2017 RANKING & REVIEWS
TOP RANKING BEST COLLEGES IN CALIFORNIA


Highlighting the Best Colleges in California

California is a large and diverse state with a huge economy compared to most other states in the U.S. Along with being a thriving place to live and work, the state is also known for its many colleges and universities. Many of the biggest colleges in California and the top colleges in California are also among the best in the country and the world.

There are around 100 degree-granting, four-year institutions in California, many of which are publicly funded.

Best Colleges in California

Award Emblem: Top 6 Best Colleges in California

Along with the biggest colleges in California, many of which are part of the University of California system, there are also top private universities and colleges in the state.

Some of the key cities where the best colleges in California are focused include Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, and Sacramento.

The following ranking and review looks at the best colleges in California, which are often also the biggest colleges in California and the cheapest colleges in California. We’ll highlight some of the specifics of each of these California colleges, as well as key reasons they’re considered among the best.  

See Also: Top Aerospace Engineering Schools | Ranking | Best Aerospace Engineering Universities



AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Colleges in California

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the schools below to go directly to the detailed review section for that college or university):


Top 6 Best Colleges in California | Brief Comparison  

Top Colleges in California

Key Feature

Key Benefit

UC Berkeley

One of the world’s top public research universities

Offers extensive financial aid packages and has led the way in some of the world’s most important scientific discoveries

UC Davis

A Public Ivy research university

Classified as a comprehensive doctoral research university by the Carnegie Foundation

UC Irvine

Ranked as one of the top public universities nationwide

Outlets like Kiplinger name UC Irvine as one of the country’s best values

UCLA

It’s one of the most competitive colleges in California and the country for admission

52% of undergraduates receive financial aid, and 38% receive Pell Grants

Stanford University

Private research university adjacent to Silicon Valley

70% of students receive financial aid, and the campus is one of the largest in the U.S.

USC

Leading private university in Los Angeles

Distinguished faculty includes five Nobel laureates and recipients of many national honors

Table: Top 6 Best Colleges in California | Above list is sorted alphabetically

Don't Miss: High Yield Bank Accounts


An Overview of the UC System

Many of the biggest colleges in California, cheapest colleges in California, and the top colleges in California are part of the University of California system.

The University of California began in 1869 with only 38 students, and now this system includes more than 238,000 students and more than 190,000 faculty. The UC system also has more than 1.7 million alumni around the world.

colleges in california

Image Source: Pexels

Below are some key facts about the UC system, which many of the top colleges in California are part of:

  • More than 40% of UC students are from low-income families
  • Includes ten campuses and five medical centers
  • The UC system has three national laboratories
  • There are 150 academic disciplines and 600 graduate degree programs
  • There are 20,000 UC extension courses


AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology

What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the credit cards, financial products, firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top rated lists?

Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top rated credit cards, financial accounts, firms, products, and services.


Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Colleges in California

Below, please find the detailed review of each of the top CA colleges. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these best California colleges to score so well in our selection ranking.



University of California, Berkeley Review


The University of California, Berkeley is a highly competitive, elite leader among the best colleges in California, located in Berkeley with a total enrollment in 2016 of more than 40,000. This also makes it one of the biggest colleges in California.

Key Features of This College That Led to Its Ranking as One of the Top Colleges in California

Below are specific features of UC Berkeley leading to its inclusion on this ranking of the leading colleges in California.

Top Public University

UC Berkeley is a public research university that’s the oldest in the University of California system. This leader among California colleges isn’t just one of the most established and reputable in California.

UC Berkeley is also recognized as one of the best public universities in the entire country and the world.

It’s a founding member of the Association of American Universities and has hundreds of millions of dollars in research spending each year.

Cost and Financial Aid

As with many of the colleges in California, UC Berkeley offers students pretty extensive financial aid options. At UC Berkeley, nearly 50% of students who are undergrads receive some type of need-based financial aid. The average need-based scholarship or grant award is nearly $20,000.

As mentioned, UC Berkeley is also one of the biggest colleges in California, and the school offers classes in 14 separate colleges and schools, as well as 350 degree programs.

Discoveries and Innovation

UC Berkeley has long been a hub of some of the world’s leading edge research and is home to some of the most important discoveries ever made.

For example, some of the discoveries made by Berkeley researchers throughout the university’s history include the flu vaccine, deep sea diving, the hydrogen bomb, the molecular clock, and dark energy, among others.

Don’t Miss: Best Aeronautical Engineering Colleges | Ranking | Aeronautical Engineering Universities & Schools



University of California, Davis Review


Another member of the California state colleges system, the University of California, Davis is a public research university located in Davis, just west of Sacramento.

