Santa Barbara Middle School

Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #1 - Every Friday morning at 6:45, anyone who choses, meets at the beach for a sunrise swim. We circle up as a community. The 9th graders read a quote for the week, then whomever wants to, runs in for a morning wake up plunge! After a few waves are ridden, the dip is followed by hot chocolate, coffee and donuts!
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #2 - Each of our students chooses to be here. Before the school year starts, every student partakes in "The Deal" where they promise to try their best, be kind to everyone and share a part of themselves with the school. Consequently students feel safe to be themselves and to blossom into who they they are becoming.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #3 - Although teachers do give instructions that include facts, methods, and examples, it cannot be called true learning unless the student is able to 'internalize' the meaning of the lessons given. In this respect, true learning is a kind of inner awakening that becomes a stable basis for understanding. It is a subtle process, and deeply profound.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #4 - Creative Arts take on many personalities at SBMS. Each student chooses 11 electives every year. Creative Arts classes range from Singing, Photography, Movie Making, Guitar, Final Cut Pro, Programming, Drone flying, Drama, Songwriting, studio art, ceramics and many, many more.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #5 - Students may choose from an array of Sports classes 7 times a year. Sports vary from boys and girls competitive intramural games in Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball and surfing, to non competitive sports such as running, jump rope, yoga, beach volleyball and field sports.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #6 - Every fall SBMS has Career Study Week. This is a week when each student gets to spend time in the working world. They have an 8 week course preparing them for the 5 day experience where the volunteering employers become the teachers and the job site the classroom. Dress for an interview, create a resume, 5 days/5 hours a day.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #7 - One of the school's maxims is "carpe diem," or "seize the day." Students are encouraged to learn from each other and to be open to new experiences. SBMS teachers are committed to their students - teaching academics, electives and participating in our extraordinary outdoor expedition program. SBMS is fully accredited by NAIS, CAIS and the AEE.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #8 - Students celebrate at Homecoming after our fall bicycle Expedition which characterizes the school's outdoor education program. Mother Nature is a teacher like no other. She teaches flexibility, resilience, self reliance and self confidence. Students learn to take care of themselves as well as a deep sense of community connection and care of others during these pivotal middle school years.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #9 - English teacher and poet Dave Pratt, displays a personalized graduation poem. SBMS "Rites of Passage" ceremony which concludes students' journey at Santa Barbara Middle School is a highlight of each graduate's SBMS experience. Each student is presented a poem about their presence at Middle School, and is honored by special person in their life--one of their choosing--a teacher, sibling, parent.
Santa Barbara Middle School Photo #10 - Ask anyone who's ever attended SBMS, and they will say the Outdoor Program undeniably shaped them. Our teachers and students take three expeditions every year. We ride mountain bikes, kayak, hike, backpack and Mountaineer. Every journey allows those present to stretch themselves, face challenge and adversity, and learn how to trust in ones self, a skill only learned by practice.
  • Founded in 1976, Santa Barbara Middle School is an accredited, stand-alone middle school for grades 6 - 9 in California.
  • Through our students' immersion in stimulating Academics, Creative Arts and Sports, Community, Career Studies and our acclaimed Outdoor Education Program, the foundation is designed to provide a defining educational experience.
  • Our community is based on mutual respect, compassion, gratitude and a unique understanding of this specific age.
  • Few adults remember junior high as an affirming high point in their lives; our alumni do.
  • SBMS graduates are known and admired for their intellectual curiosity, creativity, and "can-do confidence." Academic excellence is acknowledged in our graduates ability to earn acceptances to top private high schools and select spots for the highly coveted intellectual and creative academies in the public schools.
  • Our motivated graduates excel in the GATE/Honors and AP programs in high school and go on to attend the finest universities across the country and abroad.

Top Placements

Santa Barbara Middle School places among the top 20% of private schools in California for:

School Overview

School Membership(s)School Assoc.National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
Association for Experiential Education (AEE)
California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS)
Religious AffiliationNonsectarian
Grades OfferedGrades 6-9
Learning Difference ProgramsYes
Learning Programs SupportedMild Learning Difference
Year Founded1976

Student Body

Total Students160 students
Student Body TypeCo-ed
Students by Grade Santa Barbara Middle School Student By Grade

Academics and Faculty

Total Classroom Teachers40 teachers
Student : Teacher Ratio4:1
National avg.: 13:1
% Faculty w/Advanced Degree
Average Class Size18 students
List of Courses OfferedLink to List of Courses
Classroom Dress CodeCasual
(Dress Philosophy: personal preference; age appropriate)

Finances and Admission

Admission DeadlineFeb. 5 / rolling
Yearly Tuition Cost$32,625
Tuition NotesSBMS proudly includes in our tuition, all books, and outdoor education fees. Our tuition is all inclusive.
% on Financial Aid
Acceptance Rate
National avg.: 85%
Admissions DirectorMandy Westerman
Admissions AssociateSue Carmody


