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The Best Private Schools in America

best private schools in America

Private schools have played a very important role in American education historically, a tradition that continues today for parents who want their children to have a stellar education with very good collegiate prospects to the best colleges in the nation.

Private schools come in two varieties: those with and those without boarding facilities.

This article ranks the best Private Schools in America, which include boarding and day schools.

This article was first written in 2014, and relied on data from 2013 or 2014 that was available, such as tuition rates.

While making this update, we've calculated the tuition increase since 2014. Many of these schools have increased their tuition 40% - 50% since 2014.

Private schools without boarding facilities are called day schools, given that the students only attend during the day.

Students who attend private schools can receive first-rate academic instruction and develop valuable social and personal skills through social clubs and the like. Many students from these schools go on to attend many of the best colleges in America.

As with all of the ranking articles on SuccessfulStudent.org, this ranking is considered from the students' point of view, and takes into consideration academic excellence, academic and student diversity, student development, collegiate prospects, and cost.

  • Academic Excellence. To prepare students academically for their years of college, private schools need to have top tier academics. Good private schools make the transition to college as seamless as is possible. The quality and expertise of the faculty is very important, and one arbiter of this is the faculty that holds advanced degrees.
  • Academic and Student Diversity. Academics shouldn't be an echo chamber, nor should the student body necessarily be homogenous. In modern society our world is more interconnected than ever before, and economics are becoming increasingly interdependent. The business world and the marketplace of ideas are wide and varied, and those students who can approach them with a wide and varied academic training and backdrop of diversity are best suited for producing successful endeavors. The roots should begin in grade school and be further developed in college as the complexities of the world are explored.
  • Student Development. Being a successful student doesn't stop with grades, it includes growing in personal and interpersonal relationship skills and social awareness. Good private schools will nurture this environment, and encourage academic awards and honors programs, as well as sponsor extracurricular activities, participation in student groups and internships. An important factor is preparing students for the competitive, yet cooperative environment in the college setting.
  • Collegiate Prospects. Getting into a good college is often paramount to students and their parents. It is important that private schools maintain an ongoing relationship with reputable colleges and pipeline their students to them. Parents will intentionally send their children to private schools such as these in our list, so that they can attend prestigious universities.
  • Cost. There are cost factors to be considered by parents who've decided to send their children to private school, such total tuition and financial aid. Many private schools will provide significant financial aid to the admitted students who qualify, and financial aid is usually need based.

A private school education shouldn't be excluded from bright students because of tuition costs, and many schools attribute significant amounts of financial aid for those families who can demonstrate their need, thus making private school affordable. In some cases at some schools tuition is fully covered by grants (if the parents qualify).

College Student

The Best Private Schools in America

1. Trinity School (New York, NY)

Located in Manhattan's Upper West Side, Trinity School is a co-educational private day school that consistently ranks as the best in America. Founded in 1709, Trinity School is over 300 years old, and is the fifth oldest in the nation.

Trinity School has a heritage and legacy of excellence in academia. Trinity was originally founded as a charitable school that gave free tuition to the poor. In 1825 it lost funding due to the city no longer supporting church charity schools and consequently became private.

Tuition in 2014-2015 was:

  • $42,540 for K - 8th grade
  • $42,820 for 9th - 11th grade
  • $43,320 for 12th grade

Tuition in 2022-2023 is:

  • $58,385 for K - 8th grade
  • $58,495 for 9 - 12th grade

Tuition has increased 37% total over the past eight years.

  • Financial Aid is need based, and many students receive at least partial financial aid, which covers tuition and lunch.
  • Trinity's full Classics department is considered one of the best in the US.
  • More than 80% of the faculty holds an advanced degree.
  • Approximately 41% of its graduates attended prestigious Ivy League colleges, Stanford, or MIT.
  • Student/faculty ratio: 6/1.

Student Organizations: Middle School: Booster Squad, Cooking Club, Break Dancing, Debate Club, French Theatre Club, and others. Upper School: Model UN, Model Congress, Debate programs, and The Senate.

Notable alumni include architect Louis Ayres, actor Larry Hagman, singer/songwriter Sophie B. Hawkings, tennis pro John McEnroe, CEO and Chairman of Atlantic Records Craig Kallman, and others.

2. Brearly School (New York, NY)

Located in Manhattan's Upper East Side, Brearly School is an independent, all female, private liberal arts day school founded in 1884. It's one of the top private schools in NYC. Brearly's commitment to diversity is evident given that students of color comprise 44% of the student body.

Young women are encouraged to independently shape their own curriculum from an ever-increasing selection of courses, fostering individual study and full ownership of the shape of their education. Brearly has vibrant study abroad and exchange programs to places such as India, China, and Vietnam, as well as the more traditional European destinations.

Tuition in 2013-2014 was: $39,000 for all grade levels.

Tuition in 2022-2023 is: $58,700 for all grade levels.

This is a 50% increase in tuition since the 2013-2014 school year.

  • $7.9 million is awarded in grants and tuition aid to approximately 18% of students.
  • The endowment was $130,200,000 in 2013, and is $157 million in 2022.
  • Current enrollment is 768 students.
  • Faculty with advanced degrees is 82%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 6:1.

Student Organizations: Lower School After School Programs: The Clubhouse, working in collaboration with the Chapin School, offers in-line skating or creative cooking. Extended Day offers stories, quiet time and indoor/outdoor play time. Middle School and Upper School: Athletic Association, Middle School Student Government, Upper School Self-Government, and activities in robotics, orchestra and chorus, drama productions, debate team, math team, art courses, GOAT (the outdoors club) and Drama/Improvisation Club.

