Which high schools have the best Model UN team in North America? We devised a rankings system that answers this question in order to recognize the top teams on the circuit for their accomplishments.
Please read the methodology article first before jumping into the rankings. We clarify in the article our purpose for doing rankings, our philosophy that drives what we value in the rankings, and our methodology.
With that said, here are the Top 25 Model UN teams in North America plus some interesting stories and trends! Please keep into perspective that being ranked anywhere in our entire top 150 already puts these teams in the top 10% of all schools that attended Model UN conferences this year.
North America’s Best High School Model UN Teams: 2011-2012 Spring Rankings Top 25 “Best Delegations”
All of these teams have won or contended for a delegation award at one of the most competitive conferences — most of these have won or contended for several of them. In addition, they have also won a large delegation award at a large or regional conference or have consistently contended for them across conferences. There are plenty of head-to-head matchups at this level in the rankings so we’ve continued to rank the top 25 by individual places. Please keep in mind that this ranking is more comparable to last year’s top 25 ranking than our Fall rankings and that the rankings are based on an aggregate score from four conferences rather than head-to-head matchups. Again, here is the methodology that explains our philosophy and reasoning.
What were some of the major stories in the top 25?
On the East Coast, everyone had been always gunning to beat Dalton which had been undefeated for over five years, and Horace Mann finally pulled that off — twice. All the East Coast teams seamed eager to face off against Mira Costa after they achieved top rank last year, and teams converged upon NAIMUN to make it by far the most competitive conference this year — several teams that had won Best Large at regional conferences couldn’t even place in the top 25 at NAIMUN. Overall, East Coast teams still have many more opportunities to participate at more competitive conferences, and that helped boost up the profile of schools that did not win delegation awards but had many individual award winners.
In the Midwest, teams have seen how Chicago Lab travels around the entire country — they notably went south this year to GTMUN — and gained national prominence that way. Private schools like St. Ignatius (and Culver Academies in the top 50) have followed suit and traveled to both coasts this year. But there was also a rising sentiment from many Midwestern public schools that this type of competitive mindset is not what Model UN is about. Model UN is more about the educational experience in the Midwest, and the majority of the teams here want to keep it that way. We noticed that they purposely selected conferences that emphasized an educational mission, and teams have mentioned that we should cover more of these conferences instead of just focusing on the bi-coastal competitions.
In the South, teams are still chasing Port Charlotte, which had another excellent year, but several teams have realized that perhaps the antidote was to start finding success outside of the state of Florida. We saw Gulf Coast win at CMUNCE and BruinMUN, Canterbury win at NAIMUN and BUSUN, and Cape Coral (in the top 50) win at BosMUN. All of these teams are relatively new to traveling out of state and have yet to reach their potential. Given their success already, one can only imagine the impact that the Southwest Florida Model UN hotbed (which we will feature in an upcoming article) will have on the national scene in future years as teams from that area gain more experience.
On the West Coast, the three heavyweights Mira Costa, Huntington Beach, and Cerritos continued to renew their annual, multi-conference rivalry, and the addition of RHSMUN from Salt Lake City to San Francisco added one more conference to the mix. The more interesting story was that a significant number of teams from outside of California attended BMUN this year. Some notable non-Californian teams mentioned it was not as competitive as they thought it would be, while others said they now understand how difficult it is competing with multiple class programs in the same room. At the same time, some non-top 25 California club programs saw how good the non-California teams are, while others said they weren’t that impressed and didn’t think they made the conference was more competitive than usual. The verdict is inconclusive, and that just means the West Coast versus East Coast rivalry will continue.
Although our rankings have encouraged only some teams to attend more conferences — it’s partially because we placed a temporary cap of four scores and partially due to external factors like administration restrictions and funding that schools didn’t attend more — we have seen a slight trend by several larger programs to split up their teams on back-to-back weekends (Huntington Beach at BruinMUN and WMHSMUN, Chicago Lab at PMUNC and CIMUN) or on the same weekend (Cerritos at NHSMUN and BMUN, New Canaan at CMUNC and DartMUN). These teams all won delegation awards at both conferences they attended, and that’s a testament to the depth of these teams.
