Frequently Asked Questions
This is the most interesting question. We recruit an astonishing range of individuals. We are not a one-size-fits-all school and we do not have a particular student applicant profile in mind. We want the best and brightest and most interesting students. To be accepted at International, you must convince us that you are ready to do the work and ready to bring all your unique qualities and intellectual curiosity without reservation.
If your Middle School grades and standardized tests scores are strong and we can discern some extra, special talent or quality that will add value to our diverse, internationally-minded community then it is likely that we will offer you a place.
If you have known all along that you are smart and curious, but your grades and standardized testing do not tell the whole story, do not despair. You can earn a spot if you can demonstrate to our Admission committee that you have the potential to thrive in our unique academic environment and are 100% ready to reinvent yourself. We have seen plenty of unconventional, late bloomers emerge as academic leaders and go on to the very best colleges.
Whatever your profile is coming in, it will be up to you to take charge of your own destiny. Here at International we will look you in the eye and take you seriously, both as an individual and as an emerging young adult. We are exceptionally supportive, respectful and inclusive; but we do not coddle.
In summary: you can be feisty or on the quiet side, super-organized or a little dreamy; but you must be smart, be literate and numerate, have sparkle, be willing to explore your passions, and, on your best days, provoke and inspire your teachers and your peers.
All students receive their own iPad as part of our school wide Modern Learning Initiative. You are welcome to use your own laptop in class too. Naturally, your teachers also will insist on "lids down" for specific activities, to ensure maximum distraction-free engagement.
Attend a Sunday Open House, read our colorful Viewbook, and visit our IB page. Here you will find our own subject offerings and links to articles from good media sources about IB benefits and IB college recognition. The IBO website has a short IB Diploma video that captures the essence of the program from the student perspective. For more detail, download their IB Recognition brochure, Diploma Flyer and the IB Learner Profile.
Not at all. The IB Diploma does not replace regular high school graduation. At International you get a recognized 8-semester transcript, with a regular GPA. The big difference being that the course titles on your transcript look really good in the eyes of college admission, because you will be engaged in so many IB honors classes. You still get focused preparation for SATs and personalized college counseling. You still get your regular high school Diploma.
AP classes are great, but we specialize in the IB.
It would be redundant for us to offer AP classes because our IB classes offer similar benefits. Both programs provide college level honors classes. In terms of gaining Admission to selective colleges, and being "advanced placed" in more interesting, advanced classes once you get there, both programs will serve you extremely well.
We prefer the IB because of its integrated, holistic approach. In a single, seamless package you explore six chosen subjects, write a major research essay, satisfy the action, creativity and service component and participate in the Theory of Knowledge seminar class. Intrinsically there is significantly more emphasis on extended writing and personal research in the full IB Diploma.
The AP has come a long way in recent years but a large proportion of their assessment is tied to multiple choice questions which can be graded inexpensively by machine. The development committees for each AP subject maintain excellent standards but, as the detailed course descriptions reveal, they tend to work as autonomous entities.
Q. We are convinced about the value of the IB Diploma, but what happens in Grades 9 and 10 in the International Section?
Grades 9 and 10 provide the foundation for the IB Diploma.
The academic year begins with an exhilarating three day, Freshman Retreat which includes camping under the stars, zip-line and rope course activities and white water rafting. The Retreat rapidly establishes early friendships and binds the class together. When you return to school, and after receiving your iPad loaded with educational apps, your intellectual and extracurricular adventure will begin.
Our core pre-IB classes provide foundational skills and ensure that you explore widely, keeping your mind and options open. You will discover new talents outside your comfort zone and you will consolidate further those areas where you already excel. The IB foundation classes have conventional titles, but are not conventional in the sense that it is not so much what you will be taught, but how you will be taught. This transcends rote learning and busy work. You will learn nothing less than the essential skills and attitudes of a real experimental scientist; a real historian or geographer; a real literary scholar; a real mathematician; a real economist; a real working artist, musician, actor, or film maker. We emphasize above all questioning, imagination and critical thinking.
Our campus consists of the fifth and sixth floors of the 150 Oak Street building (which occupies an entire city block) in Hayes Valley, a large gymnasium across the street and a three floor Arts Pavilion on Page street. We also have a state-of-the-art "Makers Space" for our Design Technology classes and an athletics "Performance Lab" on the lower floors of the Oak Street site.
The student body totals 379, with 90-100 students per grade level. Class size is typically 16-18 for core subjects; but can much smaller for advanced baccalaureate selections and most language classes.
It is the opposite of what you may be thinking. New students like you entering in Grade 9 have special status. You are the new blood—bringing new ideas to the classroom and a critical mass of talent that enables us, for example, to field competitive athletics teams and six or more theatrical pieces a year.
Students arriving from our own 8th grade will be anxious to meet you. Many will approach you directly even on the first day and you will make new friends fast. These returning students are, themselves, an eclectic, international crowd. They were thrown together from an early age and grew up respecting and enjoying differences. They are interesting, open and friendly. They love their school but, just like you, can’t wait to reinvent themselves in an exciting new social arena. On the first morning of school the sense of anticipation is electric. When the elevator doors open, and students, old and new, spill out into the 5th floor hallway the tension is broken and the semester is unleashed.
Here at International we pride ourselves on an absence of cliques. The students look after each other and really value individuality and eccentricity. There is little talk of popularity in the conventional sense. Even quiet “nerdy types,” who might feel a bit isolated in a conventional school setting, tend to be looked after and thrive at International. There is no anti-intellectual culture. The kinds of things considered cool at International include: asking the teacher tough questions in a seminar class, making a wild spirit day costume, delivering an elegant oral presentation, being on a winning team, starting up an original club, or writing—and performing live—your own alternative folk song.
Our hallway sometimes feel a little crowded at recess; but this is counterbalanced with a superb Arts Pavilion, excellent library research facility, one of the best gyms in the city, roof garden and very well equipped science labs.
We sit on top of French American and Chinese American—both celebrated San Francisco International Schools. There are younger children in the lower floors of the building from all over the world. You might encounter them occasionally; but only high school students have elevator privileges.
Our campus is unapologetically urban and unpretentious. It is rooted in the real world. And our artistic and cultural setting is second to none. The Conservatory of Music and SF Jazz are our closest neighbors The Opera, Ballet, Symphony, Herbst Theater and City Hall are all within a five minute walk. Even closer is the freedom and fun of open campus in "hipster" Hayes Valley.
Another major factor when weighing the pros and cons of our unorthodox campus is the empirical fact that an education at International goes way beyond classroom walls. Each year a third of our students participate in our famous global travel and exchanges program.
There are losses and gains in all of life's choices. This is an odd question in some ways. Think very carefully. Will you really limit your horizons by allowing the layout of a campus, rather than the sheer quality of education available, be your deciding factor for choosing a high school?