- Mike Baravarian is a 19-year-old graduate of Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California.
- Baravarian said students were aware of who the famous parents were — but not everyone who went to the school was rich.
- He also said that it was rare to find someone who was a true go-getter.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Mike Baravarian, a 19-year-old graduate of Crossroads School in Los Angeles from Santa Monica, California. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I started at Crossroads in the fall of seventh grade before graduating in June 2023. The school has grades K-12 and is currently ranked the 11th-best school for the arts in California and 28th-best in the nation. This ranking seems appropriate to me — its creative teaching approach sets it apart from other schools.
I liked Crossroads' emphasis on giving students space to grow and explore interests outside of school. Every senior student got three weeks off to pursue a personal development project, for example, and many students learned new skills like cooking, sewing, speaking a new language, or building structures.
Students were very aware of who the famous parents were — and not every student was rich
Crossroads says that one in four students receives its affordability grant. The kids on financial aid didn't really stick out from their peers, and everyone was treated the same way, from what I could tell. I actually felt like most people didn't know who was rich or not — a majority of kids at Crossroads were rich, but they didn't flaunt it for the most part, and they were treated the same as everyone else.
On the other hand, everyone knew if someone's parents were famous — most people found out by word of mouth. Even then, they were still treated the same, for the most part. Famous parents weren't really seen roaming the campus, but they were definitely involved and a part of the school. It was pretty common to see some of them at our basketball games or other large events.
There wasn't a sense of entitlement among students
Everyone had their own sense of fashion and style. Most kids either wore street-wear vintage-ish clothing, or total designer clothing.
There were a lot of students driving Teslas, and while most of the cars were pretty nice like BMWs and Audis, nothing was too crazy compared to other private schools. Overall, I found that the students were pretty down-to-earth and not super competitive.
I think Crossroads students and alums feel like the school and its network open doors, but it depends on the industry. For example, students benefit from an extensive alumni network in film and TV.
Outsiders think that Crossroads kids are artsy and not that bright — but that's not entirely true
In terms of placement into prestigious universities, in my class, we had around 20 kids get into Ivy League schools or equivalent institutions, which was over 10% of our grade. And, most of the kids who didn't go to Ivy Leagues still went to their top-choice colleges.
I will say, though, that it was rare to find a true go-getter at Crossroads. From what I've gathered, some students chose the school to capitalize on its lenient academic requirements. For example, Crossroads replaced AP courses with Crossroads Advanced Studies (CAS) classes, which I think are easier than AP classes.
But there were other kids who took advantage of this relaxed school environment to explore their own interests and educate themselves outside of school. There were a handful of students who took hours of art classes per day, but that's far from the majority.
I think this is why there were a lot of students who put in minimal effort into their academics but got accepted to top colleges — they used the extra time they had to pursue extracurricular activities that enhanced their college applications.
I feel behind in college because Crossroads didn't offer AP classes
I'm now a first year student at Duke University studying public policy with an expected certificate in markets and management, but I feel like I'm running behind. I'm multiple credits behind my peers because I'm stuck taking classes they don't need to take.
We also didn't have real finals at Crossroads, as in the tests that make up a stupidly large portion of your grade like most high schools have. We did have bigger tests and projects at the end of the semesters, but they weren't worth the majority of our grade, which helped relieve stress and make the academics feel less demanding.
Some students cheated at Crossroads (which, I could imagine, is common at most schools). I can name a handful of times when teachers singled out one student for slightly suspicious behavior. From the kids I know who were accused of cheating, their parents were contacted multiple times and they usually faced a harsh grade drop in the class.
But from what I saw in my own classes, most teachers didn't go out of their way to catch students cheating. If a teacher did try, it was usually based on the school's protocols and not their own personal desires to mess with students. I feel like this trusting relationship made the school environment a lot more relaxed and actually led to less cheating overall.
The best thing about Crossroads was that it allowed me to explore many of my interests
As I moved up grade levels, I was able to take some interesting and niche classes, like a history of American film class and a literature through horror stories class.
Overall, I feel that Crossroads takes a unique approach to teaching, but it may not be for everyone. I enjoyed my experience because it allowed me to really diversify myself and explore my passions in high school — I likely wouldn't have been able to do that otherwise.
Crossroads School did not respond to a request for comment.
If you attended a prestigious school and would like to share your story, email Aria Yang at [email protected].