The Most Sought-After Schools of 2020

  • Posted By: Ahladini Veerina
  • November 17, 2020
The Most Sought-After Schools of 2020

Over the past eight years, Test Innovators has helped more than 135,000 students prepare for the SSAT and the ISEE—the admissions tests required by the most competitive independent schools in the country. Every year we review our data from thousands of test takers to determine the most popular schools.

This year has been full of trials and changes. The challenges that arose with remote learning in the spring compelled many families to reevaluate where their students would be going to school this fall. Many independent schools have had success with bringing students back on campus this year. Small class sizes and large campuses are a few factors that have enabled many independent schools to make social distancing more feasible, and the ability to provide COVID-19 testing, among other safety measures, have made independent schools incredibly desirable. The increase in independent school appeal is sure to evoke many changes, including potentially increasing the competitiveness of these already highly sought-after schools.

Below are the 50 most sought-after independent schools of 2020, based on the number of students who stated their intention to apply this year. Keep in mind that there are many wonderful schools not included on this list that may be perfect for you.

We've also put together an interactive visualization of these top 50 at the bottom of the list.

University of Toronto Schools (UTS)

Mission: “To support UTS and to help present and future alumni develop and sustain meaningful, lifelong connections to UTS, to each other and to the broader UTS community.” (University of Toronto Schools)

Notable Alumnus: Arthur Whealy, 1913— After graduating from UTS, Arthur Whealy studied medicine at the University of Toronto and then became a flying ace in World War I. By the end of his military career, he had 27 victories in aerial combat and earned the rank of Captain, the nickname of “Black Prince,” and several citations for his successes. (University of Toronto Schools)

St. Agnes Academy

Mission: “Rooted in the Dominican tradition, St. Agnes Academy provides a Catholic college preparatory education that encourages young women to develop intellectual curiosity, to work for social justice and to act with integrity and compassion.” (St. Agnes Academy)

Notable Alumnus: Hanan Alattar, 2000— Hanan Alattar attended the University of Texas at Austin and later moved to New York to go to the Juilliard school. She is an operatic soprano singer who has performed in a host of concerts and operas domestically and internationally. (Houston Chronicle, Hanan Alattar)

Peddie School

Mission: “Guided by the confidence of our motto, ‘We Finish Our Labors to Begin Them Anew,’ Peddie School is committed to the intellectual, social, and moral growth of each of our students. We welcome individuals with diverse talents and backgrounds whose excitement, curiosity and character create an educational community where passion for learning grows...In this boarding school environment we not only prepare our students for the rigors and rewards of college, but also inspire each to strive for the highest quality of citizenship.” (The Peddie School)

Notable Alumnus: Walter H. Annenberg, 1927— Walter H. Annenberg was born in 1908 and was a publisher, broadcaster, diplomat, and philanthropist. Some of his far-reaching work includes establishing Seventeen magazine in 1944, serving as an Ambassador to Great Britain between 1969 and 1974, and founding The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania in 1958 and The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in 1971. (Annenberg Foundation)

San Francisco University High School

Mission: “San Francisco University High School welcomes students of demonstrated motivation and ability to engage in an education that fosters responsibility and the spirited pursuit of knowledge. We are a school where adults believe in the promise of every student, and together we work to build and sustain a community of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and talents. UHS challenges each individual to live a life of integrity, inquiry, and purpose larger than the self.” (San Francisco University High School)

Notable Alumnus: Tauba Auerbach, 1999— Tauba Auerbach is an American artist who engages in a variety of mediums including prints, photography, and installations. She grew up in San Francisco and attended Stanford University before moving to New York. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and more. (UHS Journal, Artnet)

The Rivers School

Mission: “Rivers challenges students to attain their highest levels of excellence in academics, arts, and athletics. We set high standards and expect students to participate actively in their learning. We cultivate a caring, respectful, and collaborative environment that encourages student performance, including demonstration of logical thought, informed and articulate voice, creative vision, and integrity. Rivers is dedicated to preparing its students for leadership in a world that needs their talents, imagination, intellect, and compassion.” (The Rivers School)

Notable Alumnus: Jack Lemmon, 1943— Jack Lemmon was an actor born in 1925 in Massachusetts. His acting career began in television and he soon transitioned into movies and starred in more than 60 films, such as Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, and Irma la Douce. He was nominated for eight Academy Awards, two of which he won. (IMDB)

