Top 25 Best Colleges in the Southwest | 2020 Rankings

Top 25 best colleges in the southwest

When students think of the Southwest, they probably picture flat desert land. However, that’s far from the truth. The Southwest has some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes, from canyons to snowy mountains. The Southwest is also home to a large range of colleges and universities.  

For the purposes of this list, we’ve included the following states as part of the Southwest: Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and southern California (south of San Jose).  

We looked at hundreds of colleges in the Southwest to determine which ones would make it into our top 25 list. Check out the full list below!

Best Colleges in the Southwest

From changing the Hollywood sign to read CALTECH, to making trick MIT mugs which turned to CalTech’s logo and colors when warmed, one thing that CalTech is known for is its practical jokes. Of course, they’re also known for their impeccable science and engineering programs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Computer Science is the most popular major.
Location Pasadena, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,233
Pomona is a college of diversity, with students from all over the US and from 63 countries. The college moved from Pomona to Claremont in 1889. It has built an academic reputation rivaling the Ivy Leagues since. Any student at Pomona also has the option to take over half of their classes at any of the Claremont Colleges.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,573
Rice University’s most popular majors include Computer and Information Sciences, Chemical Engineering, and Biochemistry. Rice is home to the nation’s first nanotechnology center. Academics aren’t Rice’s only strong point; the university participates in 14 NCAA Division I varsity sports. Their mascot is Sammy the Owl.
Location Houston, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,124
Some of the university’s most popular majors include Political Science and Government, Psychology, Sociology, and Biology. UCLA student athletes compete as the Bruins. The Bruins have won over 120 championships. Ongoing renovation projects on campus have led to UCLA’s acronym jokingly being said to mean “Under Construction Like Always.”
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 44,537
Harvey Mudd College holds a focus in engineering and science and is a part of the Claremont Colleges. The average ACT and SAT scores for accepted applicants is between 34--35 and 1,490--1,560 respectively. The men’s athletic teams compete as the Stags, while the women are called the Athenas.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 902
At Claremont McKenna College, 93% of students graduate within 6 years. The school has fairly small class sizes, with 8 students for every 1 faculty member. The school’s football team competes at the NCAA Division III level. Legendary actor Robin Williams attended Claremont McKenna, but did not graduate.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,327
Soka University of America has a unique and noble school motto: “Be philosophers of a renaissance of life; Be world citizens in solidarity for peace; Be the pioneers of a global civilization.” Which fits their mission of pacifism and human rights very well. Soka has three school colors: blue, white, and gold.
Location Aliso Viejo, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 442
The most popular majors at the United States Air Force Academy include Business Management and Administration, Economics, and Systems Engineering. Their school motto is reflected in their hard work---“Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do.” Students commit to serve several years of military service after graduation.
Location USAFA, CO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,336
The University of Southern California was founded in 1880, and was the earliest private research university in California. Their school colors are cardinal and gold. The most popular majors at this school include Business Administration, Speech Communication and Rhetoric, and Accounting.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 47,310
Scripps has school colors of green and white. The college also possesses a unique mascot named Athena, called Athena La Semeuse, which means “She who sows.” The mascot is fitting to the school, as Scripps has always had a focus on educating women to prepare them for the professional world.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,071
One of the more recent University of California campuses, the UC San Diego was founded in 1960. UCSD offers a wide range of majors and programs, the most popular majors being Computer Science, Economics, and Biochemistry. While 77% of the incoming class call California home, many other students come from across the country.
Location San Diego, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 37,887
The University California -- Santa Barbara was founded in 1891 and joined the University of California institutes in 1944. The top 3 majors at UCSB include Experimental Psychology, Sociology, and Econometrics and Quantitative Economics. About 92% of freshmen students return to UCSB for their sophomore year.
Location Santa Barbara, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 25,976
Known as one of the Public Ivies, the University of Texas at Austin is also known for their Division I sports. There are nearly 600 student athletes at the school. A highly selective university, only 39% of applicants are accepted. The school’s official colors are burnt orange and white.
Location Austin, TX
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 51,832
Founded in 1965, the University of California Irvine is also known as a Public Ivy. Their official school colors are UCI blue and UCI gold, and their mascot is Peter the Anteater. The university is selective, with only 29% of all applicants accepted into the school. UCI offers ten varsity sports.
Location Irvine, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 36,032
Thomas Nelson Haskell founded Colorado College in 1874, in honor of his daughter. Accepted students have an average ACT score ranging from 27 to 32, and an average SAT score between 1,220 and 1,430. Colorado College is also quite unique---it has a block plan, where students take an intensive course for 3 and a half weeks, followed by 4 and a half days off.
Location Colorado Springs, CO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,144
More commonly called Mines, the Colorado School of Mines is all about engineering and science. As such, the five most popular majors are Mechanical, Petroleum, Chemical, Geological, and Electrical Engineering. Mines’ school colors are blue and silver, and students compete, appropriately, as the Orediggers.
Location Golden, CO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,325
Also known as “Oxy,” Occidental College was founded in 1887, making it one of the first liberal arts colleges along the West Coast. Their school colors are orange and black, and their mascot is Oswald the Tiger. All students are required to live on campus. The most popular majors at this college are Economics, Biology, and Psychology.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,930
The school has two mottos, translated from Latin: “For the greater glory of God” and “Direct us by thy light.” The school’s mascot is known as Iggy the Lion. LMU has relatively average class sizes, with approximately 10 students for every 1 faculty member. The school has a freshman retention rate of 90%, with a majority of students deciding to stay at the school after their first year.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 9,838
Pepperdine University is largely known for its beautiful campus and architecture. While the main campus is located in Malibu, Pepperdine also has other graduate campuses and international programs. The university is fairly selective, accepting only 36% of all applying students.
Location Malibu, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,961
A large number of students attending the university are originally from SMU’s home state of Texas. While students are not required to live in the residence halls, the university is able to house over 3,800 students in their residence facilities. Their official school colors are SMU red and SMU blue.
Location Dallas, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,649
If you’re looking for a large student body, Texas A&M is perfect for you. It’s one of the largest student populations in the entire country. Accepted students usually score between 25 to 31 on the ACT and 1,170 to 1,380 on the SAT. Most first-year students are also from Texas---94%, in fact.
Location College Station, TX
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 68,679
Also known as Cal Poly, this university offers up to a Master’s degree, though the vast majority of students are undergraduates. With a wide spread of programs and majors, the most popular majors here include Business Administration, Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Agricultural Business, and Computer Science.
Location San Luis Obispo, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 22,013
Pitzer College was originally a women’s college, before becoming coeducational in 1970. Their mascot is Cecil the Sagehen. Pitzer offers a wide variety of programs and majors despite being a small school. The most popular majors include Mass Communication / Media Studies, Psychology, and Environmental Science.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,072
Unlike other schools, Thomas Aquinas practices the Great Books and seminar educational method, focusing on reading books focused in Western culture in small class sizes. Thomas Aquinas has only one degree program, a BA in Liberal Arts. The school has a class size of approximately 11 students to every 1 faculty member.
Location Santa Paula, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 407
Trinity’s most popular majors are Mass Communication, Finance, and Political Science and Government. Additionally, this university has been applauded for its sustainability efforts as a member of the Presidents Climate Commitment. It’s considered a selective school, with a 34% acceptance rate.
Location San Antonio, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,637

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

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.

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