Students Pursue Off-Campus Talents
by Aeshna Chandra on Friday, October 16th, 2015
Milton Academy offers its students a variety of ways to occupy their time. Everything from Movie Club to Public Issues Board to Art with a Social Conscience has a place on campus during activities period. Afternoon and nighttime are no different than the rest of the day, as sports teams, HS&R classes– led by SECS members– and school newspapers occupy their own homes on campus. Some might even say that the school offers its students too many options, so many that they cannot do anything with their time outside of Milton. A common complaint heard around campus is “I have so much work!” or, alternatively, “I got no sleep last night because I just had so much to do!”
For boarders, this set-up might work well with their schoolwork, their dorm commitments, and their sleep schedule. Avery Park (I), co-head monitor, member of Varsity Field Hockey, Varsity Lacrosse Captain, and head of Magic Club, says, “It can definitely be difficult at times, but in the long run, it will all be worth it.”
For many day students, however, balancing Milton life with homework, home life, and outside-of-school commitments can become overwhelming. For those members of the community who have special talents outside of school, this balance can be a huge downside to Milton Academy.
Making this balance even harder to manage are Milton’s after-school requirements. The school requires underclassmen to participate in 3 seasons of athletics; if a student chooses instead to participate in the performing arts from 3:30 to 5:45 or not to do after-school activities at all, he or she must complete 3 periods of physical education during the day. For underclassmen, this sacrifice of free periods seems like a huge waste of time. Specifically during freshman fall, a large portion of the grade does the freshman play, and free periods are automatic study halls in the library, so there is little extra time. However, this forced involvement does help with making friends, as Maddie Dewire (I), a star tennis player in and outside of schooll, asserts about her experience on freshman girls’ soccer.
Upperclassmen only have to fulfill two seasons of athletic requirement and can even finish their mandatory CPR certification during free periods for credit. However, for many non-athletes who have other commitments, giving up time either during the day or in the afternoon can be a large sacrifice. According to the Milton Academy Course Catalogue, though students are allowed to get waivers for the athletic requirement if they have another commitment outside of school, they can only do so if the sport, such as crew, is not offered at Milton. In addition, the waiver is only allowed for one season.
In an interview with the Measure, Maddie, who has been playing tennis since the age of five and competing in tournaments since age ten, says of Milton’s athletic requirements, “I get it for people who maybe don’t do sports or they have musical interests or something like that, that makes sense to keep active.” Outlining her daily schedule, she discusses how her house in Hingham, 40 minutes from campus, and her tennis club form a sort of “triangle,” inconvenient enough for her that she does not get home until 7:30.
Maddie cannot get a waiver because she is an integral part of Milton’s Varsity Tennis team in the spring. According to Maddie, the administration’s reaction to her participation in tournaments during the school year makes her “feel guilty about having something else matter to [her].” As students are only allowed to miss five days of school for special reasons, such as sports, according to the Milton Academy Upper School Handbook, traveling for tournaments can quickly become a problem.
Seniors at Milton Academy are extremely familiar with the concept of ‘Senior Fall,’ a time when work, college applications, and the looming prospect of an uncertain future can easily overwhelm even the most stable of students.
“I’ve really had to learn how to balance my time, so I do a lot of work at school. People are like, ‘How do you finish doing homework by, whatever, 9:30 or 10?’ but I just do it during the day,” Maddie says, speaking about balancing schoolwork and tennis. “I don’t come to the Stu anymore; people are like ‘Do you go here anymore?’ It’s just hard, especially with college apps, and school, and tennis: it’s really hard to balance.”
Andrew Byun (I), an accomplished cellist, practices at least 4 hours per day in order to “be at a caliber that can compete with kids who are auditioning for only Juilliard, only Curtis [Institute of Music].” Dreaming of pursuing both music and academics in college, Andrew says, “I try to balance my time by getting less sleep.” He finds that, though it is hard to “generalize” about Milton’s reaction to his extracurricular commitment, individuals in the community vary in their support of him.
For both Maddie and Andrew, students exceptional in their own areas outside of school, balancing schoolwork, a social life, and their talent has become a difficult, though necessary, part of life, one involving many sacrifices.
Robbie Warming, a competitive rower who left Milton Academy after last school year to repeat his junior year at Belmont Hill, didn’t find the balance manageable.
“To fulfill a sports requirement and because I genuinely loved the team and the kids on it, I swam for MA in the winter. However, from a recruiting standpoint, taking a break from rowing simply wasn’t an option,” Robbie says. Splitting his time between his rowing club and Milton’s swim team was “incredibly frustrating because…I could not become as fast as I could’ve in both activities. I also felt like I was letting my Milton teammates down by regularly skipping practice to row.”
On the Milton swim team, Robbie broke the school record for the 200 meter Medley Boys Relay along with other members of the team. He was a day student from Newton, MA in the Class of 2016 who rowed for the Cambridge Boat Club. On leaving Milton for Belmont Hill, he says, “I absolutely loved Milton, and would’ve stayed there if it’d worked better for me logistically or for what I wanted to accomplish down the road.”
A common thread between the students is their love for the school but a shared dislike of some of the school’s more stringent aspects. Where Maddie finds issue with the waiver system as a serious outside-of-school athlete, Andrew mentions that some teachers dislike that he does not prioritize being “a student before a musician.” Clearly, Robbie, though expressing his love for the school, had so much trouble managing life at Milton that he left.
Though Milton, as a competitive prep school that prides itself on its stellar arts and athletics departments, needs to foster on-campus involvement, it should also pay more attention to its students and their lives off-campus. Athletes like Maddie, who is currently ranked 5th in New England according to Tennis Recruiting Network, and artists like Andrew, who performed on NPR in February, should also be the pride and joy of Milton. Talented students like Robbie should not feel driven away from Milton Academy simply because it does not support their off-campus pursuits. Perhaps feedback like this from its seniors will give the school pause when it comes to reevaluating whether or not it supports students in all aspects of their lives.
“You learn how to balance your time really well,” Maddie concludes. “But the stress ruins the enjoyment of both Milton and whatever you do outside of school.”
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