Colleges in California and Why You Should Go To School There

When you hear of California, what do you think of? The beaches? The food? The national and state parks? The state of California is a truly diverse state, and, especially when it comes to the terrain, one of the most diverse places in the world. You can find beautiful beaches, snowfall, deserts, high mountain peaks, and farmland! And, of course, you can also find some amazing colleges in California.

De La Guerra dining common, UCSB” by Carl Jantzen from Santa Barbara, California, United States of America – The DLG. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

Keep reading to see what schools College Raptor named to our Top Colleges in California list plus some fascinating information on why this state should be at the top of your list.

Top Schools in California

  1. California Institute of Technology
    • Location: Pasadena
    • Enrollment total: 2,401
    • Acceptance Rate: 3%
  2. Stanford University
    • Location: Stanford
    • Enrollment total: 18,283
    • Acceptance Rate: 4%
  3. Pomona College
    • Location: Claremont
    • Enrollment total: 1,716
    • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  4. University of California – Berkeley
    • Location: Berkeley
    • Enrollment total: 45,307
    • Acceptance Rate: 11.6%
  5. Harvey Mudd College
    • Location: Claremont
    • Enrollment total: 922
    • Acceptance Rate: 13%
  6. Claremont McKenna College
    • Location: Claremont
    • Enrollment total: 1,389
    • Acceptance Rate: 10%
  7. Soka University of America
    • Location: Aliso Viejo
    • Enrollment total: 455
    • Acceptance Rate: 56.8%
  8. University of California – Los Angeles
    • Location: Los Angeles
    • Enrollment total: 46,430
    • Acceptance Rate: 9%
  9. University of Southern California
    • Location: Los Angeles
    • Enrollment total: 48,945
    • Acceptance Rate: 12.4%
  10. University of California – Santa Barbara
    • Location: Santa Barbara
    • Enrollment total: 26,420
    • Acceptance Rate: 26%
  11. See More

Why Should You Go to College in California?

California truly has plenty to offer college students. Whether you’re looking for history, museums, outdoor activities, adventure, beaches, amusement parks, culture, good food, or something else, California has you covered!

1. History and Education

There are quite a few educational spots you’ll want to hit outside of your classroom when you’re attending college in California. Alcatraz Island offshore from San Francisco may be one spot you want to visit. It used to be one of the most secure prisons in the United States (though people still managed to escape from it) and held famous criminals like Al Capone. Since being decommissioned in the 1960s, it is now a museum, and visitors can take a very popular guided tour to learn about the island and the prison’s history.

One of California’s most well-known historical events is its role in the gold rush. Over 300,000 people flocked to the area after it began in 1848 and even the San Francisco 49ers are named after the gold rush’s biggest year, 1849. This hurried the land into statehood and had resounding effects on the newfound state, the people who already lived there, and the newcomers.

If this unique piece of California history interests you, you could pay a visit to the Columbia State Historic Park. A center of the gold rush, the area has been preserved and is a living history park. Visitors can walk unpaved roads, visit original shops, or even take a drink in the saloons, among other unique activities that allow you to take a step back in time.

2. Culture

Did you know that during California’s past, at least 64 languages were spoken in the area? Even today, the state is truly diverse when it comes to its population both in the past and today. There are several locations, museums, and parks dedicated to the Native Americans who have called (and still call) the state home. In San Diego County, for example, there is the Barona Cultural Center & Museum which showcases artifacts dating back 10,000 years and focuses on the history and living traditions of the Kumeyaay/Diegueño people.

And when it comes to food, residents and students alike will tell you you have to try In-and-Out if you haven’t already (and you should), but there are plenty of other options that aren’t fast food! From San Francisco’s sourdough bread to garlic ice cream to fish tacos, you’ll never run out of snacks and meals you’ll want to try while attending college in California. 

California is also home to other interesting landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, and 17-Mile drive.

3. Fun

One thing California is never short on is fun. You’ll never be without something enjoyable to do on your free weekends! First, California is home to some of the most stunning and beautiful National Parks in the country including Yosemite, Death Valley, Channel Islands, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, and Redwood. If you love the outdoors, you will always have a running list of unique places to explore in this state!

And if you’re looking for something more thrilling, California is also home to Disneyland, Universal Hollywood, California’s Great America, and Knott’s Berry Farm. In addition, make sure to plan visits to the San Diego Zoo, Santa Monica Pier, and San Diego Comic-Con. That’s not even to mention your trips to the beaches, ski resorts, sports stadiums, and theaters. Your calendar will truly be full when you’re attending college in California! 

Paying for Colleges in California

Although California has a lot to offer residents, students, and visitors alike, there’s no denying that the state is expensive – and that includes attending college. However, for those who already live in California, there are plenty of state grants that can be put towards the cost of tuition including:

  • Cal Grant
  • Golden State Education and Training Grant Program
  • Middle-Class Scholarship
  • Golden State Teacher Grant Program
  • California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth
  • California Military Department GI Bill Award Program
  • Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program
  • California Dream Act Service Incentive Grant Program

In-state tuition rates are also a great way to save money on attending college in California, but you need to be a resident of the state for at least a year to qualify. Thankfully, California does participate in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) reciprocity program that allows students from select other states to qualify for in-state or reduced tuition. Participating states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. 

California has a lot to offer students who want to get out and explore their world in addition to getting a fantastic education at one of the many great colleges.

If you think the state sounds like it would be right up your alley, be sure to use our College Match tool to help you identify the best colleges and universities in the state for your academic goals, career aspirations, interests, and achievements. It’s completely free!

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