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


phillips exeter academy, becky moore, class, harnkess table

Melia Robinson/BI

Students in class sit at the oval-shaped Harkness Table, the cornerstone of Phillips Exeter Academy's unique, student-centered teaching method.


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.