Total Sports Offered24 sports
SportsBasketball, Cross Country, Cycling, Dance, Field Hockey, Flag Football, Golf, Intramural Sports Only, Kayaking, Lacrosse, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Paddle Tennis, Rock Climbing, Sailing, Soccer, Softball, Surf Team, Swimming, Tennis, Track and Field, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, WeightliftingBasketballCross Country,
Field HockeyFlag Football,
GolfIntramural Sports Only,
Mountain BikingMountaineering,
Paddle TennisRock Climbing,
SoftballSurf Team,
Track and FieldUltimate Frisbee,


Total ExtracurricularsTotal Extra-curric.21 extracurriculars
ExtracurricularsExtra-curric.Club or Organization:
Academic Fair, Career Study Week, Community Action Club, Documentary Films, Math Superbowl, Mike Monkeys, Student Council

Arts and Music Programs:
Digital Movie Making, Digital Photography, Musical Theater, SBMS Teen Press < >, Songfest, Songwriting

Recreational Athletic Programs:
Boys and Girls Intramural Basketball Team, Boys and Girls Intramural Soccer Team, Boys and Girls Intramural Volleyball Team, Channel Islands Project, Golf, Ocean Sports, Rite of the Wheel, Surf Team

School Notes

  • Santa Barbara Middle School is an independent, coeducational day school for grades 6-9. SBMS was founded in 1976 by a group of students, parents, and teachers concerned about the junior high years. This group sought to create a school that would combine an innovative, challenging academic program with an environment responsive to the many needs of adolescent students. Santa Barbara Middle School cultivates in our students passion for life and learning, a deep sense of trust in themselves, strength and courage to succeed at life's challenges, and compassion and respect for others. Santa Barbara Middle School has an outstanding, innovative faculty that fosters a love of learning and a passion for living. Santa Barbara Middle School provides a solid academic program that prepares middle-schoolers to become successful. Our school has a nationally recognized Outdoor Education Program that stretches personal limits and builds self-confidence. We provide a Creative Arts and Sports Electives Program that offers exciting new choices for learning and personal growth. We provide a Community Outreach and Service Program that gives students an opportunity to learn about on-the-job responsibility and caring for others.

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  • School Location Miles Grades Students
  • Santa Barbara
    Grades: K-8 | 263 students
    4.3 miles
    1795 San Leandro Lane
    Santa Barbara, CA 93108
    (805) 969-7732
    4.3 K-8
  • Santa Barbara
    Grades: PK-12 | 356 students
    3.9 miles
    4125 Paloma Dr
    Santa Barbara, CA 93110
    (805) 687-2461
    3.9 PK-12
  • Goleta
    Grades: PK-8 | 87 students
    10.8 miles
    7421 Mirano Dr
    Goleta, CA 93117
    (805) 685-7600
    10.8 PK-8
  • Woodland Hills
    Topanga Mountain School
    Topanga Mountain School Photo
    Alternative School
    Grades: 6-8 | 37 students
    64.3 miles
    5920 Shoup Ave
    Woodland Hills, CA 91367
    (818) 346-8355
    64.3 6-8

