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The Phillips Exeter Academy

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Phillips Exeter Academy

The Phillips Exeter Academy

In the heart of New England, in the middle of the town of Exeter, New Hampshire, stands a venerable institution that has shaped the lives of countless students for over two centuries. Phillips Exeter Academy, often referred to simply as Exeter, is an institution of academic excellence and tradition. In this comprehensive blog, we will delve into the rich history and notable milestones of this renowned educational institution.

Exeter Throughout The Years

The Founding Vision (1781-1783)

The story of Phillips Exeter Academy begins with its visionary founder, John Phillips, a prominent figure in New Hampshire’s history. In 1781, John Phillips proposed the idea of establishing an academy in Exeter, a town known for its commitment to education.

His vision was to create a school that would provide students with a superior education grounded in both classical and practical knowledge. John Phillips’ vision was realized in 1783 when the New Hampshire Legislature granted a charter to establish the Phillips Exeter Academy, making it one of the earliest academies in the United States.

The Early Years (1783-1830)

Phillips Exeter Academy embarked on its journey with a modest beginning. In the early years, the academy focused on classical education, offering instruction in Latin and Greek, mathematics, and theology.

Its commitment to academic rigor quickly earned it a reputation for excellence, attracting students from various regions. In 1814, the Academy’s first principal, Dr. Abbot, introduced the practice of having students live in small dormitory-style rooms, a tradition that continues to this day.

University building surrounded by trees.

The Move to Elm Street (1830-1914)

The mid-19th century marked a significant transition for Phillips Exeter Academy. In 1830, the academy moved to its current location on Elm Street, thanks to a generous donation by John Phillips’ nephew, John Taylor Gilman.

This move allowed for the expansion and the construction of iconic academic buildings such as the Academy Building, showcasing impressive Georgian architecture. During this era, the curriculum continued to evolve, reflecting the changing educational needs of the time.

Innovation in Education (1914-1950)

The early 20th century witnessed a commitment to modernizing education at Phillips Exeter Academy. Principal Lewis Perry, who served from 1914 to 1946, was instrumental in introducing innovative teaching methods. The Harkness Plan, a revolutionary approach to education, was introduced in 1930.

Named after philanthropist Edward Harkness, this method emphasized collaborative, discussion-based learning around a large oval table. It marked a significant departure from traditional lecture-style teaching and remains a hallmark of Exeter’s education philosophy.

Admitting Women and Diversity (1960s-1970s)

The 1960s and 1970s brought about momentous changes in the history of Phillips Exeter Academy. The school took a bold step forward by admitting female students in 1970, breaking the tradition of an all-male student body.

This move was a reflection of the changing times and a commitment to inclusivity and equality in education. It was a crucial milestone that paved the way for diversity and inclusion initiatives that followed in the subsequent decades.

A Tradition of Excellence (1980s-2000s)

Throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Phillips Exeter Academy continued to maintain its reputation for academic excellence. Alumni like Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” and Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, have contributed to the institution’s legacy of producing accomplished individuals across various fields. The school’s commitment to innovation remained strong, with advancements in technology and teaching methods.

The 21st Century and Beyond (2010s-Present)

In recent years, Phillips Exeter Academy has continued to evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The school has embraced technology as a tool for learning, introducing initiatives like the Exeter Math Institute, which offers online math courses to students worldwide. Additionally, the academy has redoubled its efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.

Notable Alumni and Their Contributions

Phillips Exeter Academy’s illustrious history includes a long list of notable alumni who have left an indelible mark on the world. From authors and scientists to political leaders and entrepreneurs, Exonians have excelled in various fields. Some of the most renowned alumni include Daniel Webster, Gore Vidal, and Judd Apatow.

Campus Life and Traditions

Beyond academics, Phillips Exeter Academy boasts a vibrant campus life and a rich tapestry of traditions. From the annual Exeter Christmas Concert to the iconic senior sweep, these traditions create a strong sense of community and belonging among students and alumni.

Parents hugging their graduating son.

Phillips Exeter Academy stands as a testament to the enduring power of education and innovation. From its humble beginnings in the late 18th century to its present-day commitment to diversity, equity, and excellence, Exeter has continually adapted to the evolving needs of society while preserving its rich traditions.

