Castilleja: Your Top Choice for Girls’ Education | The Ultimate Admissions Guide

If you’re looking to get into one of the best schools in Palo Alto, let expert admissions consultants at Cardinal Education help you.

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Castilleja School was founded by Mary Lockey in 1907 with the groundbreaking goal of giving young girls the educational opportunities they required to pursue a college education. A century later, Casti is now known as a top-rated, independent, all-girls, college preparatory school in Palo Alto, California for 6th through 12th-grade students committed to preparing young women to be compassionate leaders and global citizens. It is the only independent, non-sectarian, all-girls high school in the Bay Area. The campus is beautiful and provides a nurturing environment for learning. It boasts state-of-the-art facilities, including modern classrooms, science labs, art studios, a theater, and a gymnasium. 

Is it hard to get into Castilleja? 

It is generally considered difficult to get into Castilleja. The school has a reputation for having a very selective admission process and a low acceptance rate. The admissions committee chooses girls who have intellectual curiosity, are actively involved in their communities, and exhibit a genuine love of learning. With 65% of its population identifying as students of color, the school also emphasizes diversity and strives for a well-rounded student body. 

To increase your chances of getting into Castilleja, working with experienced admissions consultants and preparing early are keys to success. Nobody knows the admissions process better than our private school consultants at Cardinal Education. For almost two decades, we have helped numerous families gain admission and become successful Gators. 

Castilleja School Application Process

Applying to Castilleja requires meticulous attention because there are many components to complete.  The first step is creating an account on Ravenna where you will be able to view detailed information, download admissions forms, register for admissions events, request letters of recommendation, monitor admissions deadlines, and track your application.

  1. Register for virtual and in-person admissions events.
  2. Submit a preliminary application.
  3. Schedule and attend a campus visit and student interview. 
  4. Sign up for the Proctored Writing Sample.
  5. Complete student questionnaires and student essays.
  6. Complete the parent questionnaire.
  7. Delegate recommendation letters to 
    1. Math teacher
    2. English teacher
    3. Principal or counselor
  8. Request for transcript

Castilleja School Admissions Requirements

Virtual and In-Person Events

There are several events listed on Ravenna that you are encouraged to attend, such as:

  1. High School Virtual Preview Event
  2. High School Campus Tours 
  3. Parent/Guardian Admission Information Sessions 
  4. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Program 
  5. Parent Meetups
  6. High School Meetup Focused on Athletics, Performing Arts, Robotics/Maker Space

These events are meant for you to learn more about Castilleja and understand what it takes to become part of the community. You will discover if it is a good fit for your daughter and with your values as a family. Attending these events will show admissions officers that you are really interested in attending the school.

The challenge when attending is how to stand out and get noticed by admissions officers. We know how to help you! Our admissions consultants can teach you how to demonstrate interest, what relevant questions to ask, and how to conduct yourself in front of the counselors, teachers, and other staff.  

Preliminary Application Form

The preliminary application form is a simple form that collects essential information about your daughter and should be submitted before the deadline together with the application fee.     

Campus Visit and Student Interview

You may only register for a campus visit if you have submitted and paid for the preliminary application. This activity allows admissions officers to know you and your daughter. The interview will last for approximately 20 minutes and will be a casual conversation and there are no correct responses. 

Admissions interviews, no matter how casual or informal they may be, could be a make or break in your application. With our interview preparation program, our admissions consultants will guide you on how to evaluate questions and give responses that are authentic and leave a positive impression on the interviewer. Mock interviews will familiarize you with commonly asked questions and help you answer with confidence.  

Proctored Writing Sample

Proctored Writing Sample is required of all grades 6 through 12 applicants for some Palo Alto schools and Bay Area private schools. Students must respond to questions in a virtual exercise proctored by Test Innovators within the allotted 30 minutes. Many students find this difficult and struggle to organize their ideas and write them clearly. 

Our Proctored Writing Sample Preparation program teaches students how to organize their thoughts and write persuasive essays. Our writing tutors provide writing exercises to hone skills after determining where your child needs assistance through a writing assessment.

Student Questionnaire and Essay

Applicants will be required to select one essay question and respond to it in roughly 500 words as well as complete the student questionnaire that calls for shorter answers. Through the student questionnaire and essay, your daughter can express herself in the Student Questionnaires and Essays by talking about the things that are significant to her.

