Deerfield Academy Ask Me Anything

@Golfgr8 Interesting that you say you don’t think DA is known for rigor. Maybe with people who have only ever heard of Andover or Exeter they assume those two are the only rigorous schools? But from our own search it was clear that DA was right up there with them in terms of rigor.

I do think there is a drop off in the grade deflation at some very good schools (NOT DA) - sometimes I wish my kids had gone to those schools. We know transfers from well respected schools, often mentioned on CC, and those kids struggle with the grading.

Yes @one1ofeach - it seems that there are some folks on CC who think PEA and PA are the only rigorous schools - or could be the only schools they may know in the US? Interesting.

From out experience all I can do is laugh heartily at those people. If they end up at one of our schools they are going to be gobsmacked!!! I actually think our (combined our) grade deflation might be the most extreme I have heard about.

International students will not be gobsmacked. Handing out A’s like candy is an American phenomenon, along with everyone getting a medal/ribbon.


I guess so. I still remember in first grade my older kid went on the last day of soccer and the coach handed out trophies to everyone. My daughter threw hers away when we got home and when I asked her why she said “well if everyone got one aren’t they meaningless?” She probably said something other than meaningless being 7, but you get my point. Even the kids know the whole thing is silly.

But I do think that academically, they believe in their A’s and are surprised eventually.

Just as an aside - when I was in college 30+ years ago, I heard from friends up Mass Ave there was a professor at Harvard who was famous for giving students C’s - because C was “average”, or you did average work. Maybe @skieurope heard about him.

The big take away for people considering DA or (I believe) most boarding schools on this platform is this: You will be prepared for the academic rigor of college and, while at BS, you will grow beyond your comfort zone - in EVERY way.


Focusing back on the OP’s kind offer of information and recent inquiry @ rigor, here are some key points:

  • Yes - DA has very strong academics and you will be challenged. The teachers know their students very well - I believe more so after 9th grade. Many of the teachers are coaches, also. This is true at most BS’s. Teachers also are dorm parents, so they get to know you and you know them. Many students take advantage of office hours and this enhancing the learning experience IMHO.
  • My impression is the school wants students who will contribute to and be involved in the community, not just be focusing on themselves or their studies.
  • Most students I know at DA excel in sports, or multiple sports, and academics - many also in performing arts as well as academics and sports. Not uncommon to see students who are Tri-Varsity athletes and very competitive in the classroom. The whole package.
  • There are many opportunities for students to be extremely challenged academically - and to take higher level courses, as well as do your own research.
  • DA has it’s own unique vibe - as does every other school on here. The size and location lends itself well to a community feel. Many of the school’s traditions foster a sense of community - and traditions are key to the student experience IMO at the school.

Just to add: If you are a student who prefers to stay in their room and study, game, work on projects, or not socialize…please try to step out of your comfort zone and find a school community where you will feel safe enough to challenge yourself to grow, as well as make human connections. You are worth it. Be worthy.

@usernameuser98 I really believe it depends on your vibe. Yes, Andover and Exeter are notoriously rigorous; however, Deerfield has a more well-rounded vibe. Most people here do not do just one thing; it is a great place to balance whatever you like and learn more. Deerfield does have highly rigorous AP and honors classes, so if that is what you are looking for, you will find it. Also, the high-level language classes are truly a challenge here, which helps some people who want to achieve great heights in a language. For example, there are post-Ap language classes here such as Latin 6 which is just a concentrated self-study. If you are looking for academic rigor, you will absolutely find it. But honestly, do not go to a school for the rigor, go because it feels like a good fit. Because you will be living there for a good amount of time per year.

Hi, I am applying to Deerfield this fall. Do you have any tips or advice for the application process? Maybe what the essay should look like, or any advice on how my application should look.

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Here are some tips:

  • Attend any virtual Ten School event that you can. Go to for information. This goes for other schools, as well.

  • Try to visit campus, get a tour and interview.

  • Ask questions of the tour guide - to not only get info about the school, but also info about the application process from a student. Don’t be that student who stands there and looks disinterested! The tour guides submit cards afterwards (at least they did before COVID).

  • Do your homework about the school - know the history of the school, know why the symbol is a door, know who are famous alumni, know about the traditions, etc. You can get good information online via the website, Boarding School Review, Niche (not really accurate IMO), and by reading past articles from The Scroll.

  • Deerfield feels like a small and close-knit community. The Freshman class is rather small (53 boys who are boarding). So, I believe the school looks for students who will contribute in some ways to the community - either through athletics, performing arts, or EC involvement.

  • Think about ways you will be able to contribute to the schools you will be applying to. What are you bringing to the table?

  • What makes you an interesting student? What’s your story or your experiences? What are your strengths?

  • What is attracting you to this school?

Answer the questions (above) as a starting point.

