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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 .

While traits like a billion dollar endowment or that 83% of the faculty holds advanced degrees certainly set Phillips Exeter Academy apart from the formidable boarding school pack, its most fundamental difference is the Harkness method. While some schools offer a few subjects in a discussion format, at Exeter every course from Calculus to Existentialism is taught around an oval table with a maximum of thirteen students. Yet this system is more than just a peculiarly shaped table, it is an educational philosophy that permeates the entire institution. Its underlying principle-which seems simple at first, but is actually quite radical-is that students have as much to contribute to each other's education as their teachers do. The best teachers under this system are those that can subtly steer conversation with an occasional interjected clarification or explanation to help the students reach a deeper understanding of the material. My peers and I have often tried to quantify the advantages of the Harkness method, and the best summary we've come up with is that it rewards (and therefore develops) the skill of making connections. Unlike traditional education, which is about memorization, when you discuss an idea with your peers you gain a mastery of the material that allows you to apply it to other contexts whether that be college or a career. In short, the Harkness table resembles the boardroom table-where large amounts of information have to be integrated to make informed decisions-a lot more than it resembles a classroom desk. As you can probably already tell, this style produces a student body that is passionate and serious about its work. Late night debates often spring up about the material from that day’s classes. Furthermore, because the traditional divide between teacher and student is all but eliminated, students feel comfortable interacting with their teachers outside of class whether they need extra help or just want to know more about a particular area of interest. All that said, this kind of intellectual rigor comes only through a considerable amount of work. There are classes six days a week (from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for four of those days) and first year students can expect three hours of homework in addition to their extracurricular commitments. It is incredibly rewarding if you can handle it, but it is never easy.

College Counseling

Exeter has a dedicated college counseling office responsible for advising students (and parents) during the....

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

It has been four years since I applied to Exeter, but I will say that....

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

Boarding students, who make up 80% of the school, are placed into dorms at the beginning of their Exeter career and (except for rare circumstances) stay there for the rest of their time at the school. Dorms are single-gender and house roughly thirty students and one faculty member for roughly every ten students. The benefit of this system is that younger students are immediately exposed to older students who can help them with everything from course selection to paper editing to dating advice. Speaking of which, dating is less common at Exeter then at others schools as there is little....

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