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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 .

The academic experience at Phillips Exeter is unrivaled. Classes are small and based on what is known as the Harkness method. In this method, the teacher and students sit around an oval table and explore the topic at hand through discussion. This method encourages participation and cooperation, since students learn from one another, not just from the teacher. The teacher's role is that of a facilitator, asking questions to jump-start the discussion and intervening if the students get off track. Unlike other schools which have imitated this style of teaching, Exeter employs the Harkness method in all classes (even math and science), though science classes have a lab area in addition to the Harkness table. Students at Exeter (like most other elite preparatory schools) are competitive, but this competition is generally friendly. As mentioned above, the Harkenss method builds a spirit of academic cooperation. The faculty are, for the most part, fabulous at what they do, not only because of their knowledge but because they love to teach. They are also easily accessible. Many live in the dorms, and those who don't are always willing to make time to meet with students for one-on-one discussions. The work load is significant (roughly an hour per class per night) but rewarding (and rarely boring). The curriculum is extensive (several hundred classes, including at least 20 senior English electives), so older students can focus on topics that actually interest them. In most classes (with the exception of math, science, and most languages), teachers assign papers instead of tests. I never had a history or English test in my time at Exeter. Final exams (in those classes which give them) count for the same amount as a normal test.

College Counseling

The college counseling program is generally strong, though there is some variation across advisors. ....

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

The admissions department (headed by Michael Gary) is fantastic. Mr. Gary is a remarkably....

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 found Exeter's quality of life to be outstanding, most notably because of the dorm experience. Students are placed in either dorms (35-40 people on average) or houses (about 15 people). All living arrangements are single-sex. There is a faculty member (or members) in each dorm who provides oversight and makes sure everything stays under control. One of the things that is unique to Exeter is that students stay in the same dorm for their entire time at the school (unless they want to move). This allows for the development of extremely close friendships, especially....

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