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:
Aside from academics, I was a member of several sports teams, enrolled in private music lessons, and participated in several ESSO (Exeter Student Service Organization) clubs related to youth mentorship. In my senior year, I was co-captain of the field hockey team and was the head of a community outreach initiative with Harlem Lacrosse Club on the girl's lacrosse team. I was also a dorm proctor for the duration of my senior year.
College Enrolled:
Vassar College
Home Town, State:
Arlington, VA

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
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 student-led seminar style of teaching, allows students to accelerate their development of critical thinking skills in all domains of study as it is applied in all course curricula. As a result of engaging in this method of learning for several years, I was able to foster my ability to partake in discourse about a variety of topics with a diverse group of peers after first analyzing and reflecting on compelling literature and/or problem sets.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
I felt as though I was able to comprehensively develop my sense of self while attending Phillips Exeter. A good example of this is the sharing of my meditation, or personal essay, that I wrote in the fall of my senior year. Before attending Exeter, I had never seen myself as much of a writer or someone that would share my ideas in such an upfront with others. Throughout my time at Exeter, however, I found my voice in this area and ever since have been able to use writing as a form of personal expression and expansion.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would have definitely been more open to new experiences if I had known a bit of what I know now when I first got to Exeter. I relied a bit heavily on what I was already used to and therefore limited my discovery initially with fears about how things might go. The environment at Exeter and schools like it are extremely welcoming and encouraging of exactly that type of thing, and this allows a student to learn about the world in a controlled but flexible way.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
My favorite thing about Exeter was the grounds. A lesser-known but amazing aspect of the school is its five miles of woods that are used as part of environmental studies courses, clubs, athletics, and community-town leisure. This portion of the campus is full of various ecosystems and wildlife that enrich the experience tenfold. I particularly enjoyed walks through the woods with my teachers or close friends as a way to have authentic and uplifting conversations.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
I very highly recommend getting to know one or two teachers on a close level. More often than not, a teacher/advisor will attempt to form this type of relationship in order to begin to build a student’s support network. While independence and autonomy are exceptionally empowering, asking for help is an essential skill that many forget to foster when in the face of other pursuits. The black coffee and chocolate croissant combination is also always a good option.


1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
My favorite aspects of the academics at Phillips Exeter were how student-based they were. I felt as though my education was truly self-inspired with the backdrop of a plethora of resources and exceptional teaching, which therefore led me to pursue my interests with greater fervor and depth. I also felt entirely respected by my teachers and peers. Very rarely, if ever, did I experience a dynamic in which I felt I was given a lesser opportunity to share my opinion and defend it if I chose. Additionally, the added bonus of having classmates that were as passionate and dedicated to their own pursuits compelled me to respect their academic focuses and the information they garnered in their own learning processes.


1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
The athletics department at Phillips Exeter is full of rich coaching experience, skill, and quality. I was able to develop my skills as an athlete and team-mate in a competitive league under the guide of strong and compassionate coaching, which helped my recruiting process immensely. Importantly, though the teams we competed against were and there was a strong sense of motivation towards improvement among the team itself, comraderie and community building were always at the forefront of each of the three teams I was on (field hockey, diving, and lacrosse), which seemed to be the case among the entire athletics community. Furtnermore, the sheer amount of resources allocated to the facilities and physical resources such as equipment and transportation allowed for an enriched and exciting experience throughout my time as an athlete.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
I really appreciated the emphasis placed on aspects of the possible experience of a student at Exeter such that all students of all backgrounds were welcome. Art and music showcases for students and faculty, as well as outside visitors, provided many opportunities to enjoy world-class performances in a unique way. As a student in private music lessons for Ukulele and Trumpet, I was amazed at how experienced and active my instructors were, as well as with the heavy inclusion of music theory instruction that I had not encountered in other lessons of that type. I felt as though my instructors were extremely personable and easy to work with, as well as open to changes. The wealth of offerings allowed for flexibility according to preference for the student, which allowed one to cater their instruction to their personal interests and needs.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
With the size and diversity of the student community at Exeter, there was a vast number of various student and community organizations ranging from environmental groups, student government, dramat (drama & theater), and ESSO clubs that were based in community outreach within the town of Exeter and the surrounding seacoast. There are also plenty of cultural clubs and affinity groups that, while undersupported at times, provide a basis for inclusion and acceptance among the school and town community.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
The integrated model of dorms (i.e. mixed age group assignments) at Exeter created an excellent opportunity to develop leadership as well as learning skills that afforded a sense of humility and wisdom that helped me grow immensely as a person. Additionally, the dorm faculty at Exeter are top-notch in terms of concern and care for students such that the dorm can truly feel like a home away from home. With this, the faculty are also considerate of respecting the independence dorm living is intended to entail, and most often do not create a restrictive environment.


1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
Exeter had two fantastic dining halls on two parts of the 3-part campus (athletics, south side (residential), and north side), one of which was open only on weekdays and weekend afternoons while the other was open throughout the week. On top of this, there were fifty minutes to an hour and twenty minutes allocated to lunch each day, which allowed for students to get to each meal with ease and engage with their peers in a comfortable setting and relaxed way. I also particularly enjoyed the ability to dine with teachers as this removed the veil of adult-child dynamics and instead allowed for students to connect with instructors on a more personal level as they would at a liberal arts college.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
I really enjoyed the historical and slow, yet still well-kept and interesting town of Exeter which was full of local shops and historical sites. Everything was within a mile or so, including the train station, which made getting to Boston just as easy as getting to class on a snowy day. Given the distance between Boston and Exeter, however, there was still a slowness to the pace of life in the town that made traffic a negligible threat. I did often hear complaints from students about a lack of acceptance on the part of drivers at times, a problem which has continuously been attempted to be addressed by the school administration.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
I really enjoyed how many people there were at Exeter, as well as how interesting each person was. I had classmates from around the world, though we were all able to build community throughout our time together at Exeter. Friendships were formed and therefore determined along with dorm affiliations, sports teams, and club participation, though the nature of classes and tradition at Exeter propelled many to get to know those outside of their immediate social circle, something I found unique to the environment at Exeter. Living in a dorm was one of the greatest avenues toward self-discovery and independence, particularly because of the ability to go through these processes alongside your closest friends and quasi-family members.
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