Top Private Schools in San Francisco

  • Mary Macpherson
  • 01/5/21

San Francisco is home to some of California's best private schools.

San Francisco is one of the country's most distinctive, culturally rich cities. From renowned landmarks and extraordinary neighborhoods to an array of shopping, dining, and entertainment, the City by the Bay is indeed a world-class city.

Lost in the accolades as a top international destination for visitors is the fact that San Francisco is an excellent place for families to call home. Beyond the individual communities, which help ensure San Francisco's unique, diverse personality, the city is immensely livable. A good portion of that livability stems from the city's many standout private educational institutions.

Of course, the commitment to education comes as little surprise, considering the pedigree of higher learning institutions around the Bay Area — UC Berkeley to the east, Stanford to the south, and UC San Francisco, a prominent local university, especially in the area of biotechnology. It also doesn't hurt that San Francisco is the gateway to the world's tech capital, Silicon Valley, which is 30 minutes away. 

As for the local schools, it's not merely one or two exemplary schools that earn plaudits. Instead, a bevy of standout institutions populate the city, ready to prep young minds and help them fulfill their greater ambitions. Let's explore nine of the top private schools in San Francisco.

The Bay School of San Francisco

Neighborhood: Presidio

Tuition: $48,500

Grades: 9-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 375

Student-Teacher Ratio: 8:1

The Bay School provides one of the Bay Area's top private high school experiences, focusing on a balanced, challenging curriculum that invites critical and creative thinking. Serving grades 9 through 12 and following the mantra to help its students "find their brave," the school offers 104 college prep elective courses, 19 honors courses, and 10 interdisciplinary courses.

The 1,400-acre campus, located within The Presidio of San Francisco (the only such high school in a national park), offers a stunningly inspirational environment for students to thrive. Since its establishment in 2004, the Bay School has stood out for its immersive educational experience. The school currently offers 25 immersive courses, which feature everything from atmospheric technology to filmmaking to indigenous history to studies on natural and cultural history.

Convent & Stuart Hall

Neighborhood: Pacific Heights

Tuition: $40,640

Grades: K-12

Total Enrollment: 1,100

Student-Teacher Ratio: 5:1

Convent & Stuart Hall offers one of San Francisco's most unique preparatory educational experiences. Part of the network of Sacred Heart Schools, the school is spread across two campuses. The Pacific Heights Broadway Campus includes Convent Elementary, Convent High School, and Stuart Hall for Boys. The Pine and Octavia campus in Lower Pacific Heights features Stuart Hall High School.

The single-sex and coeducational institution follows a curriculum that aims to develop young students into curious learners and prepare its older students for their college years and beyond. Convent & Stuart offers academic, Beaux-Arts, and athletic instruction and a profoundly spiritual path for its students through its association with Sacred Heart.

Drew School


Neighborhood: Pacific Heights

Tuition: $49,500

Grades: 9-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 290

Student-Teacher Ratio: 9:1

Located at the corner of California and Broderick Street in Pacific Heights, the independent, college preparatory Drew School first opened its doors in 1908. Though small compared to other private school campuses, the modern, three-story Drew School is an incubator for curious, active minds. The school focuses on helping students achieve six learning outcomes: balance, creative and critical thinking, communication, intellectual engagement, integrity, and global perspective. 

As a college prep school, few high schools can match Drew's commitment to student development. While the numbers are comparatively small — 70 courses and electives, 26 interscholastic teams, 25 groups and clubs, 19 experiential education opportunities, and 18 honors courses — the intimacy of the learning environment (the school keeps enrollment intentionally limited) allows students to excel in every class.

French American International School

Neighborhoods: Hayes Valley, Lower Haight

Tuition: $46,580

Grades: PK-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 1,075

Student-Teacher Ratio: 7:1

Few private schools offer the international scope and educational breadth of language immersion schools. French American International School is one of two such schools on our list (the other being Lycee Francais de San Francisco). Segmented into two separate educational tracks, the lower school serves grades Pre-K through 8 with bilingual immersion. Upon completion, students transition to the International High School. The French American International School operates two well-appointed campuses. The Pre-K and kindergarten school is located on Page Street in Lower Haight. The school's primary campus, for grades 1 through 12, is in Hayes Valley.