As we reflect on its history and milestones, it becomes evident that Phillips Exeter Academy is more than an educational institution; it is a symbol of the enduring pursuit of knowledge and the potential for greatness that resides within each of its students. With its legacy firmly established, Exeter continues to inspire generations of young minds to reach for the stars and make a positive impact on the world.

The Most Exciting Things About Phillips Exeter Academy

The Exeter is not just an elite educational institution; it’s an experience that transcends the boundaries of traditional schooling. This prestigious boarding school boasts a rich history, an innovative approach to education, and a vibrant community.

In this section, we’ll explore the most exciting things that set Phillips Exeter Academy apart and make it a beacon of excellence.

Rich History and Tradition

One of the most exciting aspects of Phillips Exeter Academy is its deep-rooted history and enduring traditions. Founded in 1781 by John Phillips, Exeter is one of the oldest and most distinguished preparatory schools in the United States. Its iconic Georgian architecture, historic buildings, and storied past create an atmosphere of tradition and heritage that is palpable throughout the campus.

The Harkness Method

At the heart of Exeter’s innovative approach to education lies the Harkness Method. Developed in the 1930s, this pedagogical approach emphasizes student-centered, discussion-based learning. Picture large oval tables where students, guided by a teacher, engage in meaningful dialogues, analyze texts, and solve problems collaboratively. This dynamic and interactive method fosters critical thinking, communication skills, and a deep love for learning.

A Global Community

Exeter is home to an incredibly diverse student body, representing various cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives from around the world. This diversity enriches the educational experience by exposing students to a global perspective and fostering an inclusive environment where students learn from one another.

Exceptional Faculty

The faculty at Exeter are not just teachers; they are mentors, guides, and passionate educators dedicated to nurturing the intellectual and personal growth of their students. Their expertise and commitment to teaching ensure that every student receives a top-notch education.

Robust Extracurricular Activities

Exeter offers a wide array of extracurricular activities that cater to students’ interests and passions. Whether it’s joining a sports team, participating in the arts, engaging in community service, or joining one of the many clubs and organizations on campus, there’s something for everyone. These activities allow students to explore their talents and develop new skills while forging lasting friendships.

The Inspiring Campus

Walking through the picturesque campus of Phillips Exeter Academy is an experience in itself. The meticulously manicured lawns, historic buildings, and tranquil surroundings provide an inspiring backdrop for learning and personal growth. The beauty of the campus enhances the overall sense of well-being and serenity.

A mother and daughter talking to an unidentified person.

Commitment to Equity and Inclusion

Exeter is actively committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. The school strives to create an environment where all students feel welcome and valued. Initiatives, programs, and dialogues are in place to ensure that Exeter remains a place where students from all backgrounds can thrive.

Alumni Excellence

The alumni network of Phillips Exeter Academy is a testament to the institution’s ability to produce accomplished individuals. Graduates of Exeter have gone on to become leaders in various fields, including politics, business, the arts, and academia. This powerful network provides current students with access to mentorship and opportunities for internships and career advancement.

Global Opportunities

Exeter offers students numerous opportunities to explore the world through study abroad programs, exchanges, and international travel. These experiences not only broaden students’ horizons but also prepare them for a future in an increasingly interconnected world.

Inspiring Speakers and Events

Exeter regularly hosts renowned speakers, artists, and thought leaders who engage with students and the community. These events provide intellectual stimulation and expose students to a wide range of perspectives and ideas.

A Legacy of Excellence

Perhaps one of the most exciting things about Phillips Exeter Academy is its legacy of excellence. For over two centuries, Exeter has consistently provided students with an exceptional education, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to thrive in an ever-changing world. The institution’s commitment to academic rigor, innovation, and fostering a love of learning ensures that this legacy endures.

Phillips Exeter Academy is more than a school; it’s a transformative journey of intellectual exploration, personal growth, and lifelong friendships. Its rich history, innovative teaching methods, diverse community, and commitment to excellence create an environment where students can flourish and reach their full potential.

Whether you’re a prospective student, an alumnus, or simply an admirer of exceptional education, the most exciting things about Exeter are sure to leave an indelible impression on your mind and heart.

How to Get Into to Phillips Exeter Academy

For aspiring students and their families, gaining admission to Exeter is a dream come true. In this section, we will guide you through the steps and provide insights into how one can be admitted to the said academy.