Finally, Best Delegate and several Secretaries-General have noticed that it’s no longer just about rivals pairing up to compete against each other at conferences. Instead, the bigger trend is that now many of the powerhouse teams have essentially formed an informal cartel to decide which conference they will all go to. Sometimes, they picked a conference that welcomed the competition and had been trying hard to recruit the top teams to attend, and those conferences were able to foster an extremely challenging environment for the delegates that wanted to test their skills against the best. Other times, they picked a conference that had an educational focus or whose staff wasn’t prepared to deal with strong delegates, and that led to frustrating experiences all around but particularly so for long-time attendees of some of these conferences. Regardless, cartels look like they are here to stay, and that will have both positive and negative impacts to the circuit in the coming years.
The Top 25 (1-25):
1. Horace Mann School (New York)
There shouldn’t be any controversy this year: Horace Mann is the number one team in the nation after placing higher than 17 of our top 25 teams in head-to-head competition en route to an undefeated season. Horace Mann started the year by snapping rival Dalton’s roughly five-year unbeaten streak when it won Best Large Delegation at a stacked Princeton PMUNC. Horace Mann then followed-up with a pair of Best Large Delegation awards at two of the most competitive conferences of the year, U.Penn ILMUNC and Georgetown NAIMUN, with the latter being by far the most competitive conference of the year. It then rounded out its season with a Best Small Delegation at Cornell CMUNC. With a significantly upgraded training pipeline that takes advantage of its local New York area conferences such as Columbia CMUNCE, Seton Hall SHUMUN, Stuyvesant StuyMUNC, and their own novice conference, Horace Mann HoMMUNC, the question for next year isn’t if they’ll beat Dalton again. The question is if Horace Mann is poised to start another dynasty reminiscent of its early 2000’s dominance.
2. Mira Costa High School (California)
Mira Costa had a big target on their back this year but was able to prove that they are one of the best teams in the nation. It won Outstanding Large Delegation at Georgetown NAIMUN and the strength of that victory — along with the fact that they won more awards and weighted points than Best Large Delegation winner Horace Mann — helped them maintain their top 5 ranking. Mira Costa also added a Best Class Delegation at Berkeley BMUN (we converted to second place overall), a Best Large Delegation at McGill SSUNS, and an Award of Excellence at Regionals RHSMUN (equivalent to Outstanding Large Delegation). Both the second places came behind rival Huntington Beach, which seemed to have Mira Costa’s number this year although Mira Costa has the better national profile. In addition, Mira Costa also won Best Large Delegation at two high school-hosted conferences with 600+ delegates, Huntington Beach Surf City MUN (shared with Edison) and Edison EHSMUN (shared with Huntington Beach). The team will face their rivals again at UCSD TritonMUN. Mira Costa also hosted their LAIMUN conference and attended three other novice conferences this year: Santa Margarita SOCOMUN, Cerritos CHSMUN, Huntington Beach novice.
3. University of Chicago Laboratory School (Illinois)
Chicago Lab is also one of the best teams in the nation. It won Outstanding Large Delegation at Harvard HMUN and the strength of that victory — along with the fact that they also won more awards and weighted points than Best Large Delegation winner J.P. Stevens — helped them maintain their top 5 ranking. Chicago Lab impressively split its team in December and won Best Small Delegation at Princeton PMUNC and 2nd place country delegation at Chicago International CIMUN on back-to-back weekends. The team also was the 4th place country delegation at Georgia Tech GTMUN (converted to third overall team; note that this was a correction by GTMUN). These results added up to a high score, particularly since Chicago Lab faced at least three other top-25 teams at every conference it participated in this year. Chicago Lab will finish its season closer to home at Northwestern NUMUN.
