Top 10 Boarding Schools in California (2023)

Looking to study in a boarding school in California? California, USA is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the world such as Stanford and UCLA, which makes it an evident location choice for boarding school education. Its cultural diversity and warmer climate could also help young international students ease into their new home. Our article Top 10 Boarding Schools in California takes you through the top boarding schools in CA that have outstanding ratings for education quality, sports, arts, and more.

top boarding schools in california

List of Top California Boarding Schools

* Asterisks denote an average of students’ self-reported scores on Niche.

1. Villanova Preparatory School

This co-educational boarding school was founded in 1924 by Augustinian Catholics who originally hailed from Villanova, Pennsylvania. The school is known for its diversity and stellar International Baccalaureate program. Over 60% of its 200 students are international students and the school celebrates their diverse student body with its annual International Day, where students get to represent their own countries and are encouraged to share their cultural traditions.

Mean SAT Score: 1260 (2021)

Mean ACT Score: 28 (2021)

Annual Tuition Fees: $64,000

2. Santa Catalina School

Originally founded as a convent by a Dominican nun, the Santa Catalina School is a modern and diverse preparatory school with a rigorous liberal arts curriculum today. The school offers quite the selection of performance arts electives for students in every grade. Their approach to education is based on the Catholic intellectual tradition that combines faith and reason in seeking truth. Santa Catalina is co-educational up to grade 8 while the Upper School is an all-girls’ boarding school. 

Mean SAT Score: 1310 (2022)*

Mean ACT Score: 28 (2022)*

Annual Tuition Fees: $64,000

3. Midland School

Midland is an outdoor, place-based educational school that is located near the Los Padres National Forest on a massive 2,860-acre ranch. Alongside its classroom-based education, students at Midland learn through experiential learning by doing ranch-related activities and getting hands-on experience at the farm. At Midland, there are horses, hiking, farming, and more – well-suited for students that enjoy the outdoors life on a ranch.

Mean SAT Score: 1330 (2022)*

Mean ACT Score: 29 (2022)*

Annual Tuition Fees: $75,200

4. Robert Louis Stevenson School

The Stevenson School in California is guided by its purpose to prepare its students for success, inculcate a passion for lifelong learning, and to help its students to shape a joyful life. The school has two campuses – the Carmel campus has about 250 students from PK-8 while the Pebble Beach campus has some 520 students from grades 9-12. The school’s six dormitories house about 300 boarding students and some faculty members who live among the students and provide them care.

Mean SAT Score: 1380 (2022)*

Mean ACT Score: 31 (2022)*

Annual Tuition Fees: $72,300

5. Woodside Priory School

The Priory was founded by Benedictine Catholic monks in 1957 and has since expanded to a 51-acre campus. The Priory is a co-educational day and boarding school that teaches children from grades 6-12. The school has 426 students, about 60% of whom are international students. Priory’s arts curriculum is comprehensive and the school has invested heavily in facilities, including building its own gallery. The school offers all types of performance arts classes such as visual arts, orchestral, vocal, and theater classes, which are all popular among its students.

Mean SAT Score: 1370 (2022)*

Mean ACT Score: 31 (2022)*

Annual Tuition Fees: $80,640 (Including boarding fees)

6. Sierra Canyon School

This cosmopolitan school is located in the Greater Los Angeles area on a 37-acre site. Sierra Canyon School is notable for its performance in interscholastic athletics, especially in basketball, soccer, football, and volleyball. Sierra Canyon Athletics is considered to be among the premiere high school athletic programs in the country. The school’s star-studded basketball team is one to watch, with players in the likes of Bronny James, and five-star recruits Ziaire Williams and Zaire Wade on board.

Mean SAT Score: 1330 (2022)*

Mean ACT Score: 30 (2022)*

Annual Tuition Fees: $38,820-40,770

7. The Athenian School

The Athenian School was founded on the pillars of internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership, and service. Its highly-rated Athenian Wilderness Experience program plays a major role in inculcating some of these pillars in its students. Its experiential approach to education also shows through its many Focus Day activities. Athenian aims to educate young minds to become leaders, global citizens, and environmental stewards who are committed to doing what is right.

Mean SAT Score: 1380 (2022)*

Mean ACT Score: 32 (2022)*

Annual Tuition Fees: $80,260 (Upper School, international student)

8. The Webb Schools

The Webb Schools is the collective name for two schools – the Webb School of California and the Vivian Webb School. The two schools share a 150-acre campus located by the San Gabriel Mountains. The schools welcome 37% international students and have about 62% boarding students. The Webb Schools is known for its record in the college placement of its graduates, with 90% of them attending the top 10% colleges and universities in the US.

Mean SAT Score: 1380 (2022)*

Mean ACT Score: 31 (2022)*

Annual Tuition Fees: $73,320

9. The Thacher School

The Thacher School is a 427-acre campus which began as a preparatory school for Yale in what was then known as the Casa de Piedra ranch. At the heart of education at Thacher is their commitment to academic excellence, character-building and a community culture. What’s unique about Thacher is their Horse Program where each freshman gets paired with a horse and learns to ride and take care of it for a whole year. The school has maintained its characteristic ranch appearance even after adding new buildings and facilities.

Mean SAT Score: 1406 (2021)

Mean ACT Score: 31 (2021)

Annual Tuition Fees: $69,980

10. Cate School

Founded in 1910, the Cate School is a highly selective preparatory school with about 300 students or so. The school, which is located in Carpinteria, CA, accepts students from grades 9-12 and over half of them are from outside of California. It has been rated the best boarding school in the state and among the top 15 in the country by Niche. Student-reported scores show that the average SAT score is around 1410 while the average ACT score is 32, far exceeding the national average score of 1060 and 20 respectively. Cate School receives an average of about 10 applications per place every year.

Mean SAT Score: 1380 (2022)

Mean ACT Score: 32 (2022)

Annual Tuition Fees: $69,000

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the top boarding school in California?

Cate School tops our list of the top boarding schools in California.

How do I pick boarding schools in the US?

We recommend looking at rankings and average SAT/ACT scores as a gauge of academic performance. Other important factors include athletics, arts programs, and extracurricular activities.

Is California a good place to study?

Yes. California is home to some of the top universities in the world, has great cultural diversity, and offers a warmer climate.

How do I send my child to a US boarding school?

First, gather all the necessary documents (ie. transcripts, test scores, recommendation letter). Then, apply to a school and pay application fees. By March, you should receive an acceptance letter with joining instructions and info about the student visa.


In summary, there are many choices for private boarding schools in California. Besides high SAT and ACT results, each school strives to educate well-balanced students through sports, arts and other extracurricular activities . When browsing through the high schools in California, it is highly advised that parents check through the schools’ approaches to best match the needs and conditions of each child. Should you need further assistance, please contact us.

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