14 Best High Schools in California


14 Best High Schools in California
Photo credit: AFS-USA Intercultural Programs / Flickr

Those seeking a private education will find traditional institutions offering a classic education alongside those featuring innovative, hands-on curriculum, such as year-long equestrian studies or an annual wilderness survival trip.

Each has unique elements, highly-qualified instructors and remarkably small classes ― you won’t see an unimpressive school on the list ― easing the selection process as you determine which institution is the best fit for you.

Below are 14 of California’s most prestigious, rigorous, and notable private high schools that provide a top-notch education that will propel students towards success in academia and beyond.

14. Cate School

Cate School is a co-educational boarding institution with a strong emphasis on extracurricular activities as part of a holistic education. All students are required to participate in a sport, but can choose from non-competitive or low impact options such as dance, sea kayaking and rock climbing.

All students are involved in an extracurricular program that includes athletics, drama, music, dance, community service and an extensive outdoor program which allows students to engage in many activities such as taking students surfing, kayaking, rock climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, and rafting.

Students are also involved in service projects in the community. Students help tutor local schoolchildren, visit with the elderly and disabled, and work on local environmental improvement projects.

Faculty and students also travel regularly to northern Mexico to work on community construction projects and help with children and their families in the Los Niños program, a Cate tradition for more than 30 years. Through Round Square students also have an opportunity to travel abroad for community service, work projects and exchange programs.

The school features a number of unique clubs ― such as Mock Trial and The Pirate Club ― and strongly encourages, but does not require, participation. Also of note is Cate School’s Student-Faculty Senate, which is the only legislative body on campus, and is comprised of elected members (such as a President and senators) by the student body, as well as appointed faculty advisors.

  • A highly-selective institution, Cate School admits 70 to 80 students annually out of 700 applicants.
  • Over 50% of food served in the school’s dining hall is either locally grown, organic or both.
  • Cate School ranks #26 on Niche.com’s list of Best Outcomes for Private High Schools in America.


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