As a major metropolitan city, San Francisco is home to a diverse array of exceptional public and private high schools. For students and parents considering high schools in the city, San Francisco offers quality options with unique specialties, histories, and communities.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Notable San Francisco high schools include Lowell, Lincoln, Washington, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, School of the Arts, St. Ignatius, and Urban School.

This comprehensive guide will provide an overview of San Francisco high schools, highlight standout public and private institutions, discuss specialized programs, and offer criteria to evaluate schools.

San Francisco’s Public School Options

When it comes to public high schools in San Francisco, parents and students have several options to choose from. The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) offers a diverse range of schools, each with its own unique strengths and programs.

In this guide, we will take a closer look at some of the top public high schools in San Francisco, including Lowell High School, Lincoln High School, Washington High School, and other notable options.

Lowell High School

Lowell High School is widely regarded as one of the best public high schools in San Francisco. Known for its rigorous academic programs and high achievement rates, Lowell consistently ranks among the top schools in the state of California.

The school offers a wide range of advanced placement (AP) courses, allowing students to challenge themselves and earn college credits. Additionally, Lowell provides a variety of extracurricular activities, including sports teams, clubs, and performing arts groups, to enhance the overall high school experience.

Lincoln High School

Lincoln High School is another excellent option for students in San Francisco. With a strong emphasis on college preparation, Lincoln offers a comprehensive curriculum that includes honors and AP courses.

The school also boasts a vibrant arts program, with opportunities for students to explore their creative talents through visual arts, music, and theater. Lincoln’s dedicated and experienced faculty work closely with students to ensure their success both academically and personally.

Washington High School

Washington High School is known for its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. The school offers a supportive and nurturing environment where students can thrive academically and socially. Washington provides a range of academic programs, including pathways in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, humanities, and visual and performing arts.

The school also offers a variety of clubs and organizations, allowing students to pursue their interests and develop leadership skills.

Other Top SFUSD Schools

In addition to Lowell, Lincoln, and Washington High Schools, the San Francisco Unified School District has several other top-performing schools worth considering. Examples include Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, which focuses on arts education, and Mission High School, which offers a diverse range of academic programs and extracurricular activities.

It’s important to research and visit these schools to determine which one aligns best with your child’s individual needs and interests.

For more information about San Francisco’s public high schools, you can visit the official SFUSD website at The website provides detailed information about each school, including their academic programs, extracurricular offerings, and admission requirements.

It’s always a good idea to reach out to the schools directly, attend open houses, and speak with current students and parents to get a better understanding of what each school has to offer.

Leading Private & Independent High Schools

St. Ignatius College Preparatory

St. Ignatius College Preparatory is one of the most esteemed private high schools in San Francisco, CA. Known for its rigorous academic curriculum and commitment to holistic education, St. Ignatius prepares students for success in college and beyond.

The school offers a wide range of advanced placement courses, allowing students to challenge themselves and excel in their studies. With a strong emphasis on community service and social justice, St. Ignatius instills important values in its students, preparing them to be engaged and compassionate citizens.

The school’s picturesque campus, located in the Sunset District, provides a serene and conducive environment for learning.

Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban School of San Francisco is a progressive independent high school that focuses on experiential learning and personalized education. The school’s small class sizes and dedicated faculty ensure that each student receives individualized attention and support.

Urban School offers a diverse range of courses, including unique electives such as film studies, social justice, and entrepreneurship. The school’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility is reflected in its sustainable practices and community engagement initiatives.

Located in the heart of the city’s Mission District, Urban School provides students with easy access to a vibrant and culturally rich neighborhood.

Lick-Wilmerding High School

Lick-Wilmerding High School is known for its strong focus on career and technical education. The school offers a unique blend of college-preparatory academics and hands-on vocational training, preparing students for both college and future careers.

With state-of-the-art facilities and specialized programs in areas such as woodworking, engineering, and culinary arts, Lick-Wilmerding provides students with valuable skills and experiences. The school also emphasizes community service and social awareness, encouraging students to make a positive impact in their local and global communities.

Located in the city’s Excelsior District, Lick-Wilmerding offers a welcoming and inclusive environment for students from diverse backgrounds.

Other Notable Private Schools

In addition to the above-mentioned schools, San Francisco is home to several other notable private high schools. These include The Bay School of San Francisco, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, and Drew School.

