How to Get Into The College Preparatory School: A Comprehensive Guide to Admissions

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The College Preparatory School is an independent day high school ranked as one of the best private high schools in America. Founded in 1950 and nestled in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, College Prep caters to 9th through 12th-grade students of any race, gender, and physical ability. It is dedicated to providing an exceptional education that fosters intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and a commitment to lifelong learning. It boasts a strong track record of helping students gain admission to some of the world’s most prestigious colleges and universities. 

CPS Oakland fosters a diverse and collaborative community where students are encouraged to express themselves freely. It takes diversity and discrimination seriously and applies all legal non-discrimination standards to school-administered programs, administrative practices, and the support of all community members. In fact, in 2023, out of more than 300 students in College Prep, 71% are students of color, identified using Jackson Collin’s definition of race and collected from a self-reported survey. 

How to Get Into The College Preparatory School 

College Prep is recognized as the best college prep private high school in Alameda County and one of the top prep high schools in America. Because of this reputation and the diversity of its community, admissions can be highly selective as it seeks to accept the best, most talented, and most diverse students. Not only are aspiring students assessed on their academic performance but also on the personal character demonstrated in the admissions interview and the recommendation letters from their teachers as well. 

To increase your chances of getting in, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses, accentuate your potential, and improve in other areas. At Cardinal Education, we will help your child strategize and map out their success. Our dedicated team of educational consultants, tutors, and academic coaches can provide you with a bespoke private school admissions consulting package that is tailor-fit to your family’s needs, experiences, achievements, and interests.

The College Preparatory School Admissions

The College Prep admissions process begins by creating your account at Ravenna where you can sign up for events, fill out and submit application components, and monitor your application status. Here are the steps to complete your application:

  1. Register for admission events.
  2. Submit family forms.
    1. Personal Statement
    2. Parent Statement
  3. Delegate teacher recommendations.
  4. Submit transcripts.
  5. Schedule an interview.
  6. Take the assessment. You may choose any of the pathways.
    1. ISEE
    2. SSAT
    3. Online Writing Assessment

College Prep Application

Teacher Recommendations/Recommendation Letters

Applicants are required to submit recommendation letters from the current English teacher, math teacher, and the principal or counselor. All forms will be requested from Ravenna, and letters will be sent directly to College Prep Admissions. 

Recommendation letters will demonstrate your child’s qualities, skills, and capabilities as a student. Only teachers who have worked closely and have good relationships with your child will be able to write strong recommendation letters. There are several ways to get noticed by teachers, and our admissions consultants will show you how. Our years of experience have enabled us to develop effective admissions strategies that have helped families get into the most elite prep schools in America, like The College Preparatory School.


College prep requires 9th-grade applicants to submit complete 7th-grade transcripts along with either the first semester, second quarter, or first trimester of their 8th grade. These are requested through Ravenna, and your child’s current school registrar will upload the copies or mail them directly to the College Prep admissions office. 

Transcripts demonstrate your child’s ability and preparedness to handle College Prep’s rigorous curriculum. If your child’s grades are not impressive, some help may be needed to improve them. Reduce your stress by starting private school admissions consulting early. Our tutors and academic coaches will focus on the challenging subjects and make sure your child gets all the support they need to improve grades, finish their homework, and perform well on tests. We offer online or in-person tutoring and academic coaching for a variety of courses while improving executive function skills in note-taking, time management, study habits, and test-taking.

Admissions Interview

Zoom interviews are scheduled via Ravenna. These interviews are approximately 20 minutes long for the student and 10 minutes with the family. Interviews are one-on-one conversations with a faculty or an admissions officer.

Your responses will give the interviewer the impression that you are a good fit for the school’s culture and values. The questions may seem simple, but without proper guidance, you might lose your chance for admission with just one wrong response. By undergoing interview preparation, you will be better prepared with responses that are authentic and align with their goals. Our admissions consultants will help you determine which responses will make you stand out in the admissions interview.

Personal Statement/Essay

Applicants are required to write an essay in response to a question on the Common Form which can be found on Ravenna. There are three prompts to choose from, and the essay has a limit of 500 words. The personal statement should be original and not generated by any AI software. 

A personal statement must showcase your child’s unique character. The questions are simple and aim to elicit responses that will give admissions officers a deeper understanding of your child’s personality. With a limited word count, it can be difficult to write about the things that really matter.  Because we have helped many students get into College Prep, we know what admissions officers are looking for, and we can guide your child to write a student statement that is truthful, interesting, and distinctive. We offer a Program in Writing and Reading (PWR) for students who struggle with writing and organization.

Parent Statement

There are four questions on Ravenna that you, as a parent, should answer in 1500 characters each. Your responses will determine how much you know your child and illustrate your goals as a family. As expert private school admissions consultants, we know how important parent statements are and how to write them that will add value to your application. 

A well-written parent statement highlights your child’s strengths while also being engaging enough for admissions officers to read it from beginning to end. Because everyone enjoys reading stories, provide anecdotes rather than simply straight narratives when describing your child. Our admissions consultants can guide you and give suggestions on how to create engaging parent statements. 

