Best Overall High Schools For Academics And Athletics
Selecting the right high school is one of the most important decisions a student will make. The high school years lay the foundation for future academic and career success. For students seeking a well-rounded education that develops the whole person, focusing on both stellar academics and excellent athletics programs, there are stand-out high schools across the nation worth strong consideration.
When evaluating top high schools, academics and test scores understandably take priority. College readiness and admission rates are key indicators of academic rigor and quality instruction. However, the high school experience involves more than just books and tests. Athletics, clubs, arts, and other extracurricular activities play a vital role in shaping students into well-rounded individuals. The most exceptional high schools recognize this and make academics and athletics mutually reinforcing priorities.
Blending Rigorous Academics and Championship Athletics
Here are some examples of high-performing high schools that excel in both academics and athletics:
- Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA is consistently ranked the #1 public high school in the nation, renowned for its intensive STEM focus. But TJHSST also fields competitive teams in 17 different sports from lacrosse to fencing.
- Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH is a prestigious boarding school that matriculates students to Ivy League colleges every year. Phillips Exeter also has over 90 athletic teams across 27 different sports, from soccer to rowing.
- Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT is considered one of the top private boarding schools in the country, sending over 33% of graduates to the Ivy Leagues. Hotchkiss also has a storied tradition in sports like hockey, soccer, lacrosse, and baseball.
The culture at these academically elite schools values athletics and extracurricular involvement as essential to developing well-rounded students prepared for college and beyond. High-achieving students often thrive when given outlets like sports to balance and complement their academic pressures and studies.
Top Lacrosse Programs Produce Championship Teams
Lacrosse in particular has exploded in popularity as a high school sport over the past decade. Many of the nation’s top-ranked schools also boast powerhouse lacrosse programs. Here are some examples:
- Culver Academies in Indiana has an astounding 99% college acceptance rate plus 20 different sports programs. Their lacrosse team are consistent contenders, winning several state championships.
- Gonzaga College High School is a highly selective Jesuit prep school in Washington DC. Gonzaga fields nationally ranked lacrosse teams and has produced multiple Major League Lacrosse players.
- McDonogh School near Baltimore integrates lacrosse into its academics. Their lacrosse program consistently ranks among the top nationally, winning multiple championships.
For lacrosse players seeking strong academics coupled with competitive team sports, these schools demonstrate it is possible to have it all at the high school level.
Geography Matters – Great Schools Across America
While prestigious boarding schools dominate high school rankings, public schools can also provide top-tier academics and athletics. Here are some of the stand-out public schools by region:
- East Coast – Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, Stuyvesant High School in New York City, and Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts.
- South – The School for Advanced Studies in Miami, duPont Manual High School in Louisville, and Academic Magnet High School in South Carolina.
- Midwest – Payton College Prep in Chicago, United World College in New Mexico, and International School of Minnesota ranked #1 in the state.
- West Coast – Lowell High School in San Francisco, Oxford Academy in Anaheim, and School of Science and Engineering in Seattle.
Students seeking rigorous, well-rounded public education have excellent options across the country, though competition for top schools can be intense. Private schools and charter/magnets are alternatives providing exceptional academics and athletics regionally and nationwide.
Finding the Right Fit
With thousands of high schools across the country, finding the right fit takes research. Here are key factors to evaluate:
- – College matriculation and admissions rates
- – Variety of challenging course offerings – AP, IB, STEM
- – Extracurriculars, athletics, arts, and clubs
- – Student-teacher ratios and average class sizes
- – School culture and student life on campus
- – Tuition costs, scholarships, and financial aid (private schools)
The “best” high school combines exceptional academics with top-tier athletics and activities tailored to the student’s skills and interests. Leveraging rankings and school data is helpful, but finding the right personal fit should drive the search.
With a clear sense of a student’s academic abilities, athletic talents, social preferences, and college ambitions, families can find high schools to challenge and nurture the whole student. America’s education system provides an array of exceptional high schools for those willing to seek them out.