4. Port Charlotte High School (Florida)
Port Charlotte dominated in the Fall, winning the George P. Burdell Cup for a first place delegation and fielded a second place delegation at the same time at Georgia Tech GTMUN (equivalent to dominating Best Large Delegation). It then took home the Coon Award for Diplomacy at William & Mary WMHSMUN (equivalent to Best Large Delegation). Port Charlotte once again showed that it is one of the best teams in the nation with a strong performance at Harvard HMUN with a fourth place overall finish in terms of weighted points — this was only one weighted point behind third place Oceanside and virtually a tie since Port Charlotte had more individual awards. The strength of that performance also helped keep them in the top 5. But if there was any doubt, Port Charlotte diffused it when it ran away with the Best Large Delegation at George Washington WAMUNC by a comfortable margin over Oceanside and other top 10 teams. Finally, it won the equivalent to Best Large Delegation at both Florida GatorMUN and Southwest Florida SWFLMUN, proving that it still is the team to beat in Florida and beyond.
5. West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South (New Jersey)
SouthMUN put in a solid top 5 performance at a competitive Princeton PMUNC to start the season. It was able to fielded a larger team closer to home at U.Penn ILMUNC and won Outstanding Large Delegation there. Afterward, the team traveled down to Georgetown NAIMUN where it took home the Best Small Delegation in a very competitive and close race — they ultimately tied with Dalton for third place overall and was one weighted point above Outstanding Small Delegation winner Canterbury. Finally, SouthMUN ended the season with a 2nd place overall at George Washington WAMUNC. Although SouthMUN tied once at NAIMUN and “lost” once at PMUNC to Dalton, they got the edge in aggregate scoring with slightly better overall results and a slightly better strength of schedule. SouthMUN is not just the highest-ranked team from the MUN hotbed state of New Jersey but also one of the best in North America.
6. The Dalton School (New York)
Although Dalton did not go undefeated this year, any talk about their potential demise would be greatly exaggerated because the team had an excellent year by any standard. After participating at the Horace Mann HoMMUNC novice conference, Dalton won Best Large Delegation at Rutgers RUMUN and finished a strong run in the Fall with an Outstanding Large Delegation at Princeton PMUNC. Dalton may not have gotten publicity from Georgetown NAIMUN since they didn’t win a delegation award, but they were actually third overall — tied with West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South and one weighted point above Canterbury — in one of the most competitive matchups in recent history, and that showed that Dalton is still top-notch. Finally, Dalton went out to the West Coast where they took home a Best Club Delegation at Berkeley BMUN (4th overall but first among club programs). All these results were good enough to keep Dalton near the top. High school students like to think of the top five programs as the “P5,” but when it comes to natural cut-off scores in our rankings, there were actually six elite teams that were a notch above the rest of the top 25 and Dalton belongs in that group.
7. West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North (New Jersey)
West Windsor-Plainsboro HS North was consistently good at its first two conferences, placing in the top 5 at both Princeton PMUNC and U.Penn ILMUNC, but had weighted scores that were a notch below the top teams. But perhaps the spark in the team this year was getting away from rival and de facto travel partner West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South for once in the schedule and carving their own path. Given the chance to shine on their own spotlight, WWP North defended their Best Large Delegation at Johns Hopkins JHUMUNC. That renewed confidence enabled them to also win Best Small Delegation at George Washington WAMUNC where they significantly narrowed the gap between themselves and WWP South. WWP North will return a solid group of delegates and should be in position to try to catch their WWP South rival and contend for top 5 status.
8. Huntington Beach High School (California)
Huntington Beach is difficult to beat when they are at full-strength. The team went undefeated against rivals Mira Costa and Cerritos at several conferences including Berkeley BMUN where they won one of three Best Class Delegations (we converted to first place overall) and Best Delegation at Regionals RHSMUN. It also impressively split its team in the Fall and won on back-to-back weekends, taking home the Bruin Award at UCLA BruinMUN (converted to Outstanding Large) and Best Large Delegation at William & Mary WMHSMUN (converted to Outstanding Large below the Coon Award). In addition to its four scores above, Huntington Beach further proved its dominance in California by winning Best Large Delegation at two high school-hosted conferences with 600+ delegates, Edison EHSMUN (shared with Mira Costa) and Mission Viejo MVHSMUN. The team has one more conference to go, UCSD TritonMUN. Huntington Beach also hosted two conferences this year, Surf City MUN and its Huntington Beach novice conference.