The International School offers students the opportunity to pursue an International Baccalaureate or French Baccalaureate diploma, in addition to a U.S. high school diploma. Once students reach their freshman year, they can expand their foreign language pursuit into Arabic, Chinese, French, Italian, or Spanish.


Neighborhood: Oceanview

Tuition: $49,215

Grades: 9-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 500

Student-Teacher Ratio: 8:1

Since 1895, the Lick-Wilmerding School has served the youth of San Francisco with an engaging and intensely challenging curriculum. The high school features an extensive preparatory curriculum that includes core disciplines of English, history, and math while also incorporating wellness and mental health with Body-Mind Education.

The school also features a robust athletic department and extensive engagement with the arts — technical, visual, and performing. One of the jewels of Lick-Wilmerding is the McCullough Library. The 7,100 square foot facility includes the Ann Maisel Cafe and is a highlight of the ultra-modern campus. The library features space for students and educators to connect, study, and reflect.

Lycee Francais de San Francisco

Neighborhood: Haight-Ashbury, Sausalito, Ortega

Tuition: $30,510

Grades: PK-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 950

Student-Teacher Ratio: 10:1

The second of our foreign immersion schools, Lycee Francais de San Francisco (LFSF) is one of California's leading international schools and offers students and their families a unique and culturally rich educational experience. The school’s student body is incredibly diverse, with more than 50 nationalities and an average of three to five languages spoken.

Established in 1967, LFSF serves its student population across three campuses. Locally, there's the Haight-Ashbury campus serving grades Pre-K through 5 and the Ortega campus serving grades 6 through 12. The school also has a campus north of San Francisco in Sausalito for ages two years old through grade 5. Students ultimately earn diplomas for both their French and English studies.

Neighborhood: Outer Sunset

Tuition: $27,625

Grades: 9-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 1,475

Student-Teacher Ratio: 14:1

St. Ignatius is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that follows a preparatory curriculum encompassing both academic and religious disciplines. The school has been recognized as a top Catholic school for innovative education. From its modest origins as a single-room schoolhouse in 1855, St. Ignatius now serves almost 1,500 students on an 11-acre campus, which includes state-of-the-art classrooms and a separate 8.5-acre athletic complex.

Academics is where St. Ignatius truly shines, particularly in its college preparatory discipline. Students here score on average 100 and 75 points higher on the SAT's verbal and math section, respectively, versus state and national averages. The AP program is among the top 1% in the nation.


Neighborhood: Pacific Heights

Tuition: $52,170

Grades: 9-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 410

Student-Teacher Ratio: 6:1

First opened in 1975, San Francisco University High School's success lies in its ability to meet the changing needs of its students, their families, and the larger community. The curriculum includes 105 courses, 84 electives, 26 AP and Honors courses, and foreign languages, including Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish. In addition to college prep level disciplines, the school focuses heavily on visual and performing arts and athletics.

Current enrollment is 410 students who are served at the schools 3065 Jackson Street campus Pacific Heights. The school's master plan includes adding an adjacent building with 14,000 square feet of academic space and labs and 11,500 square feet of athletic facilities.

The Urban School of San Francisco

Neighborhood: Haight-Ashbury

Tuition: $48,091

Grades: 9-12

Total Enrollment: Approximately 420

Student-Teacher Ratio: 10:1

The Urban School of San Francisco, located in Haight-Ashbury, provides its student body an educational experience that extends beyond the academic to encompass the aspirational. As the school's philosophy states, an analytical mind that includes creativity, determination, empathy, optimism, and open-mindedness is one that is best equipped to take on the world's challenges.

The Urban curriculum includes both core and creative disciplines and feature studies in world languages, service-based learning, environmental sustainability, and several thought-provoking multidisciplinary courses. The school makes holistic technology a central part of its learning environment and issues its students MacBook Pro laptops for school and home learning. Athletics play a central role in Urban as well, with 30 teams across 15 sports.

Ready to discover your perfect Bay Area home? Or simply seeking more information on Bernal Heights real estate or the Ashbury Heights neighborhood? Contact Mary Macpherson today and allow her to be your guide to the best of the San Francisco Bay Area real estate market.


*Header Image: Bay School

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