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A List of California's Private Colleges
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A List of California's Private Colleges

Regardless of the challenges you face, one thing is for sure, you’re going to love the college life.

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7 min read

June 24, 2021

Oh, college—the only time in life where a Monday could feel like a Friday. Between juggling classes, studying for finals, and waking up on time (for once), four years could seem like an eternity, especially when you have 50 shades of dark circles under your eyes. However, it’s important to remember why you came to study at one of the best private colleges in California. This is where you pave the way for your future, where you find yourself, and where you make friends for life. With high school graduation right around the corner, don’t hold off visiting the best college towns to find out where you’d like to continue your education. 

Study hard and party harder… the good life will follow after studying your brains out at one of California’s private colleges. Regardless of the challenges you face, one thing is for sure, you’re going to love the college life.

The Best Private Colleges in Southern California 

The University of Southern California enrolls an average of 19,500 undergraduate and 26,500 post-graduates from all states and over 115 countries.

University of Southern California

National ranking: 24

Did you know that the University of Southern California (USC) produceed more Olympic medalists than any other university in the country? Janet Evans (an absolute powerhouse crushing the game), Sammy Lee, John Naber, and Parry O’Brien are among a few names who’ve been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Athletic accolades, however, aren’t the only thing this California private college is renowned for.

USC is one of the largest and best-funded research universities in the U.S. The university has approximiately 100 research institutes, including the Southern California Earthquake Center and the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems. The private college also boasts about 20 libraries, with a notable cinema and television collection.

Business, management, marketing, communication, journalism, as well as visual and performing arts are among the most popular majors at USC. This private college in Los Angeles encourages students to make the most of the best years of their lives and combine programs from different fields of study.

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Pomona College

National ranking: 4

About an hour’s drive from L.A., Pomona College offers one of the strongest liberal arts educations in the country. Students from all over the world come here to major in practically everything from philosophy and politics to economics and medieval studies. Should a student want to major outside of the 48 official offerings, they can literally create their own.

Pomona’s stunning campuses are also surrounded by mountain, desert, and ocean views—no better opportunity for research, field study, and fun in the sun. Among the college’s most fun traditions is Ski-Beach Day, an annual event during which students flock to the ski slopes in the early morning and then the beach in the afternoon.

Private Colleges in Orange County

Chapman University encompasses ten schools and colleges, including Fowler School of Engineering and Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Chapman University

National ranking: 124

Chapman University’s tree-lined campus is located in the very heart of the O.C.—an exciting and ever-changing nexus of tech, business, and the arts. This private college in Orange County offers 42 majors across 11 schools, one of the most famous being Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Chapman has a stellar study-abroad program—Semester at Sea is an option that allows students to travel more than 24,000 nautical miles. Originally titled University of the Seven Seas and World Campus Afloat, this program has reached South Africa, China, Singapore, and other stunning locations.

Vanguard University of Southern California 

Western Regional College ranking: 52

Just outside picturesque Newport Beach, Vanguard University of Southern California is recognized for 32 fields of undergraduate study, five Master’s programs, and five professional study programs. The most popular majors here include psychology, business administration and management, speech communication and rhetoric, and education.

Life at Vanguard consists of hanging out on beautiful lawns, lounging under palm trees, or kicking it back at the student lounges. The private college is well situated for a range of cool and fun recreational activities in Orange County, as well as the Greater Los Angeles Area. Another perk of studying here—you can go to Disneyland at least once a week.

Caltech was founded as a preparatory and vocational school by Amos G. Throop in 1891 and began attracting influential scientists from all over.

Private Colleges in Los Angeles 

California Institute of Technology 

National ranking: 9

From quantum physics and supercomputers to string theory and nuclear reactors, the California Institute of Technology invites the world’s brainiest to push back the frontiers of scientific knowledge. The college is among the world’s top 270 for every broad subject area, with natural sciences, engineering, and technology listed as its strongest suits. Among the five NASA facilities on campus is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the leading center for exploration of the solar system in the U.S.

