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: 1997-2001
Sports and Activities:Squash and Tennis teams (JV and V) Chinese Student Organization (Chair) Chinese Brush Painting Piano
College Enrolled:Stanford University
Home Town, State: San Francisco, CA

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
The single distinguishing characteristic of Exeter was the Harkness method of teaching; it even came with its own prop: the Harkness table. These tables, located in nearly every classroom throughout the school were huge wooden conference tables that nominally encourage the students seated around the table (typically 9-14 students) to engage in discussion. The point is to diminish the amount of lecture-style classes, which it did. A second characteristic, or more accurately an attribute, which goes hand in hand with the first I mentioned, is Exeter's reknowned tradition of academic excellence. It's probably one of the most academically-challenging and rigorous boarding schools in the nation.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
I think my trip abroad through SYA to China (which i found about through Exeter) really focused my life and helped me find my identity and cultural heritage. It has shaped my life from that point on, and everything else has only added more to it. It was a really great experience on the whole. Many things happened, and only a lifetime could retell it all.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would have studied less in highschool, and taken advantage more of the social diversity there, met more people, and had more friends. Although I don't regret it, I think I would have tried to become closer with more people.
4.) What would you never want to change about your school?
The academics.
5.) What things could be improved about your school?
The very traditional bureacracy - some of the rules/faculty are old-fashioned. They need to keep up with the modern times.
6.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
WENTWORTH! MAIN STREET! Long live the W and the moose.


1.) What did you like best about your school’s academics?
It was incredibly challenging and rigorous. At the same time, there was enough variety in the depth and selection of the curriculum so as not to overburden any students. People whose affinities were towards the sciences were able to take countless courses in whichever field to nearly any extent (you could even design a field course with a particular facutly member). I did so in three fields: Physics, Chinese and Mathematics. Also, I felt that the size of each class was small enough so as to discourage intense competition, but rather focus on education and developing individual's learning styles.
2.) What did you like least about the academics in your school?
The one drawback, perhaps, would be the demanding schedule put forth onto the students, who had a full day from 8-6pm. However, with both experience and a few careful course selections, this can change. Moreover, I am appreciative now of the extensive time management I learned from this experience.


1.) What did you like best about your school’s athletics?
We had pretty good varsity teams and there was never a shortage of sporting events to watch. The Exeter/Andover rivalry was also unmatched among other schools.
2.) What did you like least about the athletics in your school?
They didn't bother me.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) What did you like best about your school’s art program?
I enjoyed all of the arts programs offered by the school. Although I was not entirely involved with those areas, what I did partake in was wonderful. The music building is very warm in the winter, and the practice rooms are very quiet and calming.
2.) What did you like least about your school’s art program?

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) What did you like most about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
There were so many choices of clubs and other programs! It was a great way to meet people and spend some of your free time working.
2.) What did you like least about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
Too many to choose from, you can't focus on all of them!

Dorm Life:

1.) What was the best thing about dorm life in your school?
You stayed with a group of guys (or girls) with whom you would become extremely close over the time of your stay. You will be friends for life, and you'll never forget them. The rooms are pretty huge too, much too spacious for highschoolers!
2.) What did you like least about dorm life?
Having to change dorms (which I unfortunately did) - it is not an issue unless you go abroad or something like that, you have to get used to new faculty and such. However, chances are that you will already know most of your dormmates in your grade at least.


1.) What was the best thing about your dining arrangements?
It was open when you needed it, and there was unlimited food/drink.
2.) What did you like least about your dining arrangements?
The food was rarely...delicious.

Social and Town Life:

1.) How welcome did you feel by the other students when you first arrived at the school
Very welcome, everyone was extremely friendly, and we became good friends instantly.
2.) Describe the level of diversity and integration of students in your school:
About 1/3 African American + Latino/Hispanic About 1/4 Asian American The rest were Caucasion. Although the first groups tended to mingle together there was much crossover between these three groups.
3.) Describe typical fun activities you did on a weekend:
Play sports - I loved taking advantage of tennis, basketball, etc. - It's like a resort. Also, going out into town and getting fast food for dinner was very good.
4.) What was the town like?
The towns surrounding Exeter is scarce. There is no activity on Sunday, but the food is decent. And there are trips to Boston and Portsmouth which help.

Daily Schedule:

7:30 AMWake Up
8:00 AMAP Physics
10:00 AMAssembly
10:45 AMEnglish
11:45 AMLunch
1:00 PMFree - NAP
2:00 PMBC Calculus
3:15 PMUniversal Free - Finish Homework
4:00 PMTennis Practice
6:00 PMDinner
7:00 PMGo out with friends/visit people
8:00 PMPlay video games
9:00 PMDo some work
10:00 PMDo more work
1:00 AMBed
12:00 PMWake Up - Brunch
1:00 PMTennis/B-Ball
4:00 PMStart Work
5:15 PMDinner
6:00 PMWork
10:00 PMWatch Movie/TV
12:00 PMSleep
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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