Assessment Pathways

Applicants may be assessed based on three different pathways, the ISEE, SSAT, or the Online Writing Assessment. Although the admissions committee has no preference over the other, applicants are encouraged to take the test that works best for them. Transfer applicants, on the other hand, may submit PSAT, SAT, or ACT test scores in addition to or instead of the mentioned pathways below.

  1. ISEE
    The ISEE measures the academic readiness of a student applying to lower, middle, or upper schools. The test evaluates a student’s skills in the core subject areas. Our ISEE test prep begins with a diagnostic assessment for our test prep tutors to know what areas to focus on. A series of ISEE practice tests will be given until your child is confident to take the real exam.  Learn more about the ISEE here.
  2. SSAT
    The SSAT is an admissions test designed for students in 3rd–11th grade. The secret to getting high scores is early preparation. Our SSAT practice tests will teach your child test-taking strategies and guessing tactics that will be very useful when taking the exam. Our tutors can also assist by giving enrichment lessons and activities to review basic competencies, especially in math. Visit here to learn more about the SSAT.
  3. Online Writing Assessment
    If your child is a strong writer, the online writing assessment might be the best pathway. This is a timed writing activity administered by Test Innovators. Due to the limited time given, many applicants are not able to write their essays well. Our Proctored Writing Sample preparation enables students to practice writing under time pressure by answering different prompts.  Our writing tutors are professionals and knowledgeable about teaching writing techniques. 

The College Preparatory School Notable Alumni

A lot of College Prep graduates have pursued different careers and have become successful in their own respective fields. Some notable alumni from College Prep include 

  • Mark Cerny – video game designer, programmer, lead architect of Sony Play Station, and president of Cerny Games, a popular developer of arcade games
  • Jennifer Drobac – Professor of Law at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
  • Peter Jaffe – a music director and conductor of the Stockton Symphony and Folsom Lake Symphony
  • Graham Norris – the co-executive producer on the television show, New Amsterdam 
  • Cyrus Rangan – Assistant Medical Director at California Poison Control System, and Medical Toxicologist at Children’s Hospital
  • Audrey Vardanega – a professional pianist and the artistic director and founder of Musaics of the Bay 
  • Ethan Chorin – an analyst of Libyan affairs, recognized for his environmental science and healthcare work in the Middle East and Africa 
  • Abby Fateman – the executive director at East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy
  • Cyril Kormos – an executive director at Wild Heritage 
  • Laurel Paxton – Lead, Propulsion Engineer at Relativity Space

Student Life at College Prep

College Prep students are actively engaged in the school community and the broader world around them. 60% of the student body participates in team sports, while 75% takes part in the performing arts. Aside from joining or starting clubs and sports teams, College Prep students are given the opportunity and are encouraged to make life outside of school vibrant. Through volunteering at a local elementary school, becoming a senior mentor, being part of the Spirit Committee, cooking for the St. Vincent de Paul shelter, or lending a helping hand for the College Preps annual equity conference, The College Preparatory School promotes multiple collaborative environments for students to get involved and make a positive difference.

College Prep Academics

The College Preparatory School has a student-teacher ratio of 7:1 and a total of 91 dedicated faculty and staff. 86% of the faculty members hold advanced degrees, and College Prep takes pride in it! The school curriculum is strong and pliant, fueled by a warm culture and rich surrounding environment. College Prep firmly values learning opportunities outside of the traditional classroom. They offer experiential and mixed-grade interterm courses for their students to encourage community and activity engagement. There are robust courses offered in arts, English, history, math & computer science, science, world languages, and speech & debate. 

College Prep Activities

Diversity among its members is a key component of quality activities at College Prep. The vibrant and active learning environment at the school inspires students to become aware of, advocate for, and take action for social justice and service leadership. The Black Student Union, Gender Sexuality Awareness Club, Jewish Club, LatinX, South Asian Alliance, and Students with Interracial Lives are just a few of the action and affinity groups available at College Prep. Additionally, students get to spend time together on retreats where they are inspired to forge even stronger relationships as they explore and exchange experiences.

College Prep Athletics

College Prep’s athletic programs have something for experienced and beginner athletes alike. It fields 23 interscholastic teams across 10 sports that play in the Bay County League East. Their athletic department values joy, sportsmanship, integrity, and pride in team sports. College Prep teams are able to bag 69 league titles and have been finalists in 20 North Coast Section championships since 2010. 

College Prep Arts

The Arts Department offers students four art disciplines, including visual arts, dance, drama, and music. College Prep requires students to take at least four semesters of art, but most students choose more than that. Throughout the year, students get to participate in collaborative and school-wide projects in visual and performing arts classes. The dance program is available at three different levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. In terms of drama, College Prep does two major productions every year, one in the fall and the other in the spring. Students are also given the opportunity to perform in choral or instrumental ensembles through College Prep’s music courses.

Did You Know?

86% of faculty members have advanced degrees in their areas of specialization.

Client Testimonial

“Cardinal Education provided the guidance and resources, from personalized tutoring, test prep, essay writing, and interview preparation to become successful. After a challenging journey, my son has been accepted into College Prep! Thank you Cardinal Education!”

Parent of a Grade 9 student