Top 25 Best Far West Colleges in the US (2024)

The states in the Western part of the US have some of the most diverse wildlife, landscapes, culture, and foods that can be found in the country. Spanning some of the most southern points to the northern points of the country, this should come as no surprise! The states that make up the far west – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington – also have some of the best colleges in the nation. 

Here are 25 of the best colleges in the Far West for 2024.

Top 25 Best Far West Colleges

Also known as Caltech, the California Institute of Technology’s motto is, “the truth shall make you free.” Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering are top majors among students, and there have been over 75 Nobel laureates that have been associated with Caltech (including 40 alumni and faculty members).
Location Pasadena, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,397
Stanford University has a 4% acceptance rate and a 98% first year retention rate. Their student-to-faculty ratio is only 5:1. The 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was a graduate of Stanford. Other alumni have included Fulbright Scholars, members of Congress, astronauts, and billionaires. Known as the Stanford Cardinals, their colors are cardinal and white.
Location Stanford, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,680
Pomona College receives around 11,600 applications and accepts 7% of them. The four commonly chosen majors are Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Political Science and Government. The school was created when the founders wanted to recreate a “college of the New England type.” Their mascot is Cecil the Sagehen.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,764
The University of California – Berkeley was the state’s first land-grant university and the first campus in the school system. The California Golden Bears, competing in the Pac-12 conference, have won over 100 national championships. With a 96% first year retention rate, 79% will go on to graduate within 4 years, 93% within 6.
Location Berkeley, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 45,036
Claremont McKenna College, which has a 13.3% acceptance rate and 81% four-year graduation rate today, was founded as a men’s college in 1946. It became co-educational in 1976. The most commonly chosen major is Econometrics and Quantitative Economics. With an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 98% of students will stay after their freshman year.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,422
Harvey Mudd College offers programs only related to Science and Engineering. It has an 10% acceptance rate, 98% first year retention rate, and a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Part of the Claremont Colleges, their colors are black and gold. The men’s teams are known as the Stags and the women are known as the Athenas.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 905
Soka University of America has an acceptance rate of about 52%. A fairly new school (founded in 2001), the private university focuses on pacifism, human rights, and the creative coexistence of nature and humanity. It was created by the founder of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist movement, Daisaku Ikeda.
Location Aliso Viejo, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 445
The University of California in Los Angeles, a public land-grant research university, is the second-oldest branch of the school system. Its motto is “fiat lux,” or “let there be light.” Famous alumni have included Sean Astin, Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Morhaime, Jim Morrison, and Troy Aikman. It has an acceptance rate of 11.1%.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 46,116
The University of Southern California is an extremely large school with more graduate students than undergraduates. The most popular major by far for undergraduates is Business Administration and Management. Some notable alumni include LeVar Burton, Neil Armstrong, Will Ferrell, and George Lucas.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 49,318
The southernmost campus of the University of California system, it is located close to the Pacific Ocean. The school covers over 160 undergraduate programs, 19 organized research units, and boasts the region’s only academic Health System. The school has a 95% first year retention rate. Some alumni of the San Diego school include Angela Davis, Mike Judge, and David J. Peterson.
Location La Jolla, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 41,885
Also known as UCI or UC Irvine, this public land-grant research university offers over 85 majors to undergraduates. The UC Irvine Anteaters are part of the Big West Conference. 53 alumni have gone on to compete in the Olympics. Computer Science is the most commonly chosen major at the school, followed by Biology and Business/Managerial Economics.
Location Irvine, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 36,505
Part of the University of California system, the Santa Barbara campus is located on the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area. Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, Communication and Sociology are by far the most commonly chosen majors, but Experimental Psychology and Biology are also top choices.
Location Santa Barbara, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 26,124
A member of the Claremont Colleges, Scripps College is a private liberal arts women’s school. It’s known for its historic campus as well as its extensive curriculum. The campus is currently listed in the National Register of Historic Places and often gets mentioned for its beautiful grounds. Environmental Science, Psychology, and Political Science and Government are common majors.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,116
Originally opening in 1851, Santa Clara University is actually the oldest operating institution of higher learning in the state. Athletes are known as the Broncos where they compete in the West Coast Conference. Former Broncos have gone on to play in the NBA, NFL, and MLB, and have won at least 13 Olympic gold medals.
Location Santa Clara, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 8,918
