15 Best Colleges in Southern California 2023

California Community Colleges are an important part of the state’s higher education system, providing two-year associate degree programs.

Many schools in Southern California are private institutions that offer a wide range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s degrees and doctorates.

Private universities tend to be more selective when admitting students than their public counterparts; however, some also offer open admission policies that do not require SAT or ACT scores for entry into their programs.

Best Colleges In Southern California 2023

Several options can fit your needs if you’re looking for the best college in Southern California. Whether or not you’re interested in one of these schools, we hope this list will help you find a good school that’s right for you and your needs:

1. University Of California–Irvine

University of California–Irvine was founded in 1965 and is a public research university, and it is located in Orange County, California. UCI offers an undergraduate curriculum with over 200 majors and specializations to choose from and graduate programs for those who want to continue their education after receiving their bachelor’s degree.

The University of California–Irvine has been ranked as the #14 best public university in the country by U.S News & World Report for 2019, up from its previous ranking at #20 on that list for 2018.

This school also earned recognition from Forbes magazine as one of America’s Top Colleges regarding value, diversity, quality of life, and employment opportunities after graduation, among other factors evaluated by Forbes writers.

2. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is a top private research university in Los Angeles, California. USC was founded in 1880 and conferred its first degrees in 1885, making it one of the oldest universities on the West Coast.

The school’s nickname is the Trojans; its mascot is a Trojan warrior named Troy, who appears at athletic events wearing a gold helmet and carrying a sword.

The university offers more than 330 degree programs across its ten colleges/schools: Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences; Price School of Public Policy; Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry; Roski School of Fine Arts and Design; Marshall School of Business; Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism; Davis School of Gerontology; Keck School of Medicine life sciences programs at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (in addition to USC Hospital); Law School (with joint degree programs with other schools at USC); Nursing/Pharmacy/Health Professions schools through the Health Sciences Campus.

3. Pomona College

Pomona College is a top private liberal arts college in Claremont, California, United States. It was founded in 1887 as a coeducational institution and currently enrolls approximately 1,600 students.

The school has been named one of the seventy-five most beautiful places on earth by National Geographic Traveler magazine.

The college offers 33 majors and 32 minors in an academic program emphasizing interdisciplinary learning and collaborative research across disciplines, departments, periods, and cultures. Pomona College’s 1:9 student-to-faculty ratio allows for small classes with plenty of individual attention from professors.

4. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College is a modest liberal arts college in Claremont, California. The college is Claremont College, with a rigorous academic program.

Harvey Mudd College was founded in 1955 by Adam Finney, Jr., son of Harvey S. Mudd, who had made his fortune in mining stocks and bonds. The college sought to provide an education emphasizing science and engineering rather than humanities or social sciences.

This goal was evident even during its founding period. For example, the first freshman class held at Caltech included only six women despite being nearly 60% female overall, and almost 40% were engineering majors compared to just 15% of all freshmen.

5. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College is a top private liberal arts college in Claremont, California. The school was founded in 1946 and strongly focused on economics and business.

The school boasts an impressive student body of 2,900 students with an undergraduate acceptance rate of 21%. Claremont McKenna College has been named one of the top 20 colleges in the United States by US News & World Report; it also ranks first among Southern California colleges and universities on Forbes’ list of top liberal arts colleges in the United States.

6. Occidental College

Located in Eagle Rock, Occidental College is a liberal arts college with a strong focus on the environment. You’ll have access to high-quality academic programs, research opportunities, and great career resources like career fairs and networking events.

Some of the most popular majors at Occidental include:

  • Environmental studies
  • Law & Society
  • Anthropology & archaeology
  • English Literature & creative writing 
  • Political science 
  • Sociology 
  • Psychology

7. University of California–Los Angeles

Consider UCLA if you’re looking for an affordable, world-class education in Southern California. Located in Los Angeles, this public institution has been around since 1881 and offers a variety of programs to its nearly 35,000 students.

Before applying to UCLA, take the time to evaluate your options carefully. Although it’s a renowned school with excellent faculty members and facilities like Royce Hall (home of the UCLA Department of Music), the university is notorious for being one of the most selective undergraduate colleges in the country.

The College of Letters and Science is among the largest division at UCLA, with over 20,000 students. Students can choose from over 140 majors in this school, including astronomy and astrophysics programs.

Read Also: 10 Best Esthetician Schools In Los Angeles

8. Scripps College

Scripps College is a private liberal arts college for women. It was founded in 1926 in Claremont, California, and has over 1,000 students.

The college offers over 30 majors, minors, and special programs, including the Campus Scholar Program, the Scholar’s Program in Italian Studies, the Global Scholars Program, and an honors program. Forbes ranked it as #1 for Best Colleges for Women in California.

