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But what's it really like at Exeter?

Patrick Garrity

Student panelists have the answers for future schoolmates at Experience Exeter.

April 4, 2018
Students answer audience questions on the opening day of Experience Exeter.

Nods of agreement are in abundance on the opening day of Experience Exeter as eight Exonians sit before scores of newly accepted students in Grainger Auditorium. 

The eight are assembled as a panel on a riser, fielding questions from would-be schoolmates (and those would-be schoolmates’ proud parents) who are contemplating a future at the Academy. The panel is part of the Admissions office's comprehensive effort to inform the prospective students as they weigh such a big decision. Two dozen more Exonians will fill the seats on the riser throughout the four-day Experience Exeter program. The thinking goes that if you want to know what Exeter is really like, you ask the experts. 

“What’s the best part about living in a dorm?” asks a visitor, and we’re off and running.

“For me, it’s always having somebody to talk to,” answers Ogechi, an upper from New York who lives in Wheelwright Hall. 

Her fellow panelists nod. 

Elizabeth, an upper in Bancroft Hall, adds, “My favorite part of living in the dorm is the upperclassmen. They serve as amazing mentors.”

“It sounds kind of cheesy, but I kind of feel like Lamont is my family,” says Grace, an upper from Virginia. 

More nods. 

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“How long did it take to feel comfortable?” a girl asks. 

“I remember calling my mom after the first week and telling her it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” says Avery, a prep from Texas living in Wheelwright. 

James, a prep from Illinois, says he kept to himself during those first days on campus, until a Webster Hall dorm proctor asked him to go for a run. “We basically just talked, the whole run. It was over an hour long. It was really nice, because I got to learn about the whole process of what Exeter is through the eyes of an upperclassman who had done it for so long.

“After that, I didn’t stay in my room anymore,” James says. “If you get out, and you participate in the community, it’s almost instantaneous how you turn over a new leaf.”

The panel, according to John Hutchins, director of admissions and financial aid, was constructed with one leading criteria: availability. No panelist was plucked from class. The deck was not stacked with aces. These eight were simply a cross section of the student body who happened to have C Format free.

“What about Harkness?” asks a visitor. “What’s that like?”

Vinjai, the lone senior in the lineup, takes the microphone. 

“One of the things that I really like about Harkness is that you never quite master it. It’s an art that is learned over many years, like an art of discussion,” he says. He recounts the early days of his first term and a prep English class consisting of 13 boys. 

“The Harkness table was kind of like a gladiator arena,” Vinjai says. “One person comes to the table like, ‘I think it was like this!’ And then someone else jumps in: ‘No, I think it was like blah, blah, blah!’ And then you realize later that they were saying the same thing.”

The audience laughs and the Exonians’ nods are joined this time by knowing smiles. 

The session wraps with the panelists offering one word to describe their Exeter experience. 




The panelists nod.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the spring 2018 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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