Which Are Some Of The Top 10 High Schools in USA?
With over 24,000 public high schools and more than 33,000 private schools in the United States, identifying the very best can be a challenge. Academic rigor, teacher quality, resources, graduation rates, college admissions, and more all factor in. Here we spotlight 10 of the top-ranked high schools in America based on national rankings, college matriculation, and academic reputation.
1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – Alexandria, VA
Thomas Jefferson consistently ranks as the number one public high school in the country. This Virginia magnet school focuses on STEM and enrolls students from several districts in the state. With extremely competitive admissions, Thomas Jefferson provides an intensive college-prep education and matriculates graduates to top universities across the nation.
2. The School for Advanced Studies – Miami, FL
SAS Miami is frequently named the top public high school in Florida. This selective-admissions school emphasizes math, science, and humanities. SAT scores and college acceptance rates are exceptionally high. Graduates go on to attend elite colleges such as MIT, Harvard, Yale, and UPenn.
3. Illinois Math and Science Academy – Aurora, IL
IMSA regularly appears at the top of national public school rankings. This competitive residential academy enrolls Illinois students in grades 10-12 who have exceptional abilities in math and science. The curriculum focuses on developing research, leadership, and service skills to prepare graduates for STEM careers.
4. Stuyvesant High School – New York, NY
One of the most selective public high schools in the country, Stuyvesant accepts less than 3% of applicants based on a rigorous entrance exam. This college-preparatory focused school located in Lower Manhattan exposes students to a fast-paced, high-pressure academic environment with emphasis on math, science, and technology.
5. High Technology High School – Lincroft, NJ
Located in Monmouth County, High Technology High School enrolls about 300 students focused on STEM fields. Students undertake research projects, job internships, and develop technical skills while taking AP classes. Over 97% of graduates go on to attend four-year colleges.
6. Whitney M. Young Magnet High School – Chicago, IL
Considered one of the top academic public high schools in Chicago, Young Magnet enrolls over 1,200 students from across the city. This selective college prep school provides a rigorous liberal arts curriculum. Diverse extracurriculars, AP offerings, and incredible 100% graduation rate characterize the school.
7. Payton College Prep High School – Chicago, IL
Payton Prep is ranked among the top 20 public high schools nationally. Admissions are highly competitive for this Chicago magnet school focused on college preparation and leadership training. Payton sends graduates to prestigious universities across the world and is renowned for academic excellence.
8. Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School – Richmond, VA
This public regional magnet school serves gifted students in Central Virginia. Enrollment is highly selective with only about 10% of applicants admitted. Maggie Walker focuses on leadership training, research skills, and community service. College matriculation is 100%.
9. Oxford Academy – Cypress, CA
Oxford Academy is a public high school located in Orange County, consistently ranked one of the top in California. The school enrolls only 320 students focused on STEM and liberal arts. SAT scores and AP course offerings are exceptional. 99% of graduates are accepted into four-year universities.
10. BASIS Scottsdale – Scottsdale, AZ
BASIS Scottsdale is part of a network of charter schools offering advanced curriculums focused on STEM. This top-performing Arizona school boasts high test scores, AP scores, and elite college admissions. However, the demanding academics cap enrollment at just 500 high-achieving students.
This sampling shows America’s education system provides public school options to rival even the top private prep schools. For families seeking the most competitive high school environment to prepare students for elite colleges, these schools represent the best of the best nationwide.
Which Public High Schools Rank Highest Nationwide?
Public schools face the unique challenge of providing a top-tier education accessible to students across all backgrounds and means. But some exceptional public high schools across America combine academic excellence, first-class facilities, outstanding teachers, and top-ranked athletics programs to rival even prestigious prep schools in quality. Here we spotlight some of the highest ranked public high schools coast to coast.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – Alexandria, VA
Thomas Jefferson indisputably tops rankings as the #1 public high school in the nation year after year. This Virginia magnet school specializes in STEM for elite students in the state. With an intensely rigorous curriculum, TJHSST matriculates graduates to Ivy League schools and other top universities nationwide. From robotics teams to 25 AP course offerings, everything is superb.