Dwight-Englewood School

Mission: “As a community of learners, Dwight-Englewood School strives to foster in each student a passion for life-long learning. We seek excellence, honor integrity, and embrace diversity in order to develop the skills, values, and courage to meet the challenges of a changing world and make it better.” (Dwight-Englewood School)

Notable Alumnus: Michael Gore, 1969— Michael Gore is a composer, originally from New York. He is best known for his work on film scores for Pretty in Pink, Fame, and Footloose. He has won two Academy awards and a Golden Globe, as well as many nominations for his canon of work on soundtracks, pop, adult contemporary, and rhythm and blues music. (IMDB, Concord Theatricals)

Hong Kong International School (HKIS)

Mission: “Dedicating our minds to inquiry, our hearts to compassion, and our lives to service and global understanding. An American-style education grounded in the Christian faith and respecting the spiritual lives of all.” (Hong Kong International School)

Notable Alumnus: Alia Marwah Eyres, 1995— Alia Marwah Eyres became CEO of Mother’s Choice in 2012 after working as a corporate lawyer in Hong Kong and New York. Mother’s Choice is a Hong Kong-based charity that serves children and pregnant teenagers in the community. (Mother’s Choice)

The Potomac School

Mission: “At The Potomac School, we believe that intellectual development, love of learning, and strength of character are complementary and equally essential educational goals. With a firm commitment to our core values and a rigorous academic program, we prepare students to lead lives of purpose, achievement, and generosity of spirit.” (The Potomac School)

Notable Alumnus: Whitney Tymas, 1976— Whitney Tymas is an attorney and dedicated expert in criminal justice with more than 25 years of experience in the field. She has been a Senior Attorney with the National District Attorneys Association, the Director of the Vera Institute’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Program, and now works as a political advisor in political action committees working on justice and public safety. (Potomac School)

Blair Academy

Mission: “Blair Academy is home to a vibrant learning community where strong relationships among teachers and students are at the heart of an extraordinary educational experience. The values and ideals that inform our work in and out of the classroom are encapsulated in these seven principles: we know our students, excellent communication is a top priority, superior academic preparation inspires a lifetime of learning, an inclusive and connected community expands horizons, real-world engagement and service to others engender meaningful experiences, we have purposefully chosen to be a midsized boarding school, and we prepare our students exceptionally well for a lifetime of accomplishment.” (Blair Academy)

Notable Alumnus: Kweighbaye Kotee, 2001— Kweighbaye Kotee graduated from NYU after studying Media, Culture and Communications, and has since worked to develop creative programs that are inclusive and provide space and opportunity for women and other underrepresented communities. One of her projects is Bushwick Film Festival, which is in its 13th year and has in the past brought more than 3,500 attendees and over 1,500 film submissions annually. (Twenty Ten Talent, Bushwick Film Festival)

Greenhill School

Mission: “Greenhill School is a diverse community of learners that strives for excellence; values individuality; fosters a passion for learning; promotes the balanced development of mind, body, and character; encourages service; and instills a respect for others.” (Greenhill School)

Notable Alumnus: Karen Rupert Toliver, 1984— Karen Rupert Toliver has worked on a variety of well-known animated films, including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Meet the Robinsons, and Chicken Little. In 2019, she was the first African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for her animated short film Hair Love. (IMDB)

Windward School

Mission: “Windward School is a dynamic college-preparatory school that challenges each student to achieve excellence in a nurturing, inclusive community. Windward teachers, parents, and administrators work together to inspire our students to be responsible, caring, well informed, ethical, prepared, and well balanced young adults.” (Windward School)

Notable Alumnus: Sami Shapiro, 2011— Sami Shapiro first started gymnastics when she was just three years old, and has since grown to represent the U.S. in World and Olympic competitions. She graduated from Stanford University where she competed and placed records throughout her time there. (Windward School, USA Gymnastics)

Eastside Preparatory School

Mission: “We inspire students to create a better world through Critical Thinking, Responsible Action, Compassionate Leadership, and Wise Innovation.” (Eastside Preparatory School)

Notable Alumnus: Wanyi Yang, 2016— After graduating from Eastside Prep in 2016, Wanyi Yang began working at Economists Incorporated, a law firm in Washington D.C. The firm consults in the fields of microeconomics, law and economics, public policy, and business strategy. (Eastside Prep, Economists Incorporated)

Flintridge Preparatory School

Mission: “Flintridge Preparatory School seeks to nurture in its students the knowledge, critical skills, community values, and creativity essential for an engaged, balanced, and responsible life.” (Flintridge Preparatory School)

