Phillips Exeter Academy - Review #1

Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2024 profile page.
Phillips Exeter Academy

About the Author:

Years Attended Boarding School:
Sports and Activities:
Football Hockey Rugby START Magazine (semesterly liberal opinion and world news magazine) Jazz ensemble Dorm Proctor
College Enrolled:
Swarthmore College
Home Town, State (Country):
Lusaka, Zambia

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
The Harkness Method of teaching at Exeter definitely sets it aside from other boarding schools. In each classroom (even science labs) the students and teacher sit around a round/oval "Harkness" table. This makes the classes much less condusive to lecture and much more condusive to discussion. This discussion-based education where the teacher serves as a moderator makes you think a lot more and prepared me very well for my college seminars. One highlight of this system can be shown in math class (the math department writes its own textbooks and course material), where each student puts up one of the ten or so assigned homework problems, and then we all sit back and discuss his results. I could go on for all classes but suffice it to say that this method of teaching is different and useful and only one of the many things that makes Exeter a school worth considering.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
The friends in my class in my dorm were some of the best friends I've ever had. Not only were we friends to begin with, we also lived through each other's hard times and troubled phases and are stronger for it. The best thing that happened to me in boarding school was living with and making friends in my dorm, with whom I am still friends today. I sometimes wonder whether this experience was even more educational than the academic side of boarding school.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
No regrets
4.) What would you never want to change about your school?
My dorm
5.) What things could be improved about your school?
One thing I'd like to see go is the half-day classes on Saturday-- they really get you down sometimes. No worries though, I hear they're on the way out. The school could be more liberal on its visitation policies but for the most part it works well within its limitations.
6.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Live in Wentworth or possibly Webster. Make sure not to live in Cilley, Main Street or Abbott.


1.) What did you like best about your school’s academics?
Aside from the discussion method i mentioned above (which really encompasses much of the spirit of Exeter academics) there are still many things that make Exeter's academics great. Of course the most obvious thing would be the enthusiastic and intersting teachers, but perhaps more important and less obvious are the enthusiastic and interested students which Exeter attracts. In terms of specifics, Exeter offers a variety of courses you probably wouldn't find anywhere else, like Robotics where you spend a semester learning how to build and program a robot before setting out to make it do whatever you want. Other great courses are Electronics, Ethics in the Marketplace, and many senior english electives like a creative writing workshop.
2.) What did you like least about the academics in your school?
It is very true that some people at Exeter take the academics and themselves too seriously, and this sometimes gives the slight impression of an overly competitive cuthroat atmosphere, which no one likes. Other times people will feel very bogged down by the masses of work teachers pile on top of you, but everyone toughs it out and is happier in the end.


1.) What did you like best about your school’s athletics?
The school appreciated its sports teams, and students would regularly turn out to watch games and support. The greatest sports day of the year is Exeter/Andover in the fall where almost every student in both schools turns out to watch the football game. Also, the facilities and staff are really college level with a fully staffed and equipped training room, weight room, two pools, two ice rinks, etc. For people who take sports seriously, Exeter has a spot for you, or if you just want to fool around, Exeter's club sports are known for being fun, laid back, and even sometimes attracting an audience.
2.) What did you like least about the athletics in your school?
My only major issue with Exeter's athletics is that they haven't yet made rugby into a varsity sport, but that'll take some time.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) What did you like best about your school’s art program?
We had a full orchestra, band and jazz band that performed regularly. This allowed you to pick and play any type of music you wanted. The school also let you take private lessons by bringing in teachers.
2.) What did you like least about your school’s art program?
While we had music groups, we really didn't have enough enthusiasm for them and they were not always as good as I'd have liked. Unfortunately, as I can see now that I'm in college, the academic music department did not have the depth of classes like jazz history/improv etc. that I was looking for.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) What did you like most about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
Tons of clubs and activities existed and it was very easy to start a new one if you thought you had to. I, for example, wrote for a student published magazine (paid for by the school) that reported on local and global issues with a liberal view.
2.) What did you like least about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
The only thing I didn't appreciate about Extracurriculars at Exeter was them not letting me start a club my senior year. This made some sense, however, because they didn't want anyone starting a club for college apps and then leaving it to rot.

