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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 .

Everything about Exeter -- be it the classes, the sports practices, the orchestra rehearsals, and the dining room conversations -- ultimately tie back to the Harkness education. Created in the early 1900s by a generous donation from oil magnate Edward Harkness, the system involves, on a bigger scale, collaboration and discussion between individuals to understand new ideas. Keep in mind that many boarding and private schools offer "Harkness-esque" classes, but Exeter definitely takes the debates to a much more critically deeper level of understanding, and the method is implemented in every class at the Academy. Looking back from the perspective of college now, the engagement and breadth of discussion in the classroom is something quite remarkable, and something that I highly doubt most of my peers had the opportunity to see in their high school years. No other institution (from what I know) places so much emphasis on articulation and specificity, and forces you to hold dynamic opinions on ideas. As you might imagine, learning through this process ultimately creates individuals best described as conscientious, focused, and driven -- qualities that help students think, communicate, and solve problems that most people in my experiences post-Exeter lack when it comes to comparing them to my high school classmates. In addition to Harkness, the Academy also has a remarkable amount of resources at its disposal, creating an environment where truly anything is in the realm of possibility. Take a moment to just flip through the course catalog -- the classes offered border on the breadth of most liberal arts colleges. If you ever vist, walk into the library -- the largest of its kind in the world, and where if you ever need help getting a book or finding a resources, people are there to immediately help. Although the school is known for individual talent in STEM subjects, I feel like Exeter's best and most profound offerings come in the humanities -- especially history and english classes -- because Harkness works most effectively here. One of my favorite classes was the second trimester of the required US history sequence, which covered the pre-Civil War Era, through the Gilded Age, and up to the first World War. For part of the course, our teacher (who incidentally did his master's thesis at Yale on the role of religion in the Gilded Age) specified a few dates relating to important events in the era, and asked us to write a page on a few articles published from those dates, bringing these thoughts in to discuss in class the next day. Projects like this are the epitome of Exeter -- with a clear focus on research, discovery and making connections, while articulating them succinctly in writing -- and the ones that defined my academic experience there. Be warned -- the Exeter experience can get rough. Classes supposedly give out 50 minutes of homework per class, but it can often be more; however, the school implicitly wants you to essentially cut some corners, since there isn't enough time in the day, between classes, extracurriculars, and "assigned work". Nevertheless, you'll be very, very busy with work -- something that was definitely worthwhile, making time management and stress in college not nearly as difficult as it was at Exeter. Help -- whether it be from your dormmates, your teachers, or peer tutoring -- is always available, and something to be sought out if needed. People want you to succeed.

College Counseling

To be perfectly honest, don't come to a school like Exeter if the long-term goal....

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 application process from Exeter doesn't differ from that of most other boarding schools --....

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

Student life at Exeter definitely centers around your dorm if you're living on campus -- after all, it's your home for the next few years. What I found great about dorm life was how tight-knit it was, and how you got to really know kids that you may have not had the chance to interact with in your classes and activities, and especially kids that are older and younger than you. Most of the dorms on campus have an indescribable personality to them, and are a source of pride for most students, surrounding the tradition of their dorm. Housing at....

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