Notable Alumnus: Haley Joel Osment 2006— Haley Joel Osment’s first acting role was in a Pizza Hut commercial at the age of four. His first film role was as Forrest Gump’s son in Forrest Gump. Osment rose to stardom for his role as Cole Sear in the acclaimed film Sixth Sense. He was just 11 years old when the movie came out, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. (LA Times, IMDB)

The Bishop's School

Mission: “The Bishop’s School is an academic community pursuing intellectual, artistic and athletic excellence in the context of the Episcopal tradition. We are dedicated to offering the highest quality education to a diverse student body and to fostering integrity, imagination, moral responsibility and commitment to serving the larger community.” (The Bishop's School)

Notable Alumnus: Rachel Navarro, 1993— For the past two decades Rachel Navarro has designed props and costumes for the stage and screen in theatre, film, and television. Her designs have been featured on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Myers,” and “Saturday Night Live.” (Bishop’s)

Marlborough School

Mission: “Every day we get closer to our vision by creating the conditions in which learning sparks purpose.” (Marlborough School)

Notable Alumnus: Carolin Babcock, 1934— Carolin Babcock was born in 1912 and was one of the top ten women tennis players in the United States in the 1930s. She won a variety of matches and championships, in both singles and doubles, in the United States and overseas. (NYT)

The Overlake School

Mission: “Each Overlake community member is committed to the school's mission to Inspire excellence, Develop intellectual curiosity, Teach responsibility, Embrace diversity and Foster a compassionate community.” (The Overlake School)

Notable Alumnus: Kara Brown, 2007— Kara Brown is a writer based in Los Angeles. She has written for shows like grown-ish, In the Dark, and the upcoming She-Hulk. Brown was previously a senior writer at Jezebel, and has been featured in publications like Glamour and Billboard. She was the first recipient of Overlake’s Distinguished Alumni Award. (Overlake,

Crystal Springs Uplands

Mission: "Through transformative teaching and meaningful connections, we empower kind, curious learners to thrive together." (Crystal Springs Uplands School)

Notable Alumnus: Jack Herrick, 1987— Jack Herrick is the CEO and founder of wikiHow, one of the most popular and most visited sites on the internet, with more than 25 million unique visitors each month. Herrick ran the how-to website eHow as co-CEO before founding wikiHow. (Crunchbase)

The Hockaday School

Mission: “Believing in the limitless potential of girls, Hockaday develops resilient, confident women who are educated and inspired to lead lives of purpose and impact.” (The Hockaday School)

Notable Alumnus: Lisa Loeb, 1986— Lisa Loeb is a singer-songwriter from Dallas, Texas. Her first hit song was “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film Reality Bites. She has since produced a huge variety of music, including a great number of children’s albums. (Hockaday,

Ransom Everglades School

Mission: “We teach students to believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it.” (Ransom Everglades School)

Notable Alumnus: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 1970— Timothy Greenfield-Sanders is a photographer and filmmaker who has photographed some of the world’s most influential cultural characters, and has produced and directed thirteen films. His films span a variety of topics, often focusing on biographical and political subjects, and his work has been widely recognized and acclaimed through museums, festivals, and awards across the U.S. (

Boston Latin School

Mission: “Boston Latin School seeks to ground its students in a contemporary classical education as preparation for successful college studies, responsible and engaged citizenship, and a rewarding life.” (Boston Latin School)

Notable Alumnus: Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1817— After Ralph Waldo Emerson graduated Harvard College at the age of 18, he spent his early adult life as a teacher, pastor, and traveler. Emerson’s first essay, “Nature,” started the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. Some of the themes of Emerson’s philosophy include power, fate, and critiques of Christianity. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

St. Mark's School of Texas

Mission: “St. Mark’s School of Texas is a nonsectarian, college preparatory independent day school for boys in grades 1-12. The Charter states that the school is ‘designed to afford its students well-rounded physical, intellectual, moral, and religious training and instruction.’ The St. Mark’s Board of Trustees intends for the school to be a diverse community of teachers and students who share a love of learning and who strive for high achievement in whatever they undertake.” (St. Mark's School of Texas)

Notable Alumnus: Tommy Lee Jones, 1965— Tommy Lee Jones attended Harvard College, where he played as a guard on the 1968 undefeated football team. After graduating college, he moved to New York to begin his acting career. He started off in theater, both on and off Broadway, and soon began working in television and film. He is well-known for his roles in Men in Black and The Fugitive. (Texas Monthly, IMDB)

