The 10 Best High Schools in North Carolina 

The state of North Carolina is home to hundreds of public and private schools for high school students. It is vital to do thorough research while you are in the process of deciding which school to attend. 

There are plenty of great options to choose from, but it is also imperative to consider which schools are a great fit for the particular student in question. 

Beyond academic offerings, students must consider class size, location, extracurricular activities, athletic programs, and the ratio of students to teachers, among other factors. 

You can ask yourself or your student many questions to get a sense of what you are looking for in a high school. 

For example, do you want to attend a private school or a public one? Are you interested in boarding, or would you prefer to live at home? 

To help further guide you through the process of finding your top choices of North Carolina high schools to attend, here, we have gathered some information about ten of the state’s most highly-revered high schools. 

All of the schools in the following list were chosen from various high school ranking lists published by well-respected publications, such as US News and World Report, Niche, and others.

Here are 10 of the best high schools in North Carolina.

Cary Academy (Cary, NC)

Cary Academy
Mustang dvs, Cary Academy main quad, CC BY-SA 4.0

According to Niche, Cary Academy is ranked first out of the 154 schools included on their list of the best private high schools in North Carolina.

In addition, the school places first out of 144 for best college preparation offered by any private high school in the state. Among all private high schools in the country, Cary’s college prep offerings rank within the top 50.

Cary Academy boasts a perfect, 100% graduation rate, so attending this prestigious school is essentially a surefire way to ensure success during the high school experience. 

The school also boasts an impressively low student-to-teacher ratio, with around just eight students per teaching faculty member. For comparison, the national average ratio for high schools is about 17:1 — more than double Cary’s.

Chapel Hill High School (Chapel Hill, NC)

Chapel Hill High School
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Chapel Hill High School is an excellent public high school that was established in 1916. 

It has been named the #1 public high school in North Carolina’s Orange County, also ranking #1 in terms of best high schools for athletics in the area. 

It is located in close proximity to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a highly respected institution for higher education currently ranking #29 in the United States, according to US News and World Report. 

Historically, it is quite common for Chapel Hill High School students to attend the university after graduating.

With an enrollment of 1,500+ students in grades nine through 12, Chapel Hill High School is a relatively large high school. The student-to-teacher ratio is 16:1, so students can expect moderately small class sizes. 

Charlotte Latin School (Charlotte, NC)

Charlotte Latin School
Jiffy.morton, Inulstrate orbem (2), CC BY-SA 4.0

A coeducational, non-sectarian day school serving students in kindergarten through twelfth grade since 1970, Charlotte Latin School is a prestigious school that is known for offering rigorous academic coursework and world-class college preparation to high schoolers. 

Charlotte Latin School is currently home to around 1,500 students across all grade levels, meaning that there are 100 or so students in each grade.

The Upper School curriculum at Charlotte Latin School focuses heavily on helping students develop strong reading and writing skills, as well as an extensive vocabulary. 

Concepts covered during class time and in academic coursework are reinforced by numerous opportunities to study abroad, a vast array of clubs and extracurriculars, and the school’s extensive arts program.

Charlotte Latin School is home to 11 performing musical ensemble groups. The campus features five different art studios, as well as the state-of-the-art Horne Performing Arts Center.

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Durham, NC)

A public, residential high school that heavily emphasizes the STEM fields, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics is a unique, two-year school open only to students going into their junior year and older. 

NCSSM is known across the US for having some of the best STEM education at the secondary school level. 

According to Niche, NCSSM is not just the #1 public school in the state of North Carolina — it is the best public school out of more than 20,000 in the entire country.

In particular, NCSSM has a reputation for being extraordinarily strong in mathematical modeling competitions.

In addition to the original Durham campus, the School of Science and Mathematics also operates a campus in Morganton, NC. 

The Durham campus is home to about 680 students, while the Morganton branch is much smaller, housing only around 300 students.  