The admissions committee would like to learn more about your child, her current situation as well as her past experiences. We are aware that many stories and illustrations may pop into your head, but we will assist you in determining which ones are pertinent to Castilleja. They are searching for distinctiveness, anything that will set your daughter apart from the other candidates. Writing abilities will also be demonstrated. How can you write a fascinating, impactful essay with few words? Our admissions consultants can help in selecting original anecdotes and producing essays of the highest caliber. Cardinal Education offers a Program in Writing and Reading (PWR) to assist in the development of reading and writing skills.

Parent Questionnaire

The parent questionnaire contains questions about your child, answer several questions that elicit responses that show your child’s strengths, weaknesses, as well as your goals as a family. 

Admissions officers are not only focused on your child but on your whole family as well. After the family interview, they would want to know more through the parent/guardian statement. Simple, truthful, and authentic answers will never go wrong. However, you should know which responses will increase or harm your chances of admission. As we get to know you through our holistic admissions process, we can guide you in identifying your strengths and values that will appeal to the admissions committee because we know what they value most.

Recommendation Letters

Upper school applicants must submit recommendation letters from the current teachers in English and math and also from the principal or school counselor. Castilleja does not encourage sending additional letters of recommendation from other teachers, coaches, or mentors. 

Since we have spent almost two decades assisting students in getting into Castilleja School, we are aware of what the admissions committee looks for most. Our admissions consultants will assist in securing glowing recommendations that highlight your child’s abilities, academic successes, distinguishing traits, and special talents. These must, however, be backed up by further credentials, such as test results, grades, and active engagement in extracurricular activities. 

Do letters of recommendation really matter?

Letters of recommendation ought to be able to set your child apart from other candidates. In our experience, many students are frequently convinced that they can enroll in their ideal school because they think highly of themselves as learners. Being an extraordinary candidate differs from being a great student. You should be aware that a sizable number of applicants may be applying with GPAs and achievements that are identical to your child’s or even better. We established, enhanced, and mastered techniques as private school admissions experts that will assist you in receiving glowing recommendations from the guidance counselor, principal, and teachers. 


All applicants are required to submit the official transcript from the previous academic year and the first grading period of the current year as well as any prior standardized testing. The Transcript Release and Confidentiality Form should be printed, signed, and delivered to your daughter’s present school. 

Transcripts demonstrate readiness to take on Castilleja’s coursework in addition to academic excellence. If your child’s grades aren’t so great, we suggest that they start tutoring in the topics that are the most difficult as soon as possible because improving grades takes time. The Bay Area’s top tutoring services are offered by us. Our tutors will see to it that your child gets better marks and fulfills all the requirements. We provide academic coaching and in-person or online tutoring for a range of subjects to help your child build executive function abilities, get ready for difficult tasks, and eventually succeed academically.


ISEE/SSAT results are not considered in Castilleja’s evaluation of applicants throughout the admissions process. Test results will not be added to the files of applicants even if submitted. The admissions committee will keep a holistic perspective in mind as they assess the numerous ways that applicants can benefit from and contribute to our learning community.

Who are Castilleja’s notable alumnae?

Castilleja has a vast and outstanding list of alumni, including pupils who attended prestigious universities, participated in the Olympics, and made positive contributions to society. 

  1. Pamela Silver – a cell and systems biologist and bioengineer and one of the founding Core Faculty Members of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
  2. Penny Pritzker – 38th US Secretary of Commerce, an American billionaire businesswoman, entrepreneur, and civic leader
  3. Amy Chow – competed at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics as an artistic gymnast and the first Asian American woman to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics
  4. Chalda Maloff – an award-winning author and contemporary artist who received the Barbara Jordan Media Award, sponsored by the Texas Governonr’s Office in 1988
  5. Lindsay Taylor – a professional American soccer forward who played the Washington Spirit in the NWSL and the U-23 women’s national soccer team 
  6. Julie Packard – an American marine conservationist, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a recipient of the Audubon Medal in recognition of her outstanding achievement in conservation and environmental protection
  7. Helen Katherine Forbes – a famous artist and arts educator known for her landscape paintings of Mexico, Mono Lake, and the Sierras in the 1920s
  8. Grace Slick – a singer, songwriter, musician, artist, and former model known in rock and roll history 
  9. Pansy Ho – a Hong Kong-Canadian billionaire businesswoman listed on Forbes as the 23rd  richest person in Hong Kong in 2020 
  10. Beatrice Judd Ryan – founding director of Galerie Beaux-Arts in San Francisco, nicknamed “Mrs. San Francisco”, for her dedication to supporting West Coast artists.