Each of these schools has its own unique educational philosophy and strengths, providing students with a variety of options to choose from. Whether it’s a focus on project-based learning, a strong arts program, or a commitment to social justice, San Francisco’s private high schools offer a range of educational experiences to meet the diverse needs and interests of students.

Specialized Academic & Vocational Programs

Galileo Academy of Science and Technology

The Galileo Academy of Science and Technology is one of the top high schools in San Francisco, CA. Known for its rigorous academic programs, Galileo offers a wide range of specialized courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Students at Galileo have the opportunity to explore their interests in these fields through hands-on experiments, research projects, and collaborative learning. The school also offers advanced placement (AP) courses, allowing students to earn college credits while still in high school.

With a strong focus on preparing students for higher education and future careers in STEM, Galileo Academy is a great choice for students who are passionate about these subjects.

Ruth Asawa School of the Arts

The Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (SOTA) is a unique high school in San Francisco that is dedicated to nurturing students’ artistic talents and providing them with a well-rounded education. SOTA offers specialized programs in various artistic disciplines, including dance, theater, visual arts, creative writing, and music.

Students at SOTA have the opportunity to work closely with professional artists and instructors who provide guidance and support in their chosen field. The school also offers numerous performance opportunities, allowing students to showcase their talents and gain real-world experience.

Whether students aspire to become professional artists or simply want to explore their creative side, SOTA provides an inspiring and supportive environment.

Career Technical Education Options

San Francisco high schools also offer a range of career technical education (CTE) programs that prepare students for specific vocational careers. These programs provide hands-on training and practical skills in fields such as healthcare, engineering, culinary arts, and automotive technology.

Students enrolled in CTE programs have the opportunity to gain industry certifications and participate in internships or apprenticeships, allowing them to apply their skills in real-world settings. These programs are designed to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to enter the workforce directly after high school or pursue further education in their chosen field.

With a focus on practical skills and career readiness, CTE programs offer valuable opportunities for students who are interested in vocational careers.

Choosing the Right School in San Francisco

Choosing the right high school is an important decision for both students and parents in San Francisco. With a wide range of schools to choose from, it’s essential to consider several factors when making this decision.

This guide will provide valuable information on academic quality and offerings, location and commute, culture and student body, as well as tuition and affordability to help you make an informed choice.

Academic Quality & Offerings

When it comes to academic quality, San Francisco offers a diverse range of high schools that cater to different interests and learning styles. Some schools specialize in STEM subjects, while others focus on arts or humanities.

Researching the school’s curriculum, faculty qualifications, and extracurricular activities can give you an idea of the school’s academic offerings. Websites like GreatSchools provide comprehensive ratings and reviews from parents and students, which can be helpful in assessing academic quality.

Location & Commute

The location of the high school is another crucial factor to consider. A school’s proximity to your home or workplace can significantly impact your daily commute. San Francisco is known for its traffic congestion, so it’s essential to choose a school that is easily accessible.

Consider the availability of public transportation options, such as buses or trains, as well as the distance from your home. Websites like SFMTA can provide information on public transportation routes and schedules to help you plan your commute.

Culture & Student Body

The culture and student body of a high school can greatly influence a student’s overall experience. It’s important to consider factors such as diversity, inclusivity, and extracurricular activities. Researching the school’s mission statement, clubs, and organizations can give you insight into the school’s culture.

Additionally, visiting the school and talking to current students or alumni can provide a firsthand perspective on the student body and their experiences.

Tuition & Affordability

Private schools in San Francisco often require tuition fees, while public schools are tuition-free. It’s crucial to consider your budget and financial resources when choosing a high school. If you’re considering a private school, research their tuition rates and any potential financial aid or scholarship opportunities.

Public schools, on the other hand, may have additional costs for extracurricular activities or supplies. Websites like Niche provide information on the average tuition rates for private schools in San Francisco.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when choosing the right high school in San Francisco. Remember to thoroughly research each school, visit campuses, and speak with current students or alumni to get a full understanding of what each school has to offer.


With its mix of highly-ranked public magnet schools and private college preparatory institutions, San Francisco offers many exceptional high school options. By evaluating academic programs, specializations, community fit and other factors, students can find their ideal SF high school.

Families considering SF high schools will discover rewarding opportunities to match diverse needs and prepare teens for college and career success.

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