Best Colleges in California | 2019 Updated

Posted by Carmen Viramontes on July 26th, 2019

California's four-year institutions include some of the world's most prestigious public and private schools, with highly-competitive admissions processes reflecting said reputations. Freshmen impaction, or setting caps on the number of students a school can admit, is a real concern for public universities in California, including campuses within the California State University (CSU) system.

The LA Times explains that public colleges and universities are involved in efforts to expand student capacities through the creation of new facilities; however, these developments will likely lead to continued tuition increases.

Given the great need for in-state 4-year degree holders, now is the perfect time to enter a bachelor's program as a California resident. We've compiled the following list of top colleges to help you get started.

California State University--Fullerton                                  

California State University--Fullerton

California State University—Fullerton is a public institution that was founded in 1957. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 34,920, its setting is city, and the campus size is 236 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar.

California State University—Fullerton's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 221. Its in-state tuition and fees are ,870 (2018-19); out-of-state tuition and fees are ,374 (2018-19).

California State University—Fullerton (CSUF) is located in the center of Orange County, about 30 miles from Los Angeles. The school offers more than 50 undergraduate degrees and nearly 50 master’s programs, including those in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, the education school, and the highly ranked midwifery and anesthesiology programs in the nursing department.

University of California-Los Angeles                                     

The University of California, Los Angeles is a high-profile institution located in western Los Angeles. With over 3,800 courses in 109 different academic departments, UCLA students enjoy some of the most diverse study opportunities in California.

The school is well-known for its athletic prowess. As of 2017, UCLA varsity teams have captured 113 NCAA championships, and its alumni have earned a total of 261 Olympic medals. UCLA also has a renowned academic pedigree that includes 13 Nobel Prize laureates and 12 Macarthur Fellows. The school is also one of the best colleges in California for pre-med students, with the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center consistently being named one of the top five hospitals in the continental United States.

Pepperdine University                                                            

Pepperdine University is a private institution that was founded in 1937. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 3,604, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 830 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Pepperdine University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 46. Its tuition and fees are ,932 (2018-19).

Squeezed in among the Santa Monica Mountain foothills, Pepperdine University is a Christian college known for its picturesque location in Malibu, Calif. The school upholds the New Testament-based traditions of the Churches of Christ. Students must attend 14 spiritual events a semester and take at least three religion courses during their time at Pepperdine.

California Institute of Technology                                         

Commonly known as CalTech, the California Institute of Technology is one of the world’s leading scientific research and teaching universities. The school’s small size is widely considered one of its best assets, as it has approximately 300 full-time professors to serve an undergraduate body of about 1,000 students.

Its alumni and faculty have won a total of 35 Nobel Prizes, and CalTech is home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in addition to several other high-profile research and development projects and institutes.

CalTech’s academic programs are heavily oriented toward theoretical and applied sciences, and 99% of its undergraduate students placed in the top 10% of their high school graduating classes. The school is among the leading colleges in California for faculty membership in elite academic and professional organizations. The CalTech community includes 58 National Medal of Science recipients and 13 National Medal of Technology and Innovation award winners.

Stanford University                                                                

Stanford University is a private institution that was founded in 1885. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 7,062, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 8,180 acres. It utilizes a quarter-based academic calendar. Stanford University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 7. Its tuition and fees are ,354 (2018-19).

Stanford University’s pristine campus is located in California’s Bay Area, about 30 miles from San Francisco. Stanford offers a wide range of student organizations, including the Stanford Pre-Business Association and Stanford Solar Car Project, which designs, builds and races a solar car every two years.

The Stanford Cardinal are well known for the traditional "Big Game" against Cal, an annual football competition that awards the Stanford Axe — a sought-after trophy — to the victor. Stanford also has successful programs in tennis and golf 

University of Southern California                                          

Home of the Trojans, USC is one of the top private research colleges in California. Established in 1880, USC has two official campus locations: the University Park campus in central Los Angeles, and the Health Sciences campus northeast of downtown. Current full-time and adjunct faculty members have earned prestigious honors including the Macarthur Fellowship, Pulitzer Prize, National Medal of the Arts, and the Guggenheim Award, among others.

Its top-ranked film school has produced many Academy Award winners in both creative and technical fields, and the Thornton School of Music is also one of the best-regarded academies of its kind in the United States.

USC’s academic programs are offered through 23 distinct colleges and units, and the Trojans are a prominent force in the NCAA. The school’s talented student body boasts an average unweighted GPA of 3.75 among entering freshmen, and USC supports lifelong personal and professional connections through its broad, inclusive, and accessible alumni network.

Pepperdine University                                                            

Pepperdine University is a private institution that was founded in 1937. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 3,604, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 830 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Pepperdine University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 46. Its tuition and fees are ,932 (2018-19).

Squeezed in among the Santa Monica Mountain foothills, Pepperdine University is a Christian college known for its picturesque location in Malibu, Calif. The school upholds the New Testament-based traditions of the Churches of Christ. Students must attend 14 spiritual events a semester and take at least three religion courses during their time at Pepperdine.

There is a Church of Christ on campus, as well as a handful of student-led ministries. Outside of church, the school’s sports teams, the Pepperdine Waves, compete in the Division I West Coast Conference.

California State University-Long Beach                                 

California State University, Long Beach is the third-largest school in the CSU system. The school’s 322-acre main campus is located on a hilltop with a majestic view of the Pacific Ocean, and features thousands of flowering peach trees that were gifted to the school by local residents.

The university is a designated “Military Friendly School,” and is a popular study destination for servicemen and women transitioning back to civilian life. In addition, the university is among the nation’s leaders in the number of degrees conferred to minorities and students of color. Students can pursue majors administered by a total of 63 different departments.

The school also enjoys a reputation as one of the best colleges in California for film students. California State University, Long Beach counts multiple Academy Award-winning screenwriters, directors, and producers among its alumni, including Steven Spielberg. Chris Carter, creator of the hit TV series The X-Files, is another high-profile graduate.

University of California--Santa Cruz                                      

University of California—Santa Cruz is a public institution that was founded in 1965. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 17,577, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 2,000 acres. It utilizes a quarter-based academic calendar. University of California—Santa Cruz's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 70. Its in-state tuition and fees are ,949 (2018-19); out-of-state tuition and fees are ,963 (2018-19).

At the University of California—Santa Cruz, one of 10 schools in the state's university system, residence life can define a student's experience. Nearly 100 percent of freshmen live on campus and choose one of 10 residential colleges to join. These small groups have their own campus locations, as well as unique architecture and programming.

Kresge College, for example, is home to an organic garden where students can take classes; students who are members of the College Nine community are often active in volunteer efforts and the college's Alternative Spring Break trips. Students living in residence halls may only have overnight guests 15 times a school year, for a maximum of three nights each visit.

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona                  

Conveniently located just east of the city of Los Angeles and surrounded by some of the area's most attractive landscapes, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona is one of the best colleges in California.

Cal Poly Pomona was founded in 1938 and built on land deeded by W.K. Kellogg (of Kellogg's cereal). Today the school enrolls around 24,000 students a year and employs nearly 2,600 faculty and staff members.

Kellog's winter home was known for its prize-winning Arabian horses. Today the property is a bustling research and education center but Cal Poly Pomona's connection to the Kellogg family remains strong through its relationship with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Much like Kellogg's prized horses in days past, the school's W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center is a popular community attraction.

Carmen Viramontes

About the Author

Carmen Viramontes
Joined: July 26th, 2019
Articles Posted: 2

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