Exploring the Exciting World of Episcopal High School

October 29, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Exploring the Exciting World of Episcopal High School

Episcopal High School has been around since 1839, making it the first high school in Virginia. Can you believe that? It all started with the Rev. William N. Pendleton and a few other teachers who welcomed 35 boys to a boarding school on an 80-acre piece of land.

Originally, it was called the Howard School because it was on the site of an older school. But it quickly got a nickname, “The High School,” which everyone loved. Whether you’re a prospective student, a freshman, or just curious about what Episcopal High School has to offer, this article is your ultimate guide to understanding what makes this institution truly special.

Civil War Hits Home

Fast forward to the Civil War in the 1860s. When Union Army forces took over Alexandria in 1861, EHS had to close its doors. Over 500 students actually joined the war effort as soldiers, including Rev. Pendleton, who even became a brigadier general for the Confederacy.

The school’s buildings were used as a huge hospital for Union troops during this time. Walt Whitman, the famous poet, even worked as a nurse there!

Reopening and Sports Takeoff

After the war ended in 1865, EHS finally reopened in 1866. Under the leadership of Launcelot Minor Blackford, who was principal for a long time, the school introduced a modern academic program and became one of the first schools in the South to play team sports like football, baseball, and track.

Speaking of football, EHS and Woodberry Forest School have one of the oldest high school football rivalries in the United States. They’ve been going head-to-head since 1900!

Building Up the Campus

Around 1900, Episcopal High School decided it needed better facilities, so they started building more. This laid the foundation for the campus they have today. It’s filled with beautiful historic buildings and modern facilities that make learning comfortable and engaging.

The Honor Code

In this era, EHS also established its Honor Code, which is super important. It’s one of the oldest in the country, and it’s all about honesty and integrity. Students and teachers work together to make sure everyone follows the code and understands its significance.

A Diverse Community

In 1968, Episcopal High School became more inclusive by enrolling its first African-American students, thanks to the Stouffer Foundation. Since then, the school has become even more diverse, with students from all backgrounds.

EHS is ahead of the game when it comes to having a diverse student body compared to other boarding schools across the nation.

Coeducation Begins

In 1991, EHS started welcoming girls, and the first group of girls is fondly known as “The First 48.” The first class with both boys and girls graduated in 1993.

Today, the school has around 440 students, and about half of them are girls.

A man reading his book

Honor and Expectations

Episcopal High School firmly believes that honor is not just a lofty aspiration but an essential standard that every member of our community should uphold. It’s the expectation that they all strive to meet in their daily lives.

The Importance of Relationships

Episcopal High School recognizes the significance of nurturing meaningful relationships where students are not just known but truly valued and supported. These connections are the foundation of both academic success and personal character development.

What makes these relationships even more powerful is the fact that EHS is a fully residential community.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

At the heart of the academic experience lies a profound commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, not just the accumulation of facts. This pursuit encourages students to take risks, embrace challenges, and learn from their failures, recognizing them as integral to the learning process.

Discovering Passions and Strengths

Episcopal High School believes that students truly discover their passions, interests, and unique strengths when they engage in a diverse range of experiences, whether it’s in academics, sports, the arts, or other facets of school life.

Real-World Learning

Linking classroom learning with real-world experiences in the vibrant setting of Washington, D.C., and beyond is what makes education authentic and influential at EHS. It’s about taking what you’ve learned and applying it in the real world.

Building a Diverse Learning Community

Intellectual growth and moral development are nurtured best in a dynamic and diverse learning community where close relationships help you not only understand but also appreciate and bridge differences.

Spiritual Inquiry and Service

Spiritual exploration and acts of service play a crucial role in self-discovery and the development of empathy towards others. These elements are fundamental to our holistic educational philosophy.

Expectations, Rigor, and Well-Being

Episcopal High School sets high expectations and maintains academic rigor while also paying close attention to the physical and emotional well-being of each student. This holistic approach ensures that students not only thrive academically but also become the best versions of themselves.

philosophical works of a teacher

A Force for Good

Lastly, Episcopal High School believes that we are all part of something greater than ourselves, with the capacity and responsibility to positively impact the lives of others. This sense of community and purpose is at the heart of the EHS experience.