Notable alumni include actors Kyra Sedgwick, Anne Baxter and Hope Williams, model Kim Stolz, and law professor Jane Ginsburg (daughter of Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

3. Phillips Academy Andover (Andover, MA)

It's hard to imagine a private school more American than Phillip's Academy Andover, known simply as "Andover". Paul Revere personally engraved Phillip's official seal, which includes two Latin phrases: Finis Origine Pendet (the end depends upon the beginning) and Non Sibi (not for self).

In 1789, President George Washington visited the academy during its first year and recommended Andover to his nephews, who subsequently enrolled.

In 1780, John Hancock signed Andover's articles of incorporation. Andover is a co-ed, independent day and boarding school, teaching in the liberal arts tradition. Founded in 1778, Andover is the oldest incorporated boarding school in the nation.

Many instructors live on campus and are dormitory counselors, academic advisors, and coaches. Andover houses one of the world's most important collections of American art in its Addison Gallery.

Tuition in 2013-2014 was $47,200 for Boarding, and $36,700 for Day.

Tuition in 2022-2023 is $66,290 for Boarding, and $51,380 for Day.

This represents a tuition increase of 40% for Boarding and Day school.

  • Financial Aid is awarded to 46% of students, which covers room, board and tuition. Average grants for returning students is $42,400.
  • Endowment was $868,600,000 as of June 30, 2013, and is $1.13 billion as of 2019.
  • Faculty holding advanced degree is 77%.
  • Phillips send approximately 33% of its students to the Ivy League colleges, Stanford, or MIT.
  • Student body diversity is 41.5%, and international students comprise 9%.
  • Grades 9th - 12th.
  • Student/faculty ratio 12:1.

Student Organizations: Chess Club, Ballroom Dance Society, Philosophy Club, Science Club, Andover Moviemakers' Club, Non Sibi Society, Andover Mock Investment Club, and many others.

Notable alumni include actor Humphrey Bogart, US presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, governor of Florida John E. 'Jeb' Bush, and NFL coach Bill Belichick.

4. Horace Mann School (New York, NY)

Horace Mann School is a co-ed independent day school located in New York City that was founded in 1887. Horace Mann is regarded as a prep school for the Ivies.

The Nursery campus is located in Manhattan's Upper East Side, the Lower division campus is in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, and the Middle and Upper division sits on 18 acres in the Bronx overlooking the Van Cortlandt Park.

Horace Mann School has the John Dorr Nature Laboratory, comprising 275 acres in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Horace Mann's educational philosophy includes not only an academic approach but also an approach that educates by participation in service.

Students are required to complete 80 hours of community service, pass a swim test, and learn CPR to graduate.

Tuition 2014-2015: $31,080 for Threes Program, Mornings or Afternoons $43,300 for Threes Program Full Days $43,300 Pre-K - 12th Grade

  • Financial Aid is need-based. For the 2014-2015 academic year, 16% of the students are given more than $9,400,000 in aid.
  • Endowment in 2011 was $67 million.
  • Forbes ranked Horace Mann #2 best private school.
  • The Wall Street Journal ranked Horace Mann #4.
  • Approximately 36% of students attend the Ivy League colleges, Stanford, or MIT.
  • 240 faculty size, holding 186 master's degrees and 22 doctoral degrees, 86%.
  • Student body is 36% diverse.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 12:1.

Student Organizations: 60+ student clubs and organizations in the Upper Division, including Community Council and Theater Crew.

Notable alumni include writer Jack Kerouac, philosopher John Searle, former Governor and Attorney General of New York Eliot Spitzer, and poet Anthony Hecht.

5. Roxbury Latin (West Roxbury, MA)

Roxbury Latin School is an all male day school located in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Founded by the Rev. John Eliot under a charter received from King Charles I of England in 1645, it is the oldest school that's been in continuous operation in America.

Roxbury has a long history of making National Merit Scholars and sending well prepared and highly educated students to Ivy League colleges. Roxbury is also a very musical school with a Glee Club and Chorus, Latonics (a cappella), Junior Chorus, Jazz Band, and chamber music ensembles.

Tuition 2014-2015: $27,900. (About 65% of other private school's tuition on average).

  • Financial Aid is need-based, with 37% of students receiving full or partial aid, ranging from $1,000 to $27,875, averaging $20,237.
  • Endowment is $121 million.
  • Roxbury sends approximately 36% of its students to Ivy League colleges, Stanford, or MIT.
  • Forbes ranked Roxbury #5 best private school.
  • Faculty with advanced degrees is 77%.
  • Student body diversity is 36%.
  • Grades 7th - 12th.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 7:1.

Student Organizations: Model United Nations, Chess, Debating and Public Speaking, Environment Conscious Organized Students (ECOS), French Club, Spanish Club, Classics Club, and others.

Notable alumni include president of Harvard University James Conant, biologist, author and Pulitzer Prize-winner for Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond, former Executive Director of MIT Media Lab and founder of Sugar Labs Walter Bender.

6. Phillips Exeter Academy (Exeter, NH)

Phillips Exeter is a co-ed boarding school serving 1000 students in grades 9 through 12 and post-graduate level. Located on 671 acres in Exeter, New Hampshire, Phillips was founded in 1781 by John Phillips as a feeder school to Harvard University.

Phillips teaching style is unique and effective. Referred to as "Harkness teaching", every class seats 12 students at an oval table (known as the Harkness table) where students learn by active participation in class discussions, rather than passive note-taking.

In this way, teachers guide students by participating in the discussions rather than lecturing. Their academic mission is to unite knowledge with goodness in their students.

Tuition 2014-2015: $46,905 for Boarding. $36,430 for Day.