A large school, the University of Washington – Seattle has a 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Many freshmen come from Washington, but others come from Oregon, California, Texas, and Colorado. 93% will stay on after their first year. Research and Experimental Psychology is the most popular major.
Location Seattle, WA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 52,434
The University of California – Davis is the seventh campus within the University of California system. It was originally an agricultural branch when founded in 1905, and was known as University Farm. Famous alumni have included the CEO of Chevron, John S. Watson, the mayor of Sacramento, Darrel Steinberg, and actor/comedian Hasan Minhaj.
Location Davis, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 40,050
Occidental College is extremely close to Hollywood, so a number of movies and television shows have been filmed on its campus. Some examples include: Clueless, Arrested Development, The Good Place, and Star Trek III: the Search for Spock. Also known as Oxy, the school accepts 38.2% out of just under 6,500 applications annually.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,964
Whitman College is a small liberal arts college located at the foot of the Blue Mountains. Founded in 1859, it now offers over 80 off-campus programs in around 40 countries. With a 9:1 student-faculty ratio and a 1:1 student-to-tree ration, students will find it a cozy and earthy community. Biology, Research and Experimental Psychology, and Economics are all popular majors.
Location Walla Walla, WA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,559
Pepperdine University has more graduates than undergraduates with 1 undergraduate school and four graduate schools. The main campus can be found in Malibu, but other campuses can be found all over the world from Washington D.C., to Florence, Italy, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pepperdine University has a 93% first year retention rate and a 72% four year graduation rate.
Location Malibu, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 10,446
Also known as Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo is one of two polytechnics within the school system. The university’s motto is “Discere Faciendo,” which is Latin for “Learn by Doing.” Cal Poly participates in the Big West Conference and the Big Sky Conference in the NCAA Division I. Known as the Mustangs, they wear green and gold.
Location San Luis Obispo, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 22,231
Chapman University is a midsized school located just over 30 minutes outside of Huntington Beach, CA. 77.2% of the student population are undergraduates while the other 22.8% of the student body are getting graduate degrees. The school boasts a 92% first year retention rate. The three most popular college majors students study are Business Administration and Management, Business/Corporate Communications, and Health Services Administration.
Location Orange, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 9,991
Gonzaga University’s campus is on 152 acres right alongside the Spokane River. A Catholic University, the school is named after the Jesuit saint Aloysius Gonzaga. The university accepts 76.1% of applicants and has a 92% first year retention rate. 85% of students will go on to graduate within six years. Part of the West Coast Conference, varsity sports include track, baseball, basketball, golf, rowing, soccer, tennis, and volleyball.
Location Spokane, WA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,381
Loyola Marymount University is home to the LMU Lions, who wear crimson and blue. Their mascot is named Iggy. Speech Communications, Marketing, and Psychology are the three most popular majors among students. 79% of students are expected to graduate within six years. 55.5% of the first year class calls California home, though students come from all over the U.S.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 10,184
Thomas Aquinas College is an extremely small liberal arts college in California. The only major the school offers is Liberal Arts and Sciences. The college has an 89% first year retention rate, 77% four year graduation rate, and an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Thomas Aquinas College’s motto is “Fides Quaerens Intellectum” or “Faith Seeking Understanding.”
Location Santa Paula, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 497
Founded in 1908 in southeast Portland, Reed College is a small liberal arts and sciences college. “Reedies” enjoy a cozy 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and the school offers 40 majors programs to its students. The most popular major at Reed College is Psychology followed by Biology and Mathematics.
Location Portland, OR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,566

Why is the Far West a Great Place to Go to School?

The westernmost part of the United States is made up of so many different types of climates and cultures that it’s difficult to summarize them as a group! From the vibrant state of Hawaii to the frozen landscape of Alaska to the deserts of Nevada, there’s something for everyone when it comes to activities, climate, and culture.

If you love amazing wildlife and the cold, Alaska may be home for you. It’s home to some of the most stunning parks and views of any state, including the Denali National Park and Preserve. However, if you love warmth and beaches, Hawaii may be more your style and speed.

For students who enjoy the woodlands, rainy weather, and plenty of modern culture, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington are excellent choices, too. Southern California and Nevada offer mountains, deserts, culture, excellent food, and so much to do we couldn’t possibly list it all.

State Grant Aid in the Far West US

Almost every state in the United States has at least one grant program for its students. Grants and scholarships are programs that provide students with free money to attend college. While some may have stipulations that need to be met, it could help make expensive colleges more affordable for students planning on studying in the Far West. If you want to explore what your state has to offer, we recommend starting with our State Grants Guide right here.

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


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.