St. Paul's School

Mission: “St. Paul's School is a fully residential academic community that pursues the highest ideals of scholarship. We strive to challenge our students intellectually and morally – to nurture a love for learning and a commitment to engage as servant leaders in a complex world. Founded in the Episcopal tradition, St. Paul's School models and teaches a respect for self and others; for one's spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being; for the natural environment; and for service to a greater good.” (St. Paul's School)

Notable Alumnus: Hobart “Hobey” Baker, 1909— Hobey Baker was an accomplished ice hockey and football player during his time at Princeton University. Baker was the first American member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. After he graduated, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Service and served during World War I. (Hobey Baker)

Concord Academy

Mission: “We are a community animated by love of learning, diverse and striving for equity, with common trust as our foundation. Honoring each individual, we challenge and expand our understanding of ourselves and the world through purposeful collaboration and creative engagement. We cultivate empathy, integrity, and responsibility to build a more just and sustainable future.” (Concord Academy)

Notable Alumnus: Queen Noor, 1969— Queen Noor of Jordan has worked as an advocate for human security across a variety of areas including education and conservation. She has prioritized conservational and environmental issues in her efforts, including serving as a sponsor for Jordan’s RSCN, the Middle East’s first environmental NGO. (Hilton Foundation)

Episcopal High School

Mission: “Guided by its founding principles of honor, academic distinction, spiritual growth, and community, Episcopal High School prepares young people with the intellectual and moral courage to pursue lives of ethical leadership and service as citizens of an increasingly connected world.” (Episcopal High School)

Notable Alumnus: Thomas J. H. Trapnell, 1923— Thomas Trapnell attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was an officer during World War II, during which he survived the Bataan Death March. In 1952, Trapnell was chief of the U.S. Military Mission to Vietnam and predicted that the French colonial forces would not fare well against the Vietnamese (he was right). He later advised President Kennedy against involvement in the Vietnam War. Trapnell was awarded many military decorations and awards, including the Distinguished Service Cross. (LA Times, Find A Grave)

Urban School

Mission: “Urban School of San Francisco seeks to ignite a passion for learning, inspiring its students to become self-motivated, enthusiastic participants in their education – both in high school and beyond.” (Urban School)

Notable Alumnus: Jené Morris, 2005— Jené Morris attended San Diego State University where she played on the women’s basketball team. In 2010, she was the first-round draft pick by the Indiana Fever, where she still plays as a guard. (SF Gate, WNBA)

Menlo School

Mission: “Menlo School’s mission is to empower students to explore and expand their interests, reach their fullest potential, develop the skills necessary for success in college, and become ethical, responsible, and engaged members of ever wider communities.” (Menlo School)

Notable Alumnus: Nick Woodman, 1993— Nick Woodman’s love of surfing helped inspire him to develop his first video camera, a 35-millimeter waterproof camera. His first prototype of the GoPro was built with his mom’s sewing machine and a drill. Since then, GoPro has proliferated into more versions and has seen major success. (Forbes)

Brentwood School

Mission: "Brentwood School inspires every student to think critically and creatively, act ethically, and shape a future with meaning." (Brentwood School)

Notable Alumnus: Peter Vidmar, 1979— Peter Vidmar was a talented gymnast starting at 18, when he made it onto the U.S. Olympic team that ended up boycotting the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. He went on to win the NCAA all-around championship and eventually helped the U.S. Olympic team win gold in the all-around competition in 1994. (U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum)

Polytechnic School

Mission: “At Polytechnic School, we envision a community of students, inspired by transformative teaching, who will contribute profoundly to the world as intellectual leaders. We develop the unique intellect, talents, and character of each student in a community dedicated to academic excellence, personal responsibility, and service to others.” (Polytechnic School)

Notable Alumnus: Ini Archibong, 2001— Ini Archibong grew up just outside Los Angeles and first became interested in design at 24, when he enrolled in the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. His inspiration comes from many sources and his talent has been recognized by high-profile clients like Hermès, Knoll, and Dario Pegoretti. (Surface Magazine)

Lick-Wilmerding High School

Mission: “A private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding High School develops the head, heart, and hands of highly motivated students from all walks of life, inspiring them to become lifelong learners who contribute to the world with confidence and compassion.” (Lick-Wilmerding High School)

