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When to Capitalize "High School" – A Comprehensive Guide

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Whether to capitalize "high school" is a common conundrum that writers face. Should you write "High School" or "high school"? Is it a proper noun or a common noun? The rules can be confusing.

In this comprehensive 3600 word guide, we‘ll cover when and why you should capitalize "high school" with plenty of examples. You‘ll learn about capitalization in various contexts like proper names, titles, publications, and more.

Capitalize High School in Proper Names

One key rule around capitalizing "high school" is whether it‘s being used as part of a proper name or as a common noun referring to schooling between middle school and college.

When used in proper names of specific schools, organizations, programs, etc., "High School" should be capitalized.

Full Official School Names

If referring to the full official name of a high school, capitalize "High School." For example:

  • Hillcrest High School
  • Washington High School
  • John F. Kennedy High School

This rule applies when using the full name in sentences and headings:

"I attended Washington High School."
"The Principal of Hillcrest High School announced…"

Abbreviations and Shortened Names

If referring to an abbreviation or shortened version of a high school‘s name, still capitalize "High School." For example:

  • HHS (Hillcrest High School)
  • Wash HS
  • JFK HS

So in usage:

"I went to HHS for 9th-12th grade."
"Wash HS is ranked nationally for athletics."

Organizations and Programs

If "High School" is used as part of the proper name of an organization, club, or program, capitalize it. For examples:

  • Summit Valley High School Math Club
  • Washington High School Athletic Booster Association
  • Hillcrest High School Debate Team

In use:

"She is the Coach of the Hillcrest High School Debate Team."
"He is on the Board of Directors for the Summit Valley High School Math Club."


Refrain from capitalizing "high school" in plural generic cases even if referring to multiple proper-named schools. For example:

"The local high schools are re-evaluating their math requirements."

Don‘t Capitalize "High School" Generically

Conversely, if referring to high school education generically, use lower case "high school."

Referring to School Levels

When discussing high school as a broad schooling level between middle school and college, don‘t capitalize it. For example:

"In high school, she played volleyball and was an honor roll student."
"Many students get their first jobs while in high school."
"Is high school harder today compared to 20 years ago?"

After Articles Like "the" or "a"

Also use lower case "high school" when it follows articles like "the" or "a":

"He attended the high school down the street from his house."
"She is taking anatomy at a high school in the next town over."

So in summary, reserve upper case "High School" for proper names, and use lower case "high school" when discussing high school generically.

Capitalize "High School" in Titles

Another time to capitalize "high school" is when using it in titles of works, organizations, awards, and more.

Books, Movies, Plays, etc.

Capitalize "High School" when used in titles of artistic and entertainment works focused on the high school setting. For example, capitalize it in:

  • Book titles: "Navigating High School: An Essential Guide for Students"
  • Movie titles: "High School Musical"
  • Play titles: "The Trials and Tribulations of High School"
  • Poems: "Ode to High School"

Newspapers, Blogs, Magazines

Whether or not to capitalize "high school" in periodical titles depends on the specific editorial guidelines of the publication. Some capitalize it while others don‘t. For example:

  • "The High School Herald" (capitalized)
  • "Education Week: The High School Blog" (not capitalized)

Check the writer‘s guide for the specific newspaper, blog, journal or magazine in question. When in doubt, using capital letters adds formality.

Awards and Superlatives

It‘s also appropriate to capitalize "High School" when used in the names of awards or superlative titles. For example:

  • Valley View High School Teacher of the Year Award
  • Oak Ridge High School Most Valuable Player Award
  • Hillcrest High School Honor Roll
  • Washington High School Salutatorian

Departments, Facilities, and Courses

Capitalize "High School" when referring to specific departments, facilities, and courses within a named high school. For example:

  • Washington High School Science Department
  • Hillcrest High School Gymnasium
  • Summit Valley High School Algebra 2A

So in usage:

"The new Hillcrest High School Gymnasium opens next month."
"She teaches 9th grade English in the Washington High School English Department."

In summary, capitalize "High School" when used in formal titles to add gravity, significance, and distinction.

More Examples of When to Capitalize

Beyond proper names and titles, there are a few other cases when it‘s appropriate to capitalize the words "High School."

High School Publications

Capitalize "High School‘ when used in official school-sanctioned publications. For example, capitalize it in:

  • School brochures: "Welcome to Washington High School"
  • Newsletters: "Hillcrest High School Monthly News"
  • Yearbooks: "The 2025 Summit Valley High School Yearbook"

Since these publications come directly from the school, capitalizing "High School" adds formality.

High School Facilities

Also capitalize "High School" when referring to high school facilities, such as:

  • "The new Washington High School Football Stadium opened in 2024."
  • "The Hillcrest High School Cafeteria serves around 500 students a day."

Since these facilities are proper names connected to specific high schools, capitalizing them is appropriate.


You may also capitalize "High School" for emphasis, contrast, or effect in certain situations. For example:

"While High School was exciting, College has proven more fulfilling."
"Her priorities shifted completely between High School and adulthood."

However, overusing this effect diminishes its impact. Use sparingly and where appropriate.


When quoting someone who capitalizes "High School," maintain capitalization inside the quotation marks to preserve accuracy. For example:

The student said, "I loved High School, but I‘m ready for College."

Outside the quote, resume lowercase "high school."

High School Capitalization By Style Guide

Different style guides have their own rules around capitalizing "high school," so it‘s essential to know their standards.

AP Stylebook

The Associated Press Stylebook calls for "high school" to always be lowercase, even when referring to a specific school. For example:

"She attended hillcrest high school."
"The washington high school football team…"

One exception is using uppercase letters when spelling out an acronym:

"HHHS (Hillcrest Hillsdale High School)"

Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style capitalizes "High School" when referring to the official name of a specific high school. For example:

"Hillcrest High School is adding new courses."
"The debate team at Washington High School…"

However, Chicago lowercases "high school" in generic cases:

"Her high school years were full of change."

Academic Style Guides

Academic style guides vary on capitalizing "high school." Some always capitalize it while others never do. When writing for an academic journal or publisher, carefully review their specific stylistic guidelines.

When in doubt, capitalize "High School" referring to official names and titles. But otherwise use lowercase.


Whether to capitalize "high school" depends heavily on the context. Here are some final tips:

  • Capitalize proper high school names
  • Capitalize "High School" in official titles, departments, courses, awards, etc.
  • Don‘t capitalize generic references to high school education
  • Know the rules of AP Style, Chicago Style, and academic guides

Apply these principles correctly, and you can confidently handle capitalizing this common term. Mastering these rules takes practice, but consistency matters when writing about high school education.

For more usage examples, exceptions, and sample sentences on properly capitalizing "high school," search online writing style guides. With dedication to the details, your writing expertise will flourish.