Phillips Exeter Academy - Review #16

Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2023 profile page.
Phillips Exeter Academy

About the Author:

Years Attended Boarding School:
Sports and Activities:
Field hockey, club ultimate, club soccer, private music lessons-flute, french club, Chinese club, big sib little sib, non sibi service learning, cooking club
College Enrolled:
Columbia University
Home Town, State:
Not applicable

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
One of the main reasons I chose PEA was the Harkness Method- that of having classes taught collaboratively with student led discussion rather than teachers lecturing.I am eternally grateful for this experience, I’m currently doing my second graduate level degree and so far no classroom setting has lived up to the rigour and expectations set by Exeter’s Harkness approach.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Exeter was the first place where being a little bit in love with learning was not only accepted but encouraged. If it weren’t for my time there, I don’t think I would’ve allowed myself to ever truly pursue my academic passions when they flew in the face of what was considered normal and acceptable in the places I had been before.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
Stand up for yourself, don’t be shy. It is easier to scale back if you try to many things than to jump in late. I was super insecure and shy ‘imposter syndrome’ I think they call it now so hesitated before joining a lot of clubs and activities I would’ve loved. Don’t do that. Be true to yourself!!!!
4.) What did you like most about your school?
The teachers. They really truly are all there out of a love and a passion that is so rare these days. Make friends with them. Walk their dogs. Babysit their kids. Listen to them in and out of the classroom. Allow them into your life.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Get a bicycle. Eat the pain au chocolat from Grill. Explore every corner of the library. Go to the public playground by the train station. Try things outside of your comfort zone. Don’t worry about what other people think of you.


1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
As I mentioned above; for me Exeter’s strongest point is it’s Harkness method focus. Due to the collaborative nature of teaching and learning, students quickly feel comfortable speaking out about aspects of the lesson that they may not have comprehended fully, or those topics that really touched and inspired them. Being treated as an equal with valid scholastic opinions from such a young age really does wonders for one’s engagement and curiosity. So too does the opportunity to see fully an entire classroom’s response to the material - rather than being told an answer, at Exeter answers were something to be reached, and something to formulate independently, but with input from all around you. Critical thinking is at the forefront of every class, lesson, and subject.


1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
I am highly unathletic so I participated at the JV and club levels, which never made me feel inadequate as some friends who attended other, more athletic high schools. My first term I played on the jv field hockey team, and the skills I gained with regards to physics fitness and attention to my own body and athleticism have served me well every day since. I now run and cycle long distance, and my love of running grew from the long warm up runs we would take through the woods during field hockey practice. All levels of sport at Exeter taught us to engage with physical fitness and personal training in ways that gave lifelong tools for physical therapy, stretching, wellness, and healthy lifestyle habits.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
What I loved about the arts at Exeter was that there were opportunities for all students -regardless of precious experience or skill. The music building rivalled that of most colleges and also serves as a study, practice, and social space for students. The student gallery (Lamont) constantly features a rotation of student art -giving all students an opportunity not only to produce material, but the chance to experience their classmates talents and passions.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Extracurricular activities at Exeter give students a chance to pause and enjoy aspects of their teenage years that aren’t focused on study, sport, or personal projects. I enjoyed clubs that allowed me to get outside, into nature, or to interact with little kids -as a sort of balance to rigorous course loads.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
My dorm head was probably the first ‘mother figure’ in my life. She was kind, warm, non judgemental, and really had a grasp on teens. And she always had food for us.After prep year, nearly all students have single rooms- which is really really nice especially because we do have a lot of homework. Yet there is no lights out/in room policy so students can stay in dorm mates rooms as long as they need to to study, decompress, or socialise.


1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
For a school of 1100 I was very thankful that we had two dining halls. So they never felt over crowded and food didn’t often run out. The salad bars were ample, and that’s usually where I would eat, there’s also microwaves in the dining halls so you can get creative and whip up your own creations (I almost always did that).After attending a very strict junior boarding school with mandatory sit down meals complete with assigned seating and student waiters, it was a breath of fresh air how relaxed dining at Exeter was. No assigned tables, no formal meals. The dining staff is also really friendly and funny so get on good terms with them asap!

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Exeter is a small town where you can walk pretty much everywhere (or cycle. Most students have bikes.) I had one and loved the freedom. The town is gorgeous and very cosy. It’s served by a direct train line to Boston so even though it is a small town it doesn’t feel stifling. Walking in Swazey park by the river at sunset or sunrise is a highlight. Still sells ice cream, water street bookstore, me and ollies, d2, Penang and Tokyo, rogans, Etc. Looking back, Exeter is the idyllic high school town.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Dorm life was a really great social aspect -dorms include all four years so there is a sense of your space becoming your home, and older students looking after younger ones.Of course, high school is high school so there will be drama, but it was always the sense of comraderie in the dorms that settled that down.

Daily Schedule:

8:00 AM
9:00 AM
10:00 AM
Advisor meeting, all school assembly, or other student activity
11:00 AM
12:00 AM
1:00 PM
2:00 PM
Field hockey
3:00 AM
Field hockey
4:00 PM
Field hockey
5:00 AM
9:00 AM
Saturday class
10:00 AM
Saturday class
11:00 AM
Saturday class
12:00 PM
Lunch/ sports game/ club activity/ free time
1:00 AM
Game/ club activity/ free rime
2:00 AM
Game/ club activity/ free time
3:00 AM
Game/ club activity / free time
4:00 AM
Club activity or free time
5:00 AM
Free time
6:00 AM
Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2023 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 2020
5.00 4/27/2020
Harvard College
The Harkness method is one of Exeter's unique and best aspects. Teachers have very little involvement in class — homework is either reading or problem based, and nearly every class, from Math to English. . .
Phillips Exeter Academy Alumni #3
Class of 2019
5.00 1/14/2020
Colorado College
Exeter is the founding place of the Harkness method, in which students gather around a round table to discuss their homework and class material as a group. The idea of this method is that. . .
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Quick Stats (2023)

  • Enrollment: 1,080 students
  • Yearly Tuition (Boarding Students): $61,121
  • Yearly Tuition (Day Students): $47,739
  • Acceptance rate: 10%
  • Average class size: 12 students
  • Application Deadline: Jan. 15
  • Source: Verified school update