9. Cerritos High School (California)
Cerritos was on an upward trajectory the entire season and peaked at the right time in impressive fashion. The team finished 3rd to rivals Mira Costa and Huntington Beach at Regionals RHSMUN but didn’t rank in the Fall. It then showed some improvement with an Outstanding Large Delegation at Duke DUMUNC. But Cerritos showed its true power in March when it won the Award of Distinction at Nationals NHSMUN (equivalent to Best Large Delegation since they were the only large delegation to receive that and the Research Award) and a Best Class Delegation at Berkeley BMUN (we converted to third place overall) on the same weekend with a split team. The upside? The juniors were all at NHSMUN, meaning Cerritos should be fielding an even stronger team next year. Cerritos also received awards at Edison EHSMUN, UCSB GauchoMUN, and Huntington Beach Surf City MUN. It will finish off its season by splitting its team once more to attend UC Irvine UCIMUN and UC Davis’ DavisMUN on back-to-back weekends. Cerritos also hosted its CHSMUN novice conference at the beginning of the year.
10. J.P. Stevens High School (New Jersey)
Undefeated J.P. Stevens would place as high as #2 in the nation if this was a power ranking based on a team’s performance at only the most competitive conference they participated in. J.P. Stevens started off with a dominating performance at Virginia VAMUN. It then achieved its greatest success in club history by winning Best Large Delegation at Harvard HMUN. Finally, it ended its season by winning Best Large Delegation at Cornell CMUNC. For a team that could only attend three conferences (our ranking uses four scores) because their funding was about to get cut at the beginning of the school year, being able to place into the top 10 is already a very impressive feat and a proud comeback for this public school. Better yet, it seems like most of their peers recognize them as an elite team now. J.P. Stevens is graduating a strong group of seniors but will return a solid group of juniors plus upcoming talent developed from its JPSMUN novice conference, and the team will look to upgrade its conference schedule next year.
11. Oceanside High School (New York)
Oceanside seems to favor going up against the best, and despite not winning a delegation award this year, they continue to be recognized as one of the best teams in the nation. That’s because they have contended for a delegation award every time at some of the most competitive conferences on the circuit. Oceanside placed 3rd at Princeton PMUNC, 3rd at Harvard HMUN, and 4th at George Washington WAMUNC. Their achievements relative to their strength of schedule enabled them to almost break into the top 10 despite having only three scores whereas everyone else except for J.P. Stevens has four (or more). Oceanside did add a third conference to its schedule this year — will it continue to add more as it seeks to go up against the best?
12. Canterbury School – Fort Myers (Florida)
Canterbury fielded perhaps one of the best-ever small delegations. In terms of competitiveness, Canterbury is as good as any top-10 team as it kept right up with the established powerhouses at Georgetown NAIMUN, ultimately finishing fifth overall with only one weighted point behind Dalton and West Windsor-Plainsboro HS South — those teams practically tied in the grand scheme of the rankings scoring. Canterbury had the most gavels of any team at NAIMUN though and took home the Outstanding Small Delegation. The team also received what we equated to as best small delegation at Brown BUSUN and won at its in-state University of Central Florida KnightMUN and Old City OCMUNC conferences. A newcomer to the Northeast conferences who has surprised itself with wins at Harvard and Georgetown in the past two years, Canterbury will be a team to watch as it gains more experience outside of Florida.
13. St. Ignatius College Prep (Illinois)
Life for St. Ignatius has gotten significantly tougher as the team embarked on an upgraded national schedule this year. At full-strength, St. Ignatius showed that it is one of the best teams in the Midwest after winning 1st Place Delegation at Chicago International CIMUN. The team was successful outside the Midwest, too. It took home the Outstanding Large Delegation at Columbia CMUNCE, finished in the top 10 at Georgetown NAIMUN, and won Best Club Delegation at Berkeley BMUN (it was a top 10 finish). The unique experience gained from participating against some of the best teams from around the country this year should yield dividends in future years as St. Ignatius looks to cement itself as a powerhouse.
