How to Get Into Crystal Springs Uplands School: Navigating the Admissions Process

Admissions to top-rated schools like Crystal Springs Uplands School can be highly selective and challenging. As your trusted educational consultants, we will make your admissions journey less stressful and geared toward success! We offer holistic private school admissions consulting services. Contact us to learn more.

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Crystal Springs Uplands School is a highly regarded coeducational private school in the beautiful town of Hillsborough and is among California’s best college preparatory private high schools. It fosters a collaborative learning environment that inspires students to go after their aspirations, discover new interests, develop confidence and compassion, and thrive inside and outside of the classroom. Crystal’s student body mirrors its commitment to cultural, social, and socioeconomic diversity. Catering to grades 6 through 12 on two campuses, the school is currently serving a total of 569 students, 219 of whom are in middle school and 350 of whom are in upper school. Out of 65 faculty members, 82% are with advanced degrees. Grounded in academic excellence, Crystal Springs Uplands School strives to guide students toward a meaningful engagement with the broader world. CSUS is also among the growing number of schools that are tapping into solar power. In fact, it has a total of 935 solar panels which provide 25% of the school’s electricity. 

Is it hard to get into Crystal? 

With an acceptance rate of 22%, earning a spot in admissions could be highly challenging. The admissions process is something that Crystal Springs Uplands School takes very seriously and devotes a great deal of time to. The following factors are taken into account when choosing students for admission by a committee of faculty and administrators: data from parent and student applications, academic records of the student, recommendations from teachers and the principal, the student’s talents, character, and leadership qualities, and data gathered during the visit to Crystal Springs Uplands School, including the interview. Applications are carefully reviewed for each candidate.

To boost your chances of getting in, it is advisable that you start preparing early. At Cardinal Education, we offer comprehensive and bespoke packages that take into account every little bit of information about you and your family to help you achieve your vision of success. From your needs, goals, and values to your GPA, academic achievements, and personal preferences—we will gather every puzzle piece to get you where you want to be.

Crystal Springs Uplands School Application Process

The Crystal admissions process starts by creating your account at Ravenna. There, you will be able to access all the essential documents and requirements, as well as the significant dates and deadlines you should bear in mind. Admissions officers will verify every piece of information you provide on your application so we recommend that you only put in relevant information that you can validate later on in the application. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Create your account at Ravenna
  2. Register for a virtual information session
  3. Participate in Connect with Crystal events (Open Houses)
  4. Schedule a campus visit
  5. Submit the preliminary application
  6. Schedule a student interview
  7. Take the Proctored Writing Sample
  8. Complete other components of the application

Crystal Springs Uplands School Admissions Requirements

Recommendation Letters

Applicants are required to submit recommendation forms from the current English and math teachers and also from the principal or guidance counselor. An additional recommendation form may also be delegated to another person outside of the school, like a coach, mentor, or trainer.

Your accomplishments as a student will be reflected in the recommendation letters that your counselors and teachers will write for you. It should emphasize your exceptional qualities not only inside the classroom but also in the broader world. However, keep in mind that recommendation letters must be backed by other credentials you will provide in your application. This means that your test scores, GPA, and extracurriculars should match all information that is provided by your counselors and teachers.

How do I get good recommendation letters?

Recommendation letters are important components of private school admissions. Your relationships with your teachers will matter a lot and will determine what they will put in the letter. Teachers who know you well and who you have positive relations with will somehow guarantee shining recommendations.  Just like any other aspect of the admissions process, securing good recommendation letters requires careful planning and proper timing. It takes time to build relationships and effort to keep them. 


Applicants need to request transcripts from their current school which should contain their grades from the previous academic year and the first semester or second quarter grades of the current year.

Crystal Springs Upland School is trying to see if you are well-equipped for the rigor of its curriculum. Through transcripts, admissions officers will have an insight into your level of preparedness in terms of academics. What should you do if your transcripts are not that remarkable? Start preparing early! At Cardinal Education, we offer tutoring to help students achieve higher grades that meet the CSUS admissions requirements. Our in-person or online tutoring services and diagnostic tests will set you up for success. But since high grades alone are not enough to secure a spot in the admissions, we also offer academic coaching where our academic coaches will teach you fundamental skills such as test-taking skills, organizational skills, time management, study skills, note-taking skills, and writing and reading strategies so you will be able to overcome any hindrances that you may encounter.

Parent/Guardian Interview

The parent/guardian interview is done through a virtual platform. There are 6 pre-recorded questions and you have 30 seconds to prepare and 2 minutes to record your responses. The answers to the questions will reveal the personality of the student from a parent’s perspective. In addition, the family’s objectives, dynamics, and level of parental support for their child will be highlighted.

At Cardinal Education, we do not only work with your child. You will be involved in the whole process as well, keeping you updated and on track with the application process. Our admissions consultants will work with you on interview preparation to make sure you provide truthful and authentic answers that will show admissions officers that your family is a perfect fit for Crystal. 

Student Interview

The student interview may be done online via Zoom or in person during the shadow day when the applicant visits the school and is paired with a shadow buddy to observe classes. There is usually an individual interview and a group interview. The individual interview lasts for 15-20 minutes and consists of personal questions about school, family, and some situational questions that will show a student’s decision-making and reasoning skills. The group interview may consist of activities wherein members need to work together to complete tasks and achieve the goal. 

