The 15 best private high schools in America for 2021, where class sizes are small and test scores are high

  • Niche, a ranking and reviews site for US schools, has released its 2021 ranking of the best private high schools in America.
  • The ranking is based on college data, test scores, student-teacher ratio, and other factors.
  • The prestigious Phillips Academy boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, where annual tuition and board costs $57,800, topped the list.
  • Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas, The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California, and the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, rounded out the top five.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For many affluent families, the allure of sending their children to private school has never been stronger.

While some private schools have closed permanently since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, others — particularly those in the northeastern US that are offering in-person instruction — have seen a surge in applications during the pandemic, Paul Sullivan recently reported for The New York Times.

Attending a top private high school can provide a solid academic foundation and help students gain entrance into the nation's top colleges and universities. And during the pandemic, children have been struggling with online public education.

Niche, a company that researches and compiles information on schools, just released its 2021 rankings of the best private high schools in the US. Founder and CEO Luke Skurman said that 2020 has been an "unprecedented year," with many people making big life decisions such as choosing a new school for their kids.

"Especially in these uncertain times, we believe transparency is crucial," Skurman said in a press release. "Parents and students should be able to find out what it's really like to attend a school before applying and enrolling."

Niche's ranking looked at 4,260 schools across the US, analyzing test scores, college data, data from the U.S. Department of Education, and thousands of ratings from Niche users. Some data was collected from the schools directly. The full breakdown of Niche's methodology can be found here.

Below, Business Insider has included each school's location, student body population, annual tuition, student-teacher ratio, and other relevant information. Read on to learn more about what makes these 15 schools the best in America.

Abby Jackson and Emmie Martin contributed to previous versions of this article.

15. Crystal Springs Uplands School

Location: Hillsborough, California
Students: 539
Student-Teacher Ratio: 9:1
Tuition: $46,780
Average Financial Aidunknown
Application deadline: January 10
How to Apply

"The school has lived up to and exceeded our expectations," one parent wrote of Crystal Springs Uplands School in a Niche review last year. "Our child has been challenged and gotten stronger in her core classes. She is also playing sports, as most students do and participating in clubs. Our experience with the teachers and administration have been positive. The school does provide scholarships for mid-low income families. The diversity has been a strength for her classes and social life. And by the way, the food in the cafe is excellent."

14. Castilleja School

Location: Palo Alto, California
Students: 430
Student-Teacher Ratio: 8:1
Tuition: $47,970
Average Financial Aid: $31,200
Application deadline: January 7
How to Apply

"Too good for words. Castilleja is an all-girls, friendly environment,"one student wrote in 2019. "In the classes, they don't consist of a lot of students, so teachers can get one on one time with their students. The food is absolutely yummy! The tie ceremony is my favorite event! It means the start of a new and amazing year here at Casti. I attended the camps as a CILT (Counselor In Leadership Training), and it is super fun! Castilleja is a tightly knit community, and almost everyone knows the other people in their year! I love Castilleja School, and when I graduate, will miss it forever."

13. The Brearley School

Location: New York, New York
Students: 761
Student-Teacher Ratio: 6:1
Tuition: $53,990
Average Financial Aid: $41,875
Application deadline: November 16, 2020
How to Apply

"Brearley has been an exceptional experience for my two daughters (one current, one alumna)," one parent recently wrote. "The level of education, engagement, and community that Brearley builds is unparalleled. Academically, girls are challenged to love learning: from honing in on developing strong writing skills to participating in lively class discussions, Brearley pushes their perspectives and fosters individual growth. Both of my daughters love the Brearley community and have enjoyed extracurriculars from theater to Model UN, as well as many other clubs. Brearley girls find lifelong friendships and, after they graduate, a community to return to for their whole lives."

12. Collegiate School

Location: New York, New York
Students: 651
Student-Teacher Ratio: 8:1
Tuition: $53,900
Average Financial Aidunknown
Application deadline: December 7, 2020
How to Apply

"It is known for its intense academic program and the success its alumni find later in life as a result of their experience," one student wrote of Collegiate last year. "… The competitive nature of Collegiate's student body instills a culture of winning and excellence, rather than one of coddling. The teachers are truly legendary, and will take time, well-being, and especially sleep from you, but in the end the student will come out stronger and more ready for college and life."

11. Horace Mann School

Location: Bronx, New York
Students: 1,694
Student-Teacher Ratio: 8:1
Tuition: $53,200
Average Financial Aidunknown
Application deadline: November 15
How to Apply

"Horace Mann is a welcoming diverse community of families and high achieving students," one parent wrote earlier this year. "From the moment we inquired about sending our oldest child to HM, the school embraced us and made us feel welcome. When we toured the new upper school campus, our jaws dropped. HM feels like the grounds of an Ivy League university, not a city day school. As our children have grown, they have developed into well rounded, intellectual curious people with truly deep personal relationships with friends from many cultures."

10. Regis High School

Location: New York, New York
Students: 531
Student-Teacher Ratio: 8:1
Tuition: $0
Average Financial Aid: —
Application deadline: October 26, 2020
How to Apply

"The academics at Regis are extremely rigorous," one senior wrote last year. "All classes are accelerated. … Regis is a brotherhood. There is little to no competition between students and all students are willing to help each other learn. In my experience, my classmates have been my best resource when I'm struggling to grasp content."