14. East Brunswick High School (New Jersey)
East Brunswick started off its season with an Outstanding Large Delegation at Rutgers RUMUN. Several teams attended both extremes of a very competitive conference and an education-oriented conference but none was able to be as successful as East Brunswick. In their case, East Brunswick put in a top 10 performance at Georgetown NAIMUN, their competitive conference, and received an Award of Excellence (converted to a top 5 finish) at Nationals NHSMUN, their educational conference. The team also did well at Johns Hopkins JHUMUNC. East Brunswick hails from the more educational side of Model UN having been a traditional participant of NHSMUN and seemed to go through some growing pains at NAIMUN this year, but it still did well and is in good shape to adapt to both types of conference philosophies in the future.
15. Centennial High School (Georgia)
Centennial continues to be one of the best teams in the South. Centennial has traditionally stayed in-state and makes one trip at year to Nationals NHSMUN, and they have made the most of their opportunities. Centennial received the 3rd place country delegation at Georgia Tech GTMUN (converted to 2nd place overall team; note this was a correction from GTMUN), an Award of Distinction at Southern United States SUSMUN (equivalent to Best Large Delegation), and a Best Delegation at Georgia UGAMUNC. Finally, it received an Award of Distinction at Nationals NHSMUN (we converted to the equivalent of a shared Outstanding Large Delegation with Highland Park). Centennial’s results this year are actually slightly better than its results from last year with a similar schedule, but the drop in rank isn’t absolute — it’s more of a sign that teams have just toughened its out-of-state scheduling relative to last year. But when it comes to the actual quality of the team, Centennial demonstrated at NHSMUN that it hasn’t missed a beat.
16. Highland Park High School (Illinois)
Highland Park repeated similar results with a similar schedule as last year to maintain their top 25 ranking. The highlight of the Fall was a third place overall finish at Chicago International CIMUN behind only the two Chicago private schools, and the highlight of the Spring was earning the Award of Distinction at Nationals NHSMUN (we converted to the equivalent of a shared Outstanding Large Delegation with Centennial). Highland Park and Deerfield almost have similar profiles, but Highland Park ranked higher on the strength of the higher-weighted NHSMUN victory. Highland Park is the highest ranked team with only two scores.
17. Deerfield High School (Illinois)
Deerfield enters into the top 25 as the highest-ranked newcomer after two very strong performances. The first accomplishment was closer to home when Deerfield placed second overall at U.Chicago MUNUC (we converted it to an Outstanding Large Delegation). It then went to the East Coast and received an Award of Excellence (we converted to a top-five finish) at Nationals NHSMUN. That award combined with Highland Park’s and Chicagoland Jewish’s delegation awards definitely put Chicago — or more specifically, the mini-MUN hub of next door cities Deerfield and Highland Park — on the map at NHSMUN. It’ll be interesting to see how Deerfield manages this success in future years.
18. Princeton High School (New Jersey)
Princeton is a rising team in an already crowded New Jersey field, but it looks like they are here to stay after taking home several delegation awards this year. The team’s highlights include an Outstanding Large Delegation award at Virginia VAMUN, a Best Small Delegation at Columbia CMUNCE, and a top 10 finish at Georgetown NAIMUN. There is still a gap in weighted points between Princeton and the best teams at the conferences that it attended, but given their success with a solid schedule Princeton should be in good shape to keep contending for delegation awards next year.
19. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology (Virginia)
Thomas Jefferson is a good team that doesn’t get enough press relative to its successes because it splits it schedule between local and national conferences. On the national level, the team won an Outstanding Large Delegation at William & Mary WMHSMUN (converted to third overall) and contended for a large delegation award at U.Penn ILMUNC, ultimately finishing third overall again. That put the team in pretty good company. In between those two conferences, Thomas Jefferson has been successful at CD Hylton PWMUN and Chantilly CHMUN. Thomas Jefferson also contributes to the development of the local circuit by hosting its TECHMUN conference.