Scripps College’s core curriculum includes classes like Exploring Leadership Through Literature and Humanities: Images of Women; English Composition I & II (Transferable); History of Western Civilization I-II (Transferable); Introduction to Psychology; Math for Liberal Arts/Science Majors with Applications to Biology/Engineering; Research Methods Applied Social Research Methods; Seminar on Women Writers: Fiction from Ancient Times through Modern Day (Transferable).

9. Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a liberal arts college in Claremont, California. It was founded in 1963 as a men’s college but became coeducational in 1971. The college offers 26 majors and 32 minors.

The college has a strong liberal arts tradition but also offers professional degrees in law and medicine. It is known for its international programs, especially those in Asia.

The campus is home to several research centers, including the Center for Law and Social Policy and the Center for Environmental Research and Technology.

10. Chapman University

Chapman University is a private university in Orange, California. It is highly ranked for its undergraduate and graduate programs. The school has a high-quality education and a low student loan default rate, making it one of the best colleges in Southern California.

Dr. George Leland Chapman founded Chapman University in 1861 as Hesperian College, an all-male school that offered agriculture and the arts courses.

It wasn’t until 1887, when the college’s president changed its name to Chapman College, that it began to offer degrees at all levels (previously, only postgraduate degrees were available). In 1920, Dr. Franklin Miles Day became president of Chapman College and led a campaign for expansion; this included the construction of new facilities such as dormitories for women students who came from far away places like Japan or Germany.

11. University of San Diego

University of San Diego (USD) is a private, Catholic research university in San Diego. The university has three campuses in Hillcrest and two satellite campuses in La Jolla and downtown San Diego.

The University Heights district of San Diego contains USD’s main campus, which covers about 120 acres and several nearby buildings. The campus comprises 14 buildings on top of an arid hill that offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and downtown San Diego.

12. Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University is a private university located in Los Angeles, CA. It was founded in 1911 and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. Loyola Marymount is the only Catholic university in the top 10 for quality of life, according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings.

LMU is known for its strong athletics programs, with teams competing at both the NCAA Division I level or higher, coming in first place consistently across a number of sports, including basketball, volleyball, and soccer.

13. Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University is located in Malibu, California. Founded in 1937, Pepperdine was originally called “The Bible Institute of Los Angeles.” It’s also considered a private university and has several undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs.

The school has been ranked as a Tier 1 institution by US News & World Report for many years now and is one of the best universities in Southern California.

14. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Caltech is a top private research university in Pasadena, California. The school was founded in 1891 by Amos G. Throop and is known for its emphasis on science and engineering.

It has a reputation for excellence in both fields, with many Nobel laureates teaching or working here. Caltech is a member of the Association of American Universities and is considered one of the finest universities in the world.

Before submitting your application, make sure that you meet Caltech’s minimum requirements for GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and high school courses taken or equivalent AP exams.

15. University of La Verne

The University of La Verne is a top private university located in the city of La Verne, California. Founded in 1891, the university has a total undergraduate enrollment of 9,084 and employs 736 faculty members.

The University of La Verne offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 60 areas of study. Approximately 1,500 students graduate each year from this institution, and the average student-to-faculty ratio is 14 to 1.

The average class size is 20 to 25 students. The student-to-faculty ratio at the University of La Verne is 14:1. The University of La Verne offers over 60 bachelor’s degree programs and 30 master’s degree programs online and through distance learning.


1. Which California University is easiest to get into?

The easiest UC schools to get into are UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Merced, and they all have acceptance rates of over 50%. 

2. Which County In California Has The Best Schools?

Marin County.

3. Which California College Should I Go To?

If you wish to live in a rural environment, UC Davis and UC Merced are good options.

4. What Is The Number 1 State College?

The University of Florida.

5. What Is The #1 Best College Town In America?

Austin, TX.

6. What Are The Three Main College Systems In California?

Summary. California’s higher education system has three public segments: the California State University (CSU), the University of California (UC), and the California Community Colleges.

7 Is It Better To Go To A UC Or CSU?

UC schools tend to have better academic reputations than Cal State schools.

8 Which Cal State Is The Most Prestigious?

California State University is consistently known for its academic achievements and contributions to the public good.

9 What Is Harder To Get Into UC Or CSU?

Overall, UC schools—highly rated and ranked, are harder to get into than CSU schools, especially UC Berkeley and UCLA, the two highest-ranked schools.

10 How Many Hours Should I Study For A Class?

A general rule of thumb for college is that in each class, students should spend approximately 2-3 hours of study time for every hour they spend in class.


The University of California system is the largest public university system in the world, and its campuses are located throughout California. The state’s other major public university systems include the California State University (CSU) and the City University of New York (CUNY). 

The aforementioned Colleges in Southern California are great options for students looking to start their college careers. These schools offer a variety of programs, from engineering and computer science to drama and music. Whether you’re looking for an Ivy League school or a small liberal arts college, there’s something for everyone. 

Leave a Comment