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Top California Colleges and Universities

These 12 Schools Typically Top the College Rankings for California


Top Ranked Colleges: Universities | Public Universities | Liberal Arts Colleges | Engineering | Business | Women's | Most Selective

California has some of the best colleges in the country. The University of California system has many strengths, and California has both strong liberal arts colleges and private research universities. The 12 top colleges listed below vary so much in size and type of school that I have simply listed them alphabetically rather than force them into any sort of artificial ranking. Schools were selected based on factors such as retention rates, four- and six-year graduation rates, overall value, and academic strengths.

Berkeley (University of California at Berkeley)

UC Berkeley Tower
phoosh / Flickr

Caltech (California Institute of Technology)

Caltech's Bridge Laboratory
Velo Steve / Flickr

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College
Bazookajoe1 / Wikimedia Commons

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College
Imagine / Wikimedia Commons

Occidental College

Occidental College Student Center
Geographer / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Enrollment: 1,868 (1,846 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; diverse student body; blend of urban and suburban advantages -- located just eight miles from downtown Los Angeles
  • 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: 7,614 (3,404 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: 830-acre campus overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Malibu; strong programs in business and communications; member of the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference; affiliated with the Churches of Christ
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Pepperdine University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Pepperdine

Pomona College

Pomona College
CMLLovesDegus / Wikimedia Commons

Scripps College

Scripps College
Mllerustad / Flickr

Stanford University

Stanford University
jillclardy / Flickr

UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles)

UCLA Powell Library
saturnism / flickr

UCSD (University of California at San Diego)

University of San Diego Geisel Library
kafka4prez / Flickr

USC (University of Southern California)

USC, University of Southern California
koyochi / Flickr
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