Student Life at Castilleja

Girls at Castilleja receive the support they need to become successful in their academic and personal journeys from the relationships they build with other students, teachers, and staff. The school emphasizes the importance of a healthy work-life balance, encouraging students to prioritize their well-being and take care of themselves. The overall student life experience at Casti goes beyond the classroom. Every student participates in the school traditions that offer a shared experience and allow for the development of friendships between classes and the fostering of sisterhood among generations of graduates. Activities such as the Tie Ceremony to welcome 6th graders and freshmen, Seniors Drive the Circle where senior students drive the perimeter of the campus to celebrate the beginning of their final year, Ringing to build bonds of sisterhood, and the celebratory Junior/Senior Banquet after the Rivalry Week, are just some of the fun activities that students take part in. 

Castilleja Academics

The academic program at Casti focuses on building skills on the core competencies through experiential learning. There are four centers that support the curriculum and provide the necessary resources to aid students in their learning and encourage them to explore. 

The Awareness, Compassion, & Engagement (ACE) Center fosters initiative, agility, and student purpose through different local and global learning experiences. Students engage in classroom projects, age-appropriate programs, community service, mentoring programs, local and international partnership projects, and programs for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. 

The Bourn Idea Lab is an engineering design studio and robotics lab where students engage in various hands-on projects and turn abstract ideas into reality. There is a wide variety of modern state-of-the-art materials, digital equipment, and traditional tools for students to use.

The Margarita Espinosa Library contains a vast collection of resources and provides high-quality library services to support all academic endeavors of the students. The library also hosts several interesting events to encourage students to visit and explore the myriad of materials available.

21st Century Assessment ensures that students are equipped with the skills necessary to become effective learners and leaders in the present and future. Students are gauged according to initiative, agility, and purpose. 

Castilleja Activities

There are many different clubs and student-led organizations at Castilleja that provide opportunities to learn, build relationships, develop skills, engage in the community, raise global awareness, travel, compete, or perform. ActNow encourages students to tackle social justice issues and raise awareness. Halford Young Women Leader’s Program aims to build leadership and mentorship skills where upper school students are paired with young girls from under-resourced communities and help them with their academics. The Green Team focuses on educating the community about the effects of climate change and promoting policies. There are more student groups that young girls can participate in according to their interests.

Castilleja Athletics

Gator athletics play a significant role in the lives of Casti students not just in developing their skills in sports but also in building confidence and fostering teamwork. There are state-of-the-art sports facilities and professional coaches who lead the teams to winning league titles and championships. Students can choose to participate in sports such as swimming, cross country, lacrosse, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, water polo, golf, track and field, and tennis. 

Castilleja Arts

Castilleja offers dance, music, theatre arts, and visual arts courses for students to develop their skills and provide an avenue for self-expression. Throughout the year, exhibits, concerts, dance performances, musicals, and theatrical plays are held where young girls get to display their creativity and talents. 

Castilleja Summer Camp

Casti Camp is for girls entering 2nd through 9th grades. It is an activity meant to add more fun to summer and provide opportunities for play, creativity, discovery, and exploration. Students are excited and eager to join each year. 

As part of the Peninsula Bridge program, Castilleja hosts thirty summer students in the fifth grade each year. These highly driven kids challenge themselves with reading, math, computer science, and Castilleja-designed, student-led elective programming to make sure they “bridge” the summer learning gap. They do this in collaboration with Castilleja High School mentors and the ACE Center.

Did You Know?

Castilleja School was founded in 1907 by Mary Lockey.

Client Testimonial

“Their expertise and attention to detail were instrumental in showcasing my child’s unique qualities which led to acceptance to Castilleja. I wholeheartedly endorse Cardinal Education as the go-to admissions consultant for private schools.”