Phillips Exeter Academy - Review #9

Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2019-20 profile page.
Phillips Exeter Academy

About the Author:

College EnrolledMIT
Home Town, State Los Angeles, CA
Years Attended Boarding School4
Activities During Boarding SchoolVarsity football Student Council Foreign Exchange club

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
The Harkness Method is definitely PEA's claim to fame. Classes are capped at 12 kids (in my entire high school career I was only in one class with 13 students) and you all sit at a round table and engage with the class material as a team. This makes for an awesome intellectual development experience in all subjects. In the humanities I learned to engage with the material and defend my own opinions on a subject, and I learned a ton from my classmates. In math and science classes the Harkness Method allows for rigorous problem solving that is simply impossible in a traditional class room. Harkness made PEA difficult, but now I go to MIT and college is comparatively easy.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
I know I've mentioned this a few times now, but Exeter was an academic trial by fire which has made my life so much better since I left. Not only did it open up opportunities for me (accepted to MIT, Princeton and the US Military Academy), it gave me a massive head start in all academic subjects. College is much easier then my high school was, and that allows me to be academically successful now while enjoying free time then many of my college classmates.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
Exeter can be a pretty competitive place and I wish I better inoculated myself from that aspect of the social scene. When you are a freshman and sophomore its not really a big deal, but by the time junior and senior year role around and college admissions season comes, some people get REALLY competitive with their classmates. Sometimes it felt like everyone wanted to know everyone else's grades and sometimes people were not discrete celebrating getting into this or that Ivy League school even though many of their classmates did not. Basically, ignore any sort of competitiveness from your class mates - its not important.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
I said it once, I'll say it again. The rigor. I didn't really like Exeter while I was there because it was so stinking hard. There was a stretch of about 8 weeks during my junior fall when I averaged 4 or 5 hours of sleep a day. In hindsight, I realize that's insane. But Exeter was so important to my academic/intellectual development I wouldn't trade it for anything.Also, I think it is worth mentioning Exeter isn't an awful super hard experience for everyone. Some of my classmates took the hardest classes they could and they seemed to not have any problem at all. I had other classmates who took the easiest classes they could, got great grades while having fun and then went to Harvard. Your experience at Exeter depends on how you approach it and there is a lot of flexibility to make your own journey.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Go to assembly! Exeter brings in pretty cool speakers for weekly assemblies and I missed out on a lot of them over the course of my Exeter career. Now that I'm an adult I really wished I took advantage of that.


1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
The rigor. While the difficulty of my classes caused me a lot of stress in high school, I am enjoying the dividends five years after graduating. At the risk of sounding irredeemably arrogant, studying at MIT is a cake walk because of the work I put in while at Exeter.


1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
The athletic facilities were great when I was at PEA, but since I left we got a new gym which is even better! There was a huge array of options for athletic engagement when I was at Exeter and we were pretty competitive in most sports program. The coaching staff on the football team was awesome!

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
I did not really engage with the arts/music/theatre while I was at Exeter. I did the bare minimum to fulfill the arts requirement (which I hardly remember because it was not interesting to me personally). I know a lot of my classmates really loved the arts, music and theatre opportunities at PEA.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
The variety was pretty impressive for a school with only a thousand kids. As a new freshman, I remember being surprised about all the offerings - if you can think of it, Exeter's got it. And if it doesn't, you can speak with someone to get the resources to create a new club that you'd be interested in.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
The dorms are quite nice when you remember that Exeter is a high school. Some Exeter dorms are significantly nicer then college dorms I have seen. Plus, they become REALLY tight nit communities. With most kids being away from home for the first time ever, everyone gets really close in a given dorm.


1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
EXETER BARS (they are like cookies baked in brownie form and they are the best thing Exeter dining prepares, hands down). Food in the dining halls at Exeter was pretty good honestly, though there is repetition which you would expect at basically any dining hall at any educational institution.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Exeter is a quaint little town. Some people might not like that you can't find everything you can in New York City, but I appreciate the charm of small town New England. As a high school student, its got everything you need. A couple restaurants and some pretty views.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
I loved my class mates when I was at Exeter. You meet tons of interesting kids from all over the place who are going everywhere. Exeter is also a very diverse place. As a top ranked boarding school you might expect to see just a bunch of really privileged rich kids - this is not the case.

Daily Schedule:

8:00 AMWake up, rush to class
9:00 AMMore class
10:00 AMPerhaps a break and relaxing at the Student Center
11:00 AMMore class
1:00 PMMore class
2:00 PMMore class
8:00 AMCatch up on lost sleep
9:00 AMCatch up on lost sleep
10:00 AMCatch up on lost sleep
11:00 AMCatch up on lost sleep
12:00 AMCatch up on lost sleep
1:00 PMStart homework
2:00 PMMore homework
3:00 PMMore homework
4:00 PMMore homework
5:00 PMMore homework
Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2019-20 profile page.

Alumni Reviews
  Review School

  • Review Description
  • Northwestern University
    Phillips Exeter Academy created a wonderful atmosphere to grow and develop as a human being rather than just as a student. Its use of the Harkness method encourages students to speak up and form nuanced. . .
  • Harvey Mudd College
    Exeter is known for the Harkness method, and for good reason. Because we use it in every class, it really permeates all other aspects of life at Exeter. Even casual conversations at the dining hall. . .
  • Macalester College
    The Harkness method of education was founded at Phillips Exeter, so I think this makes Exeter special. Harkness a learning method based on discussion and exchange of ideas among students, with the instructor as a. . .
  • Show more reviews (19 reviews)
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