Top 25 Best Colleges in the Southwest | 2019 Rankings

The Southwest region of the United States is full of interesting history, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of great colleges and universities. And some of the countries best colleges are located in the Southwest!

For the purposes of this list, we consider the following states to make up the Southwest: Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and Hawaii.

Check out College Raptor’s top 25 best colleges in the Southwest!

25. Loyola Marymount University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Johnxlibris

    Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 9,330
  • College Type: Private

Crimson and blue are the colors of the LMU Lions. Marketing, Speech Communication, Psychology, Finance, and Political Science are the five most popular majors on this idyllic campus. Of the nearly 15,400 applications sent in, LMU will accept almost 8,000 of them, giving the university a 52% acceptance rate.

24. Texas A&M University – College Station

  • Wikimedia Commons user Oldag07

    Location: College Station, TX

  • Student Enrollment: 65,632
  • College Type: Public

Created under the historic Morrill Act of 1862, Texas A & M University is the proud and diverse home of the Aggies, when they were first established as an agricultural and mechanical school.  Located in the Dallas/Houston/Austin triangle, Texas A & M is one of the few universities in the United States to host a Presidential library, the George Bush Presidential Library.

23. Southern Methodist University

  • Flickr user Roy Luck

    Location: Dallas, TX

  • Student Enrollment: 11,739
  • College Type: Private

Southern Methodist University, also known as SMU, is known for its innovative programs, small classes, and international study opportunities. Average ACT scores from incoming freshman range between 28 and 32, while for SAT scores the range is 1310–1460. Finance is the most popular major at SMU.

22. University of California – Santa Cruz

  • Flickr user John Kannenberg

    Location: Santa Cruz, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 18,783
  • College Type: Public

UC — Santa Cruz is a small, cozy coastal campus located in central California, near scenic Monterey Bay. Undergrads have a choice of 65 majors to choose from. The official campus mascot is definitely a unique one—Sammy the Banana Slug, which by their own admission is an unusual choice.

21. Colorado College of Mines

  • Flickr user Ken Lund

    Location: Golden, CO

  • Student Enrollment: 6,069
  • College Type: Public

Though Colorado College of Mines focuses mostly on science and engineering, students still have over 70 undergraduate degree programs to choose from. Colorado College of Mines encourages STEM studies and programs. Often just called “Mines” this college’s school colors are blue and silver, and their mascot is Marvin the Miner and Blaster the Burro.

20. Trinity University

  • Flickr user Mr.TinDC

    Location: San Antonio, TX

  • Student Enrollment: 2,466
  • College Type: Private

Located in the heart of San Antonio, Trinity University is a highly selective school, with an acceptance rate of 38%. The school’s mascot is a tiger and their school colors are maroon and white. They have an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 73% four year graduation rate, which jumps up to 83% in six years.

19. Pepperdine University

Blue and orange are Pepperdine’s school colors. They compete as the Waves, and their mascot is named Willie the Wave. On average, incoming students score between 1230 and 1410 on the SAT, and between 25 and 30 on the ACT. Business is the most common major on this beautiful campus, followed by Psychology.

18. Thomas Aquinas College

  • Flickr user Alex Begin

    Location: Santa Paula, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 386
  • College Type: Private

Thomas Aquinas is a private school affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The school’s motto is “The True • The Good • The Beautiful.” The students are split nearly 50% / 50% in terms of men and women on campus. Thomas Aquinas has a 72% acceptance rate, and an 89% six year graduation rate.

17. University of Texas at Austin

  • Flickr user Wally Gobetz

    Location: Austin, TX

  • Student Enrollment: 51,331
  • College Type: Public

The University of Texas — Austin is known not only for their beloved mascot, a Texas longhorn steer, but also for their marching band with its world-famous Big Bertha, the world’s largest bass drum. The school’s acceptance rate is around 36%. Over 3/4ths of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level.

16. Pitzer College

  • Flickr user Charles Wohlers

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,062
  • College Type: Private

Pitzer College is part of the Claremont Colleges system. It is a private institution that prides itself on rigorous yet invigorating academics, a small, cozy campus, and a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. Pitzer’s school colors are orange and white. Their mascot is Cecil the Sagehen. Their motto of “Provida Futuri” means “Mindful of the Future.”

15. Colorado College

  • Flickr user Ted Swedenburg

    Location: Colorado Springs, CO

  • Student Enrollment: 2,114
  • College Type: Private

Colorado College is excellent for adventure-seekers, free spirits, and curious students. The curriculum follows the block scheduling format, in which a student takes one large, hands-on, immersive-learning course over a period of about three and a half weeks, rather than classes that meet every other day for a certain number of hours.

