Education in San Francisco Bay Area—Values and Opportunities
Education is Highly Valued
- One of the two most highly educated workforces in the country. The demand for technology workers and the high salaries they earn are draws for the best and brightest.
- World’s finest colleges, universities and public and private schools for children.
- Culture that values education, creativity and innovation.
Education Age 18 and under:
- Some of the most highly ranked public schools in the United States.
- Public education is funded largely by property taxes. Because real estate in the Bay Area is so valuable, the property taxes provide abundant amounts of money to nurture some of the best public schools in the country.
- Wealthy residents make significant donations for athletic, technology and media centers, making these schools showplaces and providing world-class facilities (for example, a private party recently donated $20 million to Palo Alto High School to rebuild the athletic facilities there).
- Silicon Valley elite fund excellent private schools and their children attend (Steve Job’s daughters attend the Castilleja School in Old Palo Alto for example).
Colleges and Universities
- Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley are two top institutions of higher education in the Bay Area.
- There are many other fine colleges in the Bay Area that offer a wide variety of educational programs, including art schools, women’s colleges and seminaries.
- The largest number of top-ten ranked graduate programs in business, law, medicine and engineering in the nation are located in the Bay Area.
The Big Secret! How to Get into a Top University of California School without a Great High School Record
- The highly acclaimed California Community College System.
- Largest system of higher education in the world, serving more than 2.4 million students with a wide variety of educational and career goals.
- Admits everyone.
- Offers an ease (academically, socially and financially) into college life.
- Feeds into the UC system.
- Named degree is from a highly respected UC (You may or may not want to share your personal history here).
Keys to Getting into a Great College (I wouldn’t put this in writing, but these are in priority order for most schools.)
- GPA: Grade Point Average
- The GPA measures a student’s high school academic performance by assigning weights to courses and numbers (from 4.0 for an A to 0.0 for a failing grade) and then averaging these over the course of the high school career. A GPA of 4.0 is considered perfect, although students can earn higher than a 4.0 GPA by taking and excelling in advanced placement courses.
- The UC system only considers classes from grades 10 and 11 in their GPA calculation for admission. Not every class counts toward the GPA. The list of classes that are included in their calculation is available on their website.
- Standardized Test scores
- There are two major testing services—the SAT and the ACT—which measure a student’s accumulated knowledge on math, science, reading and writing. Many schools will accept either SAT or ACT scores. There is a movement to eliminate the need for these standardized test scores among some colleges, but most top tier colleges still require them.
- Extra-curricular Activities
- Focus on quality, not quantity. It’s better to spend 15 years playing the violin or dancing ballet and to be really passionate and excellent at one activity vs. having a large number of different activities. The top schools have many, many applicants with excellent GPA’s and test scores. They are looking for what makes a student special and extra-curricular activities can provide that advantage.
- Leadership is key. Taking a leadership position (editor of the high school paper, captain of the debate team, etc.) sets the student apart.
- The experience and emotion is more important than the writing.
- Avoid the standard essays—Volunteering in a third world country, death of a family member, divorce, etc. Admissions counselors see way too many of these. Make the essay about something that is unique to the applicant.
- There are many consultants who know what colleges are looking for, and who can help give students an edge in this area.
- Students should build a strong relationship with at least one teacher in a core academic subject (math, science, history, English) during their sophomore or junior years.
- Students should have one other strong recommendation from another area—another academic subject, sports, extra-curricular activities, part-time work, etc.
Getting into an Ivy League or Top University is becoming increasing difficult
- The San Francisco Bay Area has a culture that values education and will motivate students to do well and achieve.
- There are many, many role models in the Bay Area with undergraduate and graduate degrees from prestigious colleges. Meeting and interacting with these people is inspiring and encourages higher education.
- The San Francisco Bay Area is rich with assistance to help achieve high educational goals: Tutors (from Stanford or top high schools), educational services and college counselors abound.
- Area high schools have many, many opportunities for students to find their niche. For example, at Palo Alto High School, clubs range from Acts of Random Kindness to the Zero Robotics Club.
- Maintain a High GPA: Most colleges encourage AP courses and a challenging curriculum. That’s the ideal. But as admissions applications continue to increase, there is less time to look at each application individually. GPA’s and standardized test scores act as gatekeepers to eliminate a student or move a student along in the admissions process. Students should take the most challenging courses they can handle, but if it comes down to the grade or the challenge, pick the grade.
- Prepare for Standardized Tests: Almost every student who aspires to a top-notch school rigorously prepares for the standardized tests. Prep methods vary from free online prep, to group classes to costly tutors who charge by the hour.
Summary: There is no better environment to educate, nurture and provide role models to high-achieving children than the San Francisco Bay Area.