Collectively, Caltech faculty and alumni have won 39 Nobel Peace Prizes and one Fields Medal. Notable alumni include Linus Pauling, a renowned chemist and activist, and STEM legend Kip Thorne, a scientist known for his contributions to gravitational physics and astrophysics.

Loyola Marymount University 

National ranking: 66

Recognized for its excellent programs in entertainment, business, and communications, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) is committed to life-long learning. Students here can choose from 62 undergraduate majors and 55 minors, as well as 49 Master’s degree programs, three doctorate programs, and 13 authorization programs.

With about 200 student organizations and more than 20 fraternities and sororities, LMU is the hotspot for California’s college parties. The annual Fallapalooza is a festival that brings students, food trucks, free giveaways, and big-name performers to its Sunken Garden.

Originally founded in South Los Angeles, Pepperdine University expanded to Malibu in 1972.

Private Colleges in Malibu California 

Pepperdine University

National ranking: 49

Offering 73 degree programs spread across five schools, this private college in Malibu shines with academic excellence. Business, education and psychology, law, liberal arts, and public policy are among the most sought-after fields of study.                        

Over 84 percent of students at Pepperdine University get hands-on experience through student employment, teaching programs, and internships. The college also features foreign exchange programs ranging from Buenos Aires to Shanghai. If you think you’ve seen Pepperdine’s campus before, you must be a Nickelodeon fan—the popular Zooey 101 was filmed here.

The Top Private Northern California Universities 

Santa Clara University

National Ranking: 53

Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara University gives students direct access to the tech capital of the world and their adorable mascot Bucky Bronco. Offering more than 50 majors, minors, and other programs, this private university in NorCal produces the country’s best engineers, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and writers, including Khaled Hosseini, Ron Hansen, and David Drummond. The commonly studied subjects vary from business, management, and marketing to social sciences, engineering, journalism, and psychology.

Not only is Stanford University one of the best in the country, but it's also one of the top fundraising institutions in the U.S.

Stanford University

National ranking: 6

What was once a horse farm owned by Leland and Jane Standford is now one of the best private colleges in Northern California—and maybe even the world. The prestigious Stanford University is in the center of Silicon Valley, home to Yahoo, Google, Hewlett-Packard, and many other cutting-edge companies either founded or led by the college’s faculty and alumni. Engineering, computer, information sciences and support services, social sciences, and mathematics are among the most popular majors here. Want to be the next person who goes to space? Engineer, former astronaut, and former director of the Johnson Space Center Ellen Ochoa went to school here.

The University of San Francisco offers more than 230 undergraduate, graduate, professional, and certificate programs on its main Hilltop Campus.

University of San Francisco 

National ranking: 103

Founded in 1855, the University of San Francisco (USF) offers around 40 majors across five colleges. Students here have to complete a curriculum consisting of the foundations of communication, math, and science, humanities, social sciences, performing arts, as well as philosophy and theology. And—fun fact—Starbucks cofounders Gordon Bowker, Jerry Baldwin, and Zev Siegl are all notable alumni. 

One perk of USF is the fact that you’re literally studying in the liveliest city in California. Imagine finishing class and being only a block away from sporting events, galleries, and live music—you’ll leave your heart here before you know it. 

University of the Pacific is the oldest chartered university and first independent coeducational campus in California.

University of the Pacific 

National Ranking: 133

Ever wondered where West Coast’s first medical school was? What about the first conservatory of music? The answer is University of the Pacific. This private university in California has been a pioneer of higher education since it was first established in 1851. Nowadays, students can choose from more than 80 undergraduate and over 30 graduate programs and study across 11 schools. If you’re interested in marketing, biological and biomedical sciences, engineering, multi/interdisciplinary studies, or health professions, this is the school for you.

William Jessup University

Regional ranking: 2

As a regional chart-topper, William Jessup University develops the leaders of tomorrow by offering quality liberal arts education. Students are encouraged to venture out of one specific field of study, and instead dabble in communication, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking all at once. With undergraduate and graduate degree programs taught by the nation’s top professors, Jessup students can choose a career path that not only fulfills their personal goals, but contributes to society as a whole.

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