  • Exeter offers a free education to any admitted student whose family income is $75,000 or less. The school meets all demonstrated financial aid needs of its students.
  • Endowment is over $845 million.
  • Phillips send approximately 30% of its students to Ivy League colleges, Stanford or MIT.
  • U.S. student body diversity is 37%, and international students comprise 9% of student body.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees is 80%.
  • Phillips has the largest secondary-school library in the world.
  • Forbes ranked Phillips Exeter #6 best private school.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 5:1.

Student Organizations: Economics Club, Cum Laude Society, Astronomy Club, Branch-Soule Debate Society, Mock Trial, Model United Nations, The Opera Appreciation Club, The Piano Ensemble Club, and many others.

Notable alumni include author Gore Vidal, founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, Arcade Fire band member William Butler, writer and co-founder of the Discovery Institute George Gilder.

7. Collegiate School (New York, NY)

Collegiate School is an all boys private day school located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Founded in 1628, Collegiate is the oldest and one of the most prestigious independent schools in the nation, educating more than 650 male students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.

It is Collegiate's ambition to educate their students in the highest levels of academic, ethical, artistic and physical development.

This approach fosters the varying abilities, talents, and interests of the boys to the highest degree, evidenced by the average combined SAT score of (2195), and having the best soccer team in the state among private schools.

Collegiate school offers off-campus programs such as The Mountain School, The Island School, and the Maine Coast Semester, and exchange programs to China, Argentina, England, Italy, France, and Spain.

Tuition, 2014 - 2015: Grades K-12: $43,400.

  • Financial aid is need-based and totals $4.25 million annually. Each financial aid award is based on the difference between the tuition cost and the family's ability to cover the tuition. Financial aid is available in every grade.
  • Endowment is $69 million.
  • Collegiate School sends approximately 41% of its students to Ivy League colleges, Stanford or MIT.
  • Forbes ranked Collegiate School #7 best private school.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees 76%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 5:1.

Student Organizations: Lower school: chess, cooking, computers, drama, golf, martial arts, photography, puppetry, science and tennis. Middle School: Student Government, Model U.N., Science Olympiad, Jabberwock (an online magazine), 7th & 8th grade drama classes, and plays (including a Shakespearian production). Upper School: The Model U.N. Club, The Science Olympiad Team, The Debate Team, Amnesty International, Community Service Club, Jamaa (support group for students of color and issues of diversity), and others.

Notable alumni include John F. Kennedy Jr., actor David Duchovny, editor of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol, and President and COO of Buzzfeed Jon Steinberg, and many others.

8. St. Paul's (Concord N.H.)

Founded in 1856, St. Paul's School is an Episcopal, co-ed, fully residential boarding school of around 540 students from all over the world. St. Paul's welcomes students of all faiths. St. Paul's is situated on an historic campus of 2,000 wooded acres in New Hampshire's state capital, Concord, and consists of 18 dormitories, a library, an art Center, performing arts center, astronomy center, the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the Lindsay Center for Mathematics and Science.

Sports facilities include a 95,000 square-foot athletic and fitness center, an eight-lane indoor competition swimming pool, 2 rock climbing walls, 2 ice hockey rinks, 15 squash and tennis courts, a 2,000-meter rowing course with boathouse, and 9 athletic fields, including one of artificial turf.

It's St. Paul's mission to imbibe independence and wisdom to its students. The teachers approach their teaching by engaging the whole student, whether in the classroom, athletic field, community rooms, or along the natural walking paths.

Tuition 2014-2015: $52,200 Total Cost including all fees: $55,895

  • Financial aid is need-based and consists only of grants, no loans. St. Paul's fully meets the gap between the family income and tuition cost. St. Paul's has awarded $9 million to over 191 students in the 2014-15 academic year. Income of $80,000 per year or less qualifies for full financial aid, and annual income of less than $200,000 will not pay more than 10% of their income toward tuition per year.
  • Endowment is $520 million.
  • St. Paul's sends approximately 30% of its graduates to the Ivy League colleges, MIT or Stanford.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees is 72%.
  • Forbes ranked St. Paul's #8 best private school.
  • Student body diversity is 39%, and International students is 18%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 5:1.

Student Organizations: St. Paul's offers over 70 student clubs, including the Anglers Society, Classics Society, Dead Poets Society, Debate, French Club, Handbell Choir, Hip Hop Society, Investment Club, Korean Society, Little Giants, Math Society, Math Club, Middle Eastern Society, and Model Congress.

Notable alumni include U.S. Senator John F. Kerry, banker and philanthropist J. P. Morgan, Jr., US senator from Maryland Daniel Baugh Brewster, former director of the FBI Robert Mueller, U.S. politician James Rudolph Garfield (son of US President James A. Garfield).

9. Winsor School (Boston, MA)

Founded in 1886, the Winsor School is located on a seven acre campus in the Longwood area of Boston, nestled among Simmons and Wheelock Colleges, Harvard Medical School, and many of Boston's finest teaching hospitals. Winsor is an all-female, independent day school for academically promising girls.

Winsor is considered one of the best all-female private schools in the nation, evidenced by its high average combined SAT score of 2100. Each student's weekly schedule includes time spent in a co-curricular student club.

Winsor offers off-campus programs, including exchanges to China and France and semesters at the Mountain School in Vermont. Winsor holds diversity as a core value, enrolling approximately 430 students from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. Winsor has outlined a Principles of Diversity statement which guides their commitment to diversity. Tuition 2014-2015 $40,550.

  • Financial aid is income based: if income is between $25,000 - $80,000, average aid is $36,000, if income is between $90,000 - $120,000, average aid is $31,000, and for those with income of $150,000+, the average aid is $22,000.
  • Faculty with advanced degrees is 89%.
  • Endowment is $50.5 million.
  • Winsor sends approximately 35% of students to the Ivy League colleges, Stanford, or MIT.
  • Grades 5th - 12th.
  • Forbes ranked Winsor #10
  • Student/faculty ratio 7:1.