Payton College Prep – Chicago, IL
Payton Prep is ranked among the top 20 public high schools in the country. This selective Chicago magnet emphasizes college prep and leadership training for its diverse 1,200 students. With exceptional graduation rates, Payton sends grads to the most prestigious colleges globally. From academics to athletics, Payton offers the best of the best.
The School for Advanced Studies – Miami, FL
SAS Miami is an honors magnet high school continually named Florida’s top public school. Just 350 students are admitted based on test scores, grades and essays. With laser focus on math, science, and humanities SAS prepares elite students for top tier colleges like Harvard and Yale.
Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School – Richmond, VA
This public regional magnet school serves gifted students in Central Virginia. With highly selective 10% admissions, Maggie Walker focuses on leadership training, research skills, and community service along with a rigorous curriculum. College matriculation rate is an astounding 100%.
Oxford Academy – Cypress, CA
Oxford Academy consistently ranks among California’s top public high schools. This exclusive public school in Orange County admits only 320 high-achieving students focused on STEM and liberal arts. With exceptional SAT scores and AP offerings, 99% of graduates are accepted to elite four-year universities.
High Technology High School – Lincroft, NJ
Located in prestigious Monmouth County, High Technology High School caters to high-aptitude students interested in STEM. With research projects, internships, and abundant AP courses, 97% of grads are accepted to four-year colleges. HTHS offers a private school caliber education in a public school setting.
Illinois Math and Science Academy – Aurora, IL
IMSA is a world-class public boarding school focused on leadership in STEM fields. Enrolling academically gifted students in grades 10-12, the curriculum emphasizes research, leadership, and service. Graduates are heavily recruited by elite colleges seeking this uniquely qualified talent pool.
Stuyvesant High School – New York, NY
Stuyvesant is renown as one of the most academically outstanding public high schools in America. Admission is highly competitive with only 3% of applicants accepted. Located in Lower Manhattan, the fast-paced pressure-cooker environment attracts the brightest STEM-focused students nationwide.
Academic Magnet High School – North Charleston, SC
This public magnet school consistently appears on rankings of top high schools for its intense academic environment. Enrollment is limited to South Carolina’s most gifted students. With abundant AP courses, independent research, and 100% graduation and college acceptance rates, AMHS offers the best academics in the state.
Whitney M. Young Magnet High School – Chicago, IL
Consistently ranked among Illinois’ top academic public high schools, Young Magnet provides a rigorous liberal arts education to 1,200 selective enrolled students. With a 100% graduation rate and incredible variety of AP courses and extracurriculars, Young Magnet represents the best of Chicago public schools.
These examples demonstrate that America’s nationwide public education system can produce schools on par with even the most elite private institutions. For top students seeking a challenging academic climate without private school tuition, public schools offer outstanding options around the country.
Top Lacrosse Boarding Schools And Teams
Over the past decade, lacrosse has exploded in popularity as a high school sport. Many of the nation’s top private boarding schools now boast powerhouse lacrosse programs. For student athletes gifted in lacrosse, attending a boarding school with an elite team can provide world-class coaching, top-tier teammates, and national exposure.
Culver Academies – Culver, IN
Culver Academies is a prestigious Midwestern boarding school with a total enrollment of just 800 students. But their lacrosse program is a juggernaut. Culver has won several state championships and regularly sends players to Division I college teams. Graduates praise Culver’s excellent coaching and facilities.
Avon Old Farms – Avon, CT
This storied all-boys boarding school in Connecticut is a lacrosse powerhouse. Avon Old Farms fields multiple competitive teams with an intensive focus on skill development. The school has produced numerous college lacrosse stars. Graduates gain top-tier coaching and play against elite prep school competition.
