How to Choose a School in San Francisco?

In San Francisco, we have incredible learning opportunities for our kids. From museums to parks to the aquarium, there is a never-ending list of family-friendly activities in San Francisco. That being said, the San Francisco school system has enough nuance that it takes time and consideration to plan for. There are many excellent schools in San Francisco. We have a plethora of independent schools, ranging from Emilio Regio education, to single sex schools, tech-focused, to parochial schools. In addition, the public school system, known as the San Francisco Unified School District, is one of the top-rated school districts in California. ranks SFUSD with an A- overall rating.  

San Francisco schools are very unique in one thing, though: you are not guaranteed acceptance into your neighborhood school. SFUSD has a lottery-based placement system. There has been some debate about this placement system in recent years, and we are told that there will be an update coming to the lottery placement system for the 2026-2027 school year. So, if you are the parent of a baby, things will be different for you! If you have a little one entering kindergarten before that time, never fear, we have some excellent tips to securing a spot in a great school. As San Francisco real estate agents and parents raising two children in San Francisco ourselves, we have spent a considerable amount of time researching the best options!

We suggest exploring independent schools and public schools simultaneously. Even if the cost seems to be a hurdle, there are excellent scholarships available at most of the independent schools, and many families find that they enjoy being at a school that they chose based on their values. At the same time, if you elect to go through SFUSD, there are a variety of school options available. From language immersion to charter schools, SFUSD has many great options. 

One excellent source of information for school information is Please also visit our neighborhood guides on Instagram for a list of schools in each neighborhood.

As a family of four, we have found that walkability to our school is one of our favorite things. Some other families choose to carpool in order to be at a school that is the perfect fit for their child. Whatever you choose, there are excellent guides along the way.
If you need a resource for independent school applications, there are professionals who specialize in this. Advisors can help guide you to the perfect school for your child and even help you fill out the admissions paperwork! If you would like a recommendation for a school advisor, please let us know. Parents for Public Schools is a great organization that helps you both discover the SFUSD schools and navigate the enrollment process. They host workshops throughout the year. We suggest attending a year in advance of when your child will start kindergarten, as many school applications are due the Winter prior to your child’s first year of kindergarten.

At the end of the day, though, we want to leave you with an encouragement: with an investment of a bit of your time, you can find a great school! Sometimes families hear only the worst stories: their friends’ child did not get into any of the schools they chose. In our experience, this is the exception rather than the norm. Our experience has been that most families do get accepted to at least one of the great independent schools that they apply to, along with an excellent SFUSD school. In fact over 50% of families receive their top choice SFUSD school. So although the process can be involved to choose the best school for your child, it is worth it in the end, and you end up forming a beautiful new community within your child’s school that will last years to come.

If you need resources to help guide you in this process, or want to strategize about the best school and neighborhood combinations, the Wilkerson Team is happy to be a resource to you as you navigate the San Francisco housing market.


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