pebble or Spyglass?