Understand the Admissions Process

Before diving into the application process, it’s crucial to understand how Exeter’s admissions process works. Phillips Exeter Academy has a selective admissions process, as it receives a large number of applications each year. The admissions committee evaluates candidates based on their academic achievements, character, interests, and potential to contribute to the Exeter community.

Moreover, Phillips Exeter Academy boasts an acceptance rate of merely 10%, a significantly lower figure compared to the boarding school average of 58%. This places Exeter among the elite group of boarding schools recognized for their exceptionally low acceptance rates.

Begin Early

Preparation is key when it comes to applying to Phillips Exeter Academy. Start planning well in advance, ideally a year or more before the application deadline. This allows you to gather all the necessary materials and present yourself in the best possible light.

Academic Excellence Matters

Exeter places a strong emphasis on academic achievement. Maintain a high GPA and excel in your coursework. Take challenging classes, especially in core subjects like math, science, English, and history. Strive to be at the top of your class and seek opportunities for advanced coursework if available.

Attentive teenage schoolboys and schoolgirls debating in teams in library

Standardized Testing

Phillips Exeter Academy requires standardized test scores as part of the application. The SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) is commonly used for this purpose. Prepare diligently for the SSAT, as strong scores can significantly enhance your application. Consider taking it more than once to improve your scores if necessary.

Recommendations and Interviews

Exeter requests recommendations from your current school teachers and administrators. Choose individuals who know you well and can speak to your academic abilities and character. Prepare for interviews if required. Use these opportunities to showcase your passion for learning and your potential as a future Exonian.

Craft a Compelling Application

Your application is your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. Pay meticulous attention to detail when completing your application form. Write a personal essay that reflects your unique qualities, interests, and experiences. Be genuine and authentic in your writing.

Highlight Your Extracurriculars

Exeter values well-rounded students who are actively engaged in extracurricular activities. Pursue your passions and interests outside of the classroom. Whether it’s sports, arts, community service, or clubs, demonstrate your commitment and leadership skills.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

If financial aid is a consideration, ensure that you complete the necessary financial aid forms and provide all required documentation. Exeter is committed to making education accessible, and financial aid is available to eligible students.

Showcase Your Character

Exeter seeks students who not only excel academically but also possess strong character traits such as integrity, resilience, and a sense of community. Highlight your personal growth, ethical values, and contributions to your school or community in your application.

Visit the Campus

If possible, visit Phillips Exeter Academy’s campus to gain firsthand experience and insights into the school’s culture and environment. Attending campus tours, open houses, or information sessions can also help you make informed decisions during the application process.

Submit Your Application

Once you’ve gathered all the required materials, carefully review your application and submit it by the specified deadline. Exeter has an online application portal where you can submit your materials, including transcripts, test scores, recommendations, and essays.

Wait for the Decision

After submitting your application, the admissions committee will carefully review it. The decision notification date is typically in March. Be patient and positive while awaiting your decision.

Preparing for Success

If you are accepted to Phillips Exeter Academy, congratulations! Prepare for your transition by getting to know the campus, your future classmates, and the academic environment. Reach out to current students or alumni for insights and advice on making the most of your Exeter experience.

Pursue Excellence at Phillips Exeter Academy

Gaining admission to Phillips Exeter Academy is a challenging but rewarding journey. It requires academic excellence, character, and a commitment to personal growth. By understanding the admissions process and diligently preparing your application, you can increase your chances of becoming a part of the Exeter community—a place where excellence is nurtured, and dreams are realized.

A woman smiling for the camera.

Remember that while admission is competitive, Exeter seeks students who are not just academically strong but also passionate about learning and making a positive impact on the world. Your journey to Exeter is a step toward a bright future filled with endless possibilities.

Joining Phillips Exeter Academy is an opportunity that can profoundly shape one’s life and future. The importance of becoming a part of this esteemed institution lies in its unwavering commitment to academic excellence, fostering a love for learning, and nurturing the intellectual and personal growth of its students.

Exeter provides a transformative educational experience that goes beyond traditional classrooms, embracing innovative teaching methods and a diverse, global community. By joining Exeter, students gain access to a legacy of achievement and a network of alumni who have gone on to become leaders in various fields.

It’s an environment where students can not only excel academically but also develop essential life skills, build lifelong friendships, and become part of a community that values equity, inclusion, and making a positive impact on the world. In essence, joining Phillips Exeter Academy is an opportunity to embark on a journey of excellence, self-discovery, and limitless possibilities.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.

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