If you are looking for a school that can challenge you academically, spiritually, athletically, and militarily, you might consider the St. Thomas Academy, Minnesota. This is the only all-male, Catholic, college-preparatory military high school in Minnesota and one of the few in the nation.
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The St. Thomas Academy, or STA, has a long and proud history of developing boys into men of character who are ready to serve their country and their community. In this article, I will tell you more about this unique and prestigious school and what it takes to become a cadet.
Brief History of The St. Thomas Academy, Minnesota
The St. Thomas Academy was founded in 1885 by Archbishop John Ireland, who wanted to create a seminary for young men who wished to enter the priesthood. The school was initially located in downtown St. Paul and was named after St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of scholars. In 1905, the school became a U.S. Army school, and in 1916, it joined the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).
In 1922, the school split into two institutions: the College of St. Thomas, which later became the University of St. Thomas, and the St. Thomas Military Academy, which retained the high school and middle school programs. In 1965, the school moved to its current campus in Mendota Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. In 1971, the school added a sixth grade, and in 1974, it closed its boarding program. In 2015, the school separated from the JROTC but kept its military curriculum and traditions. 2017, the school welcomed its first fifth-grade class, making it a complete middle and high school.
How to Get Admission Into The St. Thomas Academy
Admission to the St. Thomas Academy is highly competitive and selective. The school accepts students from grades 5 to 12, but most applicants apply for the sixth or ninth grade. The admission process consists of several steps, including:
- Submitting an online application form, which includes personal information, academic records, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and a personal statement.
- Taking the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), a standardized test measuring verbal and quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and mathematics achievement. The test is offered several times yearly, and applicants can register online or by phone.
- Submitting a nomination form a recommendation letter from a current or former STA student, faculty, staff, or alumni. The nomination form is not required but is strongly encouraged, as it shows the applicant’s connection and interest in the school.
- Scheduling an interview and a shadow visit are opportunities for the applicant to meet with an admission officer and a current student and to experience a day in the life of a cadet. The interview and the shadow visit are usually conducted on the same day, lasting about four hours.
- Waiting for the admission decision, which is usually announced in early March. The admission committee considers the applicant’s academic performance, test scores, personal statement, nomination form, interview, shadow visit, and space availability in the desired grade level.
Tuition Cost of The St. Thomas Academy
The tuition for the St. Thomas Academy varies depending on the grade level. For the 2023-24 academic year, the tuition is:
- $18,500 for grade 5
- $21,500 for grades 6-8
- $24,200 for grades 9-12
The school also offers financial aid and scholarships to qualified students based on their financial needs and academic merit. The school awards over $3 million in financial aid and scholarships each year, and about 30% of the students receive some form of assistance.
Current Rankings of The St. Thomas Academy
The St. Thomas Academy is widely recognized as one of the best schools in Minnesota and in the nation. The school has received several accolades and honors, such as:
- Being ranked as the #1 Catholic high school in Minnesota and the #2 private high school in Minnesota by Niche.com, a website that evaluates schools based on academic, extracurricular, and diversity data.
- Being named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education which is the highest honor given to schools that demonstrate high academic standards and achievement. The school received this award in 1984, 1990, and 2009.
- It is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Independent Schools Association of the Central States, which evaluate schools based on their mission, vision, curriculum, faculty, facilities, and governance.
The St. Thomas Academy offers a rigorous and comprehensive academic program that prepares students for college and beyond. The school follows a college-preparatory curriculum that includes core subjects such as English, mathematics, science, social studies, theology, and world languages and electives such as fine arts, computer science, engineering, and business. The school also offers advanced placement (AP) courses, which are college-level courses that allow students to earn college credit and placement.
The school offers 19 AP courses, covering calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, statistics, economics, psychology, history, government, literature, and language. The school also offers honors courses, which are accelerated and enriched courses that challenge students to go beyond the standard curriculum. The school offers 24 honors courses, covering geometry, algebra, pre-calculus, trigonometry, physics, chemistry, biology, anatomy, environmental science, history, geography, literature, and language.
The school also has an Innovation Center, a state-of-the-art facility that fosters creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. The Innovation Center features a maker space, a robotics lab, a media lab, a design lab, and a learning commons. The Innovation Center allows students to explore various fields of study, such as engineering, computer science, graphic design, video production, and entrepreneurship. The Innovation Center hosts various events and activities, such as guest speakers, workshops, competitions, and clubs.
