Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
Please take a moment to read our updated TOS, Privacy Policy, and Forum Rules.

If you're considering Exeter / going to Exeter...

technicalitiestechnicalities Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
edited September 2013 in Prep School Admissions
Hi everyone! I am a current Phillips Exeter Academy student who applied last year and successfully got in. I love my new life here but I recognize the assistance that the CC community gave to me last year so I'd like to pay it forward.

Here is some advice and my thoughts that I think I would have liked to know as a prospective Exeter student. This is written with an obvious Exeter bias. Remember that the school that clicks is the school for you. I hope this simply just offers insight. I'd also love to answer questions.



Exeter's revisit day is, unlike other schools, completely unstructured. I was paired with several prospective students and I can say that the admissions office gave me a name, and that was it. Compared to schools like Andover that offered things they don't normally do (like the talent show, tons of ice cream socials from what I heard), Exeter really does show you the real deal.

For one of my kids, I had a really busy class day with over five classes and so he tagged along for those. For another person, I had very few classes (about 3) so he spent more time in the dorm environment than the first one. Both found the experience rewarding.

I'd like to say that the revisit day here at Exeter is truly reflecting upon a normal day. I have to admit, I was almost disappointed to go to our dining halls and discover the same food as any other day sitting on the lunch lines. Our classes didn't change at all; what revisit kids saw is truly a typical day at Exeter. I'm not sure other schools like Andover can say this.

Also, as of spring 2012, Exeter's campus was undergoing significant renovations. In particular, they took out the flooring, ceilings, and about five classrooms from our Phillips Hall languages/English building. We're also overhauling our steam system, so there was tons of scaffolding around. Realize that our campus is normally very beautiful. I kind of wish that they didn't choose this time to do renovations, but hey - this way, they'll be ready when you get here in the fall!



I feel like Harkness is overstated. Exeter loves to talk about it. Quick answers -

Yes, it's an amazing learning device, and I can't go back to normal classrooms.
Yes, all of our classrooms are taught Harkness style.
No, every teacher does not teach the same way. We do have teachers who lecture at the Harkness table, but they are few and mostly despised.
Yes, teachers notice when you don't participate. If you don't do an English reading or fail to present problems at the math board repeatedly, teachers do notice. About half my teachers actually tally / record # of times a student speaks. Harkness discussion is usually about 40% - 60% of your course grade. It's important, and it's difficult to slack.
No, not all of our teachers are amazing people. But all of them, I can honestly say, know what they're talking about and are good at teaching the material. Like any school, some are more boring than others.
Yes, you speak to other students, not to the teacher, in Harkness. Teachers will remind you and take off points if you keep on facing them, not the class, when you present or talk.
Yes, it's up to you to ask questions in Harkness. If you don't get a concept, ASK.

A side note - Exeter gets a bad rep for being a math/science focused school. That's not true at all - we simply happen to be good at those two subjects and so people assume Andover is better at the other two. But our science departments and building is amazing, and math taught this way helps me understand concepts thousands of times better than I did before.



Exeter's campus is going through renovations right now and so wasn't in tip-top shape during revisits. We're discussing building a new performing arts center as well. We're getting campus-wide WiFi in about two years.

Exeter's buildings are much more closer together than Andover's (I bring up Andover because it's a frequent comparison). This means much less lawn space (but we still have plenty). You can check Google Maps and see from the satellite images the difference in campus sizes.

A closer campus means a lot of good things, IMO. It means easier access to other dorms (wanna do math homework together? Sure! A minute later...), it means getting from academic building to another is easy. It means, I think, more convenient friendships and it means your academia is never too far away.

In terms of land, we own just about as much as Andover (I think). Most of the forest to the south of the campus is ours, and we have cross-country trails and other things in there.



I think the people here are nice. I think that there are a few jerks, yes, but you can chose not to associate with them - that's the truth. You don't have to be friends with anyone. Your personality shows through, and in no time at all you'll fall into a place at the Academy.

Exeter's dorm system (one dorm your entire career) means that you develop great friendships with your dormies. I love my proctors and seniors and already I'm very sad to see them going soon. The people you live with become a part of you. It's an amazing experience.


If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. But keep in mind that questions you have now will appear, in retrospect, to be incredibly unimportant. For example, I was so worried about things like "where am I going to store my things over the summer?" and so many other unimportant things. Trust me, after a week, you won't care at all.

(And the answer to that is that the Academy provides summer storage. There's also commercial storage available nearby.)

Thanks and good luck choosing!

This is my own opinion, and not the opinion of my school, my classmates, or anyone else. This is what *I* think. Others may think differently.
Post edited by technicalities on

Replies to: If you're considering Exeter / going to Exeter...