Episcopal High School Academics

At Episcopal High School, their community thrives on building strong connections between students and teachers, and this is deeply embedded in our curriculum. Here, students and faculty don’t just seek answers; they explore questions! They don’t just memorize facts; they uncover ideas. And we don’t just rush towards the end goal; we appreciate the entire journey.

Their ultimate goal at Episcopal is to graduate young individuals of unwavering integrity who are poised to achieve their aspirations, make a positive impact on the world, and confront intellectual challenges with determination.

In their small, interactive classrooms, students will come together to tackle complex questions and dissect potential solutions. They engage in intimate conversations where every voice is valued and respected.

The curriculum is diverse and ever-evolving, adapting to the changing world. Students will pursue knowledge and cultivate the skills required to utilize it effectively. Throughout this process, Episcopal High School offers support and uplifts each other, making each individual better in the process.

An Enriching Academic Experience

EHS’ academic program offers students a multitude of opportunities and challenges within a nurturing environment where they genuinely enjoy their learning experiences.

They encourage exploration and creativity, experimentation and analysis, which in turn cultivates resilience, creative thinking, and critical problem-solving skills – all vital tools for thriving and leading in our complex and interconnected world.

Educational Principles

Episcopal High School’s approach to education is deeply rooted in a commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. They are dedicated to preparing students not only for college but also for the challenges they will face in life beyond the classroom.

Nurturing Excellence in a Supportive Community

EHS provides guidance and support to young individuals, fostering an environment where they can strive for excellence. Their academic day is structured into seven periods, allowing for both elective courses and dedicated study time.

To graduate from EHS, you are required to earn a minimum of 23 credits over four years, including credits from afternoon programs.

Additionally, they offer an array of more than 40 Honors and Advanced courses in subjects such as English, math, social studies, science, languages, and various electives, including interdisciplinary studies.

Earning an EHS Diploma

Receiving a diploma from Episcopal High School signifies more than just meeting academic requirements. It represents a commitment to upholding high standards of honesty, integrity, and conduct. To earn this esteemed diploma, you must meet the following minimum academic criteria:

  • English: 4 credits
  • Mathematics: 3 credits
  • Social Studies: 2 credits
  • Foreign Language: 3 credits
  • Science: 2 credits
  • Fine Arts: 1 credit
  • Theology: 1 credit
  • Physical Education: 2 credits

Each credit is earned upon successful completion of a yearlong course, and half a credit is awarded for semester-long courses.

To graduate, a student must accumulate a minimum of 23 credits, with an average of six credits per school year. One of these six credits must be earned through participation in the afternoon program.

student reading book between the shelves in the library

Enhanced Educational Possibilities at Episcopal High School

For students who are eager to take on additional academic challenges, Episcopal High School provides access to over 40 Honors and Advanced courses. These specialized courses are designed for students who have demonstrated exceptional proficiency, meeting specific criteria set by each department.

Such criteria typically include impressive test scores and outstanding grades in preceding courses.

Honors and Advanced classes are available across a range of subjects, including essential courses like English, Math, Social Studies, Science, and Foreign Languages.

Moreover, these advanced offerings extend to various elective courses as well. It’s noteworthy that in the previous academic year, an impressive 82% of students who participated in Advanced Placement (AP) exams attained a score of three or higher, showcasing the commitment and aptitude of our student body.

Exploring Deeper Academic Horizons: Independent Learning at Episcopal High School

If you are a student who possesses a fervor for delving into subjects with exceptional depth, Episcopal High School offers a unique opportunity for Independent Study.

In this pursuit, students collaborate with a dedicated faculty mentor and the assistant head for academics to craft a specialized course that delves into a topic of their choosing.

This independent study serves as a valuable complement to the student’s regular coursework and typically spans a semester. It is both graded and earns students academic credit.

