Located near Windsor, Berkshire, Eton college is one of England’s oldest schools. And one of the hardest to get into around the world.

It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI for 70 highly qualified boys who received scholarship from the King, and who then proceeded to study at Cambridge university. 

Throughout the school’s history, it has produced countless monarchs and influential people in the fields of arts, sports, science, finance and politics. Just looking at UK Prime Ministers alone, 19 of them are Old Etonians. Other notable alumni include Maynard Keynes, George Orwell, Nathaniel Rothschild and Prince William.

How hard it is to get in

If you think RI is hard to get into, think again. To get into Eton, the school has to be sure of your academic and social suitability. Unlike RI, where you can be completely anti-social and still get in based on your PSLE score, Eton only accepts people who can contribute to the boarding school. And there is a stringent set of admission criteria to sieve out unsuitable candidates. In fact, it receives so many applications every year that only the crème of the crop is left.

Below is the selection process:

  1. Register with the school 3 years before the boy is set to enter Eton.
  2. Take a computerised intelligence test that tests the boy in areas such as numeracy and verbal reasoning.
  3. Go for an online interview with one of Eton’s masters
  4. Go for an assessed group activity

Afterwards, you might be offered a conditional placement at Eton, dependent on successful completion of the King’s scholarship exam at age 13.

Sample questions from the King’s scholarship paper:

  1. Twenty-five protesters have been killed by the Army.  You are the Prime Minister.  Explain why employing the Army against violent protesters was the only option available to you and one which was both necessary and moral.
  2. If today is Friday, what is the day that follows the day that comes after the day that precedes the day before yesterday?

In the past, sons of Old Etonians were guaranteed entry into the school. However, Michael McCrum, the headmaster from 1970-1980, did away with such practice, because he believed that “to whom much has been given, much more is expected” and coming from a privileged background, sons of Old Etonians have to prove themselves even more. Times have indeed changed, but not the prestige associated with going to Eton, and that is why Eton remains such a hard school to get into.

How the school is run

Once you get in, privileges await; no wonder considering that the school fee is approximately S$22,000 per term (and there are 3 school terms in a UK school year). This sum is a lot more than what ordinary British parents can afford. However, do bear in mind that most Etonians are rich and famous. To them, such a sum is nothing.

Etonians are dressed like gentlemen – false collar, pin striped trousers, waistcoat and tailcoat—a role that the school wants them to grow into.

Etonians attend plays in a 400 seat theatre, swim and boat in an lake where the 2012 Olympic games was held, seek guidance from their personal tutors and board in quaint red cottages. 

The school is a no-nonsense place, demanding nothing less than excellence from its students. One Old Etonian described it as a “ruthlessly efficient machine for producing tough, super-confident, often arrogant young men who are geared for success and absolutely certain that they can get it.”

Boys are tested weekly and examined every term, with results made public. Housemasters summon you to their offices at the first hint of a drop in grades.

Eton also allows its boys to dream big. Not only does it provide the boys with the means –world class facilities – to do so, it also drills into its boys the confidence that no aspiration is so great that an Etonian cannot fulfil it. That is how it produced so many people of importance and influence.