Student Organizations: Community service, Debate, Model United Nations, Drama and Engineering. Students also engage in activities with boys from nearby schools, including concerts, plays, and the student newspaper.

Notable alumni include silent film actress, humanitarian, and founder/head of the U.S. Committee for UNICEF Helenka Adamowska Pantaleoni, 1952 Olympic silver and 1956 gold medalist figure skater and surgeon Tenley Albright, inventor and co-founder of Transatomic Power Leslie Dewan.

10. Harvard Westlake School (Los Angeles, CA)

Harvard Westlake is an independent, co-ed, private day school, educating 7th - 12th grade. Harvard Westlake is the outcome of the merger between Harvard School, which was founded in 1900, and Westlake School for Girls, founded in 1904.

Coeducation started in September, 1991. Harvard Westlake is considered one of the very best co-ed schools in the nation for producing National Merit Semifinalists, with 73 students who received National Merit Recognition and 54 students as National Merit Semi-Finalists in the 2014 class.

Students adhere to an honor code that was initiated and written by students in 1999.

Tuition 2014-2015: $33,500.

  • Financial aid is need-based. Approximately $8.5 million is awarded in aid to 19% of the student body, which is more than 12% of the entire operating budget. Grants range from a few thousand dollars to 97% of tuition. The average grant is approximately $29,000 ($25,000 for tuition and $4,000 for related expenses).
  • Endowment is $64,522,000.
  • Harvard Westlake send approximately 30% of its graduates to attend the Ivy League colleges, MIT or Stanford.
  • Forbes ranked Harvard Westlake #12 best private school.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees is 79%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 8:1.

Student Organizations: Peer Support, Math Club, Black Leadership and Awareness Club, Junior Classical League, Model United Nations, Asian + American Culture Club, Jewish Awareness Club, Youth Ending Hunger, and many others.

Notable alumni include actor Lily Collins, actor and author Danica McKellar, actors and siblings Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, former Governor of California Gray Davis, and actor Tori Spelling.

11. Spence School (New York, NY)

The Spence School is an all girl, independent, private day school located in Manhattan's Upper East Side in New York City.

Founded in 1892 by Clara B. Spence, The Spence School is a highly respected and competitive all female school, admitting approximately 1 in 10 applicants, and educating students in the liberal arts and sciences traditions from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

It is the ambition at The Spence School to educate young girls and young women to become responsible and educated women in college and beyond; to "create a learning environment that reflects the diversity of the world in which we live and prepares students for engaged citizenship".

Tuition 2014 - 2015: $43,000.

  • Financial aid is need-based, and grants are a result of consideration on a case by case basis based on the family income and tuition and related expenses. Financial aid totals $4.8 million and is awarded to approximately 20% of the student body.
  • Spence school sends approximately 33% of its graduates to the Ivy League colleges, MIT or Stanford.
  • Forbes ranked Spence School #9 best private school.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees is 80%.
  • Student body diversity is 36%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 7:1 (Middle and Upper Schools).

Student Organizations: Middle School: A Capella, Chess Club, Debate Club, Dr. Who Club, Environmental Club, Math Club, Poetry Club, Spanish Club and others. Upper School: Spence School offers more than 40 clubs and activities, including Amnesty International, Asian Focus Club, Booster Squad, Debate Club, Chess Club, Classics Club, Jewish Culture Club, Microfinance Club, Mock Trial and Photography Club.

Notable alumni include actress Gwyneth Paltrow, author Francine du Plessix Gray, daughter of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Georgina Bloomberg, jewelry designer Jade Jagger (daughter of Mick Jagger and Bianca Jagger), and actress Kerry Washington.

12. The Chapin School (New York, NY)

Founded by Maria Bowen Chapin in 1901, The Chapin School is a highly regarded all-female, independent, private day school located on the upper east side of Manhattan in New York, educating in the liberal arts tradition from kindergarten through 12th grade.

To maintain solidarity and a sense of community, all of the approximately 755 students attend school under one roof. The Chapin School's motto is "Fortiter et Recte" which means "Bravely and Rightly". Chapin places a high value on diversity, and regards it as having a primary place among Chapin's values.

Chapin cultivates a student body and faculty that reflects the diversity of the world. Students can enroll in a service-learning course which teaches about community service, civic responsibility, and social issues.

Tuition 2014 - 2015: $39,300.

  • Financial aid is need-based, and 21% of students receive tuition assistance, granting approximately $5.2 million in financial aid.
  • Endowment is $85 million.
  • The Chapin School sends approximately 30% of its graduates to the Ivy League colleges, MIT or Stanford.
  • Forbes ranked The Chapin School #11 best private school.
  • Student body diversity is 38%.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees is 78%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 7:1.

Student Organizations: Lower School: Chess, Dance Adventure, Drama, Gymnastics, Jewelry Design, Science Wonders, Soccer, Yoga, and others. Middle School: Audubon Club, Dance Club, Drama Club, Math Club, Photography, Model Congress, Newspaper, and others. Upper School: Advisory (Student Government), Book Club, Choral Club, Classics Club, Dance Club, Math Club, Robotics, The Wheel, Chapin's literary journal, and others.

Notable alumni include wife of former president JFK Jackie Kennedy, real estate mogul Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, actress Sigourney Weaver, fashion designer Vera Wang, former president Richard Nixon's daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and many others.