In the past, students have embarked on remarkable independent study journeys, ranging from advanced language exploration to in-depth investigations of historical figures and locales, as well as intensive studies in theater, literature, or theology.

Here are a few recent examples of independent study courses:

  • 3D Modeling & Architectural Interactive 3D Maps
  • Histoire de l’Art Français
  • Literature of Hip Hop
  • Magical Realism in Modern Mexican Literature
  • Photography through a Historical Lens
  • Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism
  • Prussian History
  • Stage Managing and Directing
  • Participation in the Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship Program

These semester-long endeavors are graded and contribute to a student’s overall grade point average, making them both academically enriching and personally fulfilling pursuits.

The Online Learning Experience at Episcopal High School

Episcopal High School has formed a partnership with Global Online Academy (GOA), a nonprofit alliance of prestigious independent schools worldwide.

Through this collaboration, EHS students gain a unique opportunity to engage in learning alongside peers from various corners of the globe, allowing them to explore their passions in ways that extend beyond the confines of a single campus.

Global Online Academy is driven by a mission to revolutionize the educational landscape, equipping students and educators to thrive in our interconnected global society. They achieve this by offering courses that empower students with the knowledge, skills, and mindset necessary for success in high school, college, careers, and life.

female student prepare project

A Global Platform for Expression

Through Global Online Academy, both teachers and students find a global stage where they can share their perspectives, enhance the learning experience, and actively pursue their individual interests.

The GOA consortium comprises over 85 independent schools hailing from more than 15 countries and 25 states worldwide. All GOA courses are developed and taught by teachers who are actively instructing at a GOA member school.

Earning Credits

For Episcopal juniors and seniors, participation in GOA courses can be counted as elective credits toward their academic journey.

These courses hold the same level of academic rigor and workload as those offered on campus. Unlike many online courses, GOA students are not passive recipients of prerecorded lectures; instead, they engage in collaborative projects with peers from across the world. They are also expected to effectively manage their workload and time, given the asynchronous nature of these courses.

Build Your Self-Confidence at Episcopal High School

At Episcopal High School, students enthusiastically embrace the intellectual excitement and challenges that their curriculum presents. With the guidance provided by our dedicated faculty in small classroom settings and during after-school tutorial sessions, most students thrive.

However, it’s natural for some students to initially grapple with developing effective study skills and habits needed to reach their full potential.

EHS is deeply committed to ensuring that every student feels confident in their academic abilities. To this end, we offer various avenues of academic support.

Collaboration with Learning Specialists

Our learning specialists collaborate closely with students who may be facing academic challenges. They start by understanding the individual strengths and areas requiring improvement. Together, they formulate a personalized plan for growth. This plan might encompass:

  • Reinforcing fundamental skills and concepts
  • Cultivating enhanced study techniques and habits
  • Organizing study materials and time effectively
  • Identifying suitable accommodations if needed
  • Recommending the assistance of a private tutor

Students may be referred to these specialists by parents, teachers, or advisors, or you can proactively seek support themselves. Sessions with learning specialists can be scheduled during free periods, daytime study halls, or tutorial times.

Female student being tutored by her teacher.

Diverse Tutoring Options

For students struggling with specific subjects or requiring organizational assistance, they offer a range of tutoring options. Professional tutors are available on campus to provide guidance across all academic disciplines.

Additionally, Episcopal High School provides training for peer tutors and mentors, who, in some cases, may be the best match for a student’s needs.

Their learning specialists are also readily available to help parents find the right tutor for their students.

Enhancing Writing Skills

Episcopal High School’s Writing Center staff offers supplementary support for students on any writing assignment. They collaborate with students during both evening and daytime study halls to assist with:

  • Structuring written work effectively
  • Formulating clear claim statements
  • Editing and revising drafts

Through these resources, Episcopal High School is dedicated to fostering not only academic success but also the development of essential skills that empower you to thrive in your educational journey.

multiracial students sharing meals while having a conversation

Cultural Immersion with Episcopal High School

To further enrich language studies and deepen the students’ understanding of foreign cultures, Episcopal High School offers several engaging programs that enable you to explore the world through language.