Key Features of This Selection for One of the Top Colleges in California

Some of the reasons UC Davis is included on this list of the best colleges in California as well as the biggest colleges in California are below.

Public Ivy

UC Davis, along with being one of the best California colleges, is also ranked well at the national level. It’s often been called a Public Ivy. The term Public Ivy refers to public U.S. universities that provide an Ivy League-level education and experience at the price of a public school.

Specifically, Public Ivies are those schools that attract top faculty, compete for the best students, and have rigorous academic programs on-par with what would be experienced at an Ivy League school.

Cost

Relatively speaking, UC Davis is not only one of the best California colleges regarding faculty and academics, but it’s also one of the cheapest colleges in California. For example, the tuition for California residents of this pick for one of the good colleges in California is only $11,220.

To help with the costs of tuition at this pick for one of the best colleges in California, there are many options available. For example, the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan covers the UC tuition and student services fee for eligible California undergraduates.

Another reason UC Davis is considered one of the cheapest colleges in California is because 56% of students have tuition covered by gift aid, and 44% of student graduate without debt.

california colleges

Image Source: UC Davis

Research

UC Davis, one of the best colleges in California, is also a leading research institution. It’s classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a comprehensive doctoral research university, with a high level of research activity and a medical program.

Twenty-three members of the faculty of this pick for one of the leading California state colleges are members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 14 are members of the National Academy of Engineering.

Researchers, alumni, and faculty of this leader among good colleges in California have won awards like the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Medal of Science.



University of California, Irvine Review


The University of California, Irvine, like many of the other names on this ranking of the best California colleges, is a public research university.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Top Colleges in California

Among good colleges in California, including the biggest colleges in California and the cheapest colleges in California, the following are specific ways UC Irvine excels.

Rankings

UC Irvine has been consistently recognized by media outlets and organizations as not just one of the leading colleges in California, but as one of the top colleges in the nation.

U.S. News & World Report ranked it as the #9 public university in the country, and The New York Times College Access Index ranked it #1 for economically-challenged students.

It was also called one of the Top 10 “Cool Schools” for Sustainability for seven years in a row by Sierra.

top colleges in california

Image Source: UC Irvine

Research Organizations

As one of the best California colleges, UC Irvine puts a significant focus on research. As a result, UC Irvine has many research groups that call the university home. Some are part of a school or department office, while others are their own independent facility.

Some of the top research organizations at this pick for one of the great colleges in California include:

  • Beckman Laser Institute
  • Center for Complex Biological Systems
  • Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies
  • Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Institute of Transportation Studies
  • Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center
  • Center for Machine Learning and Data Mining

Value

As well as being one of the top colleges in California in terms of academics, UC Irvine is also often frequently cited for being a great value, and it’s one of the cheapest colleges in California.

One example of being well-ranked in terms of value is from Kiplinger. UC Irvine, one of the best colleges in California, was ranked #23 on Kiplinger’s list of Best Values in Public Colleges. It was ranked #174 among all colleges.

Kiplinger also noted that 81% of financial aid need was met, and the four-year graduation rate was 72%.

Related: Best Engineering Colleges | Ranking | Top Engineering Schools & Universities



University of California, Los Angeles Review


The University of California, Los Angeles is the second-oldest member of the University of California system, and along with being one of the top California state colleges, it’s ranked as one of the best universities in the world.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Top Colleges in California

Compared to other CA colleges, the following are specific reasons UCLA is included on this list of the best California colleges.

Accomplishments

UCLA, one of the best colleges in California, leads the way in research, innovation, and overall accomplishments. Coming from this leader among colleges in California are almost 3,000 inventions. More than 140 companies have been launched as a result of innovation from UCLA, and among the faculty and alumni are 13 Nobel Prize winners.

There have been 38 Academy Awards received by UCLA alumni, and the UCLA Health hospitals have been named among the most exemplary facilities in the world.

Rankings

UCLA doesn’t just rank well among California colleges. Along with being one of the great colleges in California, UCLA is often ranked as one of the best universities in the world.

It ranks 12 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University for example, with rankings based on alumni and faculty who have won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals.

The Times of London ranks UCLA as 14th in the World University Rankings, and U.S. News and World Report ranks it as number 10 in its global ranking list.

Key Facts

The following are some key facts about UCLA, well-respected among California state colleges, one of the biggest colleges in California, and also a leader among global colleges and universities.