  • 98beebee98beebee Registered User Posts: 1,662 Senior Member
    Oh gosh, this makes me want to get off the waitlist even more. Thanks for the thread :) Just an anecdotal question- do you know anyone who got off a waitlist and is currently attending?
  • Momof7thgraderMomof7thgrader Registered User Posts: 314 Member
    Exeter will have campus-wide wifi in 2 years? Odd.
  • technicalitiestechnicalities Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    @98beebee: Getting off the waitlist is possible, but unfortunately unlikely. Exeter has historically almost always over-enrolled.

    @Momof7thgrader: That's correct. The campus-wide WiFi was approved a few months ago and they're working on expansions now.
  • preplifepreplife Registered User Posts: 26 New Member

    What time does the internet currently shut off in the dorms?

    By the way,
    You provided a great source of information, and I'm sure all of us on CC can say the same. Thank you.
  • technicalitiestechnicalities Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    @preplife: Internet currently shuts off at 11 PM Sunday thru Friday, and 1 AM on Saturday nights. It comes back on at 6:00 AM. Student Council passed a resolution for 24-hour Internet and it was approved by the Council, the Deans' Office, and the dorm heads. We should expect 24-hour Internet soon (6 months to a year?), unless something happens with the resolution.

    Also, @98beebee, I should clarify - I know people who got off the waitlist! It's certainly possible, and I apologize for not saying that earlier - I didn't actually know the persons in question were from the waitlist. So yes, even when Exeter appears to be over-enrolled, it's possible to get off the list.
  • andover2016andover2016 Registered User Posts: 223 Junior Member
    I can see by reading your post that you are not a fan of Andover, I, as you can most likely tell from my username, am a huge fan of Andover, so let me correct a few points in you assessment.
    First of all, with "all the talent shows and ice cream socials", if you were going to a revisit day you were also invited the night before to watch a short talent show, have a cupcake, and talk with other families. All of which I did.
    Secondly, what do you mean by unstructured? Your student still had to follow your schedule right? At Andover we got name tags, there were a few opening remarks, then all the students were given a tour guide and we went to classes. My schedule was exactly the same as my guide's, I went to all her classes but two, and they all proceeded on normally. And she had all six classes that day, the earliest and latest one I did not go to. The revisiters were treated like all the other kids. We also had normal food, not to say it wasn't good, but the tour guide said they had the same thing all the time.
    Thirdly, I had never even heard the Exeter: Math & Science Andover: English & History analogy until I started reading CC, I don't believe it at all. I know some people do, but most are aware of the nonexistent differences.
    Fourthly, would it really pain you that much to walk for a few more minutes? I have to say, from google maps, Exeter looks kind of stuffy and city-like, but I don't know because I haven't been there. And anyways, I'm sure there are other places to do Math homework than dorms during the day, a library perhaps? Andover also owns a huge bird sanctuary, which is basically woods with a fence around them.
    Fifthly, I personally do not like the Harkness style. I love being lectured to, and I on occasion like discussing with peers in classes such as English. I just don't feel that it is necessary to have for kids to learn things. My friend did a revisit there and disliked the Harkness style, he said it did not work productively, especially in math and physics.
    Hope I could clarify a bit.
  • 98beebee98beebee Registered User Posts: 1,662 Senior Member
    AHh, ok, thanks technicalities. Will hold out hope for a little bit more.. then, there's really no chance to get off the waitlist, especially since I need FA, :(
  • 98beebee98beebee Registered User Posts: 1,662 Senior Member
    I actually liked Exeter's campus a lot more than Andover's. Exeter's was a lot easier to navigate.
  • preplifepreplife Registered User Posts: 26 New Member
    I think we can agree Andover and Exeter are both two very different but wonderful schools and anyone attending either is blessed. No need to bash on one another.
    For those who love Andover, great! I'm so glad you found a school that's perfect for you!

    Same with Exeter. I personally think both are fabulous schools.

    Anyways, does anyone know the chances of getting off the wait list for PEA as a full pay applicant? I know it's been asked before and no, I am not betting on it so please no one tell me to get my head into reality and stop dreaming about the impossible because I realize the chances are small.

    Congratulations to everyone accepted to both schools, I'm sure you deserve it and you will be in a wonderful atmosphere at either school.
  • technicalitiestechnicalities Registered User Posts: 10 New Member

    What I meant by the talent shows and ice cream socials is that, from what I have heard and seen, Andover's revisit days are much more structured in that I was told that visitors were treated to a talent show, FAQs with teachers, etc. At Exeter, the revisit day was a twenty minute opening speech, and the kid spent the rest of the day with one of us. (Parents had a more structured experience.)

    I'm not saying that Andover's revisit day was fake or anything; I'm simply saying that I thought Exeter's day - from beginning to end - was more reflecting upon normal life here. I also agree with you that there's no math/science or arts bias to either school.

