The 10 Best High Schools in Illinois

While college admissions departments look at a wide range of factors when considering whether or not to extend an offer of admission to an applicant, the academic successes and rigorous courses taken by the student are often weighted the most heavily. 

Considering this, many students and their families seek the best possible high school to attend in order to be able to demonstrate the level of academic rigor and success that college admissions departments desire. 

High schools offering students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses allow them to earn college credit before graduation while simultaneously developing the skills and habits they will need to succeed in their undergraduate programs. 

These rigorous courses of study also prepare students to perform exceedingly well on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT.  

We have compiled the following list of 10 of the best high schools in Illinois to assist students and their families as they choose the best school for them. 

These schools were chosen as they are regularly ranked in top publications among the best high schools.

Whether drawn to the low-class sizes, values, and affiliations offered by many private schools or the diverse student bodies and affordability of public schools, students and their families will seek the best educational opportunities afforded to them. 

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (Chicago, IL) 

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Over 2,000 students enjoy the 8 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio offered by the University of Chicago Laboratory School, ranked number 1 among’s list of private high schools in Illinois. 

Closely affiliated with the University of Chicago, the schools offer a range of programs through various partnerships that promote experiential learning in its students. 

Among these programs and partnerships are the Marine Biology Laboratory Partnership and the Internship for Civic Engagement. 

The school’s Corvus Gallery exhibits the artistic works of Lab students while also offering special exhibits and incorporating creative works from alumni and the wider community. 

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan graduated from the Lab schools in 1982 and is just one of the many notable graduates from the schools. 

Payton College Preparatory High School (Chicago, IL)

U.S. News and World Report ranks Payton College Preparatory High School as number 1 among public high schools in Illinois and number 5 among public high schools in the nation. Formed in 2000, Payton School currently sees 1,191 students studying within its halls. 

Among the school’s other accolades are its ranking as the best international high school in the country, the Goldman Sachs Foundation Prize in Excellence in International Education, and its 2008 and 2014 National Blue Ribbon Awards. 

The school is the only high school in the world to host a Confucius Institute, which promotes learning about Chinese culture and language and is coordinated and funded by an arm of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. 

Lake Forest Academy (Lake Forest, IL) 

Lake Forest Academy
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Forest Academy is a private boarding and day school ranked number 2 among private high schools in Illinois by Over 400 students are currently enrolled at the school, and just under half of the student body boards at the academy. 

International students attending the school hail from 40 countries and territories and enjoy a student-to-teacher ratio of 6 to 1. 

According to data collected by, students at the academy have an average composite SAT score of 1390 and an average composite ACT score of 30.  

Lake Forest Academy’s membership in the School Year Abroad program provides the opportunity for students accepted into the program to immerse themselves in one of four foreign cultures for a year while continuing their high school education. 

Students accepted into the competitive program have the option to study in Italy, Spain, China, or France. 

Northside College Preparatory High School (Chicago, IL)

Over 1,000 students currently attend Chicago’s Northside College Preparatory High School, ranked number 2 among Illinois’ public high schools and number 31 among national public high schools by U.S. News and World Report

With a 97% graduation rate, students at the school contribute to an average composite ACT score of 31, and an average composite SAT score of 1380, according to data collected by 

Along with the AP and college preparatory courses offered at the school is the N:Vision program, which provides its students with an interdisciplinary curriculum that uses cross-curricular activities, field trips, and community engagement to offer students an enriching and unique educational experience. 

Northside also offers academically advanced seniors who have exhausted the options available within a department and area of interest to propose their own year-long project focused on a particular academic subject or subjects wherein they study the area independently.

Latin School of Chicago (Chicago, IL) 

Formed in 1888 in order to provide a classical education, the Latin School of Chicago now serves 1,000+ students across all grades with a student-to-teacher ratio of 8 to 1. 

Students at the school gain experiential learning along with their college preparatory education by participating in programs such as the school’s Project Week and a number of global exchange programs operated in partnership with institutions around the world. 

During Project Week, high school students learn outside of the classroom by exploring a topic of interest such as the Civil Rights Movement, arts, technology or literature. Some students choose to do this through participating in community service or traveling. 

Jones College Prep High School (Chicago, IL) 

Ranked number 3 among public high schools in Illinois by the U.S. News and World Report, Jones College Prep High School has also been labeled exemplary by the Illinois State Board of Education Rating. 

For students interested in law or engineering, Jones College Prep High School’s Career and Technical Education programs in pre-law and pre-engineering will provide these students a head start in their careers as they establish basic principles and skills in either discipline before even graduating from high school. 

Those enrolled in the pre-engineering program will develop modeling and design skills before enjoying the opportunity to bring their designs to life. 

Students enrolled in the pre-law program will participate in mock trials while also enjoying the program’s partnerships with the Illinois Supreme Court and the Cook County State’s Attorney. 

North Shore Country Day (Winnetka, IL) 

North Shore Country Day in Winnetka, just outside of Chicago, takes’s number 4 spot in its top private high school ranking in Illinois. 

With 200+ students in its upper division, the school offers a student-to-teacher ratio of 8 to 1, and its students average a composite ACT score of 31, and a composite SAT score of 1390. 

The school’s Live+Serve Lab combines maker space and laboratory facilities with North Shore Country Day’s service mission to foster the development of ideas and solutions to problems facing society. 

Service learning at the school is also incorporated into its “interim” programs, wherein students take the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom by participating in projects such as studying metallurgy, learning Chinese and other alphabets, and volunteering with youth.  

Whitney M. Young Magnet High School (Chicago, IL)

Chicago’s Whitney M. Young Magnet High School ranks at number 4 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of public high schools in Illinois and also at number 67 among the same category of high schools in the nation. 

The National Blue Ribbon school offers dual-enrollment, honors, and AP courses to students drawn from all across Chicago. The Academic Decathlon team at the magnet school has seen major success at the state level, coming in second only once in the last 35 years. 

Alumni from the school have gone on to successful careers in entertainment, sports, and science, with particularly notable alumni including former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and astronaut Joan Higginbotham. 

British International School of Chicago, South Loop (Chicago, IL) 

The British International School of Chicago, South Loop is a member of the Nord Anglia Education group of schools and is ranked number 5 among private high schools in Illinois by

The school has a graduation rate of 100%, an average composite ACT score of 29, and an average composite SAT score of 1330. 

The school participates in both the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education program to provide its students with a world-renowned education and preparation for college. 

Additional educational opportunities are provided through the school’s partnerships with institutions such as MIT, Juilliard, and UNICEF. 

Students learn from teachers and instructors trained at Juilliard and MIT, while others speak and participate in workshops at the United Nations. 

Lane Technical High School (Chicago, IL) 

At number 5 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of public high schools in Illinois is Lane Technical High School, which also places at number 84 among public high schools in the nation. 

As a college preparatory high school with an emphasis on science, technology, and engineering, Lane Technical High School prepares the innovators of tomorrow for success at every stage of their careers. 

Among the amazing educational opportunities offered at the school are the Alpha Honors STEM Program and the Omega Istoria Humanities program. These programs are invitation-only and provide exceptional learning opportunities to participating students. 

The Alpha program students take rigorous courses integrating STEM education into all core classes. These students have seen national recognition at science fairs, published research papers, and been awarded patents for their inventions. 

The Omega program offers students an interdisciplinary approach to studying English, art, and history through honors and AP courses that seek to understand the world through the human experience.