Every year, their dedicated faculty members lead captivating summer programs that transport students to Austria, Spain, and France, providing students with immersive experiences in diverse cultures and languages.

These experiences are designed to foster not only your language proficiency but also a genuine appreciation for the richness of global diversity.

Episcopal High School has also established meaningful exchange programs with partner schools in Austria, France, and Spain! Through these initiatives, students from abroad come to the campus, where they stay with Episcopal students.

Students are offered valuable chances to cultivate their teamwork and leadership abilities within a stimulating learning environment. This environment fosters mutual understanding, promotes open communication, and bolsters the sense of unity among teams through engaging small-group activities.

Participation in these journeys allows students to expand their cultural awareness and understanding, aligning with the overarching theme of the trip.

Simultaneously, these experiences encourage personal growth by enhancing self-awareness, self-understanding, and a sense of individual responsibility.

Theresianum Academy in Vienna: A Summer Partnership

For over two decades, Episcopal High School has cultivated a special partnership with Theresianum Academy in Vienna, Austria, through an inspiring student international exchange program.

This program is designed to forge meaningful bonds between EHS students and their counterparts at Theresianum. It offers EHS students a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the German language, experiencing it firsthand in its natural context within German-speaking Europe.

It also aims to provide EHS students with a profound appreciation of Austria’s historical significance in the broader context of Europe and its intricate history.

As part of this exchange, Austrian students visit Episcopal High School during the school year. In return, once EHS students graduate in June, they embark on a journey to Vienna, accompanied by German Teacher Hannah Ellington ’03.

During their stay, they have the choice to either live with host families or reside in the dormitory, depending on their Austrian exchange partner’s situation.

Episcopal High School students spend their mornings attending classes at Theresianum Academy, where they delve into academic pursuits. In the afternoons and evenings, they venture out to explore the captivating sights of Vienna, soaking in the rich cultural heritage of this remarkable city.

The group also embarks on a day trip to Salzburg, another historic Austrian city renowned for its exceptionally well-preserved city center, nestled north of the Alps.

a female student on a college tour

Le College Stanislas de Paris: An Unforgettable Parisian Experience

Episcopal High School proudly presents its long-standing France study abroad program, a remarkable student-exchange venture with Le Collège Stanislas de Paris. This enduring partnership has thrived for over a quarter of a century, offering students an exceptional opportunity for global exploration and cultural immersion.

Le Collège Stanislas is a renowned private Catholic institution located in the heart of Paris, precisely on Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs in the esteemed sixth arrondissement.

Boasting a student body of approximately 3,000, it ranks among the foremost private schools in France, celebrated for its academic excellence and rich heritage.

In past years, the exchange program has unfolded as a captivating cultural exchange. Students and educators from Stanislas journeyed to Episcopal High School for a three-week sojourn during the spring semester.

During this time, they resided in the Episcopal High School dormitories, attended classes, and embarked on an exploration of the Washington D.C. area.

In turn, Episcopal High School host students will go on a three-week adventure in June, residing with the families of their French exchange counterparts.

A typical day in Paris brimmed with activities, from morning classes at Collège Stanislas to enriching afternoon cultural excursions and evening engagements with host families.

The esteemed professors from Stanislas, who had already become acquainted with the Episcopal High School students, are offered personalized language courses, emphasizing conversational fluency and providing insights into history, art, and culture to enhance their afternoon outings.

This excursion is more than a mere trip; it’s a voyage of discovery. While students familiarize themselves with the iconic landmarks and rich historical tapestry of Paris, they also go on day trips and weekend adventures that unveil the architectural wonders of the Parisian region.

Students have been to enchanting locales such as Versailles, Chartres, Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Fontainebleau.

Furthermore, an extended four-day expedition, offering a broader spectrum of geographical and cultural experiences, is meticulously planned each year. Destinations like Cannes, Nice, Bordeaux, St. Malo, and Mont St. Michel have all played host to the enthusiastic explorers.