13. The Dalton School (New York, NY)

The Dalton School was originally founded in 1919 as the Children's University School. Located in Manhattan's Upper East Side, The Dalton School is a co-ed, private day school, educating approximately 1,300 students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Dalton is a member of both the New York Interschool and the Ivy Preparatory School League.

Dalton employs a unique teaching approach known as the Dalton Plan, which is an educational model that's been adopted by over 200 schools globally. The highly effective and well regarded education plan consists of three parts (Home, Assignment, and Lab), and includes programs that are designed to foster a student's individual educational needs.

Dalton regards diversity as a central component of their academic excellence, and every year Dalton sponsors 6-8 students who participate in the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools). Tuition 2014 - 2015. $41,350.

  • Financial aid is need-based. Dalton grants over $8.3 million in aid to approximately 20% of students.
  • Endowment is estimated at $65 million.
  • Dalton sends approximately 31% of its graduates to the Ivy League colleges, MIT or Stanford.
  • Faculty holding advanced degree is 75%.
  • Forbes ranked Dalton #13 best private school.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 7:1.

Student Organizations: DAALAS (Dalton Alliance of African-American, Latino and Asian Students), Asian Cultures Club, High School Student Diversity Leadership Committee, Middle School Affinity Group Forum, Women of Color, Men of Color, Peer Mentoring Program, and others.

Notable alumni include actors Christian Slater, Chevy Chase and Claire Danes, science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany, journalist Eric Schlosser, newscaster Anderson Cooper, and author Frances Fitzgerald.

14. Princeton Day School (Princeton, N.J.)

Located in Princeton, New Jersey and founded in 1899, Princeton Day School is a co-ed, private day school educating approximately 950 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. While Princeton Day School naturally serves as a feeder school for nearby Princeton University, many graduates, however, attend other colleges such as Tufts, Georgetown, Cornell, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, and Lehigh University.

Princeton Day School is a successful college preparatory school, training in verbal and quantitative reasoning skills and creative self expression, and how to apply these skills to solving problems across traditional academic disciplines.

Princeton Day School's ambition is to educate the whole student, academically and in service to others, and as such requires students to complete at least 50 hours of community service for graduation. Tuition 2014 - 2015: PreK - 4th Grade: $26,360 5th - 6th Grades: $30,810 7th - 12th Grade: $32,300

  • Financial aid awards are need-based, and grants awarded total approximately $4.8 million, awarded to 25% of the student body.
  • Endowment is estimated at $25 million.
  • Percentage of faculty holding advanced degrees is 74%.
  • Student body diversity is 30%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 15:1 in Lower School, and 8:1 in Middle School and Upper School.

Student Organizations: Model UN, Amnesty International, Chess Club, Investment Club, India Club, Foreign Exchange, Junior State of America, Lord of the Rings Club, Outdoors Club, Science Club, Shalom Club, South African HOPE, and many others.

Notable alumni include actor Christopher Reeve, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, and musician Trey Anastasio of the band Phish.

15. Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville, N.J.)

To step onto Lawrenceville's campus is to step into a park five miles from Princeton and within driving distance of Philadelphia. Since the schools founding in 1810 it has developed a considerable endowment that surpasses most 4 year colleges, let alone high schools, which is why it's barely 800 students enjoy a campus over 700 acres in size. The school is so large it can even afford to operate a nine-hole regulation golf course on campus!

Its classic architecture and other first class facilities are staffed by many competent teachers who usually have advanced degrees. Lawrenceville's diverse student body enjoys small class sizes and over 150 advanced courses. Tuition 2014 - 2015: $44,100 for day students and $53,320 for boarding students.

  • Financial aid is need-based, and the average financial aid grant is $38,980.
  • Endowment is approximately 320 million.
  • Student body diversity is 45%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 8:1
  • Average class size 12

Student Organizations: Over 80 including Alliance of Black Cultures, Art Club, Boy Scouts of America, Doctors without Borders, Drama related Periwig Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Gay Straight Alliance, Harry Potter/Quidditch Club, Latinos Unidos, Programing Club, Mock Trial Club, Model U.N. Muslim Student Organization, Operation Smile, Philosophy Club, Red Cross Club, Science Club, Tri Annual Poetry Publication, Weekly School Newspaper, Women in Leadership, Young Democrats, Young Republicans.

Notable alumni include Nobel Laureate in Economics George Akerlof, former President of Princeton University and past ambassador to India Robert F. Goheen, the director of King Kong Merian C. Cooper, and the Pulitzer Prize winning Fox Butterfield.

16. College Preparatory School (Oakland, CA)

College Preparatory School is a co-ed, four-year, day, private high school. Located in Oakland, California and founded in 1960, the College Preparatory School's motto is "mens conscia recti", a Latin phrase borrowed from Virgil's Aeneid, meaning "a mind aware of what is right."

College Prep's 5-acre campus blends with the Northern California landscape of native plants and eucalyptus trees. Of approximately 360 students attending from across the bay area, 59% of of the class of 2013 were recognized as either National Merit Semi-Finalists or Commended.

The highly-selective admissions process ensures a high-caliber student body, which results in these students attending some of the best colleges in the nation. College Prep requires an annual week-long "intraterm" before spring break, in which students can intern or travel.

Tuition for 2014-2015: $37,090

  • Financial aid is need-based, and awarded to 25% of College Prep students, with grants ranging from $5,000 to $34,000, and an average grant of $21,400. Approximately $2 million is designated for financial aid.
  • Endowment is $12 million.
  • College Prep sends approximately 30% of graduates to the Ivy League colleges, Stanford or MIT.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees is 84%.
  • Grades 9-12.
  • Student body diversity is 52%.
  • Forbes ranked College Prep #17 best private school.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 8:1.

