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Phillips Exeter Academy

School rating 4 / 5 by

20 Main Street Exeter NH 03833 United States
9th to PG
9th to PG


Phillips Exeter Academy review by .

Phillips Exeter Academy has one of the best academic programs in the world, if you are suited to this style of learning. All of our classes (yes, ALL of them) are discussion based. We use the "Harkness Method" which involves sitting around a table with 10-14 other students and a teacher, and having a conversation. This varies slightly for different subjects, of course. You do have core requirements, but, like a University, you have a lot of choices too! Artists to more art, Historian do more History, Scientists do more Science. It’s up to you! English - This style of learning is the most obvious choice for a literature analysis class. Most other boarding schools in America use this method as well. The way it works is each night you will all have some sort of reading assignment, then you will come in to class the next day and discuss it. Throughout the term, you will also have writing assignments. Sometimes these will be analytical essays or occasionally bits of creative writing, but they will usually be Personal Narratives. These English classes reward outgoing, interactive students, who are willing to share thoughts and opinions frequently. If you are a shy person, you will struggle a LOT in your 4 years at Exeter. I know people who have done well while hardly talking at all, but if you don't want to be a part of a conversation all day, every day, in and out of the classroom - this may not be the school for you. Be carefull not to go too far in the opposite direction and become a "Harkness warrior" (basically a conversation hog)! Nobody likes a Harkness warrior, including the teachers. History and Religion - much the same as English. Reading assignments and essays, all the time. Exeter avoids using a lot of secondary sources. You will need to think deeply and carefully read primary sources in order to bring fresh ideas to the table. The religion and philosophy requirement isn't like a catholic school bible class requirement (although "The Bible as Literature" is a great class and certainly an option), so don't worry about that, if you aren't a religious person. If History isn’t your thing, don’t stress it too much. I got a D in US history, and I still got into college! Exeter also doesn’t place any emphasis on memorizing dates and names. There are hardly any “Tests” in History classes. Just essays. Language - Exeter's language program is AMAZING. I cannot emphasize this enough. You have so many options. Spanish and French are of course popular, but unless you already have a strong interest in those languages, you should try one of the options you won't find at other schools. The primary reason I chose Exeter over the other schools I got into, was because of the Japanese program. I also recommend Arabic, Russian, and (for the really ambitious Latin students) Ancient Greek! The Modern Language classes are also very discussion based. It varies depending on the Language and level, but most classrooms have very little English. You will likely be asked to have conversations in your new language very early on. Harkness at its finest! But if you fall behind in grammar and vocab, the classes can quickly become overwhelming. Harkness isn’t always easy. Math – There is a big divide between students who do well in Exeter Math, and those who don’t. We only have a workbook, no textbook. Each night, you do 6-12 assigned problems (depending on length and difficulty) and then you come into class the next day to discuss them. Generally, each student will put a different problem on the board. Different teachers organize this differently of course. Then, problems are discusses. You hardly ever find a teacher up at the board, lecturing. Some teachers hardly comment at all, if the students are doing fine on their own. I personally flourished in this environment. I learned to work through problems and come up with creative solutions. It prepared me better for real-world mathematics than any of my college classes have so far. But other people crash and burn, even if they were very good at math in middle school. Definitely take this into account when you are considering Exeter. What is your learning style? If you’re looking for an easy ride, this isn’t it. Science – this is the subject that struggles the most to use the Harkness method. All science classrooms have lab tables and a Harkness table. Some days you will be doing something similar to math and discussing concepts, but other days the teacher really does just have to lecture. Although it is much more fun and interactive than most high school classes. Labs are frequent, educational, and very cool in my opinion. Pretty much everyone can do well enough do pass their science requirement. IF you love it, though, you will definitely have chances to take extra classes in your filed of interest. Even for less science-oriented students, Astronomy is a popular choice, especially because we have our own observatory on campus. Exeter Academics prepare you not just for college, but for life. They teach critical thinking with an intensity that few schools can match. I felt totally unprepared for a lecture class during my first week at University, but I quickly learned that the ability to think deeply and read carefully was much more indicative of success than the ability to take notes. If you are excited by the idea of being constantly involved and engaged in every class, Exeter may be the place for you! Exeter may look like a college feeder school on the outside, but you have to be really dedicated to getting the most out of your HIGHSCHOOL education in order to be successful here. You will be one of the best prepared students in college either way, but your happiness for the next 4 years is important too.

College Counseling

Coming from Exeter, you are pretty much guaranteed a spot at a top or second....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

My middle school was a prep school, but not a feeder school. (Ok so it....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

I love Exeter wholeheartedly in hindsight, but I did struggle a lot of the time. Like many students, I struggled with Mental Illness. Exeter is constantly improving their mental health counseling services. If you are lucky enough to not be clinically depressed, it can still be a very stressful place. Sometimes this is because of parental pressure. Sometimes it is a difficult class. In my experience, it was usually the pressure I put on myself to be my personal best. I don't think we have a culture of academic competition at Exeter. But if you worked hard enough to get....

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