WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - In today's competitive work environment, educators recognize getting kids through graduation isn't enough; they must also prepare them for college and careers.

Students at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy say they're ready for the next step.

When students at WSPA were asked why they chose to attend the magnet school they all had similar answers: smaller classroom size, individual time with your teachers and small environment.

WSPA is one of many school environments that aim to offer exceptional education to students on every level.

"Grades 6 through 12 are a great way to target students and to give them the vision and hope that college is accessible," said Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy Principal Richard Watts.  

This particular school offers comprehensive courses.

"We have an all honors curriculum," said high school counselor Ronda Scott.  

It’s designed to prepare students to meet the admissions requirements for the college or university of their choice.

For senior Joshua Gould that includes Notre Dame, Wake Forest and UNC-Charlotte. Options he doesn't think would be possible without the education he received at WSPA.

"I feel like every teacher here has a genuine concern for students and really puts a lot of time into you,” said Gould. “I feel like they maximized my learning experience."

The student-teacher ratio at WSPA averages 12 to 1. Preparatory schools feature smaller class sizes to maximize learning. Prep teachers also try to utilize the top technology.

"We have a virtual lab where students are able to take two to three electives online and those online courses are taught similar to the way college courses are taught. So students get to practice in high school how to go online, how to get on the blackboard, and how to respond to teachers,” said Watts.

Learning also extends well-beyond traditional and virtual classrooms.

"We teach our young people about how to do resumes, how to conduct an interview and how to make sure they dress appropriately," said Watts.  

Latrina McClinton, the mother of a graduate and current student, said adding career building courses is important.

"Education is important but it’s also important to understand who you are as a person. When you're out of the home, you're away from your parent and so you've got to make not only education choices but you've got to make smart choices," said McClinton.

According to the Council of State Governments, North Carolina is one of three states to become a leader in the early college high school movement.

North Carolina along with Georgia and Texas have created systems that encourage early college while improving opportunities for students.