Best Colleges in California 2022

Here are the best colleges and universities in California. Our list will help you find the right kind of school for you.

Best Colleges in California 2022

Colleges and Universities in California

California’s higher education institutes span across the entire state, allowing students to study by the beach, in the forest, in small towns, and in large cities. There are over 30 high quality online degrees programs that would literally allow you to study from anywhere in California, or the world. The largest university, the University of California, Los Angeles, serves nearly 44,000 students and offers a tuition rate around $13,000. This isn’t the only school with a large student body though. California is home to 23 colleges and universities with student populations of over 20,000 students.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

However, more than half of the state’s schools serve smaller student populations, offering plenty of options for students who crave a more intimate campus experience. Additionally, California boasts 50 religiously affiliated schools. Many of these schools have high graduation rates, though tuition costs can range greatly, from $8,000 at Bethesda University up to $54,000 at Pepperdine University.

Additionally, many of California’s colleges and universities boast influential faculty and alumni, including Neil Armstrong, Jerry Lewis, and Weird Al Yankovic. In addition to famous alumni and professors, California’s schools are also home to some of the country’s top degree programs, including nursing, business, religious studies, education, literature, and law.

Though Hollywood has given an inside look into California’s most popular landmarks and attractions, these one-of-a-kind places aren’t the only reason people flock to The Golden State. With hundreds of colleges and universities to choose from, students have countless opportunities to further their education in California.

To learn more about earning your degree in California, check out some of the state’s top programs and career paths.


What are California’s Colleges & Universities?

California’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine California's best colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence in their fields of study.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is freer from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

We’ve identified 113 colleges and universities in California that meet our criteria. This list of the top 30 colleges in California below focuses on schools that offer bachelor’s degrees. The ranking features fully accredited public and private colleges and universities in California.

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Best Colleges in California 2022

  1. #1

    Stanford University

    Stanford , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    5%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/33

    What is Stanford University known for?

    Stanford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

    What is University of California, Berkeley known for?

    University of California, Berkeley’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is University of California, Los Angeles known for?

    University of California, Los Angeles’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    University of Southern California

    Los Angeles , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    16%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    40K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is University of Southern California known for?

    University of Southern California’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1545/35

    What is California Institute of Technology known for?

    California Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1355/30

    What is University of California, Santa Barbara known for?

    University of California, Santa Barbara’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/28

    What is University of California, Irvine known for?

    University of California, Irvine’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    37K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/28

    What is University of California, Davis known for?

    University of California, Davis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/29

    What is University of California, Santa Cruz known for?

    University of California, Santa Cruz’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of California, Riverside known for?

    University of California, Riverside’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #12

    Santa Clara University

    Santa Clara , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1360/30

    What is Santa Clara University known for?

    Santa Clara University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #13

    San Diego State University

    San Diego , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    What is San Diego State University known for?

    San Diego State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Social Work
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #14

    San Francisco State University

    San Francisco , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/20

    What is San Francisco State University known for?

    San Francisco State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #15

    San Jose State University

    San Jose , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    30K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/22

    What is San Jose State University known for?

    San Jose State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #16

    University of San Francisco

    San Francisco , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of San Francisco known for?

    University of San Francisco’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #17

    Pepperdine University

    Malibu , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

    What is Pepperdine University known for?

    Pepperdine University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  17. #18

    Pomona College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1465/33

    What is Pomona College known for?

    Pomona College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #19

    Chapman University

    Orange , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1285/28

    What is Chapman University known for?

    Chapman University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #21

    Claremont McKenna College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    13%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

    What is Claremont McKenna College known for?

    Claremont McKenna College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/19

    What is California State University, Northridge known for?

    California State University, Northridge’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/21

    What is California State University, Fullerton known for?

    California State University, Fullerton’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    23K

    Median SAT/ACT

    985/17

    What is California State University, Los Angeles known for?

    California State University, Los Angeles’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #25

    University of San Diego

    San Diego , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1280/28

    What is University of San Diego known for?

    University of San Diego’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. #26

    University of the Pacific

    Stockton , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What is University of the Pacific known for?

    University of the Pacific ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  25. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    What is California State University, Long Beach known for?

    California State University, Long Beach’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  26. #28

    Loyola Marymount University

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    What is Loyola Marymount University known for?

    Loyola Marymount University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  27. #29

    Occidental College

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/30

    What is Occidental College known for?

    Occidental College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  28. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/19

    What is California State University, Fresno known for?

    California State University, Fresno’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

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California’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. California Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California, Berkeley
  4. Pomona College
  5. Harvey Mudd College
  6. Claremont McKenna College
  7. University of Southern California
  8. University of California, Los Angeles
  9. Occidental College
  10. Pitzer College
  11. University of California, San Diego
  12. Pepperdine University
  13. Scripps College
  14. University of California, Santa Barbara
  15. University of California, Santa Cruz
  16. Santa Clara University
  17. University of California, Davis
  18. Golden Gate University
  19. Mills College
  20. University of California, Irvine
  21. University of California, Riverside
  22. Loyola Marymount University
  23. Whittier College
  24. University of California, Merced
  25. University of Redlands