Sidwell Friends is a special school, an exemplar of the best education we can provide in America for $34,268 a year. It is simlar to many other selective private schools, except that the children of the president of the United States attend. You might call it the First School or High School One.
I was drawn to a page of the most recent Sidwell alumni magazine enumerating where the class of 2012 went to college. Some people have the impression that kids at schools like Sidwell all go to the Ivy League, but that’s not true. One of the most popular colleges among Sidwell’s 123 graduates this year was a state school, the University of Michigan, number 28 on the U.S. News list.. More Sidwell students (15) were admitted there than any other college sought by the senior class, and more (6) chose it than any other college.
The college that got the most applications from Sidwell was Tufts, a fine liberal arts college but number 29 on the U.S. News list. The magazine said two Ivy schools, Brown and Harvard, will be getting at least four Sidwell grads, but so will NYU, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Michigan and Tufts. Two other Ivies, Columbia and Penn, will get three Sidwell grads each. The other colleges in that category were Boston College, Emory, Georgetown, Occidental, and the University of Chicago.
The magazine failed to reveal if anyone got into Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth or Cornell. Sidwell graduates will attend 70 different colleges in 25 states, D.C. and Scotland.
Schools like Sidwell provide a good education, but my impression is that their students’ ability to get into the most selective colleges is more influenced by where their parents went to college. Many colleges admit this is an important factor. Even if the parents of Malia and Sasha Obama did not live in the White House, those two bright girls would have a big advantage applying to Occidental or Princeton (the president’s colleges) or Princeton (the first lady’s college) because they are legacies — the children of alums.
I argue against the envy some people feel toward students at selective high schools. Plenty other high schools, including thousands of public ones, provide educations just as good, and those students’ college chances will also depend heavily on the names of the colleges on their parent’s diplomas. Am I wrong? Tell me why.