How to pick the right high school

Last week, I shared some things to look for when touring schools for your child. I mentioned you can easily get a feel for a school by looking at classwork made visible in the hallway and classroom walls, asking others what they like about the school, and observing how involved students seem to be in their classes.

These same guidelines apply when looking at high schools, but there are some additional things you and your teen should consider when choosing a high school. While all of our high schools are accredited and require that students meet the same graduation requirements, schools offer a variety of different academic and arts programs as well as career pathways.

Here are some things to think about when choosing a San Francisco Unified School District school:

A day in the life

Many high schools invite prospective students to tag along with an enrolled student for a day. Called shadowing, this is a really good way for your student to find out up close what his or her day may be like at the new school — sitting in on classes, hanging out at lunch and seeing what it’s like after school.

Big or small?

Our high schools range from just a couple of hundred students to more than 2,000. Some of our bigger schools have more than 30 clubs to choose from, which could be just the right kind of atmosphere for some students. Our smaller high schools have the benefit of allowing students a more intimate setting where they have the chance to form close relationships with all of their classmates, teachers and staff.

Jump-start a career

Many of our high schools allow students to spend concentrated time learning skills for fields they are interested in long before college. Called Academies and Pathways, these programs integrate in-class learning with real-world experience. We offer exposure to a wide range of academic and professional pursuits, including engineering, biotechnology, building trades and construction, finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology and public service.

Not only do students in these programs study aspects of their prospective careers up close while in school, many get the chance to work in the field during the summer. It’s an opportunity for your budding techie or chef to see what his or her day-to-day life might be like in the future.

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

BIG CHOICES

SFUSD high school applications by the numbers:

Jan. 21: Deadline to apply for all high schools except Lowell and SOTA

Dec. 6, 3 p.m.: Deadline for SOTA

Dec. 13: Deadline for Lowell

16: High schools to choose from

More info: www.sfusd.edu/enroll

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