Student Organizations: College Prep has 50 student groups total, including Anime, Middle Eastern Heritage, Republican, French Conversation, Science, Wilderness, Finance, and Habitat for Humanity.

Notable alumni include artist Miranda July, Deputy U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Marchick, and co-founder of smartphone manufacturer HTC Cher Wang, and Academy Award-winning director Chris Tashima.

17. Groton School (Groton, MA)

Groton School is an elite boarding school in Groton Massachusetts. It was founded in 1884 with Episcopalian ties, and has retained its religious heritage. Each day begins with a chapel service, and students study various world religions including their religion of choice.

Groton is one of the few private schools which offers free tuition to qualified students from homes with less than 75k incomes. Its 415 acres consists of ample green scape nestled into picturesque rolling hillsides dotted with surrounding farms.

These farms also give Groton an ample supply of fresh, healthy, gourmet food. The schools impressive endowment allows it to pursue ever expanding building projects which further equip its students with new resources. Over a quarter of its students go onto the Ivy League, Stanford, or MIT.

Tuition is $55,700 for boarding students and $43,390 for day students.

  • Financial aid is need-based, and is awarded to 38% of the student body, with an average grant of $40,000.
  • Endowment: $330,000,000.
  • Boarding/Day: 87/13 percent.
  • Students: 383.
  • Average Class Size: 12.
  • States/Countries Represented: 33/16.
  • Student body diversity is 41%.
  • International: 16%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 5:1.
  • Faculty holding advanced degree is 71%.

Student Organizations: Include Christian Fellowship, Debating Society, Gay Straight Alliance, Kids to Kids, Math Team, Outdoor Club, Peer Counselors, the Groton Congress, and the Trap Shooting Club.

Notable alumni include president Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, actor and director Sam Waterston, the wealthy Francis Forbes, and the bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld.

18. Germantown Friends School (Philadelphia, PA)

Germantown Friends School was founded by Quakers in 1845 in an attempt to reach "that of God in everyone". Originally, only Quaker families could send their students to Germantown Friends School, but the institution has since embraced a far more eclectic atmosphere.

The school is located in the pleasant Germantown suburb of Philadelphia, which gives it both a suburban feel and extensive urban access. The school is divided into three divisions, including the lower (k-5th grade), middle (6th-8th grade), and upper (9th-12th grade).

Germantown has 20 different departments which cover a broad range of classical education and a number of globally integrated programs. Unlike most institutions, the majority of the teachers are drawn from their illustrious alumni pool. Tuition ranges from $21,120 for kindergarten through $31,575 for high school.

  • Financial aid is need-based, and awarded to 35% of the student body.
  • Students: 864.
  • Students body diversity is 30%.
  • 6% Quaker.
  • 100% Graduates attend four-year college.
  • 19 National Merit Finalists in 2013 and 2014.
  • 24 Friends League Championships since fall 2009.
  • 12% Children or grandchildren of alumni.
  • Average 20 years teaching experience per teacher.
  • Faculty holding advanced degrees is 73%.
  • 17% faculty and administrators of color.
  • 11% Quaker faculty and administrators.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 8:1.

Student Organizations: Consist of various student run clubs grouped together within four larger groups including Affinity, Mission, Publications, and Social.

Each of these broad categories covers many smaller groups such as the Affinity groups emphasis on culture and multi-pluralism, Mission's work in theatre and interacting with the surrounding community, Publications' newspapers and magazines, and Social's collection of athletic and other fun activities.

Notable alumni include Nobel laureate Owen Chamberlain, humanitarian Stephen G. Cary, acting head of Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls Joan Countryman, and founding father of management science C. West Churchman.

19. Milton Academy (Milton, MA)

The Milton Academy prides itself on successfully blending an active day school and boarding school. The Academy was originally founded as a co-educational facility, for a time divided its male and female students into two separate facilities, and has since returned to its coeducational origins.

The school is located just 8 miles south of America's intellectual hub in Boston. Since its founding Milton has focused on training students for college, which is why so many of its faculty, (roughly 80%), live on campus and thus remain easily accessible to their students. Milton emphasizes academic integrity, the freedom to share one's ideas, and the courage to defend them.

The school is divided into a lower branch for grades k-8 and a higher branch for grades 9-12. The student body is evenly split between boarding and day school students. Tuition for boarding students is $51,330, and $42,130 for day students.

  • Financial aid is need-based, and will meet 100% of the demonstrated need for each student, totaling $9.1 million in grants to 30% of the student body.
  • Endowment: $244 million.
  • International students: 11%
  • Student body diversity is 43%.
  • Faculty holding advanced degree is 75%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 5:1.
  • Number of courses offered is 184.

Student Organizations: There are 46 student organizations at the Milton Academy, which includes 8 singing groups, 4 a cappella groups, ten student run publications, and a 100 member orchestra. The school also boasts a vibrant athletic tradition, with 100% of the student body participating in either sports, physical education, or both.

Milton students additionally engage in 21 different service programs, and enjoy 10 dances a year.

Notable alumni include the Noble Prize winning writer T.S. Eliot, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, U.S. Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

20. National Cathedral School (Washington, DC)

The National Cathedral School is, as its name implies, based out of the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Being founded in 1900, this independent, all girls, college preparatory day school is actually older than the National Cathedral itself.

This location gives the school both one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, and proximity to the nation's most crucial epicenter of power. Not surprisingly many of America's most influential families send their daughters there, and many of the alumni have pursued distinguished political careers.

The National Cathedral School also places great emphasis on diversity. Despite its sectarian status as an Episcopalian institution, the school embraces all religious traditions while making full use of its extensive religious resources.

The school is divided into a lower branch for grades 4-6, and an upper branch for grades 7-12. Tuition is $37,520.

