Phillips Exeter Academy - Review #1

Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2021-22 profile page.
Phillips Exeter Academy

About the Author:

Years Attended Boarding School: 1997-2000
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 AMBC calculus
10:15 AMAssembly
11:00 AMAP physics
12:30 AMLunch
1:30 PMEnglish
4:00 PMUltimate Frisbee
7:00 PMDinner
10:00 PMCheck-in, then homework/socializing
1:00 AMSleep
1:00 PMWake Up
2:30 PMOrder a sub sandwich from Romeos, Watch tv (normally sports or a movie)
5:00 PMBasketball
6:00 PMDinner
7:00 PMStart homework
10:00 PMCheck-in; socialize
11:00 PMMore homework
1:00 AMSleep
Read more details about Phillips Exeter Academy on their 2021-22 profile page.

Alumni Reviews
  Review School

  • Review Description
  • 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. . .
  • 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. . .
  • George Washington University
    Harkness was one aspect of Exeter that is unlike any other. I loved being able to learn from and alongside my peers rather than being lectured at.. . .
  • Show more reviews (26 reviews)
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