Family. Heritage. Spirit. Walking down Albany Road on Revisit Days, you hear these words echo in every speech, brochure, and conversation. You hear about how Deerfield is a home away from home, a place where students discover themselves in ways impossible anywhere else. Of course, much of all this is rooted in some essence of truth; however, it is important that we, as a community, do not shy away from the things we don’t tell families on tours. As the admissions season draws to a close, and eager students await the fated green envelopes, the Scroll board hopes to answer the burning question: what happens once you say “Yes” to Deerfield?
The first thing you’ll notice when you step on campus is our unapologetic sense of tradition. From the tables to the fields, classes to the dining hall, you will be bombarded with all the little habits that make up Deerfield culture. Evidently, you’ll be left with quite a few questions: What paths are we supposed to walk on? Why do I have to clear the whole table myself at sit-downs? When am I supposed to do the Battle Cry?
You may be frustrated when the only answer you’re given is that it’s simply “a Deerfield tradition.” It seems so trivial, how your choice in what table at the Greer you sit at plays into the greater sense of community on campus. But it isn’t the actions themselves that make Deerfield traditions so special; rather, it is the shared sense of experience that allows us to all come together. The shared embarrassment when the whole dining hall sings “Happy Birthday” to you, or the camaraderie of chanting your class cheer at school meetings—all play into building a common Deerfield experience.
Of course, tradition is only a small part of your time here. From your first day as a Deerfield student, your schedule will be packed with meetings, classes, practices, and activities. Often, it may seem like you have little time to step away from it all, and paired with the fact that you’re around your peers and teachers constantly, it isn’t far from the truth.
Coming to Deerfield means that you are willing to merge your personal and academic lives in ways that can be equally difficult and rewarding. On one hand, you’re constantly surrounded by opportunities and peers that are as dedicated and passionate to learning and exploration as you are. At the same time, finding outlets to escape the constant work cycle can be challenging—most students continue to reconcile between these two experiences throughout their time at Deerfield.
We won’t shy away from the fact that some of your moments at Deerfield may be the hardest of your life. Students here come face-to-face with challenges they may never would have had to at any other school. Like any other community, discrimination, social structures, and stress are all part of life at Deerfield; but with such an insular environment, these issues are inflated. Deerfield students often say that the years they spend here push them to mature much faster than a typical high schooler would—in many ways, they are right. You will experience the same hardships that always come with the student experience; but with a limited number of people you can lean on, you often have to grow on your own.
But amidst all the lows, Deerfield truly shines in the opportunities it gives students to form genuine connections. No where else will you be able to see a hall of Ninth Graders all over the world come together over a shared feed late at night. No where else will you see students going on 2-hour walks with their faculty advisors along the Lower Fields. Even amongst other boarding schools, the Deerfield community is unique in the depth of human interaction it possesses.
Throughout your Deerfield career, you will find yourself hiking to the Rock to catch the sun set over the Pocumtuck Valley, and spending your nights with your friends in the most engaging conversations of your life. Even in a time as isolating and tumultuous as COVID-19, the Deerfield community came together to preserve our sense of family in every way that we could.
So, before you sign those forms and pack your belongings, remember that Deerfield is so much more than what we can tell you on tours. And, to everyone who does choose to make Deerfield your home, don’t shy away from what you may find “uncomfortable” or “weird”—that’s what makes Deerfield so special.