This summer exchange program is tailor-made for students eager to embrace the challenges and rewards of linguistic and cultural immersion. It’s an opportunity to forge lasting connections and build a deep understanding of a foreign culture, making memories that will last a lifetime.

Diverse group of happy students

Explore Seville: A Memorable Journey

Get ready for an unforgettable three weeks! The success of this program is a testament to the excitement of students, teachers, and host families, the diverse array of activities, and the fantastic camaraderie that naturally blossoms during these thrilling European adventures.

A select group of around 15 students will go on a school-sponsored exchange program to the enchanting city of Seville, Spain.

This program is made possible through a reciprocal partnership with El Colegio Buenaventurada Virgen María Irlandesas de Bami, skillfully coordinated by the Center for Cross-Cultural Study.

Participation in this exciting journey is by application only and is exclusively open to students who have successfully completed Spanish 2.

An Episcopal High School student’s Spanish adventure unfolds in Seville, a vibrant city located in the heart of Southern Spain, approximately 300 miles southwest of Madrid.

Seville holds the distinction of being the artistic, cultural, and financial hub of Southern Spain and ranks as the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Spain.

While this journey provides a rich introduction to Seville itself, it also offers students the opportunity to explore other historic gems in the vicinity. Destinations like Córdoba, Granada, Palos de la Frontera, and Itálica are on the itinerary, promising a well-rounded exploration of the region.

This exchange program, which was established six years ago between EHS and El Colegio Buenaventurada Virgen María Irlandesas de Bami (often referred to as “Las Irlandesas”), follows a unique pattern.

Episcopal High School students spend three enriching weeks in Seville during the summer, hosted by their counterparts at Las Irlandesas.

In return, the Irlandesas students visit the U.S. for a two-week program at EHS in September. The entire exchange program is skillfully coordinated by the Center for Cross-Cultural Study.

Upon arrival in Seville, students will receive a warm welcome from host families whose children are also students at Las Irlandesas.

These families serve as gracious host partners, affectionately known as “intercambios,” to the Episcopal High School’s students. Together with their Spanish hosts, students will go on captivating tours of the beautiful Andalucía region.

During the stay, Episcopal High School students engage in rigorous academic pursuits. They attend classes five days a week, immersing themselves in Spanish language, history, and culture at the Center for Cross-Cultural Study (CC-CS), found in the historic heart of Seville.

The courses encompass:

  • Intermediate Spanish Language (Offered in two groups for 3 hours/day, totaling 42 hours)
  • Foundations of Spanish Culture (One group for 1-hour sessions, totaling 6 hours)

All courses are taught by experienced CC-CS professionals, and students benefit from academic support, including access to an onsite writing center. To further enhance language learning, a Spanish-only policy is observed.

The program doesn’t stop at academics; it’s also a celebration of culture and exploration. Students go on study trips and cultural activities that include a captivating walking tour of Córdoba and Granada, kayaking adventures on the river, visits to theaters and concerts, cooking lessons, a flamenco workshop and performance, and an enlightening visit to the historic Corrida de Toros.

This journey promises a profound understanding of Spanish culture, immersive language learning, and unforgettable adventures!

Group of four hikers with backpacks walks in mountains at sunset

Embrace the Wild: The Annual Double Diamond Expedition

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Trustee Emeritus John L. Townsend III ’73, a group of 13 adventurous students will be gearing up for an exciting three-week journey into the untamed wilderness of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

This thrilling adventure, formerly known as Diamond Acre, has been rebranded as the Double Diamond Expedition.

Mr. Townsend, who discovered his passion for rock climbing as an adult and has conquered numerous iconic peaks in the Western United States, introduced this expedition in 2008. His goal was clear: to provide Episcopal students with a remarkable opportunity to challenge themselves and acquire essential outdoor skills.

In 2022, Mr. Townsend made a significant commitment to endow this expedition in perpetuity, ensuring that it remains accessible for generations to come.

The expedition is aptly named after Mr. Townsend’s very own Diamond Acre Ranch, nestled within the majestic Grand Teton National Park.

