Phillips Exeter Academy - Review #1

Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2023-24 profile page.
Phillips Exeter Academy

About the Author:

Years Attended Boarding School:
Sports and Activities:
Ultimate Frisbee Club, Exeter Shakespeare Society (produced Macbeth and Cymbeline), Jewish Student Organization, Martin Luther King Day Committee
College Enrolled:
Carnegie Mellon University
Home Town, State:
Durham, NC

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
The key to the educational setup of Phillips Exeter is the Harkness method of teaching. Modelled around a round table, every class is limited to 14 students and is taught around a round table as a discussion, rather than a lecture. This applies as much as to math and science as to English and history. Instead of "teaching," the instructor's job is to stimulate and develop discussion relating to the course's topics. In this way students take an active role in their learning. This has the added benefit of teaching how to discuss and argue, a skill which is taught very rarely if ever to high school students (one example would be a debate club). A person knows something only as well as they can demonstrate their knowledge. Exeter's teaching method is designed around that concept, forcing students to demonstrate their knowledge every class rather than just for tests and assignments, and that's why it works. I only wish my college taught classes in this manner.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Boarding school forces you to interact with other people constantly, something that high school does not. Being able to live with other people has made my relationships with all my previous friends and my family much healthier.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would have taken a few more English courses, as I realized I wanted to be an English major only after I left.
4.) What would you never want to change about your school?
The teaching method. It's perfect--should never be touched.
5.) What things could be improved about your school?
Exeter needs to become more liberal with its management of its students and give them more room to breathe and live.
6.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Go Ewald North!!!


1.) What did you like best about your school’s academics?
The professors were stellar. I would have never thought that so many brilliant people could be found teaching at a high school. Nearly every professor was nationally renowned for his or her field. To be surrounded by that kind of intelligence and experience, and to have it readily available to you, is a true gift.
2.) What did you like least about the academics in your school?
The students at Exeter drive themselves uncontrollably to excel at everything they put their hands to, and despite the school's efforts to relieve some pressure, the academics often felt overwhelming because of the lofty expectations that students had of themselves when they came into the school.


1.) What did you like best about your school’s athletics?
The athletic department allowed us to host our own Ultimate Frisbee Tournament, which became one of the most successful Juniors Ultimate Frisbee Tournaments in the country.
2.) What did you like least about the athletics in your school?
We had trouble beating our rival Andover in football regularly. Very annoying.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) What did you like best about your school’s art program?
Theatre and music at Exeter were incredible. The instructors available to the student were unbelievable.
2.) What did you like least about your school’s art program?
The incredible talent of many students in the arts sometimes intimidated students from auditions.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) What did you like most about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
Everything on earth was available, and if it wasn't, you could start it yourself and would have no trouble getting funding.
2.) What did you like least about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
Academics did not leave much free time. Also, Exeter did not allow students to miss class for extracurricular activities for any reason at all.

Dorm Life:

1.) What was the best thing about dorm life in your school?
The dorm staff are your professors, and they take an active role in your life as your friend.
2.) What did you like least about dorm life?
Being fairly restricted in terms of nightlife.


1.) What was the best thing about your dining arrangements?
Dining services at Exeter often served special meals of a much higher quality to keep students happier. They have prepared many of the most elaborate and delicious feasts that I have ever seen.
2.) What did you like least about your dining arrangements?
Towards the end of the year the dining halls tended to serve the same thing over and over, which was whatever they had left.

Social and Town Life:

1.) How welcome did you feel by the other students when you first arrived at the school
Many students arrive each year, so one never feels like the new kid. You just get to know your dormmates and your classmates, and everything falls into place.
2.) Describe the level of diversity and integration of students in your school:
Exeter has become a FAR more diverse school than its reputation would expect. In my dorm of 36 students we had people from 10 different countries, 15 different cultures, and 7 different religions, and we all were close friends by the end of the year.
3.) Describe typical fun activities you did on a weekend:
Movies, basketball, trips to the mall, trips to Boston, dorm wrestling.
4.) What was the town like?
The town of Exeter is incredibly charming, and if you need some of the chain things, they can be reached by Exeter's shuttle service. There were some great restaurants in town, a movie theatre, and several video rental places, to name a few stores.

Daily Schedule:

8:00 AM
BC calculus
10:15 AM
11:00 AM
AP physics
12:30 AM
1:30 PM
4:00 PM
Ultimate Frisbee
7:00 PM
10:00 PM
Check-in, then homework/socializing
1:00 AM
1:00 PM
Wake Up
2:30 PM
Order a sub sandwich from Romeos, Watch tv (normally sports or a movie)
5:00 PM
6:00 PM
7:00 PM
Start homework
10:00 PM
Check-in; socialize
11:00 PM
More homework
1:00 AM
Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2023-24 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. . .
Show more reviews (27 reviews)

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Quick Stats (2023-24)

  • 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