Located in the southern New Hampshire town of Exeter, Phillips Exeter Academy is a coeducational residential school for students in grades 9 through 12.
The school was established in 1781, placing it among the oldest secondary schools in operation in the United States. To many people, it is the most prestigious secondary school in the country, too.
Phillips Exeter Academy has a total enrollment of about 1,000 students from all across the country, with 33 foreign countries also currently being represented in the student body. Students at the academy are referred to as “Exonians,” donning maroon and gray as their school pride colors.
At Phillips Exeter, students can choose from among more than 450 different courses across 18 academic areas of study.
On top of that, the school also offers over 30 study abroad programs to choose from, with program options covering nearly a dozen foreign countries across five continents — all but Antarctica.
Phillips Exeter Academy may be an excellent choice for those searching for a solid secondary school to attend — or for your loved one to attend.
Read on to learn about the school’s acceptance rates, tuition costs, extracurriculars offers, and everything else you need to know to see just what draws students to attend Phillips Exeter Academy.
Phillips Exeter Academy Acceptance Rate
Phillips Exeter Academy has an acceptance rate of only 10%, placing it among the most highly-selective secondary schools in the nation.
For comparison, most secondary schools in the United States accept a large majority of students who apply, with the average acceptance rate being 85%.
Of course, Exeter’s low acceptance rate should come as no surprise, given that it is one of the most sought-after secondary schools out there.
Looking at historical trends in admissions data, one will see that the school has a well-established reputation for being one of the most competitive, prestigious high schools in the nation.
Even so, the Academy’s acceptance rates continue to dip more and more each year.
For example, according to Insider, Phillip Exeter had an acceptance rate of 19% in 2016. Just a few years later, in the 2019-20 academic year, the school had an acceptance rate of 15%.
Although the difference between 10% and 19% may not seem terribly large, these figures tell us that the school’s acceptance rate has been cut nearly in half over the course of just six years.
Given that the acceptance rate has been dropping steadily in recent years, it is wise for prospective students to be aware of the high likelihood that this rate will continue to drop.
Phillips Exeter Academy Alumni
Phillips Exeter Academy has an alumni network of over 22,000 former students, many of whom remain active in the Exonian community through their automatic membership in the General Alumni Association.
Consisting of 25 elected and appointed former Exonians, plus an executive board with four officers, the GAA board is responsible for helping alumni maintain close ties with the school through various events hosted throughout the year.
For example, there is Exeter Leadership Weekend, a two-day event each fall during which GAA members can volunteer to get the opportunity to learn from Phillips Exeter leadership.
The event serves as an opportunity for alumni to receive training for promoting relationships within the Exeter community.
Notable individuals who are a part of Phillip Exeter’s alumni network include Dan Brown, a celebrated American novelist known for thriller titles such as “The Davinci Code.”
Another is Gwynneth Coogan, who has taught math at the school since 2002. In addition to holding a PhD in math, Coogan’s major achievements include qualifying for the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain in the 10,000 meters race.
The most famous person to attend Exeter is, with little room for debate, Franklin T. Pierce, 14th president of the United States.
Phillips Exeter Academy Tuition
The cost of tuition for one year of study at Phillip Exeter Academy for the 2022-23 academic year is $61,121 for students who live on campus.
For day students — meaning those who opt to live at home and simply attend classes at the school — tuition is far cheaper at just $47,739.
In other words, residential learning certainly has benefits, but living off-campus will save students more than $10,000.
In addition to the cost of tuition, students at Phillips Exeter Academy are also responsible for covering the cost of necessary educational materials such as books.
According to the school, students can expect that additional expenses will be around $900.
Each year, the deadline for paying the non-refundable enrollment deposit is April 10.
Although the cost of attending Phillips Exeter may appear to pose a significant financial burden for a lot of families, the school strives to make tuition affordable for students in many different ways.
Speaking generally, tuition must be paid in full by the beginning of July each year. For those who are not able to cover the full cost at that time, however, the school offers two options for payment plans.
The first option is to pay half of the tuition amount by the July 1 deadline, then pay the remaining balance no later than November 1.
Alternatively, families can opt to pay the tuition cost in ten monthly installments. For those who choose this extended payment plan, regular payments begin on May 15 and recur through February 15.
Phillips Exeter Academy Ranking
Phillips Exeter is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious boarding schools for high school students in the entire world.
The school appeared within the top five on a list of the top 100 global boarding schools by PrepReview.
According to Niche’s 2023 rankings, Phillips Exeter Academy is #3 of 418 in terms of best boarding high schools in the United States.
Additionally, out of the 4,323 schools included in their analysis, Exeter ranks fourth in the country in terms of best private high schools.
Zooming in on Exeter’s status in the context of the entire country, one will see that the school is even more highly-ranked at the state level. The school ranks first in the state of New Hampshire in numerous respects.
Perhaps the most significant of these rankings, Exeter has been named the single best private high school in the state for 2023.
Given that they are #1 in New Hampshire, it comes as little surprise that the school also ranks first in terms of best college preparation at a private high school, as well as best boarding school.
Phillips Exeter Academy’s #1 rankings also include best STEM offerings of any NH high school — not just private schools. In addition, Exeter is also the second most diverse private high school in the state.
What Athletics and Extra-Curriculars are Offered at Phillips Exeter Academy?
Phillips Exeter Academy is home to 60 different interscholastic athletic teams — known as the Big Reds — that compete in a total of 23 sports.
For more than 150 years, athletics have been a significant part of student life at Exeter, with the majority of students at the school being involved in at least one sport.
In fact, 70% of the current student body at Exeter participates in an athletic program.
Exeter’s athletic teams include all of the usual sports one would expect a secondary school to offer, such as volleyball, cross country, soccer, and football.
The school also has a number of less common sports.
These include squash, a winter sport with both boys and girls teams at the varsity and junior varsity levels.
During the spring season, there is also crew, which also has both varsity and JV women’s and men’s teams.
Exeter’s spring sports offerings even include cycling, a coed team that is among the best high school athletic teams of its kind. There is no junior varsity cycling team.
Beyond sports, Phillips Exeter also has more than 100 student clubs and extracurricular organizations.
From fire dancing to cosplay, origami, hydroponics, and so much more, there is no shortage of interests represented by Exeter’s vast array of campus activities.
Should You Apply to Phillips Exeter Academy?
From the cost of tuition, to the athletic programs and extracurriculars offered, location, and so much more, there are numerous factors to take into consideration when evaluating whether or not you should apply to a given secondary school.
Each individual student has their own set of preferences, needs, and goals, so it is important to remember that the student’s unique qualities should guide your thinking in this process — the best school for one student may be a poor fit for another student, simply because no two students are the same.
That being said, there is certainly a good reason that Phillips Exeter Academy is flooded with applications year in and year out.
Its reputation as one of the foremost secondary schools in the US has been forged from a combination of strong academic programs, excellent teaching faculty, and its innovative Harkness method.
First implemented at the school in 1930, the Harkness method is an approach to education wherein classes consist of about a dozen students and one teacher sitting around an oval-shaped table for the purpose of democratic discussion of course topics.
Adding to that the fact that the school boasts a student-to-teacher ratio of 5:1, class time at Exeter provides students with extensive opportunities to engage in valuable discourse, practice intellectual curiosity, and develop empathetic listening skills. The Harkness method is often identified as one of the defining characteristics of the Exeter experience and the school’s prestigious reputation as a whole.
In sum, there is no shortage of reasons to consider applying to Phillips Exeter Academy.