  • Financial aid is need-based. Over $2.9 million was awarded to 20% of the student body in 2014-2015, with grants ranging from $1,550 to $36,775, averaging $25,213.
  • 585 students.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 8:1.
  • Student body diversity is 38%.
  • Shares a campus with the St. Albans School for Boys.

Student Organizations: The National Cathedral School has two active student governments: one for the low grades and another for the upper. Their extensive health and wellness program develops students intellectually, physically, spiritually, socially, and emotionally.

There are over 30 clubs present at the school which covers a broad array of interests from Model U.N. to Math Club.

Notable alumni include biologist and AAAS president Alice S. Huang, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer, science writer Karen C. Fox, as well as daughters from the Roosevelt, Rockefeller, and Kennedy families.

21. Noble and Greenough School (Dedham, MA)

The Noble and Greenough School, (often referred to as Nobles), is an elite, co-educational day and boarding school for grades 7 through 12. In 2016 it will celebrate its 150 anniversary. Students study on a richly wooded campus interspersed with academic buildings.

Almost 100% of the students who visit this beautiful campus just 10 miles from Boston choose to apply. Over one fifth of the faculty lives on this campus.

Nobles has built a formidable academic reputation through a long standing commitment to diversity across ethnic, economic, and cultural lines.

This commitment is reflected both in the student body itself and the curriculum they study. Students also receive ample advice from dedicated counselors who guide prospective college students through the admissions process.

Tuition is $42,600 for day students and $48,400 for boarding students.

  • Financial aid is need-based, awarded to 25% of the student body.
  • Endowment is $106 million dollars.
  • 603 students.
  • Average class size of 12.5.
  • Student body diversity is 28%.
  • 122 Middle school students.
  • 481 Upper school students.
  • 187 acre campus.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 5:1.

Student Organizations: Nobles has roughly 30 student clubs that reflect a wide range of interests. Some of their activities are very intellectually driven, such as their debate team and diplomacy club. Others are much more creative, such at their theater or film clubs.

Still others are more pragmatic, such as their investment club, or political, such as the gay/straight alliance.

And some, like the Outing or Anime clubs are just for fun. Notable alumni include Massachusetts governor Francis Sargent, President of the Main State Senate Justin Alfond, president of the University of Michigan Clarence Cook Little, and Harvard professor and inventor of the iron lung Louis Agassiz Shaw.

22. University of Chicago Laboratory School (Chicago, IL)

The University of Chicago Laboratory School, (abbreviated as "Lab") embodies the vision of its founder and arguably America's greatest philosopher, John Dewey. Dewey's Pragmatism re-orientated philosophy and education away from theoretically minded classical studies towards objective science.

This spirit lives on in more than just the Laboratory School's name. The high school's resources are integrated into the larger, nearly 7 billion dollar University of Chicago.

This gives the day school unmatched resources that dwarf its competition. It also gets students in the laboratory early and often, which prepares them to hit the ground running after graduation at another major research university. While other schools pride themselves on offering many languages or art programs, Lab's students are thought to use university libraries as they study the natural world with a hands on approach.

Tuition is $18,546 for half day nursery school through $29,424 for full time high school.

  • Financial aid is need-based, and is awarded on a case by case basis, based on the financial picture of the family applying.
  • Over 1,700 students
  • The Wall Street Journal named Lab a top five elite college feeder
  • 44 Nationalities represented.
  • Student body diversity is 40%.
  • Opportunity to take college classes at the University level.
  • Half the students have a University of Chicago faculty/staff parent.
  • Two campuses; The Historic and the Early Childhood Campus.

Student Organizations: Students enjoy over 40 clubs and activities at lab. Their extra-curricular activities can also take advantage of their university counterpart. For instance, few prep schools offer access to a full sized for their swim team.

In fact, most high schools do not even have a swim team, but Lab has a first rate pool. The same could be said for their laboratories for science related clubs, or their access to university scale buildings, events, and theater.

Notable alumni include University of California, Irvine law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, MacArthur Foundation Fellow Andrea Ghez, United States Attorney General Edward H. Levi, and President Obama's daughters (currently enrolled).

23. Saint Ann's School (New York, N.Y.)

In 1965 a group of seven teachers backed by concerned parents started Saint Ann's School. A non-sectarian, independent, co-educational private day school, the school has evolved a quirky reputation that uses a very unique curriculum.

Instead of offering advanced placement courses, it encourages juniors and seniors to design their own course of study, and does not use a formal grading system. Music and the arts are integrated into study alongside a host of school traditions. It also offers a wide range of languages including ancient Greek, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and French, and a robust representation of the sciences.

The school is divided into four divisions based on age which include preschool, lower, middle, and high school. Admissions to Saint Ann's is more heavily based on creativity and interviews than test scores or other traditional criteria. Tuition for 2014-2015: ranges from $31,850 to $37,900, depending on grade level.

  • Endowment is $5 million.
  • Financial aid is need-based, and is awarded on a case by case basis, based on the financial picture of the family applying.
  • Student body diversity is 21%.
  • Grades Preschool-12.
  • Ranked number 13 prep school by thebestschools.org

Student Organizations: Saint Ann's is especially known for its rigorous emphasis on the performing arts. It is no wonder that its first rate theater and music programs have produced many well-known performers.

Students can also purse 23 different after school seminars which include topics such as Africa, Debate, Fishing, Porcelain, Nietzsche, Oral Storytelling, Politics and Economics, and Yearbook. Notable alumni include actor Jon Abrahams, actress Lena Dunham, writer/reporter Andrew Kirtzman, and entrepreneur Willa Shalit.