14. Occidental College

  • Wikimedia Commons user User:Crewfan94

    Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,969
  • College Type: Private

Occidental College, known affectionately as “Oxy” by its students, staff and alumni, is a small school but offers over 30 major programs, the most popular of which is Economics. Oxy has been featured as a set in a number of television shows and films, including  Clueless, The West Wing, Charmed, and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

13. University of California – San Diego

  • Flickr user O Palsson

    Location: San Diego, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 34,979
  • College Type: Public

UCSD is perfect for students who want to attend an undergraduate or graduate research facility that is right along the beach. UCSD is a selective school, with 34% of applicants being accepted. Students can choose from a wide range of exciting majors. UCSD’s colors are navy blue and gold, and their school motto is “Fiat Lux”, which translates to, “Let There Be Light”.

12. University of California – Santa Barbara

  • Flickr user Glenn Beltz

    Location: Santa Barbara, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 24,346
  • College Type: Public

The University of California — Santa Barbara is a highly selective school with a 33% acceptance rate. Accepted students typically have high test scores, with SAT scores ranging from 1,250 – 1,450 and ACT scores ranging from 26 – 32. The campus is located not far from the ocean. They compete in NCAA Division I sports as the Gouchos.

11. University of California – Irvine

The University of California — Irvine is a highly selective college with an acceptance rate of about 37%. UCI is a relatively “young” school, having been founded in 1965. 83% of the total students enrolled study at the undergraduate level. Public Health is the most popular major on the UC Irvine campus.

10. Scripps College

  • Flickr user CampusGrotto

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,057
  • College Type: Private

Scripps College is a women’s liberal arts institute founded in 1926. This is a highly selective private institution. Scripps College focuses on helping women with both professional career potential and personal growth. Their motto is “Incipit Vita Nova,” which translates to, “Here begins new life.”

9. United States Air Force Academy

  • Flickr user Wally Gobetz

    Location: USAFA, CO

  • Student Enrollment: 4,237
  • College Type: Public

The motto of USAFA is “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do,” a fitting phrase for the cadets at this academy. Blue and silver make up the two school colors. With a 12% acceptance rate, only about 1,200 of the 10,000 applications sent in yearly are accepted. For every 9 students, there’s one faculty member.

8. University of Southern California

  • Flickr user Ting Chen

    Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 43,871
  • College Type: Private

USC is a highly selective school with a 16%. USC boasts a 96% retention rate with their students. The school mascot is a Trojan and their colors are crimson and gold. USC is renowned for their film program, and has a number of influential alumni, including: Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, John Carpenter, and Shonda Rhimes, among many others.

7. Claremont McKenna College

  • Flickr user Daniel Crowley

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,347
  • College Type: Private

“Crescit cum commercio civitas” is the Latin motto of Claremont McKenna, and it translates to mean “Civilization prospers with commerce.” With a phrase like that, it comes as no surprise that the most popular major on campus is Economics. The four year graduation rate is 77% but jumps up to 92% at six years.

6. Soka University of America

  • Flickr user Mark Weston

    Location: Aliso Viejo, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 430
  • College Type: Private

SUA has quite the noble school motto: “Be philosophers of a renaissance of life; Be world citizens in solidarity for peace; Be the pioneers of a global civilization.” Soka has an elder sister school in Tokyo, Japan. With a small student body, this university has a 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

5. Harvey Mudd College

  • Flickr user CampusGrotto

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 842
  • College Type: Private

Though small in size, Harvey Mudd has a strong reputation for academic excellence. They have a 92% six year graduation rate, and a first year retention rate of 98%. Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics are the top three most popular majors on campus. Black and gold are the colors worn by the Stags and Athenas—the men’s and women’s sports teams.

4. Rice University

  • Flickr user Jill Ellwanger

    Location: Houston, TX

  • Student Enrollment: 6,855
  • College Type: Private

Three owls are on Rice’s seal, and their mascot is named Sammy the Owl. With such a wise symbol, it’s no surprise that Rice has impressive academics. Incoming freshman score, on average, between 33–35 on the ACT and 1500–1580 on the SAT. Of the total student enrollment, 57% are undergraduates.

3. University of California – Los Angeles

  • Flickr user Andy Dietler

    Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 43,548
  • College Type: Public

Second oldest of the University of California system, UCLA received a whopping 102,225 applications last year. However, with an acceptance rate of 16%, only 16,356 were accepted. The 4 year graduation rate is 74% but jumps up to 91% at 6 years. 74.96% of UCLA students come from California.

2. Pomona College

  • Flickr user Dave & Margie Hill

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,563
  • College Type: Private

Over 9,000 applications are sent in each year to Pomona College, and with an acceptance rate of just 8%, only about 720 apps are accepted. Pomona’s sports teams wear blue and gold and are cheered on by mascot Cecil Sagehen. This prestigious college has an impressive 4 year graduation rate of 91%.

1. California Institute of Technology

  • Flickr user Eric Chan

    Location: Pasadena, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,240
  • College Type: Private

7,339 undergraduate applications were sent in last year, but this school is quite selective, only accepting 587—for an acceptance rate of 8%. Orange and white are the classic colors of CalTech. There is an impressive number of distinguished alumni, including 72 Nobel laureates, 6 Turing Award winners, and 71 have won the US National Medal of Science and Technology.

About our methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

College Raptor Staff

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