Salem Academy (Winston-Salem, NC)

Located near historic Old Salem in Winston-Salem, Salem Academy is a private boarding and day school for girls that shares a campus with Salem College. 

Established in 1772, Salem Academy is North Carolina’s oldest boarding school, as well as the fourth oldest in the United States.

The school is very small, with the current enrollment being 70 students. 55% of students at the academy are boarding students, while the remaining 45% opt to live at home and attend school as day students.

At Salem Academy, the average class has only nine students. The school also boasts a student-to-teacher ratio of 7:1, offering students the chance to benefit from a tight-knit, engaging classroom environment. 

Salem Academy offers 22 different honors courses, plus 7 AP courses. On top of that, students at Salem have the opportunity to earn anywhere from 33 to 60 college credit hours. 

Raleigh Charter High School (Raleigh, NC)

Originally located in Historical Pilot Mill, Raleigh Charter High School is an independent public high school that was founded in 1999, relocating to its present location in the Glenwood-Brooklyn neighborhood of Raleigh in 2011

An impressive 98% of students who graduate from Raleigh Charter HS go on to attend college. 

The school has a total enrollment of 560 students in ninth through twelfth grade, with an average of around 19 students in each class.  

Raleigh Charter High School is home to 30 community service programs, offering students an abundance of opportunities to get involved and lend a helping hand.

In addition to service opportunities, Raleigh has more than 70 different student-led clubs, allowing students a wide array of options for exploring their passions, pursuing new hobbies, learning new skills, and making friends with shared interests.

Asheville School (Asheville, NC)

Established in 1900, the Asheville School is a private boarding school with a hundred-plus year-long history of providing a high-quality secondary education to students in ninth through twelfth grade. 

The school is located on a scenic 300-acre patch of land surrounding the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. Due to the school’s ideal location, Asheville has an excellent mountaineering program, including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and more. 

After graduating from the school, a full 100% of Asheville students go on to attend college. In fact, students are regularly into some of the best colleges in the country, like Columbia, Cornell, and Duke, to name a few.

The 62 different courses offered at the Asheville School include 22 honors courses and 16 AP classes.

The Early College at Guilford (Greensboro, NC)

A public magnet high school that was founded in 2002, the Early College at Guilford is one of the most highly revered secondary schools in the United States. The total enrollment is around 200 students. 

According to the 2022 edition of US News and World Report’s annual list of the best high schools in America, the Early College at Guilford is ranked #35 among all high schools in the country. 

There are many reasons that Guilford is so highly rated. 

For one, the school allows students to graduate with two full years worth of college credits — equivalent to an associate degree. This program offers students the opportunity to kickstart the process of getting a degree, saving thousands of dollars and countless hours.

On top of that, Guilford boasts a graduation rate of 100%.

Green Hope High School (Cary, NC)

A part of the Wake County Public School System, Green Hope High School is a large, public secondary school with a total enrollment of over 2,700 students. 

According to Niche, Green Hope is ranked fourth out of 597 in terms of best public high schools in the state of North Carolina.

After just ten years in operation, Green Hope HS was awarded the honorable designation of North Carolina Honor School of Excellence, a title only a tiny handful of schools in the state can claim. The school’s graduation rate for the 2021-22 academic year was an impressive 97.4%.

The school offers a wide array of honors and AP courses, with about half of the students taking at least one AP class at some point before graduating. 

Durham Academy (Durham, NC)

Durham Academy is an esteemed private school serving students in kindergarten through their senior year of high school. It was initially established as the Calvert Method School in 1933, changing to its present-day name in 1959.

According to Niche, Durham Academy is the #1 private K-12 school in North Carolina, ranking within the country’s top 50 private K-12 schools. 

The school boasts a student-to-teacher ratio of just 6:1, offering students the chance to receive ample direct support from teachers and connect with classmates in an intimate learning environment. Enrollment at Durham Academy is just over 1,200 students. 

Durham Academy’s Upper School campus has recently undergone numerous renovations to ensure that its students have access to the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art academic facilities possible.