Phillips Exeter Academy review by Princeton University student. Phillips Exeter's academic program is one of, if not the best in the country. It is difficult to describe the Exeter academic experience to those who have not attended because the Harkness teaching method is so unique. It inspires students to learn from one another through extensive classroom discussion. Teachers do not dominate the class with their own opinions, rather, they facilitate learning by guiding students in the right direction when necessary. This is most apparent in humanities classes but the Harkness method applies to science and math courses as well. In fact, the math classes might be the most unique of all Exeter classes. The math teachers write their own textbook, which serves mostly as a large problem set. Students are not taught formulas, rather, through the problem sets they discover the origin and proof of concepts and such formulas. In this way, a deeper understanding of mathematical principles is attained. The class size at Exeter never exceeds 14 and in my time, I had class sizes ranging from 5 to 14 and averaging out at about 10. Because of the intimacy of the classes, I developed many strong relationships with teachers that last until this day. The work load of each class is quite rigorous, but there is certainly time for students to participate in extracurriculars as well. The school academics does not place a heavy emphasis on exams. This is realized by the final exam schedule where the finals are worth the same amount as a normal test.
The quality of life at Exeter is very good. Students live in single sex housing with a certain number of faculty and their families. Students will either live in a single or a double with a roommate. In the dorms there are senior proctors who bridge the gap between dorm faculty and students. The relationships with dorm faculty and their families is one of the most rewarding in your time at Exeter. The school's dining facilities are very good as well. There are two dining halls that are open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Three meals are served per day, but in between there are snacks and drinks out as well as a sandwich bar and cereal. Nearby in the town of Exeter there are numerous restaurants that students can eat out at or order in to the dormitories. There is Chinese, pizza, Mexican, and several fine dining restaurants. The school's surrounding neighborhood is very friendly. The town of Exeter is about 12,000. The area is very safe, but students are required to check in every night by 10 or 11 on Saturdays, so students are very safe. The student body is quite diverse and it is something that Exeter prides itself on. The Exeter area is not as diverse.
The extracurriculars at Exeter are numerous and of great quality. The facilities for sports are top notch and superior to many colleges. The Exeter/Andover rivalry is the oldest high school rivalry in the nation and once each term, there is a day where the sports teams of that season compete against Andover. It is a great day for school spirit and quality competition. Exeter offers sports, dance, music, theater, community service, debate, and numerous clubs for students to participate in. I myself participated in music - private piano lessons and the cello in the school's orchestra - and sports: soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. Lacrosse and music have had the most lasting effect on me and I continue with them today.