1. University High School (Fresno, CA)
Located on the Fresno State University campus, University High is a free public charter school that uses a lottery system to enroll approximately 130 new 9th-grade students annually. Benefits of attending University High School include intimate class sizes, exceptional college and career preparedness, and exciting interscholastic activities like the Science Olympiad and Mock Trial team.
To be eligible for admission, candidates should have a minimum of two years of musical experience, though passion certainly overrides a lack of involvement in formal musical groups or lessons. Many University High students are bonded by a shared passion for music, though the curriculum also emphasizes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences.All scholars take music theory classes and participate in a vocal or instrumental slot bonus musical ensemble of their choice for all four high school years.
2. The Nueva School (Hillsborough, CA)
The Nueva (New) School is an independent school serving nearly 1,000 gifted and talented students from 79 Bay Area zip codes. The school offers a need-blind admissions process, granting over $6 million in financial aid to Nueva families. Upper School tuition totals between $57,000 and $60,000 annually. At the time of this writing, the school advertised 35-45 spaces in the 9th-grade cohort and only 1-3 spaces in grades 10-12: admission is competitive. Nueva has adopted an interdisciplinary approach to its curriculum. Students regularly embark upon excursions to California outdoors and exciting international locations, where community service is often a part of their experiential learning.
3. The College Preparatory School (Oakland, CA)
A private co-ed high school nestled in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood, The College Preparatory School, houses 14 students per class, on average, and employs a faculty and staff in which 86% possess advanced degrees. The 370-member student body is highly diverse, and 75% of students participate in the performing arts in some capacity.
Non-credit requirements include three or four years of sports or three years of dance, completion of wellness and decision-making coursework, “life prep” for juniors and seniors, and a 9th-grade Connections and Advisory Program (CAP). The school’s xLab is a makerspace where students can explore facets of design, robotics, and modeling as part of their course curriculum. Previous classes have constructed drones, made jewelry, and tested motion-activated model trains using laser cutters, 3D printers, and other engineering tools.
4. Canyon Crest Academy (San Diego, CA)
One of the newest public high schools in the San Dieguito Union High School District, Canyon Crest runs four daily courses in 90-minute blocks. The Envision Conservatory Program is an optional 5th period for sophomores, juniors, and seniors interested in refining their skills in the performing arts.
Additional clubs dedicated to video production, graphic design, and student governance bring together passionate students from diverse backgrounds. One of the largest schools on our list of the best high schools in California, Canyon Crest enrolls nearly 2,350 high school students.