High school military academies are scattered throughout the United States, but as far as I can determine, no state can lay claim to as many private military academies as Virginia. Altogether, there are six high school military academies in Virginia—five boarding academies and one day academy.
Perhaps it is the influence of so much history in this state, through both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, or because of the proud military history of colleges such as Virginia Military Institute and Virginia Tech (which was once more familiar as VPI, or Virginia Polytechnic Institute). Maybe it is due to the proximity to Washington D.C., the Pentagon, and the heavy military presence in the state through numerous military bases. Whatever the reason, there is an undeniable appreciation of the military in Virginia. And although the students of military academies in Virginia are not required to enter the military—in fact, well over 90% of graduates go directly to a four-year college the fall after graduation—there is a deep appreciation of the qualities a military education has to offer; qualities that have seemed lost in today’s society…qualities such as responsibility, leadership, accountability, respect, patriotism, and integrity.
Each of the six military academies in Virginia share commonalities. They are college-prep schools. They teach an appreciation for our freedoms and responsibilities as American citizens. They offer structured programs that are designed to help students develop the self-discipline to succeed in college and in life.
In spite of these similarities, each of the military academies is unique. I’m not an expert on each one, but here are a few of the obvious differences:
Benedictine High School—This is the only day military academy. Located in Richmond, VA, this school offers an independent military program that is not affiliated with any branch of the military. It is the only Catholic-affiliated school in the group, and it is the youngest as well, founded in 1911. The school is for boys in grades 9-12.
Fishburne Military School—For grades 8-12, Fishburne offers an Army JROTC program as its military structure. The school is the oldest, founded in 1879, in Waynesboro, VA. It has no religious affiliation. This one is also boys-only and offers both day and boarding programs.
Fork Union Military Academy—Another all-male day and boarding school, Fork Union stands out by the nature of its academic program, which is a one-subject plan. Its military program, like Benedictine’s, is an independent program. This school is affiliated with the Baptist Church and provides day and boarding programs for boys in grades 6-12 as well as postgraduates, with a strong postgraduate sports program. It is located in—you guessed it—Fork Union, VA.
Hargrave Military Academy—This military academy is located almost as far south as you can get without leaving the state, in Chatham, VA. Hargrave is well-known as a destination for top athletes who need to work on their grades and/or test scores before attending college. It is also a Baptist-affiliated program with an independent military program. Hargrave serves students from grades 7-12 as well as postgraduates with both day and boarding programs.
Massanutten Academy—Massanutten is one of only two co-ed military academies—and sorry, ladies, but both schools are in the northwestern part of Virginia. This is the other military academy that offers an Army JROTC program. Located in Woodstock, VA, Massanutten has day and boarding programs for grades 7-12 and postgraduates.
Randolph-Macon Academy—This is the only Virginia military academy affiliated with Air Force JROTC and also the only one affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It is the other co-ed military academy, with day and boarding programs for grades 6-12 and postgraduates. One note would be that the middle school—grades 6-8—does not participate in the JROTC program, although it does offer a structured day.
I hope that gives you at least enough information to know which ones you would like to explore further. Some are more strict than others, and there are cultural differences that you won't know about until you visit. All six of these Virginia military academies are worth considering for your son or daughter’s education.