Dorm Life:

1.) What was the best thing about dorm life in your school?
The unity and sense of dorm pride made my dorm a great place to come back to at the end of the day. While some rules and visiting policies were annoying, you could get around them. In my dorm everyone, even freshmen, had singles, and room picks were fairly done. Your curfew depended on your grade, but since there wasn't much to do outside of your dorm past a certain time, curfew was reasonable. As proctors, we did a lot to make dorm life fun and were constantly orgainizing activities like midnight bowling, the dorm dance, gym night and many others. Looking back at my Exeter experience, I have to say living in my dorm, Wentworth, was probably the best part.
2.) What did you like least about dorm life?
Dorm life really wasn't bad at all. I must say that looking back on some of the rules and whatnot now that I'm in college I might question going back, but while I was there, I was very happy.


1.) What was the best thing about your dining arrangements?
Food was semi-decent, the dining hall had good hours, and if you had the money you could order out. The good part of our dining hall was that our dorm always sat together at one big long table, insuring that you had friends nearby.
2.) What did you like least about your dining arrangements?
Sometimes, as always happens on a campus, the campus food gets you down.

Social and Town Life:

1.) How welcome did you feel by the other students when you first arrived at the school
Being in the dorm made it easy to fit in. Itwas a little hard to expand your social scene unless you were on a sports team or something. I would certainly recommend coming in as a freshman as opposed to anything higher because it is much harder to find your niche when everyone else already knows each other.
2.) Describe the level of diversity and integration of students in your school:
We had a diverse student body with students from all socio-economic backgrounds, and for the most part they blended well. While many student groups, like the Afro-Latino Exonian Society, tended to stick together, there were by no means set divisions to prevent integration.
3.) Describe typical fun activities you did on a weekend:
There was the occasional dance and some of them were actually fun. Otherwise we usually did stuff as a dorm either officially or otherwise. At least once a month we had an official dorm function, like the last Saturday of spring term, when we all gathered in the basement for the chili dog competition. I will not elaborate further on this, but trust me, it was worth it.
4.) What was the town like?
The town of Exeter is small but has a movie theatre, a few quaint coffe shops and ice cream shops, and many people go in to relax or eat out. Also, the town surrounds the campus so it's easily accesible.

Daily Schedule:

8:00 AM
First class
9:00 AM
Second Class
9:45 AM
10:30 AM
Third class
11:30 AM
Start of a free period and then lunch
1:30 PM
Football Practice
4:00 PM
Fourth class
5:00 PM
Last class or free period, start dinner
7:00 PM
Music ensemble (not every day)
9:00 PM
Do work or chill with friends
1:30 AM
Go to bed
8:00 AM
9:00 AM
10:00 AM
Break (time to do work or meet with teachers)
11:00 AM
12:00 AM
1:00 PM
Sports games in the afternoon from 1PM onwards or leave for an away game
6:00 PM
9:00 PM
Dance or some activity
11:00 PM
Check in to dorm hang out and have fun, etc.
2:00 AM
Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2024 profile page.

Alumni Reviews Review School

Phillips Exeter Academy Alumni #1
Class of 2021
5.00 6/10/2022
Vassar College
Phillips Exeter is distinct for its use of the Harkness Method and its unique athletic opportunities afforded by a robust alumni network and excellent teachers from various high-level academic positions within their fields. Harkness, a. . .
Phillips Exeter Academy Alumni #2
Class of 2017
5.00 5/27/2020
Williams College
The use of the Harkness table. The discussion based, or flipped, classroom is what truly separates Exeter from all other private schools. . .
Phillips Exeter Academy Alumni #3
Class of 2012
5.00 5/21/2020
Sewanee: The University of the South
The Harkness table is used in all classrooms, facilitating discussion and exploration of subjects that allow students to take the reins on their own education. With classes averaging 12 students or fewer, every student is. . .
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Quick Stats (2024)

  • Enrollment: 1,078 students
  • Yearly Tuition (Boarding Students): $64,789
  • Yearly Tuition (Day Students): $50,604
  • Acceptance rate: 17%
  • Average class size: 12 students
  • Application Deadline: Jan. 15
  • Source: Verified school update