School Reviews

  5.00 out of 5  (14 reviews)
I don't think it's random that to this day (I'm 27 as of posting this) that 4 of my closest friends are from SBMS. Moreover, those 4 friends are 4 of the most awesome, accomplished human beings I know, and I think a big part of our lasting friendship and our success in life comes from our experiences in middle school. SBMS gave me my first real taste of responsibility and taught me how to seize the day with preparation, positivity and creativity; all while giving me a lifetime of stories to laugh about when I get together with my SBMS buddies.
- Posted by
Reducing the SBMS experience to words is difficult at best. The bonds developed between the SBMS staff and the students, especially during the expeditions, help the students to achieve higher levels of academic achievement and personal development. The staff considers the students to be their partners in an educational and life adventure - everyone learns and grows together. While attending SBMS our son developed a deeper curiosity about matters academic, social, and environmental. This, as well as a love outdoor activities and strong friendships formed there have served him well to this day as he begins his first year at university. The SBMS experience has had a positive and long-lasting impact not only on the student, but on our entire family.
- Posted by
SBMS provided a platform to critically explore the world around us and examples of how to explore and learn with joy. I am so grateful for my time at SBMS as a student and the community that continues to support me today!
- Posted by
I was a troubled youth, SBMS took me in and pulled me out of my shell. Their art, music and athletic programs are exceptional. The teachers enforced a positive environment with problem solving and accountability tools that I still use to this day. I cannot recommend SBMS enough to prospective students, they are not just a school, they are family and they will stick with you until the ends of the earth!
- Posted by
My two sons attended SBMS. They were different. One was very academically focused, the other was more of a "live in the moment" kind of guy. They both came to SBMS in 6th grade and found a place that nurtured their strengths and inspired their minds to be open to ideas and experiences they had never known. The teachers loved them, shared their love of learning, lived with them and believed in them for who they were, at the same time stretched them to become brave, open, confident and proud of who they are. I can't imagine a better place for them to have been in their junior high school years. To this day they still harken back to how SBMS fed their curiosity and gave them the confidence to take on challenges and know how to dig deep when they need to. Thank you.
- Posted by
If you are considering Santa Barbara Middle School for your child, you may have already heard about the three outdoor expeditions they take every year (such as Channel Islands, Monterey, or Grand Canyon, depending on the year) or the amazing selections of electives they offer (rock band, surfing, robotics, filmmaking, bike mechanics, journalism, etc. etc.) and the passionate teachers (many of whom are alumni) who populate the classrooms. And while it`s true they are incredible, the real testament to the school`s power are the kids themselves. For a lot of people, the middle school years are among the hardest of their education--you're not yet an adult but also no longer a child, and you can struggle to create your identity amid a challenging landscape of peer pressure and increased responsibility. But for many of the kids at SBMS, these years mark some of the most cherished moments of their youth, creating incredibly powerful friendships that in many cases (as they have for me), last a lifetime. It isn`t easy and it will cause your child to take calculated risks and step up to the plate to face many challenges in and out of the classrooms. And many times they will fail but when they do, they will have a friend or a teacher or both there to guide them towards that next step. The end result is that they are more resilient, confident and compassionate kids that go on to make a difference in their community and the world. I was lucky enough to attend SBMS back in the late 80s and now I`m grateful to have my son enrolled in his first year. It might sound like a bit much, I know, but it`s the real deal.
- Posted by
It is hard to overstate the positive impact that SBMS and its faculty has had on me, but this school was a transformative experience for myself and so many of my peers.In short, the faculty at this school goes above and beyond for their students -- they empower them, educate them, lead them, follow them, cry with them and laugh with them.The academic education teaches students to think critically and be daring -- while the school's trip program teaches students to care for one another and push far beyond what they know.
- Posted by
Santa Barbara Middle School creates a context for its students which we've observed first hand helps them for the rest of their lives, and makes the content they learn in Middle School all the more meaningful. The faculty and administration share a strong sense of mission--that our lives and journeys matter. The academic and other skills SBMS imparts are valuable beyond measure for families who believe that a life well lived is a goal as worthy as straight As and a perfect SAT score. Activities, challenges, and comeraderie abound, and most kids feel at home, not matter what their style or interests. Fun, engaging, and challenging, this is an amazing school.
- Posted by
This school is a blessed place for those who seek an individualistic view of how to teach, learn and grow. I had two daughters go through this program. They are now 27 and 25. They are mighty independent strong women. I attribute much of their gifts and who they are in this world to the moulding of SBMS. There is a strong heart perseverance, focus and acceptance here.
- Posted by
My three years at Santa Barbara Middle School were hands down the most essential and formative years of my formal education (from pre-k to grad school). I am the person I am today because of the Middle School. The academic education more than prepared me for Honors and AP classes in high school. I had the right combination of academics, arts (especially music and theater) and sports with teachers who made classes and electives totally enjoyable and often funny. But more importantly, it was a spiritual, historical and communal education that transformed a period of life that is usually painful and awkward to one that was deeply enriching and empowering. We all learned what it means to be a friend and an upstanding member of our community -- indebted to those who came before us, and responsible to those who will come after.
- Posted by
Santa Barbara Middle School had the biggest impact on who I am today.Before I went to SBMS, I was incredibly shy, and preferred reading indoor to most things. SBMS allowed me to grow out of that shell, and pushed me in ways I didn't know I needed. I made some of the best friends (who I am still very close with), accomplished physical feats that still boggle my mind, and travelled all over the world on bike and foot.I am so grateful to my parents for discovering SBMS, and for sending me there. SBMS shapes the whole person and supports every kind of kid.I couldn't have asked, nor hoped, for a better middle school experience. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, and should I have children and live in Santa Barbara, I can only dream that they would be able to attend and have the same formative experiences that I had.
- Posted by
My three daughters attended SBMS and it was a life changing experience for all of them. SBMS challenged them mentally and physically, showed them that if they stretched themselves they were capable of great things, and taught them the importance of community and service. Perhaps the greatest endorsement is that when they come back to town (one is in NYC and one is in Boulder now) they still visit the school, and one has even returned to serve as alumni staff on bike trips.
- Posted by
Though I am only 18 years old, the three years I spent at Santa Barbara Middle School were the most transformative and influential years of my life. The knowledge I gained at this school stretched far beyond the classroom: not only did I grow academically, but my personal growth, specifically, is what I look most fondly upon. I learned the true value of hard work, dedication, and service - principles which have shaped me into the woman I am today. The teachers at SBMS guided me every step of the way, inspiring me to thrive and take every opportunity life throws at me. Each day I am reminded of this school and am so beyond grateful for my time there, for the place I now call home, for the teachers and friends I now call family, and most importantly, grateful that this institution can continue to stimulate and motivate the young minds of our future as they did me and those who came before me.
- Posted by
Santa Barbara Middle School was unquestionably the most positively formative educational chapter of our children's lives. The strong academic foundation set them up for success through high school and two Ivy League universities. But the character and values development they received at SBMS set them up to be strong, independent women who care about their communities and now actively contribute to them. I cannot recommend SBMS highly enough.
- Posted by

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Did You Know?
The average private school tuition in California is $11,526 for elementary schools and $20,037 for high schools (read more about average private school tuition across the country).
The average acceptance rate in California is 84% (read more about average acceptance rates across the country).