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Top West Coast Colleges and Universities

A list of 30 of West Coast's best colleges and universities

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National Top Picks: Universities | Public Universities | Liberal Arts Colleges | Engineering | Business | Women's | Most Selective | More Top Picks

The West Coast is home to some impressive universities and colleges, and my top picks range in size from a few hundred to over 40,000 students. Stanford frequently ranks among the nations top universities, and UC Berkeley often tops rankings of public universities. Pomona College is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. The 30 colleges and universities below were chosen based on a range of factors including retention rates, graduation rates, student engagement, selectivity, and financial aid. I have listed the schools alphabetically to avoid the often arbitrary distinctions that separate #1 from #2, and because of the futility of comparing a large research university to a small liberal arts college.

The West Coast Region

West Coast States

The 30 colleges and universities in the list below were selected from West Coast states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.

More Regions: New England | Middle Atlantic | Southeast | Midwest | South Central | Mountain

California Institute of Technology (CalTech)

Roses at the California Institute of Technology
tobo / Flickr

Chapman University

Chapman University
tom.arthur / Flickr
  • Location: Orange, California
  • Enrollment: 7,155 (5,300 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: 14 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 23; strong professional fields such as business and communications, but with a liberal arts flavor; rich history of inclusive admissions
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Chapman University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Chapman

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College
Bazookajoe1 / Wikimedia Commons

Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University
Christine Salek / Flickr

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College
Imagine / Wikimedia Commons

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University Chapel
Adan Garcia / Flickr

Occidental College

Occidental College Student Center
Geographer / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Enrollment: 2,132 (2,125 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; located eight miles from downtown L.A.; 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 16; 21 Division III varsity sports teams
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Occidental College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Occidental

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University
John Beagle / Flickr
  • Location: Malibu, California
  • Enrollment: 7,539 (3,474 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian university
  • Distinctions: attracitve 830-acre campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean; international campuses in six countries; strong undergraduate business major; 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio; member of the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Pepperdine University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Pepperdine

Pitzer College

Pitzer College Quad
Whoaboy / Wikimedia Commons
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