Do not send a child with true learning differences to PEA, unless they are self sufficient and you are sending their supports with them or they are readily available to them. Globally this is an area that the school is seriously lacking.
This is an area that needs improvement. The college counseling office needs to be revamped. The Dean qualifications in their roles is inconsistent and their abilities are experiential within PEA not the educational world.
PEA is a unique community. It is not for everyone. Research carefully what sounds "good" in marketing and reality. Do not assume due to the name that something exists. It is surprising that some fundamentals that exist in other institutions are lacking here. Absolutely this is an academically rigorous school. I would venture the MOST academically rigorous of high schools. This is a significant strength. What PEA lacks is all of the supports necessary that your child won't then crash and burn in college (or even I suppose within PEA) maintaining that mentality. It is not healthy in that way. This is very much a college environment with some antiquated educational philosophy in high school. Some rules are a bit draconian. Your 14 year old, who lacks executive functioning and basic frontal lobe skills is not going to have his hand held. He will be held accountable. You are expected to understand it is the PEA way or learn to fake it. Your child will be over prepared for college and Harkness warriors will dominate in lecture halls. Understand however, your child is essentially a widget who will have the Exonian name, don't underestimate this, those are superior connections. You should investigate at what cost? Only you know your child. Do not assume that the college your child gets into will be due to PEA. It is counter intuitive, but their chances are lower attending PEA versus their local school. The college counseling office is a numbers game. Your child will be competing against PEA students, NOT the country. They will not take the time to know your kid and send a glowing recommendation as the advisor did to get into PEA. It's a bell curve of placement. You will have to do your own work to ensure your child is properly represented. My experience and those I have know got into their schools using private consultants and research where many of the schools they applied to did not fall into the list given by PEA college counseling. Your child will in fact be counseled away from a school as a high reach, as they only want to send a certain amount of high recommendations and your child doesn't look as good as student A; however when he/she is accepted it will be touted on the website.
My child went to PEA a while back and did well. It really offered an extraordinary education (mostly attributable to the Harkness method and good teachers) but not without sacrifices, including being away from home. As a parent, I have some regrets about that, as did my child, even though we lived within driving distance so coming home on weekends was an option. My main disappointment--and it was a big one--was the same as others have mentioned: the college office was AWFUL. The problem is the director, and it is unbelievable to me that she is still there. I agree with most of Exeter's decisions, but keeping her on is lazy and destructive. Like one of the other parents mentioned, we basically had to cut them out. I truly felt my child was sabotaged by that office and we had a really distasteful experience (and this was despite my child being a very good student!) My child ended up at a top school, NOT because of them, but inspite of them, in fact. All in all, I would recommend Exeter, but be forewarned about the college office and plan to circumvent them and do the application work with your child.
Having now worked in the field of education for four years, I am incredibly appreciative of having had the opportunity to attend Phillips Exeter. I participated in a wide range of extra curricular activities, spent a year living in France, learned to play a musical instrument, and developed the skill set to lead others. I went on to attend UC Berkeley. As a minority student on an academic scholarship I faced unique challenges in the relatively homogenous Exeter environment, but these challenges paled in comparison to the benefits I reaped.