Notable Alumnus: Albert W. Overhauser, 1942— Albert W. Overhauser is known internationally for his many contributions to the study of physics and other scientific fields. The Overhauser effect, named for him, describes his discovery of the phenomenon of dynamic nuclear polarization, which has found transformative applications in biology and medicine. He has won a variety of awards for his work, including the National Medal for Science. (Purdue University, Purdue University)

The Harker School

Mission: “Our mission is to educate students for success at college and beyond, and to foster kindness, respect and integrity within a safe and nurturing environment. We achieve academic excellence through the development of intellectual curiosity, personal accountability and love of learning. Our comprehensive program and exceptional faculty and staff help students discover, develop and enjoy their unique talents. We honor individuality, embrace diversity, and promote leadership and service, preparing students to take their place as global citizens.” (The Harker School)

Notable Alumnus: Andy Fang, 2010— After receiving his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Stanford University and working at Facebook, Andy Fang co-founded DoorDash, a food delivery service. In 2019, Fang was included in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” consumer technology list. (Harker News, Crunchbase)

Stanford Online High School

Mission: “The mission of Stanford Online High School is to create a worldwide learning community of diverse, intellectually passionate students and teachers. Through vibrant seminars, the rigorous curriculum challenges students to reason analytically, think creatively, and argue critically. Beyond the classroom, collaborative extracurricular activities cultivate lasting relationships among students and teachers. The school’s supportive environment fosters independence, strength of character, and a lifelong pursuit of knowledge.” (Stanford Online High School)

Notable Alumnus: Leena Iyar, 2010— After graduating from Stanford Online High School in 2010, Leena Iyar moved to London to attend King’s College. She’s since moved back to the Silicon Valley to work with tech startup, Moxtra, which is a web and mobile customer portal for businesses. (Stanford Online High School)

The Kinkaid School

Mission: “Kinkaid’s mission is to promote educational excellence, personal responsibility, and balanced growth, and thereby to help students discover and develop their talents and fulfill their best potential.” (The Kinkaid School)

Notable Alumnus: David Hornsby, 1994— David Hornsby was born in Newport News, Virginia. He is well-known for his work as an actor and producer on shows and films, including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-present) and Good Girls (2018-present). (IMDB)

The Loomis Chaffee School

Mission: “The mission of The Loomis Chaffee School is to advance the development of students in mind, body, and spirit through rigorous academic programs, an inclusive community, and an emphasis on engaged citizenship. The school, as its Founders intended, seeks to inspire in its students a commitment to the best self and the common good.” (Loomis Chaffee School)

Notable Alumnus: Jason Wu, 2001— At a young age, Jason Wu learned how to sew, using dolls as mannequins, with the sewing machine his mother bought him. Wu has since grown into a fashion powerhouse and, at just 38, has dressed some of the most influential women in the world, including Michelle Obama, Reese Witherspoon, and Liu Wen. (

St. John's School

Mission: “[St. John’s] seeks to develop the whole person in preparation for a lifetime of personal fulfillment and contribution to society. In particular, it is dedicated to the enhancement and the expansion of future leadership for Houston and the country. The School offers talented, motivated, and energetic students a genuine challenge for academic accomplishment and for development of a sense of self-worth and of personal responsibility. The School in turn holds itself responsible for providing that challenge.” (St. John's School)

Notable Alumnus: Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, 1964— Sarah Hrdy earned her Ph.D. at Harvard for the research she conducted on langurs in India, which made notable contributions to the field of sociobiology. Her work modernized our understanding of evolutionary psychology, particularly for female behavior. Hrdy was presented with a Lifetime Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution in 2013. (Reflections on Papers Past, This View of Life)

Groton School

Mission: “To inspire lives of character, scholarship, leadership, and service within a diverse, inclusive, and close-knit community.” (Groton School)

Notable Alumnus: Sam Waterston, 1958— Sam Waterston has had a long career as an actor, producer, and director. He’s well-known as an actor and producer on Law & Order, The Killing Fields, and Serial Mom. Waterston was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2012. (Groton, IMDB)

The Lawrenceville School

Mission: “Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose. Our mission is to inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.” (The Lawrenceville School)

Notable Alumnus: Malcolm Forbes, 1937— Forbes magazine was started by B.C. Forbes, Malcolm Forbes’ father, in 1917. After being badly wounded while serving as a machine gunner during World War II, Malcolm Forbes joined his father’s company in 1945 and helped turn around the then faltering business. Forbes was a collector of various things, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles, hot air balloons, and Fabergé eggs. (Forbes)