    I do, however, think that it would pain me to walk more than a few minutes. I live on campus in a dorm that is half a minute away from academic buildings. I have friends who live in dorms on the "other side" of campus... about a four minute walk or a three minute run to academic buildings. Andover's dorms can be as far as 10 minutes away from academic buildings - I've been to the campus and can testify to that.

    We do have a library that is a good place to study, but I am the type of person who enjoys working in my dorm room more. It's a matter of personal preference; I was simply using doing math homework together with friends as an example.

    To answer your fifth comment regarding Harkness - that's completely your own choice :) I have friends at Andover and I'm sure they will turn out amazingly. Harkness is something that isn't for everyone - I absolutely hate getting lectured to - and I think it works really well in most settings. Teachers do tend to talk more in math and science classes as opposed to English classes, where they almost always take a backseat role.

    @98beebee: Don't give up. You have a reasonable shot at Exeter :) Good luck.
  • placido240placido240 - Posts: 636 Member
    The town of Andover itself is kind of a dump; Exeter is much more classic New England. But, it's not like students at either school get much time to wander into town anyway!
  • technicalitiestechnicalities Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    @preplife: As I said before, you have a decent shot. I think your status as full-pay or not won't make a difference (but I might be wrong). Exeter has historically drawn from its waiting list pool despite being over-enrolled. Good luck!

    @placido240: Will have to disagree with you on that. I think Andover's town is much more interesting but it's also a 20 minute walk away from the campus itself. It does have chains like Starbucks that Exeter doesn't have. It's a more modern town in looks.

    Exeter's town is small but cozy. There is a very good ice cream shop within 2 minutes walking distance, a park with amazing views of the Exeter River. Walgreens / Dunkin' Donuts is a 10 minute walk. There are about 3 or 4 coffee shops within 5 minutes walking distance from academic buildings.
  • SergeantFridaySergeantFriday Registered User Posts: 35 Junior Member

    I enjoyed reading your original post. Just a few friendly clarifications to your comments about Andover:

    1. “what revisit kids saw is truly a typical day at Exeter. I'm not sure other schools like Andover can say this.” Andover admits shadow Andover students for most of the day – go to their regular classes, eat typical food, etc.

    2. “Compared to schools like Andover that offered things they don't normally do (like the talent show, tons of ice cream socials from what I heard)” The talent show is the night before the Andover Visit Day. No ice cream socials – just the self-serve frozen yogurt that is available every day in the dining hall.

    3. “Exeter's buildings are much more closer (sic) together than Andover's (I bring up Andover because it's a frequent comparison). This means much less lawn space (but we still have plenty).” The core buildings at Andover (e.g., classrooms, dining hall, library, etc) are very close to one another. It’s typically no more than a five minute or so walk from the dorms to these core buildings. Numerous dorms are located in the central campus area. The people who live in these dorms can crawl out of bed and walk to class in less than a minute.

    No big deal about any of this. No need to reply either. This thread should be about Exeter.

    Congrats to everyone who matriculated to Exeter!

    p.s. Thanks for the FYI that "Harkness discussion is usually about 40% - 60% of your course grade" at Exeter.
  • technicalitiestechnicalities Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    @SergeantFriday: Agree with your comments; core buildings are close together at Andover. You're probably right here. And I was told there were ice cream socials; apologies for my mistake.
  • parkermomparkermom Registered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
    Thanks for giving more information about Exeter. My D absolutely fell in love with Exeter...even more after revisit day. The day did seem nicely un-structured. When the student she was following had some 'off periods', my D asked an 11th grader that she met in one of the classes if she could follow him to his Latin class instead of hanging out in dorm, and he said "sure", so it worked out great. She got to sit in on extra classes and she even participated in a few of them. She also got to spend free time exploring the library, theater and science building by herself. She was SOLD on Exeter after revisit day.

    We thought the town of Exeter was just the perfect New England town, and really appreciate how much the school and town are integrated. There wasn't much traffic through the town and the shop owners were all friendly. The little coffee shop was great!

    As parents, we also really noticed how friendly the kids at Exeter were. They all smiled, waved and said hello on the day we initially toured (back in Oct.) and on the revisit day. Daughter said she felt like she could've sat at any table in the dining room and been welcomed by the kids. At Andover, we got nary a glance by students as we walked the campus on our tour day...they literally did not make eye contact whatsoever. It was very unnerving. Several kids also stepped out in front of our car several times as we were driving around to find the admissions office, they did not give a glance or wave before stepping in front of our moving car. Fortunately we were driving very slowly looking at buildings, but it was still odd. I'm sure this was an exception, maybe they just had long walks and were 'tuned out', but it still influenced the 'feel' we got from the school.

    I'm sure there are amazing kids at every school. All I can say is that I am very grateful that my D found her 'fit' at Exeter. We are now a proud Exeter family already!
This discussion has been closed.