9. Choate Rosemary Hall

Location: Wallingford, Connecticut
Students: 848
Student-Teacher Ratio: 7:1
Tuition: $60,950
Boarding (Tuition + Boarding): $60,950
Average Financial Aid: $47,150
Application deadline: January 15
How to Apply

"I came to Choate in the fall and have been very happy with my experience,"one student wrote earlier in 2020. "The education here far surpasses anything I could've expected. Each class is intellectually stimulating and prepares you well for further education. There are a multitude of extracurricular offerings, and if you want something that isn't offered, you can start it yourself. The dorm life is fantastic; having prefects and an advisor in your dorm help to keep you on track and take care of yourself."

8. Stanford Online High School

Location: Redwood City, California
Students: 804
Student-Teacher Ratio: 12:1
Tuition: $24,220
Average Financial Aid: unknown
Application deadline: January 13
How to Apply

"The teachers are experts in their subjects and their excitement about the material creates challenging and engaging classes for the students," one parent wrote of Stanford Online High School in 2019. "But make no mistake, these are difficult classes! When my girls have had outside tutors, the common response is awe at the depth of the material they are covering in middle and high school. It is a surprisingly social school too! The kids are always on the group chats with OHS friends talking, goofy around or even watching movies together. … If you are looking for a truly challenging school and a real school community, OHS is a great place."

7. Trinity School

Location: New York, New York
Students: 1,001
Student-Teacher Ratio: 6:1
Tuition: $47,965
Average Financial Aid: unknown
Application deadline: January 11
How to Apply

"An excellent education, especially with the upper school," one student wrote earlier this year. "Hands-on teachers, willing to help with anything. Great student body, and lots of wonderful extracurriculars. Facilities are top-notch, lots of space and natural light. Good performing arts program, as well as visual arts. Humanity classes are some of the best in the country. The only issue I have is with the math curriculum and how they use Problem-Based learning. Excellent and approachable college counselors. It is not a surprise that this is one of the best schools in the country."

6. Harvard-Westlake School

Location: Los Angeles, California
Students: 1,598
Student-Teacher Ratio: 8:1
Tuition: $41,300
Average Financial Aid: $30,500
Application deadline: January 15
How to Apply

"Harvard-Westlake's reputation matches reality: it is definitely an extremely challenging school with a lot of competition," one student wrote last year. "You are pushed everyday and it's definitely very challenging. However, I feel like I've grown so much while I've been there. Harvard Westlake has made me feel like I'm prepared for college and I will actually have the skills to succeed. I get great teachers, great students who are all super motivated, and great courses. I'm not looked down upon for actually trying to do well in school, something that I had experienced before going here. When all is said, if you want to challenge yourself and grow to be a better person in every way possible, this is the place for you."

5. The Hotchkiss School

Location: Lakeville, Connecticut
Students: 600
Student-Teacher Ratio: 4:1
Tuition: $50,990
Boarding (Tuition + Boarding): $59,990
Average Financial Aid: $50,080
Application deadline: January 15
How to Apply

"Our son recently graduated from Hotchkiss and had a great experience," one parent wrote earlier this year. "… They've got ample resources and a very competent administration that recognizes all kids are different. Only complaint is about math department, which needs attention. There's been too much faculty turnover, and families expect world class instruction for the tuition they are paying. Still, would highly recommend Hotchkiss to any parent with a self-motivated and smart kid."

4. The College Preparatory School

Location: Oakland, California
Students: 372
Student-Teacher Ratio: 7:1
Tuition: $48,300
Average Financial Aid: $30,436
Application deadline: January 7
How to Apply

"College Prep has been an amazing experience for me," one student wrote earlier this year. "The classes are engaging, and the teachers are phenomenal—they genuinely care about your well-being, and they are always willing to meet with you outside of class or just chat. The students are wonderful, as well. Each person is unique and interesting to talk to, and the school has an incredibly collaborative atmosphere! I've had a great time at CPS, and I would absolutely recommend this school."

3. St. Mark's School of Texas

Location: Dallas, Texas
Students: 863
Student-Teacher Ratio: 9:1
Tuition: $29,496
Average Financial Aid: unknown
Application deadline: January 11
How to Apply

"I will always appreciate my time at St. Mark's," one student wrote earlier this year. "Although the work load could be really difficult at times, my teachers always stimulated me and made boring subjects interesting, urging me to do as best as I could in all my classes. Everyone is nice and welcoming, and no one is left out."

2. Phillips Exeter Academy

Location: Exeter, New Hampshire
Students: 1,085
Student-Teacher Ratio: 5:1
Tuition: $38,740
Boarding (Tuition + Boarding): $49,880
Average Financial Aidunknown
    Boarding: $48,413
    Day: $35,270
Application deadline: January 15
How to Apply

"Phillips Exeter Academy is an amazing institution with renowned facilities, faculty, and alumni," one student wroteof the school in a Niche review last year. "The financial aid is unmatched … It's a diverse school, and although it's not always perfect in handling issues surrounding equity and inclusion, it's definitely a school that tries really hard to make sure each student feels safe. Stress levels are extremely high here, the workload is intense, and the New Hampshire winters can be extremely dreary, but I have made the best friendships here and have grown so much, both academically and personally."

1. Phillips Academy

Location: Andover, Massachusetts
Students: 1,146
Student-Teacher Ratio: 5:1
Tuition: $46,400
Boarding (Tuition + Boarding): $57,800
Average Financial Aid: $41,500
Application deadline: February 1
How to Apply

"My son is attending the school and he absolutely loves it!" one parent wrote of Phillips Academy in a Niche review. "In addition to academic resources, the school also provides excellent resources in areas such as sports, community engagement etc. The school also promotes innovation and provides opportunities to study abroad. The community is super nice, and we're fortunate being part of the community."

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