The Dalton School

Mission: “The Dalton School is committed to providing an education of excellence that meets each student’s interests, abilities and needs within a common curricular framework and reflects and promotes an understanding of, and appreciation for, diversity in our community as an integral part of school life. Dalton challenges each student to develop intellectual independence, creativity and curiosity and a sense of responsibility toward others both within the School and in the community at large. Guided by the Dalton Plan, the School prepares students to ‘Go Forth Unafraid®.’” (The Dalton School)

Notable Alumnus: Anderson Cooper, 1985— Anderson Cooper, a journalist and anchor with CNN news, has worked in more than 40 countries to cover major news events since his career began in 1992. Cooper received his bachelor’s degree in political science at Yale and also studied Vietnamese at the University of Hanoi. He is one of the most well-known and widely influential news anchors on television today. (Dalton, CNN)

Buckingham Browne and Nichols

Mission: “BB&N’s mission is to promote scholarship, integrity, and kindness in diverse, curious, and motivated students. The school prepares students for lives of principled engagement in their communities and the world.” (Buckingham Browne & Nichols School)

Notable Alumnus: Mindy Kaling, 1997— Mindy Kaling is an actress, comedian, and writer. She was the first female writer for the television show The Office, as well as an executive producer, director, and lead actress on the show. Kaling is also well known for her show The Mindy Project. In addition to television work, Kaling has also worked in films, including voice work in Despicable Me, Wreck-It Ralph, and Inside Out. (Boston Globe, IMDB)

Lakeside School

Mission: “The mission of Lakeside School is to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society.” (Lakeside School)

Notable Alumnus: Bill Gates, 1973— After leaving Harvard University in 1975, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, and has become one of the world’s wealthiest people and a devoted philanthropist. Gates has dedicated his philanthropic efforts to a variety of issues worldwide. At the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing in 2018, he shared the stage with a beaker of poop to draw attention to the issue of poor sanitation, which kills more than 500,000 people each year. (Bill Gates’ Blog)

The Hotchkiss School

Mission: “The Hotchkiss School seeks to inspire a diverse range of students who are committed to the betterment of self and society, and to cultivate in them at the highest standards of excellence, imagination and intellect, openness and personal integrity, and empathy and responsible citizenship that they may discover and fulfill their potential as individuals fully engaged in our world.” (The Hotchkiss School)

Notable Alumnus: Allison Janney, 1977— While in school at Kenyon College, Allison Janney was cast in the on-campus play under director and actor Paul Newman. She’s since played parts both on stage and on the screen, including her breakthrough role in the television show, The West Wing. Janney has received numerous awards, including an Academy Award. (IMDB)

Deerfield Academy

Mission: “Deerfield Academy is an independent secondary school committed to high standards of scholarship, citizenship, and personal responsibility. Through a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, extensive co-curricular program, and supportive residential environment, Deerfield encourages each student to develop an inquisitive and creative mind, sound body, and strong moral character.” (Deerfield Academy)

Notable Alumnus: Chris Whipple, 1971— As a journalist for more than forty years, Chris Whipple has covered major events around the world. In 2015, he wrote and produced the documentary The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs, and in 2017, he wrote the New York Times best-selling book, The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency. He has won multiple Peabody and Emmy Awards. (Deerfield)

Horace Mann School

Mission: “Horace Mann School prepares a diverse community of students to lead great and giving lives. We strive to maintain a safe, secure, and caring environment in which mutual respect, mature behavior, and the life of the mind can thrive. We recognize and celebrate individual achievement and contributions to the common good.” (Horace Mann School)

Notable Alumnus: Jack Kerouac, 1939— Jack Kerouac grew up in a French-Canadian mill town in Massachusetts and spoke primarily joual, a Canadian dialect of French. He moved to New York City as a young adult, where he met and became lifelong friends with poet Allen Ginsberg and writer William S. Borroughs. The three men were central figures of the literary Beat movement. The manuscript of Kerouac’s most famous novel, On the Road, was written on a single, unbroken roll of paper, which was rejected six times before finally being published in 1957. (Riverdale Press,

Riverdale Country School

Mission: “Riverdale is a Pre-K through grade 12 independent school in New York City committed to empowering lifelong learners by developing minds, building character, and creating community in order to change our world for the good.” (Riverdale Country School)

