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    Top Colleges in California

    Written by Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Updated: May 7th, 2024

    California is home to some of the best-known private and public schools our country has to offer. With stellar options like Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley, as well as affordability programs like California Promise, there is something for everyone in sunny California. Scroll down to find the right school for you in the Golden State.

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    66 colleges
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    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Stanford University

    Stanford, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    Stanford, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    4% acceptance rate
    7,645 undergraduate students
    96% graduation rate
    $7,200 average per year after aid
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    Top College Top College

    Harvey Mudd College

    Claremont, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    Claremont, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    10% acceptance rate
    905 undergraduate students
    94% graduation rate
    $30,026 average per year after aid
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    University of California-Berkeley

    Berkeley, CA • Public, City

    Berkeley, CA

    Public, City

    14% acceptance rate
    31,811 undergraduate students
    93% graduation rate
    $15,240 average per year after aid
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    Pomona College

    Claremont, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    Claremont, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    7% acceptance rate
    1,747 undergraduate students
    93% graduation rate
    $9,170 average per year after aid
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    Claremont McKenna College

    Claremont, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    Claremont, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    11% acceptance rate
    1,414 undergraduate students
    93% graduation rate
    $20,114 average per year after aid
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    University of California-Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA • Public, City

    Los Angeles, CA

    Public, City

    11% acceptance rate
    32,122 undergraduate students
    92% graduation rate
    $11,627 average per year after aid
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    University of California-San Diego

    La Jolla, CA • Public, City

    La Jolla, CA

    Public, City

    34% acceptance rate
    33,339 undergraduate students
    89% graduation rate
    $14,895 average per year after aid
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    California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Pasadena, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    4% acceptance rate
    987 undergraduate students
    93% graduation rate
    $29,279 average per year after aid
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    University of California-Irvine

    Irvine, CA • Public, City

    Irvine, CA

    Public, City

    29% acceptance rate
    29,438 undergraduate students
    84% graduation rate
    $9,691 average per year after aid
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    University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA • Private, Non-Profit, City

    Los Angeles, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, City

    13% acceptance rate
    20,619 undergraduate students
    92% graduation rate
    $25,972 average per year after aid
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    University of California-Davis

    Davis, CA • Public, Suburb

    Davis, CA

    Public, Suburb

    49% acceptance rate
    31,637 undergraduate students
    87% graduation rate
    $14,920 average per year after aid
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    California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

    San Luis Obispo, CA • Public, Suburb

    San Luis Obispo, CA

    Public, Suburb

    33% acceptance rate
    21,090 undergraduate students
    85% graduation rate
    $20,633 average per year after aid
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    Soka University of America

    Aliso Viejo, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    Aliso Viejo, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    52% acceptance rate
    435 undergraduate students
    91% graduation rate
    $11,846 average per year after aid
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    University of California-Santa Barbara

    Santa Barbara, CA • Public, Suburb

    Santa Barbara, CA

    Public, Suburb

    29% acceptance rate
    23,081 undergraduate students
    85% graduation rate
    $15,458 average per year after aid
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    Pitzer College

    Claremont, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    Claremont, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    18% acceptance rate
    1,168 undergraduate students
    88% graduation rate
    $18,206 average per year after aid
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    San Diego State University

    San Diego, CA • Public, City

    San Diego, CA

    Public, City

    38% acceptance rate
    30,991 undergraduate students
    76% graduation rate
    $6,488 average per year after aid
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    California State University-Long Beach

    Long Beach, CA • Public, City

    Long Beach, CA

    Public, City

    47% acceptance rate
    33,765 undergraduate students
    75% graduation rate
    $8,338 average per year after aid
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    California State University-Fullerton

    Fullerton, CA • Public, Suburb

    Fullerton, CA

    Public, Suburb

    59% acceptance rate
    35,502 undergraduate students
    71% graduation rate
    $4,211 average per year after aid
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    Santa Clara University

    Santa Clara, CA • Private, Non-Profit, City

    Santa Clara, CA

    Private, Non-Profit, City

    54% acceptance rate
    5,887 undergraduate students
    91% graduation rate
    $43,228 average per year after aid
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    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of California-Riverside

    Riverside, CA • Public, City

    Riverside, CA

    Public, City

    65% acceptance rate
    22,817 undergraduate students
    76% graduation rate
    $13,233 average per year after aid
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    About the Data

    We sort colleges on our lists according to their Scholarships360 Top Colleges Index Score. This score is calculated using up-to-date information taken directly from the College Scorecard. Additional information is sourced from the colleges themselves, as well as other publicly available information. If you see an error, feel free to contact us.

    State Grants in California

    Most states offer their own state-wide grants to help residents obtain an affordable education. Here are some of the most prominent state-wide grants in California:

    Cal Grant

    Cal Grants provide significant funding to California students who are attending any of the Universities of California, California State Universities or California Community Colleges. It can also benefit select qualifying independent and career colleges or technical schools in California.

    California Promise

    The California Promise program offers tuition-free community college to students in the state who meet certain financial need criteria.

    Middle Class Scholarship

    The Middle Class Scholarship benefits California students seeking a teaching credential who meet financial need criteria. Students can receive the award for up to four years.

    Also see: 20 most affordable colleges in California

    California Tuition Reciprocity Agreements

    California is a member of the Western Undergraduate Exchange, which offers tuition discounts for students who attend public colleges in partner states. So, students in California can attend schools in partner states with reduced tuition, and students in partner states can attend California public schools for reduced tuition.

    Here’s a list of states who are part of the WUE:

    Other college lists to explore

    Frequently asked questions about colleges in California

    What is the hardest California college to get into?

    Stanford typically ends up with the lowest acceptance rate in the state of California. In 2023, their rate was 3.95%. However, college admissions are a complicated process and it’s always hard to predict whether you will get into a school. Some students may get accepted to Stanford and denied from schools with higher admissions rates. It’s always worth applying to a wide array of schools, even if some are reach schools.

    Why should I study in California?

    California is a great state to go to college. They have one of the best public school systems in the country, and the state is an economic powerhouse which offers many opportunities for employment before and after graduation.

    It’s also important to note, however, that much of California has a higher cost of living than the rest of the country. If you are considering attending school in California, be sure to factor this higher cost into your budgeting.

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