Phillips Exeter Academy review by Princeton University student. Exeter throughly prepared me for university. For my first two years of Princeton, I had more free time than I had ever had in high school, and found that I had better time management skills than most of my peers. The Harkness method of learning, in which every student is forced to generate their own ideas and questions about every text or math problem, also prepared me exceptionally well for college, in that it felt like a total relaxing luxury to be allowed to just sit and listen in lecture. Plus, of course, it made seminar and precepts feel familiar and not at all intimidating. The average weekly workload at Exeter is very, very high. However, because it is a boarding environment, it feels manageable in that everyone around you is contending with the same amount of work. The dorm faculty is very attentive and very aware of struggling students, so they get help. That being said, Exeter encourages more independence than other schools. There is no study hall, for example. I think that lack of structure was ultimately much more helpful once I got to college, because it was less of a transition. Class sizes are small, with a lot of individual focus on students.
Going to boarding school definitely prevented me from having a typical teenage experience. Exeter's rules on alcohol and other substances are draconian, and students must be in their dorms by 8PM for the first two years, 9PM the third year, and 10PM as seniors. Also, at least during my time, the internet was shut off at 11PM. In my dorm, television was only allowed after 8PM for one hour each week. We also weren't allowed more than fifteen miles off campus without permission. I also didn't feel like I had much time to just be young and a teenager, since most of my time was spent working. That being said, I developed close friendships with the girls in my dorm, especially since I was living with them. My dorm faculty served as wonderful surrogate parents, providing food and a listening ear whenever I felt down, and my academic adviser checked in once a week to ask about my life and my thoughts and feelings.
The balance between sports and academics can be difficult to achieve at Exeter, since academics are definitely paramount. I also picked a particularly exacting sport, crew. Still, practice hours are built into the schedule, and the sport certainly improved my experience since it gave me an automatic network of friends outside of my dorms. The school also gave lots of funding for extracurriculars, both established and new. I was head of the German club and a member of the Glee club, and enjoyed both.