20. Gulf Coast High School (Florida)
If a new club wants a blueprint for transitioning from local to national success, look no further than Gulf Coast. The team is only in its second year traveling outside of Florida and smartly picked conferences that were competitive yet manageable — none of them were over 1,000 delegates — for its rapidly improving team. Gulf Coast ended up winning two delegation awards: Best Large Delegation at Columbia CMUNCE and Best Small Delegation at UCLA BruinMUN. It also placed second overall at Florida GatorMUN, third overall at Southwest Florida SWFLMUN, and fourth overall at Georgia Tech GTMUN (the latter two were converted since those conferences use country delegations). It’s relative success traveling outside the Southeast compared with its results competing against teams at full-strength in the South shows that the team is top-heavy at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see how they appropriately upgrade their schedule next year and develop more depth in their team.
21. Franklin High School (New Jersey)
Franklin maintained its top 25 status with solid performances at all the conferences it attended. It students fielded an unofficial team to Rutgers RUMUN to start off the season. The team then recorded two top-10 finishes by placing 6th overall at U.Penn ILMUNC and receiving an Award of Merit at Nationals NHSMUN (plus a Research Award) before ending its season with a top-five result at George Washington WAMUNC. Although a few teams may have finished higher than Franklin at an individual conference, Franklin had been consistently better throughout the season. The team also attended the IDIA-hosted Philadelphia PhilMUN conference and launched its own FHSMUN novice conference.
22. Langley High School (Virginia)
Langley enters into the top 25 after barely missing it last year. Langley had a similar schedule as rival Thomas Jefferson, and the team held its own by placing in the top 5 at both U.Penn ILMUNC and William & Mary WMHSMUN. These results were good enough to bump them up into the top 25. Similar to Richland Northeast which also had two scores, it remains to be seen if Langley will attend more conferences, even local high school-hosted ones like rival Thomas Jefferson does, to keep up with aggregate scoring in future years.
23. Richland Northeast High School (South Carolina)
Richland Northeast is one of the best small teams in the nation. It only participates at the two IMUNA-hosted conferences but it does a great job at both. Richland Northeast received the Award of Excellence at Southern United States SUSMUN (equivalent to 2nd place) and then earned the Award of Distinction at Nationals NHSMUN (we converted to Best Small Delegation since they were the only small team to win that and a Research Award). Richland Northeast has the fewest in-state opportunities available of any top 25 team, although it remains to be seen if they will attend non-IMUNA conferences out-of-state to keep up with aggregate scoring in future years. Nevertheless, like Centennial, the team is very good when it comes to quality.
24. Stuyvesant High School (New York)
Stuyvesant enters into the top 25 after consistently fielding teams with many individual award winners this year. The team was successful at Brown BUSUN and notably made two trips to Washington DC this year where they placed in the top 10 at both Georgetown NAIMUN and George Washington WAMUNC. Stuyvesant, which has increased its training efforts, also attended the Horace Mann HoMMUNC novice conference and puts on its own conference, StuyMUNC.
25. New Canaan High School (Connecticut)
New Canann enters into the top 25 after a late-season push that resulted in two delegation awards. The team started off successfully at Brown BUSUN and Princeton PMUNC and then excelled at U.Penn ILMUNC with a top 10 finish. It then split up its team on the last weekend of March and brought home a pair of Outstanding Large Delegation awards at Cornell CMUNC and Dartmouth DartMUN. New Canaan will have a strong group of returners next year, which bodes well for them to maintain their status in the top 25, but they may also have bigger goals next year — the team is contemplating about traveling abroad.
Finally, it’s arbitrary and conventional that a list uses a top 25 format, and we want to note that five of the teams we ranked in the top 26-50 actually had scores that were closer to the top 25 than the rest of the top 50. We wanted to at least mention them with their peers so we’re providing them with some name recognition here (in alphabetical order): Bergen County Academies, Cape Coral High School, Colegio Puertoriqueño de Niñas, Elmont Memorial High School, and Liberty Public Schools.
Results are through April 1, 2012. Final rankings will be released in June after all conferences have taken place. Congratulations to all the teams so far!