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Are There Ivy League Schools in California? 8 Top Colleges to Consider

The Ivy League has a cachet that draws applicants from around the world. Still, if you’re in search of an incredible education, the schools in this grouping aren’t the only ones to consider. Whether you currently live in California or just like the idea of attending school near the beach, it’s worth noting that the Golden State is home to an impressive 281 colleges and universities with specialties ranging from science to business, and performing arts to medicine. While there aren’t any official Ivy League schools in California, many of the state’s higher education institutions boast exceptional academics and highly selective admissions policies that make them rank equally well. Keep reading to discover the eight Ivy League-level colleges to consider if you want to head west for school.


What is the Ivy League? Are there Ivies in California?


Since around the 1950s, the term Ivy League has referred to a group of highly competitive colleges located in the Northeast. However, the truth is that these schools were originally called Ivies simply because they were all in the same athletic conference. Having helped mold some of the most intelligent and promising minds in the country, the Ivy League includes the following prestigious schools: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth Colleges, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. 


While attending an Ivy can unquestionably lead to career success – for example, Princeton grads have an average starting salary of $75,200 — the schools on this list aren’t the only ones that can set students up for a bright future. In fact, California has a number of colleges that beat out the Ivies when it comes to selectivity and school ranking. 


8 “Ivy League” Schools in California


Wish that there were Ivy League schools in California? The good news is that the colleges on this list offer an array of perks like outstanding academics, small class sizes, and opportunities for research and study abroad. If you want to attend an Ivy without dealing with the cold and snow of a Northeastern campus, consider adding one of these top California colleges to your list:


1. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA
Acceptance rate: 4%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1570 SAT, 32-35 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 7,087


Holding the No. 6 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best National Universities, Stanford is often referred to as the “Ivy of the West,” and for good reason. With a student-faculty ratio of 5:1, the university reports that almost 70 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 undergraduates. Popular majors include computer and information sciences, engineering, and physical sciences, though the school is also known for its laboratory and research opportunities. Need another reason to apply to Stanford? The university has a freshman retention rate of 98 percent, suggesting that student satisfaction is incredibly high. 


2. California Institute of Technology

Location: Pasadena, CA
Acceptance rate: 7%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1530-1580 SAT, 35-36 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 948


The No. 12 national university in the U.S., Caltech has a mission to “expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education.” To that end, the school encourages undergrads to participate in research activities throughout the school year and even during the summer. While Caltech is divided into several academic divisions, including Biology & Biological Engineering; Engineering & Applied Science; and Humanities & Social Sciences, the college also offers an Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP) wherein students can design their own curricula featuring Caltech courses, research, and independent study.


3. UC Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA
Acceptance rate: 15%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1300-1530 SAT, 28-34 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 30,853


Part of the UC system, this public university holds the No. 22 spot on U.S. News’ list of the top national schools. Berkeley is made up of 14 schools and colleges, with specialties ranging from optometry to environmental design. Along with a reasonable in-state tuition cost — California residents can attend UC Berkeley for around $14,00 a year — students enjoy access to a 12 million-volume library and more than 1,200 extracurriculars, including a large public service center.



Location: Los Angeles, CA
Acceptance rate: 14%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1520 SAT, 28-34 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 31,577


A great choice for students who plan to enter college undecided, UCLA boasts more than 3,800 courses in over 125 major programs. Along with the playground that is Los Angeles, Bruins can enjoy hundreds of student clubs and organizations, including uncommon selections like the Disney Club and 1girl at UCLA, which enables female students to mentor middle school girls from local schools. As a bonus, this LA institution holds the distinction of having the highest percentage of undergrads receiving Pell Grants of any top-tier school in the U.S.

5. Pomona College

Location: Claremont, CA
Acceptance rate: 8%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1400-1540 SAT, 31-34 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,679


If you haven’t heard of Pomona College, it might be worth looking into. Pomona holds the No. 5 spot on the list of National Liberal Arts Colleges. The founding member of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona offers students the opportunity to take classes across seven SoCal institutions of higher education. As a bonus, the college empowers students to further their skills through 80 national and international summer internship programs. Moreover, almost 50 percent of students at Pomona opt to study abroad while earning their degrees. 


6. University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance rate: 13%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1530 SAT, 30-34 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 19,907


California’s oldest private research university, USC is known for being home to the largest film school in the country. However, the school also earns high marks for its occupational therapy, psychology, and teacher education programs, to name a few. While tuition at this California Ivy exceeds $56,000 a year, applicants should note that 38 percent of full-time students receive need-based aid, with an average grant of $41,313. As a bonus, undergrads at this institution can enjoy everything LA has to offer, including theatre, museums, and a robust film and television scene.


7. Claremont McKenna College

Location: Claremont, CA
Acceptance rate: 9%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1500 SAT, 31-34 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,324


Claremont McKenna is another member of the Claremont Consortium and the one that holds the distinction of having the happiest students. In fact, the Princeton Review rated CMC No. 2 in the nation for happiest undergraduates. With popular majors ranging from econometrics to experimental psychology, students enjoy a wide range of academic options. As a bonus, undergrads at this school have the option to complete sequences of courses after they’ve finished their major. The end result is that students have more diverse knowledge and experiences with which to enter the working world or apply to grad school.


8. Harvey Mudd College

Location: Claremont, CA
Acceptance rate: 14%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1490-1560 SAT, 34-35 ACT
Undergraduate enrollment: 889


This last school is another member of the Claremont Colleges. Harvey Mudd strives to educate the next generation of engineers, scientists, and mathematicians, however, prospective applicants should note that the school also offers plenty of courses in social sciences and humanities, as well as an Independent Study Program for students who want to design their own majors. As if that weren’t enough reason to attend Harvey Mudd, note that the school offers a student-faculty ratio of 8:1 and hundreds of on-campus clubs.


Whether you’re searching for an “Ivy League” school in California or another part of the country, CollegeVine can help you craft a list of institutions and accurately assess your odds of admission. Our data-driven chancing engine uses actual results from students around the U.S. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today and start taking the guesswork out of the admissions process.

Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.