Phillips Exeter Academy – Exeter, NH
Phillips Exeter has 90+ athletic teams across 27 sports, including a nationally ranked boys lacrosse squad. Exeter Lacrosse competes against other New England prep schools boasting Division I recruits. The program’s focus on leadership, character, and teamwork helps graduates succeed at the college level and beyond.
Deerfield Academy – Deerfield, MA
This prestigious boarding school maintains an intense focus on athletics alongside rigorous academics. Deerfield fields competitive Division I lacrosse teams for boys and girls. With experienced coaching staff, excellent facilities, and high-caliber recruits, Deerfield Lacrosse prepares elite student athletes for the collegiate level.
Boys’ Latin School of Maryland – Baltimore, MD
Boys’ Latin is considered one of the foremost lacrosse training grounds on the East Coast. The school has produced more alumni playing professionally than any other high school nationwide. Boys’ Latin lacrosse focuses on developing complete student athlete leaders on and off the field.
Gonzaga College High School – Washington, DC
This exclusive Jesuit prep school fields lacrosse teams acclaimed as some of the best nationally. Gonzaga Lacrosse competes against top teams around the Mid-Atlantic and has produced Major League Lacrosse draftees. The program instills skills, conditioning, strategy, and character to excel on the field and in life.
Culver Military Academy – Culver, IN
Alongside its sister school Culver Academies, Culver Military Academy is a lacrosse powerhouse. Culver Military fields an elite varsity lacrosse squad boasting Division 1 college recruits. With a rich 100+ year history, Culver Military lacrosse has achieved national prominence and success at the highest levels.
McDonogh School – Owings Mills, MD
This private K-12 school integrates lacrosse into its rigorous academic environment. McDonogh’s lacrosse program is renowned as one of the best in the country. McDonogh has produced professional players, Olympians, and college scholarship athletes while focusing on leadership and character development.
For gifted lacrosse players, combining a top-tier academic prep school experience with elite lacrosse coaching and competition can be a winning combination. Boarding school lacrosse programs provide training and exposure unmatched at most public schools.
Where Are The Top High Schools In The Country Located?
While high-performing high schools can be found across America, certain states and regions are recognized as homes to an outsized share of the nation’s top secondary schools. Prestigious prep schools and intensely competitive public magnets tend to cluster in coastal areas and around major metropolitan centers offering prime academics, sports, arts, and abundant resources.
New England Dominates Private School Rankings
New England hosts many of the highest rated and most storied boarding schools in the United States. States like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine are home to longtime prep powerhouses like:
- Phillips Exeter Academy – Exeter, NH
- Choate Rosemary Hall – Wallingford, CT
- Deerfield Academy – Deerfield, MA
- Groton School – Groton, MA
- Middlesex School – Concord, MA
- Milton Academy – Milton, MA
- Kent School – Kent, CT
- Taft School – Watertown, CT
These prestigious New England boarding schools offer world-class academics and top-tier college placement. Students come from across the globe for access to these selective institutions boasting resources and Ivy League feeds unmatched elsewhere.
NYC and DC Magnet Schools Lead Public Rankings
Two major cities, New York and Washington DC, dominate rankings for the nation’s best public magnet high schools attracting top talent, including:
- Stuyvesant High School – New York, NY
- Bronx High School of Science – Bronx, NY
- Brooklyn Latin School – Brooklyn, NY
- Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – Alexandria, VA
- Maggie Walker Governor’s School – Richmond, VA
The intensely competitive, high-pressure academic environments at these STEM-focused magnets prepare elite students for leading colleges and careers. Admission is highly selective, with testing requirements screening applicants.
