What It's Like To Attend The Most Elite Boarding School In America


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In our recent ranking of the Most Elite Boarding Schools in America, we considered the school's endowment, acceptance rate, and average standardized testing scores.

Phillips Exeter Academy, a 1,200-student-strong high school located in the sleepy town of Exeter, New Hampshire, rocketed to the top of the list.

When Dr. John Phillips, a graduate of Harvard and resident of Exeter, opened the Academy in 1781, he set out to teach young men "the great and real business of living." More than two centuries later, the now co-ed school prides itself on the strength of its network, its commitment to spreading kindness, and on its use of the Harkness Method, a unique teaching model that schools around the world strive to imitate.

Many millionaires and a handful of billionaires are products of the Exeter community and have helped grow the school's endowment to $1.2 billion. The fund supports many students' tuition, which otherwise costs $46,905 a year for boarding students.

Last fall, I spent the day as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy to see why it's the best.

Phillips Exeter Academy, recently named the most elite boarding school in America, has a reputation as a "feeder school" — a school that sends a high number of students to Ivy League universities. As I drove to the quiet town of Exeter, New Hampshire, I expected to hate it.

Before arriving on campus, I imagined the quintessential boarding school stereotype — Vineyard Vines-wearing, silver spoon-fed teenagers crumbling under academic pressure, bragging about their college acceptances, and sneaking off into the woods to get high.

But I spent the day as a student in "the bubble," as students call the Exeter community, and it was nothing like I expected. I never wanted to leave.

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