The school also has a College Counseling Department, which provides guidance and support to students and families throughout the college admission process. The College Counseling Department helps students with college research, application, essay, interview, testing, and financial aid. The College Counseling Department also organizes college visits, fairs, and nights, allowing students to meet with college representatives and learn more about different colleges and universities. The College Counseling Department also maintains a strong relationship with alumni, who often serve as mentors and resources for current students.
The school also has a Student Services Department, which provides academic, personal, and social support to students and families. The Student Services Department includes counselors, psychologists, nurses, and learning specialists, who work together to address the needs and concerns of students and families. The Student Services Department offers various services and programs, such as academic advising, tutoring, testing, counseling, health care, and learning accommodations. The Student Services Department also promotes wellness and prevention by educating students and families about topics such as stress management, mental health, substance abuse, and bullying.
Campus Life at The St. Thomas Academy
The St. Thomas Academy is more than just a school; it is a community. The school has a strong sense of brotherhood, which is fostered by the military tradition and the Catholic faith. The school has a military leadership program, which is a mandatory part of the curriculum for all students. The military leadership program teaches students the values of honor, respect, discipline, and service, as well as the skills of leadership, teamwork, and communication.
The military leadership program is organized into a brigade, which is divided into battalions, companies, platoons, and squads. Each student has a rank and a position and is expected to follow the chain of command and the code of conduct. The military leadership program also involves various activities and events, such as drills, inspections, parades, ceremonies, and competitions.
The military leadership program is not affiliated with any armed forces branch and does not require any commitment to military service after graduation. However, many graduates pursue a military career, and the school has a strong reputation for producing outstanding military officers and leaders.
The school also has a campus ministry program, which is an integral part of the school’s mission and identity. The campus ministry program helps students grow in their faith and spirituality, as well as in their service and social justice. The campus ministry program offers various opportunities for students to participate in the sacraments, prayer, retreats, and liturgies, as well as in local, national, and international service projects.
The campus ministry program also fosters a culture of respect and inclusion by celebrating the diversity of the school and global communities. The campus ministry program is guided by the charism of the Basilian Fathers, who are the religious order that sponsors the school. The Basilian Fathers are known for their motto: “Teach me goodness, discipline, and knowledge.”
The school also has a vibrant and diverse extracurricular program, which allows students to pursue their interests and passions outside the classroom. The school offers over 50 clubs and co-curricular activities, covering various areas such as academics, arts, athletics, culture, media, service, and spirituality. Some of the popular clubs and activities include:
- Math Team, which competes in various math contests and tournaments, such as the American Mathematics Competitions, the Minnesota State High School Mathematics League, and the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament.
- Science Olympiad, which participates in various science events and challenges, such as anatomy, astronomy, chemistry, engineering, physics, and robotics.
- Quiz Bowl tests students’ knowledge and speed in various subjects, such as literature, history, geography, science, arts, and sports.
- Model United Nations simulates the activities and debates of the United Nations and allows students to represent different countries and issues.
- Mock Trial, which involves students in a realistic courtroom experience, teaches them legal research, argumentation, and presentation skills.
- Band, which performs various musical genres and styles, such as concert, jazz, rock, and marching. The band also participates in various festivals and competitions, such as the Minnesota State High School League Music Contest, the University of Minnesota Honor Band Festival, and the Bands of America Regional Championships.
- Choir, which sings various musical genres and styles, such as classical, contemporary, sacred, and secular. The choir also participates in various festivals and competitions, such as the Minnesota State High School League Music Contest, the St. Olaf Choral Festival, and the American Choral Directors Association National Conference.
- Drama, which produces and performs various theatrical works, such as plays, musicals, and improv. The drama also participates in various festivals and competitions, such as the Minnesota State High School League One-Act Play Contest, the International Thespian Festival, and the ComedySportz High School League.
- Visual Arts showcases various artistic mediums and techniques, such as drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, and digital art. The visual arts also participate in various exhibitions and competitions, such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Competition, and the Congressional Art Competition.
- Football, one of the most successful and popular sports at the school, has won 12 state championships, the most recent in 2019. The football team plays in the Metro East Conference and is coached by Dan O’Brien, a former NFL player and coach.
- Hockey, another dominant and popular sport at the school, has won 8 state championships, the most recent in 2021. The hockey team plays in the Metro East Conference and is coached by Trent Eigner, a former college hockey player and coach.
- Basketball, a competitive and exciting sport at the school, won 3 state championships, the most recent one in 2008. The basketball team plays in the Metro East Conference and is coached by Jason Birr, a former college basketball player and coach.