California and Texas Offer Strong Public Options
Major population centers in California and Texas boast some of the top-performing public schools attracting serious students, including:
- Oxford Academy – Cypress, CA
- Lowell High School – San Francisco, CA
- School of Science and Engineering – Dallas, TX
- Carnegie Vanguard High School – Houston, TX
- BASIS Scottsdale – Scottsdale, AZ
With abundant resources and prime facilities, standout public schools in these states offer STEM-focused, college-prep curriculums rivaling costly private options. Admissions are highly selective, with pressure cooker academics.
Midwestern and Southern Gems
While coastal schools dominate rankings, excellent public and private options also dot states in the Midwest and South:
- Illinois Math and Science Academy – Aurora, IL
- Cranbrook Schools – Bloomfield Hills, MI
- Miami Country Day School – Miami, FL
- Montgomery Bell Academy – Nashville, TN
- Lone Peak High School – Highland, UT
These regional schools can compete with nationally ranked powerhouses by blending rigorous academics, top-notch facilities, elite college placement, and a well-rounded experience to nurture motivated students.
While geography is not destiny, America’s concentration of esteemed boarding schools and intensely competitive public magnets along the coasts and in urban areas provides advantageous environments for the nation’s high-achieving students to thrive.
Highly Ranked Catholic High Schools In The US
Catholic high schools have a long tradition of academic excellence rooted in a values-based approach to learning and character development. Many parochial college prep schools across America blend rigorous curriculums, elite college placement, competitive athletics, and nurturing faith-based communities. Here are some of the top-ranked Catholic high schools coast to coast.
Loyola Academy – Wilmette, IL
This esteemed Chicago-area Jesuit prep school boasts a 100% college acceptance rate along with an average ACT score over 30. Loyola’s challenging curriculum focused on STEM and liberal arts prepares graduates to thrive at selective universities. Competitive athletic programs round out the experience.
Cretin-Derham Hall High School – St. Paul, MN
Cretin-Derham Hall is the largest private high school in Minnesota, offering a faith-based college prep education. With over 300 courses, abundant extracurriculars, and championship sports teams, CDH provides a nurturing environment for students to excel. Over 98% of grads attend college.
Saint Ignatius College Prep – Chicago, IL
Part of the Jesuit network of secondary schools, Saint Ignatius consistently ranks among Illinois’ top college prep high schools. Rigorous academics, elite sports teams, faith formation activities, and prolific arts programs attract the city’s top talent. Graduates attend prestigious universities nationwide.
Regis High School – New York, NY
Regis is a highly selective, tuition-free Jesuit prep school for boys in New York City. Renowned for academic excellence, the school offers a rigorous liberal arts curriculum. Regis maintains a 100% college acceptance rate, with graduates attending Ivy League schools and other elite universities.
Fordham Prep – Bronx, NY
This New York Catholic prep school run by the Jesuit order delivers a demanding curriculum focused on critical thinking and ethics. Students undertake intensive STEM research projects along with humanities studies. Fordham Prep maintains competitive sports teams and a 100% graduation rate.
Bishop Gorman High School – Las Vegas, NV
This co-educational Catholic prep school is the largest private high school in Nevada, enrolling over 1,600 students. Bishop Gorman offers abundant AP courses, arts programs, faith formation activities, and top-ranked athletic teams. The school boasts a 100% graduation and college acceptance rate.
Archbishop Moeller High School – Cincinnati, OH
Ohio’s Archbishop Moeller is an acclaimed all-male Catholic prep school operated by the Marianist religious order. Rigorous faith-based academics, elite athletic programs in football and lacrosse, and an emphasis on brotherhood have built Moeller’s esteemed reputation. Nearly all graduates attend college.
Academy of the Holy Cross – Kensington, MD
This prestigious Maryland Catholic girls school is operated by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Dedicated instructors and intimate class sizes encourage achievement. Along with rigorous AP coursework, Holy Cross offers championship sports teams and abundant arts and service opportunities.
For families seeking faith-based academics coupled with character development, Catholic high schools nationwide deliver excellent college preparation rooted in moral values and service.