• by MIT Ivy League and Oxbridge Educated Insiders
  • Trusted by over tens of thousands online subscribers

Sidwell Friends School

School rating 4 / 5 by

3825 Wisconsin Avenue NW Washington DC 20016 United States
PK to 12th


Sidwell Friends School review by .

In the Upper School a student is required to take 4 years of English, 3 years of History, 3 years of Math, 2 years of Science and 2 years of a Foreign Language, while being enrolled in at least 4 classes at a time. English isn't tracked and the classes are 9th grade: a survey (Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, etc.), 10th grade is British Literature (Beowulf, Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice, etc.), 11th is American Literature (Moby Dick or Huck Finn, Scarlett Letter, there's a lot of variation as teachers can decide what books their class can read). In 12th grade you choose from a bunch of electives like Fantasy Literature, Greek Classics, Tragedy, World Novella, basically you study a sub genre of the teacher's choosing for the semester. The English program at Sidwell is really good, all of the teachers are outstanding and the discussions are usually really interactive because of the small class size, I really learned how to think/analyze better. However, on the down side writing is graded pretty harshly and grading standards between teachers can be really different as well as their opinion on what constitutes good writing or ideas which can be really annoying as you change teachers from year to year. History has a similar pattern, 9th grade is "West and the World" where you start by reading primary sources like Plato and Socrates and end with The Cold War, so basically European/Western History from Classic to Modern times. 10th grade you take Latin American, Middle Eastern, East Asian, or African History, basically going in depth with one area of the world. 11th grade is American History and you can take normal US History or American Studies which is US History with a more cultural focus. In 12th grade you again get to choose from electives like Comparative Religion, Art History, and Economics. Like the English department I think the History department is one of Sidwell's strengths because of the highly qualified teachers (a significant number of whom have Doctoral degrees) and the small class sizes which really allow for intense discussions. The Science curriculum is that everyone is required to take two years, one year of Biology and one year of Chemistry but there is AP Chem, AP Bio, and Physics 1 and 2(AP) offered as well as AP Enviromental Science and an Astrophysics class and most people take them. Science classes are one of Sidwell's weaknesses, while the classes are small and there's lots of teacher-student interaction there aren't much extra curricular options for people interested in Physics or Math besides competition teams like Robotics or Mathletes. Math is again one of Sidwell's weaknesses in my opinion because of the really strange tracks they have. There is Math 1,2,and 3 which has you taking Calc BC senior year and the regular track of Geometry, Algebra 2, Algebra 3/Advanced math/Trig/whatever they've decided to call it these days, which leads to "Calculus" that is basically a mix of pre calc and the first part of Calc AB. If you want to just take Calc AB you either have to drop out of the advanced track or do summer work. The reason for this being that Algebra 2 at Sidwell doesn't cover everything a normal Algebra 2 class does and so they have to cover this the first part of junior year and that sets you behind for Calculus. The tracks are really rigid and the teachers aren't very helpful in parsing them, summer work is discouraged and if you're interested in math in a lower track your interest is squashed because it's too much work for Sidwell to accommodate you. This basically leads to my point that as a smaller school, Sidwell doesn't have the resources or the know how to have really great Science/Math programs. While there are some students who are really interested in it, not all of them are given encouragement and there are public schools with better ideas and policies on math/science advancement. Sidwell also doesn't offer any Engineering courses or experiences for people interested in the topic. What it does offer is a bunch of Computer Science classes which are run by a really great teacher who is passionate about the subject, but they're the only person at Sidwell interested in introducing people to Engineering ideas so basically the only option if you're interested in Engineering at Sidwell is robotics, which isn't an uncommon phenomenon in High Schools but there are better, cheaper, options than Sidwell if you want real exposure to more STEM-y fields. Every student is required to take 2 years of either French, Latin, Chinese or Spanish. The Foreign Language department isn't the best part of Sidwell but the teachers are very interactive and if you put effort into it you can learn a lot. Sidwell also usually gets everyone into Student Year Abroad programs who wants to go and while not many people do go on SYA its a feasible option. Finally, Sidwell offers Chorus, Jazz Ensemble and Orchestra as well as Acting and various visual art classes. Many students do take advantage of them and its a two year requirement. While some people might view it as a waste of time if it can fit into your schedule most people take an Art class of some type. In case you haven't noticed by now, Sidwell doesn't offer any classes that appear as AP on your transcript except in Foreign Language, Science, and Math classes. This isn't really a disadvantage because the English and History departments are really good and most people get 5s and 4s on AP English Literature and AP US History. Basically what made my Sidwell experience worth it, despite the lack of Science and Math enrichment available was the teachers who really were in love with their subjects and encouraged discussion. I really learned how to prove a point and think critically about whatever I was reading or studying. As I said earlier, class sizes were pretty small for a High School, between 10 to 20 kids in every class, usually 16 but sometimes 12 or even 8, depending on how popular the class was. Teachers were available anytime by appointment or just walking into their department and they really made an effort to let students know they could ask for help, this was really helpful in getting the most out of each class. The average workload could range from 3-8 hours of homework a night depending on what papers were due or projects/labs happening that week. Academically challenged students could be referred to a specialist to go over time management methods, but the very few people with learning disabilities mostly managed it on their own time with tutors or extra help from teachers, a lot of people are awarded extra time on tests. Advanced students were again, mostly being tutored in their spare time or teaching themselves if there was a subject they were interested in that they wanted to go above and beyond with.

College Counseling

Junior year there are several events including mock admissions with admissions officers from various....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

I entered my High School because I had gained admission in Middle School, but I....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

The student body is extremely liberal. The community is very open which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Quaker "Meeting for Worship" allows all students to have a voice in the community, however, discontent is never shielded so there are often disagreements between the students and administration. Peers can be vicious to each other like at other high schools but there is more dialogue about it and the community is very self aware about its flaws. While Sidwell is extremely diverse in terms of ethnicity (30% are minorities), most people come from a upper-middle class or....

Popular Comparisons