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Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

Why This Matters

  • 225 FOUR-YEAR COLLEGES IN CALIFORNIA

    According to College Navigator, the four-year colleges in California include 54 public and 171 private non-profit options.

  • $10,249 AVERAGE IN-STATE TUITION & FEES

    For the 2022-23 school year, the average in-state tuition for public four-year colleges in California is $10,249, according to College Board.

  • $15,330 AVERAGE FINANCIAL AID

    In the U.S., full-time undergraduate students attending college in 2021-22 received an average of $15,330 per year in financial aid.

Our Research

This list features some of the best brick-and-mortar colleges in California. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality. We included liberal arts colleges and research universities as well as small, midsize, and large institutions. Next, we compared this comprehensive list to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, such as U.S. News & World Report, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The colleges on our list are accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) — this organization examines the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of higher education programs in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific.

We evaluated each school on tuition costs, admission standards, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the resources and services provided for on-campus students. Then, we used this information to calculate the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Online College Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

The Top 50 Colleges in California

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Stanford University
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University of California at Berkeley
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University of Southern California
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University of California at Los Angeles
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University of California San Diego
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University of California at Irvine
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University of California at Santa Barbara
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University of California at Davis
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University of California - Santa Cruz
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University of California Riverside
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University of California Merced
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University of San Diego
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University of San Francisco
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Scripps College
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Soka University of America
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Sonoma State University
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University of Redlands
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University of the West

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What You Should Know About Graduating From College in California

If you’re still undecided on your major, you should consider the jobs with the most career potential in the state. As of May 2022, the five California industries with the highest number of employees are office and administrative support occupations, transportation and material moving, food preparation and serving, sales, and management.

For workers with a bachelor’s degree, the five fastest growing jobs in California are data scientists, logisticians, medical and health services managers, software developers, and market research analysts.

Some of the biggest employers in California are the Los Angeles International Airport, the University of California system, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Alphabet Inc. (Google), and the California Department of Transportation, among others.

What’s Next?

While college can get very expensive, there are financial aid programs available to offset some, most, or even all of the costs. Listed below are federal and state resources to help you find financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, for college students in California.

  • The California Student Aid Commission. This site can help you access financial aid programs such as the Cal Grant, Middle Class Scholarship, and Chafee Grant for Foster Youth.
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Provided by the U.S. Department of Education, FAFSA is the main form students use to apply for financial aid for college. To determine if you’re eligible for aid, submit a completed FAFSA form online.
  • CareerOneStop Scholarship Finder. This tool will show you available scholarships, grants, and loans and can be filtered by state and degree type. It includes information such as dollar amounts, how to apply, qualifications, deadlines, and contact details.

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