I had this one visiting prof in college. He was in from Cambridge (England, not Mass) and the first thing out of his mouth in the first session was that we should expect C’s if we did average work, and B’s if we did excellent work. A’s were reserved for groundbreaking work in the field and no I’m not kidding.

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@DroidsLookingFor …I think I know this dude! I had him at Tufts.

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HAA!! Wasn’t Tufts but wouldn’t surprise me if he did a tour :wink:

His first name was Andrew but I can’t recall last…

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I’m not sure how many Deerfield admits there are on here since M10 but I thought that I’d resurrect an old AMA thread just in case there are any parents/students who might have questions. Revisit. Course selection. Dress code. Covid dealings. Grades. Dorms. Dining. Extra curricular activities. Advising. etc.

I’m a parent of a current Deerfield boarding student and would be willing to help. Kiddo is currently home for Spring Break, so I can also ask directly. Kiddo is not hugely involved in music/theater/dance so detailed questions on that might be sketchy (although @AnonMomof2 can probably help there).

There is a host of info on this forum, as DA seems to be a BS with an over-representation of posters. Posters here have been hugely helpful in our family’s journey over the last few years, so I’d like to give back, if I can.

I am happy to answer questions as well. DD23 is a senior there in her second year and is currently on a DA sponsored Spring Break trip.

Hey Everyone, I’m an incoming new sophomore student at Deerfield (I can’t wait till September, lol :blush:). I’m an international student. I’m inclined toward computer science, physics, and history. I’m looking forward to your answers to these questions.

  1. How are students placed in courses? My current school has a special curriculum that segments and divides concurrently taught science subjects into physics, chemistry, and biology. Would that be beneficial? What will the placement test entail? I need thorough details on the placement test.
  2. How many classes at Deerfield can a student take in three years? I want to stoke my burning desire to enroll in the most advanced classes, and I want to study advanced math courses (>600 like multivar calc and linear algebra). How can I do that?

Congrats on your admission to Deerfield!

  1. Students typically take placement tests for math and language before they matriculate to Deerfield. You’ll be asked to sit an online test in both of those subjects later this spring/early summer.

It’s not unusual for kids to ‘repeat’ a year when entering Deerfield (or any of the schools discussed on this forum). This may not be the case for you, as your international curriculum may be as rigorous as Deerfield’s.
There are a few weeks at the beginning of term where students can switch class levels if they find that they’re placed incorrectly.

You should talk to the academic counseling office at Deerfield about the science placement. As a hunch, I would think that doing a ‘combined science’ course would not be helpful unless you could cover an entire year’s worth of Deerfield single science at your current school. I don’t know how Deerfield would assess that, but I do know that you won’t be the first student that has faced this scenario.

  1. As for the number of classes, Sophomores take 5 graded classes plus an additional one term pass/fail Health course. It’s possible to request a 6th graded course instead of Health, and my kid says that they think more than half of the grade is taking this option.
    Here’s Deerfield’s graphic and descriptions of each year’s requirements.

You can certainly take multicavariable calculus and linear algebra. Much of that will depend on where you test into as a sophomore. Deerfield publishes nifty flow charts for all subjects which have a progression.

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Many thanks for your thoughtful response.

Other than English and the two languages I spoke in my home country, I had no prior knowledge of Arabic, Chinese, French, Latin, or Spanish. Will I take a placement test in a language?

Although my school offers one of the most demanding and rigorous curricula in the country, I’m choosing to repeat the 10th-grade year. I did this since I’m a year younger for my grade and because to take the most out of the opportunity at DA in 3 years. I took one-year courses in each of those three sciences for my 9th grade.(this year too), So, can that be advantageous?
I noticed that most of the math courses at DA are year-long. So, how can I, in the future, climb up and enroll in linear algebra during my senior year?
Besides, I believe that I’m a strong student in math and I want to know if I should study for the math placement test. What topics is it up to?

My daughter started last year as a repeat Junior. I am not totally sure how they determine what math to test you on. She had just finished AP calc AB as a Junior (all online during Covid lockdown year) and tested into the next level of Calculus which they said was not very common. However, after the first couple of days she decided to drop it as she didn’t feel prepared after having taught herself the first Calc class. So she took no math her first year at Deerfield. She is in AP Stats this year and loves it and finds it pretty easy. She wants to major in math. She had also taken 3 years of French and chose not to continue. Honestly, as a repeat junior, she has been able to take tons of electives that interest her. I don’t think that is very common. But she entered only 2 credits short of graduating. She has done 5 courses each trimester. Some are year long classes some are one trimester and some are two. Be prepared for very tough grading, especially in the English/literature department.

My DS was just admitted to Deerfield for his 9th grade year and is over the moon. As a parent, I’m worried that I’ll miss all the big events in his HS life – concerts and sports games and dances. I am the opposite of a helicopter parent and DS is super independent. Are there games and concerts that are live-streamed? How do other parents cope?