With David Cameron stuffing his cabinet full of old school chums and Boris Johnson getting more column inches than Beyonce’s bum, Eton School is enjoying some time in the limelight. So what does an Eton education do for you? If your parents are loaded (basic fees are £32,000 a year) or you’re bright enough to get a scholarship, you have five years in a white tie to hobnob with the sons of the social and intellectual elite.
So if you were 12 and had the choice why might you bother to pack your tuck box and turn up for the first day of term? Here's what you might have as you get to age 18, blinking and eager to sup from the cup of adult life and opportunity.
1. A better chance of running the country.
The school has produced 19 of the 54 British prime ministers to date. That includes the current incumbent of course and the upper echelons of his party are full of them - Boris Johnson, the flamboyantly coiffed London Mayor, Ed Llewellyn (Chief of Staff), Oliver Letwin (the Cabinet Office minister), Sir George Young (the Chief Whip), Jo Johnson (head of policy), and Jesse Norman (policy advisory board) all spent their formative years at Eton.
2. You won’t have been distracted by girls (maybe).
Eton is an all-boys school. Unless you can fool around with a nice girl in the summer holidays there’s a chance your adolescent loins will first be stirred by the matron’s shapely calf. But the cool kids needn’t worry — Windsor is not far from the bright lights of London, awash with druggy under-18 discos where the girls of St Paul’s and Godolphin await …
3. You can tie a bow-tie without thinking.
This is a good life skill.
4. You might have gone viral.
5. You’ve mastered the “Queen’s English” and you’re chums with her Grandson.
It’s not good to go all gooey around royalty and when Harry warmed your toilet seat for you a few times after you beat him at pool they probably don’t seem too intimidating.
6. Hollywood will drool over you.
Damien Lewis (of Band of Brothers and Homeland fame), Eddie Redmayne (he who looks broody in Burberry ads), Dominic West (The Wire) and Tom Hiddlestone (the earnest one in War Horse) all spent their formative years at the school.
7. You’ve mastered obscure sports.
For most, school sport involves pain (rugby/football played by adolescents at varying stages of physical maturity), vomit-inducing tedium (cross-country running), or embarrassment (I still can’t swim). But at Eton you can get your kicks playing games few people have ever heard of. A friend was crowned the world Fives champion (squash played with your hand against the Eton chapel buttress) by beating his brother and few others. You might excel at the Wall Game (a goal has not been scored since 1909 – seriously … ) or if you prefer a more stately approach to sporting life you might choose to go beagling, play croquet or exercise your polo ponies.
8. You will believe you can achieve something.
In the U.K. there’s a pervasive belief that Old Etonians are all arrogant, privileged wankers. Some are, most are not. Arrogant or not there’s a good chance you’ll have been instilled with a decent sense of self-belief. The principal luxury afforded by Eton’s financial and reputational position is that the school can spend less time worrying about knife crime amongst its pupils and quotas of C-grade exam results and more time seeking to imbue this self-belief. The Headmaster, Tony Little, sees his role as, “enabling young people to develop that true sense of self-worth, which is, in my view, absolutely essential if [they] are going to be able to stand up for themselves and stand up for a purpose higher than themselves."