20 Best Colleges on the West Coast

What’s Covered

 

The West Coast is home to some of the country’s best colleges and universities. Across California, Oregon, and Washington, research universities, small liberal arts colleges, and other institutions of higher learning abound.

 

Curious which schools on the West Coast are the right fit for you? Take a look at this list.

 

Our Ranking Methodology

 

We focused on school quality, outcomes, and ROI. We examined data such as retention rate, selectivity, endowment per student, student-faculty ratio, median earnings, and cost of attendance, among many others. Students can see our full rankings here.

 

Ranked List of Colleges on the West Coast

 

1. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Acceptance rate: 3.95%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1570/32-35

Undergrad enrollment: 7,000

 

One of the most selective institutions in the country, Stanford has had a long tenure of being ranked in the top 10 national universities. The sprawling Bay Area campus is home to prestigious programs in STEM, business, and numerous other areas.

 

Learn more about Stanford and see your chances of acceptance.

 

2. California Institute of Technology

 

Location: Pasadena, CA

Acceptance rate: 6.69%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1530-1580/35-36

Undergrad enrollment: 900

 

A small institution devoted to STEM studies, Caltech prepares students to become leaders in science, engineering, academia, industry, and public service. The college was originally founded as a preparatory and vocational school in 1891 and quickly became a leader in education. Today, Caltech offers 28 options (majors) across six academic divisions.

 

Learn more about Caltech and see your chances of acceptance.

 

3. Pomona College

 

Location: Claremont, CA

Acceptance rate: 8.6%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1400-1540/31-34

Undergrad enrollment: 1,500

 

Pomona is a quintessential New England liberal arts college — except that it’s on the West Coast. Founded in 1887, it offers 48 majors across the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. 

 

One notable aspect of Pomona is its membership in The Claremont Colleges consortium, enabling access to the courses and resources of its neighboring colleges. In fact, Pomona is the founding member of the consortium

 

Learn more about Pomona and see your chances of acceptance.

 

4. Claremont McKenna College

 

Location: Claremont, CA

Acceptance rate: 13.3%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1500/31-34

Undergrad enrollment: 1,300

 

Another member of the Claremont Colleges, Claremont McKenna is a top liberal arts college, with renowned programs in economics, government, and many other disciplines. Despite its relatively short history — the college was founded in 1946 — it has already distringuied itself as a world-class leader across fields.

 

Learn more about Claremont McKenna and see your chances of acceptance.

 

5. University of Southern California

 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance rate: 12%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1530/30-34

Undergrad enrollment: 19,900

 

Founded in 1880, USC is the oldest private research university in Calfiornia. The university offers numerous programs across schools like the College of Letters and Arts and Sciences and is particularly known for its acclaimed media and film programs.

 

Learn more about USC and see your chances of acceptance.

 

6. Harvey Mudd College

 

Location: Claremont, CA

Acceptance rate: 17.9%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1490-1560/34-35

Undergrad enrollment: 900

 

Harvey Mudd has the unique distinction of being a liberal arts college focused on STEM disciplines. With nine majors across fields like computer science, biology, engineering, and physics, the college is known for graduating STEM leaders. Harvey Mudd is also a member of the Claremont Colleges.

 

Learn more about Harvey Mudd and see your chances of acceptance.

 

7. University of California, Berkeley

 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Acceptance rate: 17.6%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1320-1530/31-35

Undergrad enrollment: 30,800

 

The first campus in the University of California system, Berkeley was established in 1868. Famed for political activism, the university has served as a haven for advancement and societal progress. Berkeley draws talented students from every corner of the world to learn across 130 academic departments.

 

Learn more about Berkeley and see your chances of acceptance.

 

8. University of California, Los Angeles

 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance rate: 14%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1290-1520/30-34

Undergrad enrollment: 31,500

 

Particularly known for a School of Theater, Film and Television, UCLA, another “Public Ivy,” was the second institution to join the University of California system. In addition to Theater, Film, and Television, the university offers hundreds of majors across six undergraduate schools, along with several graduate schools.

 

Learn more about UCLA and see your chances of acceptance.

 

9. Scripps College

 

Location: Claremont, CA

Acceptance rate: 35%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1300-1480/30-33

Undergrad enrollment: 1,000

 

Founded in 1926, Scripps, a members of the Claremont Colleges, is a women’s liberal arts college offering an interdisciplinary curriculum. Along with top programs across disciplines, it is known as one of the country’s most beautiful campuses.

 

Learn more about Scripps and see your chances of acceptance.

 

10. Santa Clara University

 

Location: Santa Clara, CA

Acceptance rate: 51%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1440/28-32

Undergrad enrollment: 5,500

 

Founded in 1851, SCU is located in Silicon Valley, and brings the high-tech power of its home to a cutting-edge curriculum. A Jesuit school, the university welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds. SCU has received an Excellence in Diversity Award and was named a Sierra Magazine “Cool School” for Sustainability for four consecutive years.

 

Learn more about Santa Clara and see your chances of acceptance.

