Phillips Exeter Academyreview by Princeton University student. Exeter prides itself on its academic rigor and prestige. I went to the school expecting it to have a single focus or bent, but found that it really excels in the humanities, sciences, and math. It is amazing to see the depth and breadth of teachers we have at Exeter, and the sheer amount of knowledge they are able to bestow upon us in those short 50-minute classes. The math classes, I thought, were taught very well since Exeter uses its own textbook and goes through rigorous proofs (completely student-based too!) of all mathematical concepts we take for granted. The humanities courses are 10% the teacher talking, 90% the students. It's amazing to see how much you can learn from your classmates' close interpretations of the text because there are ways of approaching the same material that a single person simply cannot think of. The Harkness method is an Exeter staple, and it prepares you very well for college. Because every single class at Exeter is discussion-based, with teachers and students dialoguing as equals, Exonians are very well prepared for discussion-based classes in college. I know that in my precepts (small classroom discussions) in college, maybe three or four students even dare speak up when the preceptor asks a question, whereas at Exeter, everybody participates. Learning to speak with poise, clarity, and purpose early on is an invaluable skill that will stay with me for the remainder of my academic career, and beyond. Class sizes never exceeded 12, as most ranged from 9-11. I remember one of my classes senior spring being a one-on-one with my favorite teacher. Exeter has great teachers who are all willing to take time out of their regular teachings hours to meet individually with students who are struggling. I often scheduled appointments with my teachers in their living rooms (many teachers will on campus in dorms), where I'd discuss my ideas about an essay, questions about a reading, or anything related to life, all over some milk and cookies. It's a very warm and open environment. 4. Exeter is, I think, very well known for its math and science programs. I think, though, that its humanities program is just as strong, if not more. Being able to discuss the nuances of classic authors EVERY SINGLE CLASS for English, or analyzing primary sources in History left me to think independently and form my own ideas. I would say that every graduate of Exeter leaves with a very strong analytical and independent mind.
Exeter is home to one of the greatest pastors, spiritual counselors, and friends that I have ever met. His name Rev. Bob Thompson, but we just call him "Rev." His love of singing, food, and people is ever-contagious, and his presence just makes the campus a brighter place. He is one of those people whom I will remember forever, and Exeter is blessed to have him helping to shepherd the student body. Exeter is very fair in its approach to discipline. Most of the time, if you got caught with alcohol or plagiarism, you would get called up to the discipline committee. Depending on your severity of your violation, you could get a very strong warning and probation, at which point if you get caught again you are forced to withdraw from the school. I can't think of too many people who were asked to withdraw without several disciplinary cases, and so in that regard, Exeter gives people "second chances." The ethnic composition of Exeter is very diverse, though I would say that among the black minorities, there is an interesting mix of international Africans and US-born African Americans. The socio-economic background is varied, for sure, but there are no instances where it would become too obvious. For anything that would require money, the school is very generous. I remember that, through the Classics department, several of my friends were fully funded for a spring break trip to Rome.
Exeter's main social service body is called ESSO. Under it, there are a number of different student clubs, all advocating different social issues, whether locally in Exeter, New Hampshire, or abroad. I can remember about three or four times throughout the year when students were pro-active about advocating certain human rights issues through protest demonstrations, symposia, or newsletters. The level of involvement in extra-curricular activities really varies. For what you would consider a "well-rounded" individual who is (most likely) Ivy-league bound, four-five hours of extracurricular involvement would be pretty typical. I know students who devoted 10+ hours to their activities, especially for those working for the school newspaper (The Exonian), but they were outliers.