- Other sports include baseball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, cross country, alpine skiing, nordic skiing, and wrestling. The school offers a variety of sports for students to choose from and encourages them to participate in at least one sport each year. The school also has a strong tradition of sportsmanship and excellence and has won the Minnesota State High School League Challenge Cup, which recognizes the best overall athletic program in the state, 10 times since 2003.
Notable Alumni of The St. Thomas Academy
The St. Thomas Academy has produced many notable alumni who have achieved success and recognition in various fields and professions. Some of the notable alumni include:
- Vince Flynn, was a best-selling author of political thrillers, such as the Mitch Rapp series. He graduated in 1984 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2007. He died of prostate cancer in 2013 at the age of 47.
- Matt Birk, was a professional football player who played for the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens. He graduated in 1994 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2014. He won the Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013 and retired from the NFL in 2014. He is currently the NFL’s director of football development.
- Tom Malchow, an Olympic swimmer, won a gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a silver medal in the same event at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He graduated in 1995 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2005. He is currently a swim coach and a motivational speaker.
- Chris Weinke, was a professional football player who played for the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers. He graduated in 1990 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2010. He also played college football at Florida State University, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2000 and led the team to the national championship in 1999. He is currently a quarterbacks coach for the Tennessee Volunteers.
- John Harrington, an Olympic hockey player, was part of the “Miracle on Ice” team that won the gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, defeating the Soviet Union and Finland. He graduated in 1975 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1985. He also played professional hockey in the NHL and Europe. He is currently the head coach of the Minnesota State Mavericks women’s hockey team.
The St. Thomas Academy, Minnesota, is a school that offers a unique education to young men who aspire to be leaders and achievers. The school combines a rigorous and comprehensive academic program, a military leadership program, a campus ministry program, and a vibrant and diverse extracurricular program to create a holistic and balanced learning environment. The school also has a rich and proud history, a strong and supportive community, and a distinguished and successful alumni network. The school is not for everyone, but for those looking for a challenge and an opportunity, the St. Thomas Academy, Minnesota, might be the perfect choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the common questions that people may have about the St. Thomas Academy, Minnesota, and their answers:
Is the St. Thomas Academy a boarding school?
A: No, the St. Thomas Academy is not a boarding school. The school closed its boarding program in 1974 and is now a day school. It serves students from various cities and counties in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, providing bus transportation for those far from the campus.
Is the St. Thomas Academy a military school?
Yes and no, the St. Thomas Academy is a military school, but not in the traditional sense. The school features a mandatory military leadership program integrated into the curriculum for all students. This program imparts values and skills such as honor, respect, discipline, service, leadership, teamwork, and communication. It involves drills, inspections, parades, ceremonies, and competitions. However, it is not affiliated with any armed forces branch, does not require a commitment to military service after graduation, and is just one facet of the school. St. Thomas Academy also offers a rigorous academic, campus ministry, and diverse extracurricular program.
Is the St. Thomas Academy a Catholic school?
Yes, the St. Thomas Academy is a Catholic school sponsored by the Basilian Fathers, a religious order following the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. The school’s campus ministry program aids students in growing in faith, spirituality, service, and social justice. It provides opportunities for participation in sacraments, prayer, retreats, liturgies, and local, national, and international service projects. Despite its Catholic foundation, the school welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds, promoting inclusivity and respecting diversity.
Q: What are the benefits of attending the St. Thomas Academy?
Attending St. Thomas Academy brings numerous advantages:
Receiving a high-quality education that prepares students for college and beyond. The school follows a college-preparatory curriculum, including core subjects, electives, advanced placement, and honors courses. It houses an Innovation Center fostering creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. The College Counseling Department guides the admission process, and the Student Services Department offers academic, personal, and social support.
Developing character and leadership for life and career. The military leadership program instills values and skills, complemented by the campus ministry program fostering faith, spirituality, service, and social justice. A vibrant extracurricular program allows students to pursue interests outside the classroom.
Joining a community and network that supports and inspires students. The school’s military tradition and Catholic faith foster a strong sense of brotherhood. A dedicated faculty and staff ensure student success and a distinguished alumni network inspires. The parent and donor community generously contributes to the school’s mission.
Enjoying a beautiful and modern campus that enhances the learning experience. Located on a 72-acre campus in Mendota Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, the campus features various facilities and amenities, including classrooms, labs, libraries, auditoriums, gyms, fields, courts, pools, tracks, and trails. The campus also includes a chapel, a museum, a memorial, and a statue honoring the school’s history. A wireless network, a security system, and a sustainability program ensure the safety and efficiency of the campus.