Notable Alumnus: Carly Simon, 1963— Carly Simon’s first hit single, “You’re So Vain,” came out in 1972, the same year she married fellow singer-songwriter James Taylor. Her song “Let the River Run,” featured in the 1988 movie Working Girl, was the first song to win an Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe. (Architectural Digest,

Milton Academy

Mission: “Milton Academy cultivates in its students a passion for learning and a respect for others. Embracing diversity and the pursuit of excellence, we create a community in which individuals develop competence, confidence and character. Our active learning environment, in and out of the classroom, develops creative and critical thinkers, unafraid to express their ideas, prepared to seek meaningful lifetime success and to live by our motto, ‘Dare to be true.’” (Milton Academy)

Notable Alumnus: T. S. Eliot, 1906— T. S. Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri but moved to England as a young adult and eventually became a British subject. As one of the most influential poets, playwrights, and literary critics of the twentieth century, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Among friends, he was known as a connoisseur of cheese and collector of umbrella handles. (, New Yorker)

Noble and Greenough School

Mission: “The Mission of Noble and Greenough School is a rigorous academic community dedicated to inspiring leadership for the public good. Through mentoring relationships, we motivate students to achieve their highest potential and to lead lives characterized by service to others.” (Noble and Greenough School)

Notable Alumnus: Percival Lowell, 1872— Percival Lowell, born in Massachusetts in 1855, spent his young adult life traveling and writing. Giovanni Schiaparelli’s discovery of canals on Mars in the 1890s inspired Lowell to devote his life to the study of astronomy. He is most recognized for his prediction of the existence of a planet beyond the orbit of Neptune, which resulted in the discovery of Pluto. (Forbes, Britannica)

Harvard-Westlake School

Mission: “Harvard-Westlake strives to be a diverse and inclusive community united by the joyful pursuit of educational excellence, living and learning with integrity, and purpose beyond ourselves.” (Harvard-Westlake)

Notable Alumnus: Sally Ride, 1968— After earning a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University, Sally Ride joined NASA by answering one of its newspaper ads. Ride became one of just five women who were selected for NASA’s class of ‘78 mission specialists. On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space and youngest American in space. (National Women's History Museum)

Choate Rosemary Hall

Mission: “Two interwoven priorities define the Choate experience: a rigorous academic curriculum and an emphasis on the formation of character in a residential setting that allows for teachers and students to live with, and learn from, each other in important ways.” (Choate Rosemary Hall)

Notable Alumnus: Michael Douglas, 1963— Following in the footsteps of his father, Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas aspired to be an actor as a young teen. In 1975, Douglas’ film production company produced the film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which catapulted him into success. Douglas has received numerous awards, including two Academy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards. (IMDB)

Trinity School

Mission: “Labore et virtute. The terms of our motto, hard work and moral excellence, are meant to strengthen us as we pursue the promise and joy of Trinity School. We ask Trinity families, alumni, and friends to join us in taking on this high calling.” (Trinity School)

Notable Alumnus: John McEnroe, 1977— John McEnroe was the top-ranked singles tennis player in the world between 1981-1984. McEnroe won 77 singles titles, including seven Grand Slam titles, through the course of his career. The Tennis Hall of Famer is now an analyst for ESPN. (NYT, ESPN)

Phillips Academy Andover

Mission: “Guided by the ideal of non sibi, leading lives ‘not for self,’ the Phillips Academy community promotes a balance of intellectual curiosity, engagement, leadership, and service in the pursuit of excellence: academic, civic, and moral.” (Phillips Academy Andover)

Notable Alumnus: George H.W. Bush, 1942— George H.W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States. On his 18th birthday, Bush enlisted in the Navy as a naval aviator, and after receiving his wings a few months later, he became the youngest pilot in the Navy. He flew 58 combat missions during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism during aerial combat. (

Phillips Exeter Academy

Mission: “Unite goodness and knowledge and inspire youth from every quarter to lead purposeful lives.” (Phillips Exeter Academy)

Notable Alumnus: John Irving, 1967— John Irving was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968 when he was twenty-six. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once in 1980, for his famous novel The World According to Garp. (Business Insider,

Methodology: Test Innovators surveyed 16,105 students who were actively using the online Test Innovators practice platform between January 1, 2020 and September 23, 2020 and asked them for the list of schools to which they planned to apply. This data set informed the list above, indicating which schools were most sought-after among students applying for the 2021-22 school year.