It’s a journey that promises a diverse range of outdoor experiences, including hiking and camping in the rugged terrains of Montana and Wyoming, thrilling whitewater rafting on the Salmon River in Idaho, and the ultimate challenge of scaling the iconic Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

This incredible adventure is exclusively tailored for Episcopal High School students, who are selected to participate based on a comprehensive application process and faculty recommendations.

This is an opportunity to explore the wild, test one’s limits, and build lifelong memories in the heart of nature.

Episcopal High School’s Admission Process

Episcopal High School warmly welcomes enthusiastic and talented young individuals of good character who are about to enter the 9th, 10th, or 11th grades. It’s important to note that they do not admit post-graduates or one-year seniors.

Female student talking to a male interviewer.

Admission Requirements

For a candidate to be considered for admission to Episcopal, the following prerequisites must be fulfilled:

Formal Application

Students should submit their applications using either the SSAT Standard Application Online (SAO) or the Gateway to Prep Schools online application.

These applications include a candidate profile with a non-refundable $60 application fee ($120 for international applicants), a student questionnaire featuring a personal essay, and a parent questionnaire.

Transcript Report

This report can be accessed online through either SSAT or Gateway to Prep Schools.


Recommendations should also be accessed online through SSAT or Gateway to Prep Schools and must come from:

  • The current counselor
  • The current English teacher
  • The current mathematics teacher
  •  A Special Interest or Personal Recommendation (Optional)

Personal Interview

Candidates will have the opportunity for a personal interview with an Episcopal High School Admissions officer.

Tracking Your Application

Applicants will be able to monitor the status of their formal application, along with the receipt of school reports and teacher recommendations, through the Gateway to Prep Schools website or the SSAT website.

Once all of the aforementioned requirements have been met, the Admissions Office will send you a confirmation email directly to your family.

scholarship for students

Scholarships and Tuition Fees at Episcopal High School

The opportunity to attend a boarding school is a privilege that only a small portion of the U.S. population can afford. Many, including alumni families, often don’t even consider applying, believing that the Episcopal High School experience is beyond their financial means.

In recent years, EHS has been actively working to address this issue. The 2018 strategic plan has a primary objective: to widen the spectrum of families who can access and afford The High School by bolstering scholarships and other financial aid resources.

Episcopal boasts a repertoire of over 100 endowed scholarship funds, which serve as a robust resource to make this transformative educational experience achievable for families who are interested but may face financial constraints.

Tuition Fees

As of the academic year 2023-24, the all-inclusive fee is set at $69,700. This encompassing fee covers various components, including tuition, accommodations, essential health center expenses, and the majority of school-sponsored academic, athletic, and recreational activities.

Notably, there are no additional fees for technology, course-related supplies and equipment, outdoor education, local special events, weekend activities, or daily meals provided through the dining hall.

These expenses, which can accumulate to as much as $3,500 annually at some schools, are fully covered. The only significant cost not included in tuition is the purchase of course-specific books and if needed, a personal computing device.

Notable Scholarships

In 2018, a significant contribution from Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie ’82 P’14 ’17 marked a substantial step forward in this initiative. It established two impactful need-based scholarship funds, each with a perpetual commitment. These scholarships provide full financial support for one student in each class every year.

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship is an annual opportunity specifically designed for extended family members of alumni and current students who may not have had access to the experience of following in the footsteps of their family members.

The Reginald W. Burns ’72 Scholarship program is dedicated to assisting students from historically underrepresented backgrounds who may not have the means to cover the entire tuition cost.

Episcopal High School stands as a beacon of excellence in the realm of secondary education. With a rich history dating back to 1839, it has evolved into a nurturing community that champions both academic and personal growth.

With a plethora of academic and extracurricular opportunities, students are not just prepared for college but also for life as informed, empathetic, and confident individuals.

If you need advice from experts in school admissions, AdmissionSight is here for you. With over a decade of experience assisting students in navigating the highly competitive admissions journey, we have a proven track record of helping individuals secure admission to prestigious global universities. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment today for your first consultation.


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