At Phillips Exeter Academy Summer School, 11 p.m. is lights out. Only all the lights don’t actually go out. The phrase “lights out” makes you think that the lights actually have to be turned off. But really it just means all the students have to be in their own dorm rooms and they have to keep the noise down. Some kids may actually turn off their lights and go to sleep at 11 but most don’t.
Many of the students stay up on their cell phones talking to friends and family, messaging or texting friends, or watching Netflix on their tablets or computers for a little down time. But the vast majority of students stay up to do homework, which isn’t really a bad thing because most nights we have a lot of homework to get done and we have to stay up late. As students, we are young and have that kind of energy to stay up and be productive late at night. We are teenagers, and we don’t get tired as quickly as adults do at night. So we stay up.
We are told that if we are caught out of our rooms past 11 p.m., then we will get an Eight for the next day. Eights is when students have to check into their dorms early. As Upper School students, we don’t have to check into our dorms until 9 p.m. The middle school kids- Access Exeter kids- have to check in at 8, because they are younger. None of the Upper School kids want to have to check in at 8. So there is usually a flurry of activity right before 11, when all the girls are trying to finish their conversations with friends, get their teeth brushed, and get ready for bed and into their own rooms before 11.
After we check into our dorms at 9, we have two hours until lights out. Those two hours are considered to be Study Hours, where you are supposed to be quiet until lights out and do homework. But this doesn’t actually happen. In my dorm, Dunbar, there is always a lot of talking and music playing in the rooms. So that tells me that there are probably a lot of girls who aren’t actually doing their homework during those two hours. But that is understandable because we have all become friends and know that we only have five weeks together and we want to get as much time together as possible. So most of us do a little bit of work, but mostly hang out and visit until 11, when we really focus on our homework.
I hear a lot of girls say that 11 is too early for lights out. Some want to take their showers at night, to avoid the wait in the morning. Others may want to work on homework with other kids in the dorm. But with lights out, we can’t do that. Another reason 11 seems too early is that some students like me come from different time zones. So 11 at Exeter is only 9 where I am from. And it is really hard for me to get used to going to bed so early.