24. Hopkins School (New Haven, CT)

Hopkins is an independent, co-ed, private day school for grades 7-12. In 1660 Edward Hopkins, the second governor of the Connecticut Colony who served 7 terms, founded Hopkins School. It is the third oldest independent school in America, and consequently has had ample time to develop its prestigious reputation.

Centuries later, Hopkins School is still dedicated to providing its students with a flexible liberal arts education that equips them with all the skills they need to continue learning for the rest of their lives. Both male and female students study within pleasant architecture nestled into the Westville section of New Haven.

The school is divided into three smaller sub-schools. The Junior School teaches 7th and 8th grade, the Middle School teaches 9th and 10th, and the Upper School teaches 11th and 12th. Hopkins School Tuition is $37,550

  • Financial aid is need-based, awarding $3 million in financial aid to 19.4% of students.
  • Endowment: $80,000,000.
  • Faculty holding advanced degree is 81%.
  • Average class size: 14.
  • Student body diversity is 28%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 6:1.

Student Organizations: Students can choose from 58 clubs and many more sports. These activities range from Amnesty International, Gardening Club, Glee Club, Harry Potter Club, Hopkins Red Cross, Sustainability Committee, numerous culture clubs, and a wide range of athletics.

Notable alumni from Hopkins School includes investment Banker and Philanthropist Merrick R. Kleeman, human rights activist Harold H. Koh, Medical doctor and military commander Thomas K. Burkhard, and global communications leader Ellen Propper Mickiewicz.

25. Collegiate School (Richmond, VA)

Founded in 1915, Collegiate School is an independent, co-ed private day school, teaching Kindergarten through 12th grade. Collegiate School is quickly approaching its 100 year anniversary. Although this makes Collegiate one of the younger names on our list, the school has quickly risen to become an elite prep school respected across the nation.

The institution sits on a suburban campus in Richmond, the capital of Virginia. Collegiate is one of the few schools that mixes and separates students based on gender.

Both genders initially study together, but are then separated during their emotionally volatile middle school years, and finally reunited in the upper school.

The school is blessed with three different libraries: one each for the lower, middle, and upper schools. Tuition 2014 - 2015:

  • Lower School: Kindergarten-4th Grade: $20,110
  • Middle School: Grades 5th-8th: $22,140
  • Upper School: Grades 9th-12th: $23,610.
  • Financial aid is need-based, and have budgeted $3,424,000 in financial aid for 2014-2015.
  • Endowment is $55,941,00.00.
  • 135 full-time faculty.
  • Student body diversity is 15%.
  • 1556 total students.
  • Faculty holding advanced degree is 80%.
  • Student/faculty ratio is 12:1.

Student Organizations: Student activities include 18 sports, including traditionally expensive ones like swimming and hockey. Collegiate also runs a substantial summer and afterschool program called quest. Quest provides students with a safe environment to do their homework, socialize with their peers, and engage in one of the school's many clubs or student government.

Notable alumni include former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks Russel Wilson, United States Secretary of Education Eugene Welch Hickok, and professional golfer Robert Wrenn.

26. Santa Fe Preparatory School (Santa Fe, NM)

Situated on 33 acres of pristine natural wilderness, adjacent to Saint John's College, and backdropped by the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Santa Fe Prep is a leading college prep school in the nation and in New Mexico in particular.

Established in 1961, Santa Fe Prep is a co-ed private day school with approximately 320 students in grades 7th - 12th. Santa Fe Prep's mission is to create academics and foster service to broader community and the world. Boasting National Merit Scholar Semifinalists and The Cum Laude Society inductees, Santa Fe Prep also requires its students to complete at least 45 hours of community service each year.

Tuition 2013-2014: $19,473

  • Financial aid is need-based, with 36% of students receiving aid, totaling $979,970 in grants, with an average grant of $8,600. Santa Fe Prep offers the Malone Scholarship program, which provides tuition assistance to promising students. Santa Fe Prep was the only school in New Mexico, and one of 48 schools nationally, which received a $2 million endowment grant from the Malone Scholarship program that established this scholarship.
  • Endowment is $9,700,000 as of summer 2013.
  • Academic faculty holding advanced degrees is 78%.
  • 95% of grads attend prestigious colleges such as NYU, Occidental, Brown, Princeton, Reed, Carnegie Mellon, Rhodes, Claremont McKenna, Smith, Colgate, Stanford, Tulane, Columbia, Tufts, Dartmouth, Emory, UC Berkeley, Univ of Pennsylvania, George Washington, University of Richmond, Harvard, and Vanderbilt.
  • Student body diversity is 31%.
  • Student/faculty ratio: 6:1.

Student Organizations: Some of the student organizations are Student government, school publications, Model United Nations, performance plays, jazz band, and others. Each summer, Santa Fe Prep has a themed summer camp for rising 5th, 6th and 7th grade students.

Notable alumni include actress Anna Gunn (who played Skyler White on the critically acclaimed AMC series Breaking Bad), fashion designer Tom Ford, actor Miguel Sandoval, and singer songwriter Raul Midon.

More resources:

College Student in Library

The first few private high schools mentioned in this list can also serve as an NYC private school rankings guide. New York City students can benefit from our list perhaps the most.

The best private elementary schools in America can also be gleaned from our list by partitioning out the schools that offer elementary education. Private high schools also offer online programs and high school diplomas. The education can be unique, given that subjects such as religious instruction can be taught within private school, whereas it won't be taught in public school.

Private school tuition is high, but elite private school is the largest feeder into the ivy league schools. Private school tuition has increased approximately from 30 - 40% in the last eight years at many schools.

When deciding to attend public or private schools, it's important to take all factors into consideration, such as tuition, but also college prospects after graduation.