  • UCLA is the most applied-to university in the country.
  • In the fall of 2015, more than 92,000 freshmen applications were received.
  • The average GPA for admitted incoming freshmen was 4.39.
  • The average SAT score for admitted incoming freshmen was between 1940 and 2240.
  • 52% of undergraduates at UCLA receive some kind of financial assistance.
  • 38% of UCLA undergrads receive Pell Grants. This represents the highest percentage of any U.S. top-tier university.


Stanford University Review


Stanford University, along with being one of the best colleges in California, is also one of the only private California colleges on this ranking. Stanford is a private research university located near Palo Alto, between San Jose and San Francisco, and the campus is one of the largest in the U.S.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Top Colleges In California

Some of the specifics of why Stanford is included on this list of the premier colleges in California are below.

Schools

Among good colleges in California, Stanford offers some of the most comprehensive courses of study to students. Seven separate schools are part of Stanford, one of the leaders among CA colleges.

These schools are:

  • Graduate School of Business
  • School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences
  • Graduate School of Education
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Humanities and Sciences
  • Law School
  • School of Medicine

Undergraduate Program

The focus at Stanford (and a big reason it’s included in this ranking of top colleges in California) is academics. Academic excellence is the primary criterion for admission, and transcripts are the most important credential submitted by applicants.

Stanford has an approximate student-to-faculty ratio of 4 to 1, and interaction with faculty is encouraged. Three undergraduate degrees are granted from this leader among California colleges, which include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Sciences, and Bachelor of Arts and Sciences.

Financial Aid

Stanford is not one of the public California state colleges included in this ranking, nor is it one of the cheapest colleges in California, but they do offer excellent financial aid options. Stanford is committed to maintaining a comprehensive, need-based financial aid program that’s need-blind, so financial status doesn’t impact the admission decision.

According to Stanford, about 70% of students receive some sort of financial aid, and about 58% receive aid from Stanford.

Popular Article:  Top Architecture Schools in the U.S. | Ranking | Architecture Universities in the USA



University of Southern California Review


The University of Southern California is not one of the public California state colleges on this ranking either, nor is it considered one of the cheapest colleges in California, but it is among the best in the state, the country, and the world.  

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Colleges in California

The following details some of the top reasons USC is ranked not just as one of the good colleges in California but one of the best California colleges.

Private Research University

USC might not be one of the cheapest colleges in California, but it is one of the most notable CA colleges. It is the state’s oldest private research university, and it has educated some of the area’s top leaders in business and innovation.

Because of its Los Angeles location, this pick for one of the best colleges in California has also established relationships with research and cultural institutions throughout Asia.

Rankings

USC often scores a high ranking on prestigious lists of not just good colleges in California, but throughout the world.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education ranked USC 15th among more than one thousand public and private university. Among 150 colleges and universities just in the western U.S., USC ranked third.

Regarding faculty diversity, USC was tied for second with Columbia.

Prestigious Faculty

USC has one of the most recognized and prestigious faculties of any of the good colleges in California, but also in the world. As one of the top universities in California, the faculty of almost 4,000 includes five Nobel laureates and recipients of honors like the MacArthur Genius Award and the Guggenheim Award.

Other awards held by faculty include the National Medal of the Arts, the National Humanities Medal, the National Medal of Science, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Read More: Top Accredited Online Colleges | Ranking | Best Accredited Online Universities


Conclusion—Top 6 Best Colleges in California

Colleges in California are some of the most prestigious and recognized in the world. This includes California state colleges, which are often among the cheapest colleges in California, as well as top-tier private California colleges.

The names on the above ranking represent not just top colleges in California and biggest colleges in California, but some of the most elite, respected universities in the world.

These California colleges are responsible not just for providing high-level educations to students, but these best California colleges have also led to some of the greatest advancements in science, business, and politics.

Many of the CA colleges on this ranking, even when they’re among the cheapest colleges in California, also offer excellent financial aid options, making them affordable for a wide variety of students and their families.


FREE software to help you make smarter financial decisions

See all your accounts in one place with this award-winning highly advanced, and free software for easy budgeting, money management, investments, expense tracking, and many more for all devices (online, desktop, iPhone, Mac, Samsung, Windows, tablets, etc.).

Click below (link will open in a new tab).

►► Top Rated Finance Software (FREE) ◄◄

This free tool lets you manage your entire financial life from one secure place – so you can reach your goals faster. Get yours now!


AdvisoryHQ Disclaimer:

Reasonable efforts have been made to present accurate information, however all info is presented without warranty. Review AdvisoryHQ’s Terms for details. Also review each firm’s site for the most updated data, rates and info.

Note: Firms and products, including the one(s) reviewed above, may be our affiliates. Click to view our advertiser disclosures.