Exeter Q&A

I’m a current lower at Phillips Exeter Academy!
I’ll be willing to answer any questions that you have about Exeter!

As with all “Ask Me Anything” threads, all students/parents/alum/staff are welcome to chime in to answer questions.

@highschoolgall I was accepted into both Andover and Exeter and was wondering what’s the big difference between the two. Also, what happens during revisit days?

Does Exeter push students hard? I saw they are very sensitive to students emotional needs, what do you think of that? Do students use it as a cop out when the going gets tough?

How many essays per week do students usually write? Also, how’s the food there?

Current student at Exeter right now, also can answer some questions!

@tacocat123 - I’ll try to be as impartial as I can- the primary difference between the two is the Harkness method. Andover only employs Harkness, and rather minimally in English and History classes. Harkness isn’t for everyone, so I would say if you believe the Harkness method to be for you, to choose Exeter. If you prefer lecture style learning, I’d say Andover is the better fit.

If you want to get deeper in the pros and cons, I think it’s generally understood among Exeter students that Andover has better athletics (barring basketball, volleyball, and track), dance, and music. It is then understood that Exeter has better academics (especially Classics, English, and Math), theater, extracurriculars. Both are excellent schools.

@Nomad001 Exeter is hard work, and students will definitely be pushed. However, teachers are understanding- they’re able to gauge very accurately what a student needs for their health while maintaining their learning. Students here don’t see Exeter’s initiatives against stress as a cop out, as they still take away time from classes, which can set you back if you depend upon them to much. They’re more of an as-needed tool for students- I don’t think you’ll have to worry at all about that.


I’m a current prep at Exeter. @tacocat123 I didn’t apply to Andover so I’m not qualified to speak on specific differences between the schools. As for revisit day at Exeter, there’s some a bit of being talked to/at by admissions people, a student panel Q&A, and several hours of shadowing a current student. @Nomad001 I would say that Exeter pushes hard but not too hard. Ipersonally find that Exeter has enough resources and support structures both academically and emotionally, though opinions vary on this. Exeter has been a fantastic place for me so far and I wouldn’t want to be going to school anywhere else; I know many other students who feel this way. That said, there are many other good schools and while Exeter is an excellent fit for many, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. @HappyCria Workload depends on what grade you’re in, what classes you’re taking, and which teachers you have. I would say that as a prep I have a major assignment/assessment (test/essay) in each class at least once every three weeks and much more frequently in some classes, with smaller assessments (quizzes/small writing assignments) between the big ones.

For revisit day, should we dress dress code?

What do you think Exeter does to improve personal and leadership skills? Or is it all about academics, sports and ECs?

I was wondering how lenient the dress code is at Exeter

@ImWaisian For revisit day I would say dress code is probably about appropriate. Much nicer will be a bit overdressed, less nice might come off as a bit sloppy. @Nomad001 Because of the Harkness pedagogy everyone gets a certain degree of education in leadership and personal skills. Beyond that, it’s all up to you how you choose to focus your efforts with clubs, sports, ECs, etc. You can choose to be in clubs like Debate and Model UN or you can spend a lot of time practicing your instrument or you could participate in a lot of ESSO (basically community service) clubs; it’s all up to you.
@ChickenWingerrr Different teachers enforce it to different degrees.

Yay so exciting! My question is how you balance everything you want to do? My daughter dances, does theater and sings. But she’s also interested in a couple sports. Is it possible, for example, to be in a chorus, on the dance team and play volleyball? There are so many choices — she wants to do them all!

Also, per the dress code, jeans are good right?

Lastly, I hadn’t given much thought to the meal plan. I don’t know if you’ll be able to answer this: my daughter is going to be a day student. Will all her meals be included? Just weekdays? Just lunches? I can’t find anything that specifies it.

I’m also a returning lower (I came in 9th grade), so I’ll try to answer questions too.

@ProudDramaMama balancing everything can be difficult at first, but one thing about Exeter is that there are a lot of support systems on campus to help you out. For example, everyone is included in advisories with kids from multiple grades who will give advice during weekly meetings and whenever you want to talk. I think that your daughter can fit all of her interests into her daily life here, but it would be a bit much for her first year. You cannot be in the Dance Company, the mainstage theater production, or a sports team at the same time. However, we have dance clubs and classes, a drama club called Dramat, and club sports, so she can choose one to be her largest commitment while still doing what she loves on a smaller level. She can participate in one of our several choirs at any time, though :).

Jeans are fine for the dress code, we pretty much just can’t wear athletic clothing.

Meals are included in the tuition, so your daughter could hypothetically eat all three meals at the dining halls for all seven days of the week. Sometimes the day students arrive early and leave late, so they can totally use the dining halls just as boarders do. Speaking to the last question asked by @HappyCria, the food is pretty good in my opinion. Some students like to complain, but there are a lot of options in both dining halls and the General Tso’s chicken from Elm street is a personal favorite. There’s also a lot of places you can order from in the town.

Thank you so much! This is extremely helpful, and I’m even more excited for her now that I know she’ll have people like you around:)))

Another question just popped up! Can she bring a friend (or her little brother!) to the dining hall for a meal (if they pay, of course!)? I keep thinking how special that would be. >:D<

I’ve been told that Exeter’s a really competitive place, but I was wondering if it’s a kind of cutthroat competitiveness or more of a friendly competitiveness. Of course, there’s a pretty fine line between the two lol

@ProudDramaMama there are some people who bring their families or friends to our dining hall and they don’t have to pay! I don’t think we receive payments for meals from the visitors.

@livelaughxc I won’t lie and tell you that Exeter is not competitive, but personally I think the school teaches us to work more collaboratively than to compete against each other - if this was what you meant in your question. You learn by sharing your knowledge and asking questions to your peers.
If your question was about college application process, a lot of people do try hard to make sure they have good EC list later for college apps. Sometimes just by looking at my friends and listening to what they have achieved, I get motivated a lot.
Our school’s competitiveness has never been too stressful for me. I know there are some kids who are really stressed out about the grades that they are getting, but they can always get help from their friends/advisors or other faculty members.

I was accepted into both Hotchkiss and Exeter- what are the key differences between the two? I’m thinking in terms of culture, workload, student life.

@n032171 Congrats! I’m bias because I would like for you to join and be an future Exonian… They both use Harkness but the what separates them is the size. My child was accepted to both… I rencourage to visit during revisit days… If you like more collegetown vibe, Exeter might be a better fit… If you would like a quiet college in a secluded and intimate setting Hotchkiss is a better choice for you. Also ’ music is very integrated in the school at Hotchkiss… We felt that Hotchkiss students knew each other very well… Exeter has a feeling of being at a college with equal benefit and responsibility (like leaving campus 1 miles radius etc).

Wow! That’s So cool! Thank you:)

@Nomad001 Regarding your leadership question… You will find most Exoninans arrive with significant leadership qualities already… however, you will find a significant amount of humility… This leads to very entertaining visits for parents. You interact with all these students… very humble…very polite and it’s only few months later you find that they are going to West Point, or is Captain of the team, or Leading a TED talk etc… very little ego… so the question you want to ask yourself is… Can you be a leader of leaders? What would you imagine this type of leader be like that commands so much respect amongst of the best in the country… very few schools will allow you to experience… Go Big Red!