 

11. Pitzer College

 

Location: Claremont, CA

Acceptance rate: 16.6%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A

Undergrad enrollment: 1,000

 

A member of the Claremont Colleges, Pitzer was founded in 1963 as a women’s college, before becoming coed in 1970. It ranks #1 for Most Politically Active Students and has a diverse student body and faculty. As a top-ranked liberal arts and sciences college, Pitzer offers programs across disciplines.

 

Learn more about Pitzer and see your chances of acceptance.

 

12. University of Washington

 

Location: Seattle, WA

Acceptance rate: 60% (WA residents)/51% (non-WA residents)

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1220-1460/27-32

Undergrad enrollment: 32,000

 

One of the oldest public universities on the West Coast, UW is another “Public Ivy” with a strong reputation as a leader in public education. With campuses in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma, the university contains a number of schools and colleges. Students have access to a cutting-edge curriculum, along with plenty of choices in extracurriculars—more than 800 student organizations.

 

Learn more about UW and see your chances of acceptance.

 

13. University of California San Diego

 

Location: San Diego, CA

Acceptance rate: 38.3%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1110-1310/22-28

Undergrad enrollment: 30,500

 

UCSD was founded as an experiment in 1960 and today is considered a foreground of innovation. It is ranked no. 1 among Times Higher Education’s list of the world’s top “Golden Age” universities, the best institutions of higher learning founded between 1945 and 1966. With more than 100 degree programs, UCSD is also known for improving social mobility.

 

Learn more about UCSD and see your chances of acceptance.

 

14. Soka University of America

 

Location: Aliso Viejo, CA

Acceptance rate: 52%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1180-1410/25-30

Undergrad enrollment: 400

 

Founded in 1987, Soka is affiliated with the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist movement, although the school itself is secular. The university is comprised of a four-year liberal arts college and graduate school and ranks highly for both value and number of students studying abroad.

 

Learn more about Soka and see your chances of acceptance.

 

15. Occidental College

 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance rate: 40.9%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1450/28-32

Undergrad enrollment: 1,900

 

Originally founded by members of the Presbyterian Church in 1887, Occidental is non-sectarian today. One of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast, the college blends liberal arts and sciences and offers more than 40 majors and minors, along with unique programs and cutting-edge research opportunities.

 

Learn more about Occidental and see your chances of acceptance.

 

16. Whitman College

 

Location: Walla Walla, WA

Acceptance rate: 54.1%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1230-1450/27-32

Undergrad enrollment: 1,400

 

Founded as Whitman Seminary in 1859, Whitman became non-sectarian in 1883. Now a small, residential liberal arts college in Walla Walla, the college promotes and cultivates qualities like critical thinking, through a rigorous academic curriculum. Among other accolades, Princeton Review ranks Whitman #6 for most accessible professors.

 

Learn more about Whitman and see your chances of acceptance.

 

17. University of California Irvine

 

Location: Irvine, CA

Acceptance rate: 29.9%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1190-1410/25-33

Undergrad enrollment: 29,700

 

Ranked the no. 1 school for doing the most for the American Dream by The New York Times in 2017, UC Irvine was founded in 1965 with the mission of catalyzing the community and enhancing students’ lives. Among its claims to fame, the university has been ranked a Top 10 “Cool School” by Sierra Magazine for 12 consecutive years.

 

Learn more about UC Irvine and see your chances of acceptance.

 

18. Loyola Marymount University

 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance rate: 50.1%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1210-1390/27-31

Undergrad enrollment: 6,700

 

The result of a merger between Loyola University and Marymount College, LMU was established in 1973. The university is rooted in the Jesuit tradition. Today, LMU offers 60 major and 55 minor undergraduate degrees and programs. 

 

Learn more about LMU and see your chances of acceptance.

 

19. Reed College

 

Location: Portland, OR

Acceptance rate: 42.3%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1310-1520/30-33

Undergrad enrollment: 1,400

 

Founded in 1908, Reed is considered one of the most intellectual colleges in the country, known for its humanities curriculum, relatively open curriculum, small class sizes, and engaged student body. One of its claims to fame is its high production of Rhodes Scholars—second among the country’s liberal arts colleges. 

 

Learn more about Reed and see your chances of acceptance.

 

20. Pepperdine University

 

Location: Malibu, CA

Acceptance rate: 41.9%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1220-1420/26-32

Undergrad enrollment: 3,600

 

A Christian university, Pepperdine is comprised of five schools, including Seaver College, its one undergraduate school. The university frequently ranks as one of the most beautiful institutions in the country, along with being noted for its 82 well-regarded degree programs.

 

Learn more about Pepperdine and see your chances of acceptance.

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

These schools vary in terms of selectivity, but your personal chances of admission depend on your unique profile. Assess how your statistics align with those of the school to create a list of around 8-10 schools, with a breakdown of around 25% safety schools, 40% target schools, and 35% reach.

 

Try our free Admissions Chances Calculator to better assess your chances and determine whether a particular school is a safety, target, or reach for you. We’ll give you tips on how to improve your profile, too!


Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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