This is your opportunity to stand out and highlight your best attributes! The admissions officers will see if you are suitable for Crystal. To some, admissions interviews could be highly nerve-wracking and intimidating. As your dependable partners, we aim to lessen as much anxiety as possible. We offer an interview preparation program where you will do mock interviews and practice responding to common interview questions. We know what they will ask and we can guide you to give the best responses.

Personal Statement/Essay

As part of the application process, Crystal requires every applicant to submit a personal statement and short question responses. There will be two essay topics to choose from and answers must be approximately 500 words. Short answer questions will require only 200-word responses or selecting from a dropdown list.

To shine in your personal statement, show why you deserve to be part of the Crystal Springs Uplands School community. In our experience, many students have failed to do so. Many have found it difficult to write a good narrative that answers the prompts, and at the same time, showcases their strong suits and makes them stand out. Our educational consultants will make sure you do not get stuck in the same pitfall of essay writing. If you think you are not a strong writer, we strongly suggest that you take our Program in Writing and Reading to learn how to be an active, curious reader and significantly improve your writing skills.

Proctored Writing Sample

The Writing Sample is an online writing assessment proctored by Test Innovators, wherein students are given the task of writing an essay on a specific prompt or topic. Since most schools have adopted test-optional policies, a Proctored Writing Sample is now being required in lieu of standardized tests like HSPT, ISEE, and SSAT. In a short span of 30 minutes, students are expected to finish writing their essays. Students face immense pressure and anxiety and so many are not able to craft well-written essays. At Cardinal Education, we provide students with an opportunity to practice through our Proctored Writing Sample preparation. Call us today to learn more!  

Standardized Test

Crystal does not accept any standardized tests.

Who are Crystal’s notable alumni?

Many CSUS alumni have gained fame and become successful in their own respective fields. Some of its notable alumni include:

  1. Jon Fisher – co-founder and the CEO of AutoReach
  2. Daniel Naroditsky – a renowned chess grandmaster and the author of Mastering Positional Chess  and Mastering Complex Endgames
  3. Tyson Mao – the owner of Wursthall Restaurant & Bierhaus and is well-known for exceptional Rubix-cube-solving abilities
  4. Charlie Kubal – a music producer who created 2010’s Mashup Album of the Year, the notorious xx
  5. Polly Draper – an actress, writer, and producer, who is best known as Ellyn Warren in thirtysomething
  6. Veronica Perez – a soccer star who played for the US National Under-23 Team and plays in the Liga MX Femenil for Atlas FC
  7. Will Harvey – an Apple II game programmer at the age of 15 and creator of IMVU
  8. Kitty Margolis – a jazz singer best known for the Heart and Soul: Live in San Francisco album
  9. Josh Tenenbaum – an MIT professor and researcher in cognitive science and AI
  10. Jack Herrick – the founder of wikiHow

Student Life at Crystal

Besides academics, athletics, and clubs, Crystal provides its students with holistic support to guide them throughout their development. The school offers academic support for documented learning disabilities or differences, and a student counseling program for all students that are experiencing difficulties inside or outside the campus. As an annual tradition, the Crystal Family Association (CFA) holds a communitywide fundraiser to bring parents and guardians, alumni, PACs, and friends together and support the school. This year, CFA will be hosting Crystal Fest, most known as the Gryphon Gala.

Academics at Crystal

Crystal Springs Uplands School has rigorous academic demands. Through transformative teaching and meaningful connections, students at Crystal are encouraged to be kind and curious learners who thrive together. While both freshmen and sophomores take five academic courses, juniors and seniors are strongly recommended to only take four. At CSUS, the courses offered are more student-initiated projects, global experiences, internships, and investigative research. Although no AP-designated courses are offered, students can still sit for AP tests administered on-site.  

Activities at Crystal

Crystal takes pride in establishing connections and contributing significantly to the broader world. They have a Human Development program wherein students get to get involved with a variety of local organizations such as Second Harvest, SF-Marin Food Bank, Wings Learning Center, Special Olympics, Fitzgerald Marine, and many others. Each fall, students hold the annual Club Fair on each campus wherein students are given opportunities to create or participate in either of the 58 Clubs in the Upper School and 40 others in the Middle School. 

Athletics at Crystal

Rooted in excellence, opportunity, versatility, possibility, and support, helping students become their best selves is at the core of Crystal Athletics programs. The Gryphons play competitively in 15 different sports. In Upper School, students are offered boys’ and girls’ basketball, girls’ golf, football, volleyball, cross country, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ tennis, track and field, coed squash, tennis, baseball, boys’ golf, girls’ lacrosse, and swimming. Middle school students, on the other hand, are offered boys’ and girls’ soccer, cross country, lacrosse, boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball, track and field, flag football, and girls’ volleyball.

Arts at Crystal

Crystal’s Fine Arts department fosters a safe environment for students to freely express themselves. The exploration, depth, and breadth that come from its progressive and experiential visual and performing arts curriculum are immensely valued. Seeking to provide a creative outlet for all students, Crystal strives to promote self-expression, understanding, and appreciation of the discipline, and a working knowledge that a myriad of solutions exists to solve artistic problems. Each year, Crystal Springs Uplands School has 4 theatrical productions and a Fine Arts Festival to showcase all works of art.

Did You Know?

Crystal uses renewable energy. 25% of the school’s electricity is provided by 935 solar panels. 

Client Testimonial

“The expert advice and personalized approach of the admissions consultants at Cardinal Education helped us in navigating the tough admissions process. Their meticulousness and in-depth understanding of Crystal Springs Uplands surely contributed significantly to my child’s acceptance.”